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Sunday Supplement: Campaign donations, ideas for the Rocket, finding cobblestones, and Helicopter Canada

Posted by Chris Bateman / December 9, 2012

toronto beachesElecting our leaders isn't cheap. Organizing the ballots, advertising, and paying staff costs the city about seven million big ones, nine if you factor in the toll campaign rebates take on city coffers. There's a break down of how that scheme works below. Also this week, some improvement suggestions for the new subway trains, a story of cobblestones, and a look at Toronto from above in 1966.

I came across this week's lead image looking for bike path pictures for yesterday's history post. It's a well-photographed spot at Cherry Beach, but there's something hauntingly beautiful about the lone man standing in a knee-length winter jacket in the background, seemigly staring into the camera, not out into the lake. Unintentional art in the municipal archives.

toronto ford electionThe approximate cost of finding a new mayor, if we actually have to, jumped to $9 million this week when city hall factored in the cost of campaign rebates it must pay to financial backers of candidates for council and mayor. Basically, individuals (corporations and unions are banned) can pay a maximum of $750 to a citizen running for council or $2,500 to a mayoral campaigner and receive up to $1,000 back after the election.

By comparison, 381 people gave the most amount possible to Rob Ford's election campaign in 2010, a total of $952,500, of which the city paid returned $381,000.

Contributions of between $25 and $300 attract a 75 per cent rebate while donors of up to $1000 get a flat $250 plus half of what ever amount was paid over $300. A similar flat fee and percentage is in place for checks over $1000.

Watch out though. No individual can donate more than $5,000 to multiple candidates without risking a fine of $25,000 and jail time. Election rules also state that individuals who pitch in more than $100 will have their name, address, and preferred candidate posted on the City of Toronto website.

At the last election the city paid out more than $2 million in campaign donation rebates.

toronto rocket subwayEarlier this week TTC CEO Andy Byford met with top brass from Bombardier to discuss problems with the doors of Toronto's new subway trains. The trouble stems from a useful design feature that prevents the train moving if one of the doors has failed to close.

Problem is, if the doors fail to close three times the train panics (or whatever the computerized version of that is) and shuts the whole system down, meaning the train has to be taken back to the yard and reset like an aged SNES with an iffy cart.

We asked what other issues the two groups might consider addressing while they discusses ways of fixing the current fleet and ensuring the trans currently in production don't suffer from the same issue. Here's a run down of your responses:

MORE POLES: The air conditioning units mounted in the roof of each car take up a substantial amount of headroom and block hand rails passing underneath. Most of the comments requested more places rails or straps for use during busy periods.

VOICE/GUIDANCE: The voice of the train, a robotic woman who tends to make grammatical errors and avoid the local vernacular, doesn't seem to be sitting well with riders. The timing of the door chimes and the illuminated system map's choice of colours were also a gripe.

DOORS: It's already being addressed, but several people expressed annoyance at the two-second pause at each station before the doors are released.

LIGHTS AND SQUEAKS: The lights inside the Rocket cars are significantly brighter than the H-series trains they replaced, and that's a shock for some. Squeaky pull down handles also rubbed someone the wrong way.

COBBLESTONEStoronto streetcar tracksAs archival pictures attest, the filler material between streetcar tracks in Toronto used to be assembled out of granite and limestone cobblestones before cheaper, pre-formed concrete slabs arrived.

These eight-inch stones, stockpiled in their thousands by the TTC after removal, were sold off in the 1960s for 10 cents a piece, less than the price of a subway token, as border stones for public parks, decorative features for private homes, and, surprisingly, the courtyard of a new library in Sault Ste. Marie. Washed stones were priced slightly higher at 12 cents.

It's likely some of these repurposed cobblestones that were originally shipped as ballast from Scotland or brought in from Gananoque near Kingston remain in parks and gardens around the city. Points for spotting one on your next trip to the park.


I'm slowly getting hooked on the National Film Board's online archive of films and this week I watched Helicopter Canada, a 1966 aerial tour of the country from Cape Spear to Vancouver Island (they didn't bother much with anything up north).

