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Morning Brew: Stintz slams Ford's transit policies, TTC to close Pape station, transit riders still unhappy, letters from J. D. Salinger, cleaner air, and zombie commuters

Karen Stintz has fighting words for Rob Ford. She says the mayor is "abdicating his responsibility" by shelving discussions about new transit taxes. The city will now miss its chance to provide input on the final list of taxes to be presented to Queen's Park in the summer. A group of councillors are gathering the signatures required to wrest the debate away from the executive committee either with a special meeting or forcing the item be added to the agenda next month.

The TTC will shut down Pape station for 12 days this summer in an attempt to finish long-awaited renovation work ahead of schedule. The building is getting a total overhaul, including a second exit, new platform design, and a revised street-level look. 52.3% preferred a total shutdown over a series of weekend closures. Is this the best solution?

Also in transit, new subway trains and other service improvements haven't brought a smile to the faces of most TTC riders. The latest customer satisfaction survey shows overcrowding and delays are still just as frustrating for riders, but staff expect things to improve soon. 90% said the system was good value for money. Do you agree?

A young J. D. Salinger, author of The Catcher in the Rye and Franny and Zooey, wrote a series of letters between 1941 and 1943 to a Toronto woman discussing the writing of his magnum opus, then titled "Slight Rebellion Off Madison." Marjorie Sheard had written to Salinger, or "Jerry S.," asking for writing advice and the pair struck up a correspondence. Sheard's family sold the nine letters to help pay for the 95-year-old's care costs.

Breathe it in. Toronto's air quality has been consistently improving over the last decade thanks in part to emission rules and the phasing out of coal-fired power plants. The recession also may have played a role by killing off industry. Carbon monoxide in the air fell 24%; other nasties like nitrogen oxide and sulphur dioxide dropped significantly too.

A piece in The Atlantic is discussing the role Toronto's Muslim community played in foiling the planned Via Rail terrorist attacks. Olga Khazan writes how the suspects were turned in by members of their own religious community after expressing extremist views. The RCMP said Chiheb Esseghaier and Raed Jaser, the two suspects, had the capacity to attack a train bound for Toronto from the US.

Kristyn Wong-Tam wants to teach Rob Ford a lesson about women in politics. The councillor held a spontaneous event with the group Women in Toronto Politics Wednesday night to discuss the barriers women face in political life. Rob Ford offered to "explain how politics work" to women over coffee during his radio show Sunday. "He can call me and I'll explain to him how politics works for women," she told Metro.

The commute in Toronto can sometimes feel like a living death, but this video takes that idea to new levels. In an effort to drum up support for new rapid transit in the GTHA, the Pembina Institute, an environmental advocacy group, has imagined drivers and bus riders as (surprisingly realistic) zombies. Check it out.


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

Image: dunescape/blogTO Flickr pool.

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