25 the esplanade

Sunday Supplement: A championship recap, spending the Gardiner cash, inside Presto, and the ARL goes UP

Though it got lost in the fallout from Justice Hackland's court ruling this week, we actually had a championship to celebrate here in Toronto; the Argonauts beat the Calgary Stampeders 35-22, giving them their 16th Grey Cup win. It doesn't take a sports fan to realize there's been a dearth of victory parades in this city the last 40 years or so, but below I recap the finest moments since the Leafs' last hoisted the cup. There's also a list of alternative uses for the Gardiner repair cash, an introductory video to the Union-Pearson Express, and a primer on Presto cards.

The distinctive building bathed in early morning sunlight at the top of the page is 25 The Esplanade, condos built in 1988 in a style reminiscent of the Gooderham Building at Wellington and Front. Unusually, the building has its own postal code, M5W, that it doesn't share with any other surrounding homes. The Grand Harbour, 25 The Esplanade's sister condo in lakefront Etobicoke, is noted for its distinctive archway on the 14th floor that connects its two towers.

CHAMPIONS

toronto maple leafs

Toronto might not have had much to cheer about recently (on or off the sports field) but last Sunday's Grey Cup win changed all that. The victory parade and street party that rocked Nathan Phillips Square on Tuesday was the first public celebration for a major championship since 2004. Here's a list of our recent top-flight sporting victories in Toronto since the Leafs' 1967 Stanley Cup:

  • 2012 - Toronto Argonauts - Grey Cup
  • 2004 - Toronto Argonauts - Grey Cup
  • 1997 - Toronto Argonauts - Grey Cup
  • 1996 - Toronto Argonauts - Grey Cup
  • 1993 - Toronto Blue Jays - World Series
  • 1992 - Toronto Blue Jays - World Series
  • 1991 - Toronto Argonauts - Grey Cup
  • 1983 - Toronto Argonauts - Grey Cup
  • 1967 - Toronto Maple Leafs - Stanley Cup

FIXING THE GARDINER

toronto gardiner expressway

The crumbling Gardiner is in dire need of a solution: either it's torn down and replaced or we foot the bill to patch up the cracks and make it fit for safe transportation again. This week, city staff recommend we opt for the latter and splash almost half a billion dollars, $505 million to be precise, over decade to keep the elevated road open.

That's a lot of cash, especially when there are other projects in Toronto in need of funding. With that in mind, what else could we do with that $505 million? Just to be clear, this isn't a suggestion that one project is more important than another, or that good road links into the city aren't important, it's just a rough comparison.

SUBWAY: At current estimates, $505 million could build a relief subway line from King station to roughly the intersection of King and Queen just before the Don. There are of course many other costs associated with building an underground rapid transit line but the cash would certainly be a start.

STREETCARS: The TTC currently has an order for 204 low-floor Bombardier streetcars at a cost of roughly $1 billion. The money to repair the Gardiner could pay off the bill for roughly half the fleet presently under construction in Thunder Bay.

SUBWAY TRAINS: The open-concept Toronto Rocket trains being phased in on the Yonge-University-Spadina line cost the TTC roughly $18.2 million each. The road money could cover another 27 sets for the Bloor-Danforth line which is currently relying on hand-me-downs from other parts of the system.

ROADS: The Gardiner's elevated design makes it more expensive to build and maintain than conventional, at-grade highways. If the city decided to tear the highway down and build a replacement at street level it could build for 22 kilometres from the present 427 interchange to Woodbine and Queen in the Beaches.

TIM HORTONS: If the city wanted to do a coffee run with its Gardiner money it could afford medium double-doubles for the entire country (well, a million people would miss out, but close enough.) What do you want more: a road that's safe or a short-term, sugar-caffeine rush?

PRESTO!

toronto presto card

Finally, the magic trick is almost complete. The TTC waved its magic wand and agreed to total Presto card integration on the subway, streetcar, and bus network in time for 2016 at the expense of the humble token, Metropass, and all other fares except cash. The future is, well, in the future. But it's coming.

Contactless smart cards like Presto and its sister the Oyster card in London are actually mostly empty space. Embedded inside the plastic is a tiny chip, roughly two millimetres squared, that stores value and other information about each journey. The rest is given over to a metal conductor wire that's wound several times around. The chip uses the wire as an aerial to make contact with the card readers at stations and on vehicles.

Contactless credit cards currently entering the market from Mastercard and Visa employ similar technology to connect with paystations at the cash register. Typically, the signal from the card only travels about 10 centimetres.

There are no batteries involved; the conductor wire is also used to generate a small electrical current that powers the micro (really, really micro) processor. Metrolinx says Presto fare transactions will take about a second to process at the turnstiles.

MEET THE UP EXPRESS

We tried this last week but the cheeky folks at Metrolinx pulled down the site without warning. This video was produced to coincide with the launch of the next phase of "Big Move" projects, transit links the provincial transit agency deems top priorities, including the Downtown Relief Line and the rail connection between Union Station and Pearson Airport. It's a discussion of why we need the UP Express as a city and how pleased we're all going to be when it finally arrives in 2015.

WHAT WE LEARNED THIS WEEK:

Chris Bateman is a staff writer at blogTO. Follow him on Twitter at @chrisbateman.

Photo: "sunday morning" by michellekjs, "Gardiner Expressway Skyline" by Stephen Gardiner in the blogTO Flickr pool, Metrolinx, and public domain.


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