Apart from the occasional comical moment where the chopper buzzes a bewildered farmer or group of unsuspecting fishermen, the movie features some neat aerial shots of the Don Valley and an under-construction City Hall and Nathan Phillips Square. It starts around 19:50 if you want to skip the eastern provinces.


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

Images: City of Toronto Archives, "Campaign Headquarter" by bigdaddyhame, "Long Train" by Stephen Gardiner from the blogTO Flickr pool.



W. K. Lis / December 9, 2012 at 10:07 am
About the lights inside the Rocket cars being significantly brighter. Don't forget that dust from the tunnels, stations, and dirt from people, will over time accumulate to cover the bulbs and fixtures. It will get dimmer over time.

When was the last time one actually cleaned light fixtures in their homes? Clean them and see how much brighter they will be.
Robert / December 9, 2012 at 10:16 am
I do mine occasionally, save money in the long run
mark / December 9, 2012 at 11:05 am
I like the 2-second delay before the doors open. At my stop, I can wait until the train comes to a full stop before I stand up. Plus it seems to have a calming effect on people.
WUA? / December 9, 2012 at 11:39 am
Really? The lights are too bright?
Some people in this city really do have major issues.
Lets darken the subway lights... lets say to an abercrombie and Fitch stores level? So next time that sicko pulls out his wiener nobody will be able to see?
Honestly, get a life, its freaken lights on a subway train!

I agree with the dramatical errors or the way the sign is illuminated they really got the green and red backwards on them. Also the 2 second pause is annoying.
Knowing the TTC, none of these issues will get solved!
Anton Lodder replying to a comment from Robert / December 9, 2012 at 01:07 pm
How does cleaning your light fixtures save money in the long run?
steve replying to a comment from Anton Lodder / December 9, 2012 at 01:25 pm
you do can leave them dimmed, as they get dirtier they need turn them brighter, and they last longer
Mhm replying to a comment from WUA? / December 9, 2012 at 04:35 pm
I really enjoyed the way you insulted people for taking issue with the brightness of the lights, then turned right around and took issue with the doors and the lights on the maps.

Also, "dramatical errors" is pretty awesome.
Jo / December 9, 2012 at 07:22 pm
I am not a fan of how the windows are tinted. I personally never found streaming sunlight an issue on the old trains. One thing I love about our subway stations is that each of them are colour coded. Previously, you didn't have to wait until they announced the station to know where you were, nor look for signage outside while you were still aboard the train. One quick glance at what colour the station was, you knew if you had arrived. Now that the windows are tinted, you can barely make out the stations' tile colours. Any others have comments about this?

I also agree on the lack of poles and handlebars to hold onto near the dropped ceilings. I think there are also lack of windows and handles inbetween cars at the articulated portion between cars. If the station announcements are not turned on for some reason, you really would not know where you are and be shaking and thrown to the floor during packed rush hour.

I do support the Rocket but hey, sometimes change is tough!
end of rant!
Jo / December 9, 2012 at 07:24 pm
One more question. Are the annoucements sensitive to ambient sound or anything? For some reason, the announcements are SUPER loud at one station and then next station the volume is fine...
M. Heavyfoot replying to a comment from Mhm / December 9, 2012 at 11:04 pm
They have every right to do so, this is just bullshit on the part of most people to be complaining about this.

Those lights were put in as a safety precaution (most likely) and now they'll be taken away because a few people can't stand really bright light? How do these people put up with the light from the sun, then? Are they vampires who need to stay in the dark? Also, in case anything happens on one of these trains, how will the on-board cameras catch anything if the lights aren't bright enough?

I think that the people who've been complaining about the TTC should stay off of it, and just ride bikes or take taxis.
the lemur / December 9, 2012 at 11:50 pm
The announcements aren't ungrammatical; they're just telegrammatic and don't need to be complete sentences. What they are lacking is an actual human voice with local knowledge.

Those aren't cobblestones, they are paving stones. Cobblestones are rounded and more irregular in size.
pzfqqozqyiuk / March 17, 2013 at 03:50 pm
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