Cuba’s Hershey Train: the last interurban railway

Sean Marshall

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Last week, my partner-in-crime and I escaped to Cuba for a short vacation. Eschewing the all-inclusive resorts at Varadero, we decided to spend our time in Havana instead.

Havana is a fascinating place that’s worth exploring beyond the popular spots such as the picturesque Old City, Revolution Square, and the Cristóbal Colón Cemetery; like any great city, it is best explored by foot.

One of our highlights was getting an impromptu tour of the José Martí National Library of Cuba in Havana. The library, named for the Cuban national hero, is adjacent to Plaza de la Revolución. The Plaza also holds the seat of the Communist Government and is famous for the towering monument of Martí and the metal mural of Che Guevara.

We met a wonderful guide, who with great pride described the library’s programs, but also the effects of the 55-year American embargo on obtaining educational materials, up-to-date computers and access to the Internet and…

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The subway is coming. Let’s improve Scarborough Centre

Sean Marshall

As the readers of my blog probably know, I am not a fan of the Scarborough Subway extension. Even though the subway will be expensive and less useful than a fully-funded light rail replacement of the ageing Scarborough RT, politicians from all three major parties have backed the subway, promising “respect” and “fairness” for Scarborough.

Neethan Shan, the New Democratic Party’s candidate in Thursday’s provincial by-election in Scarborough-Rouge River, has been pushing this messaging hard, though all three candidates — including City Councillor Raymond Cho, running for the Progressive Conservatives — are all in favour of the extension. That conveniently ignores the fact that the subway won’t even stop in Scarborough-Rouge River — though the LRT would have.

But it’s now time to move on. Scarborough is going to get a six kilometre long, one-stop subway extension, which was confirmed by a vote at city council in…

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Suburban stations for urban needs: accessing GO Transit’s proposed new stations

Sean Marshall

21505188673_1d34d85175_kGO Transit train from the Pape Avenue footbridge, near the proposed site of Gerrard Station

At its last board meeting on December 8
, Metrolinx presented an update on the status of twelve new GO Transit rail stations, all located on existing lines. Eight of these proposed new stations are located in the City of Toronto; and six of those are station locations once promised as part of John Tory’s SmartTrack proposal. Unfortunately, the proposed new station designs (all available in this Metrolinx report) appear to be similar to existing GO stations in the suburbs, with needlessly large bus loops, PPUDOs, and parking lots. Development opportunities are limited.

Transit connections at some proposed stations, like St. Clair West, are poor or practically non-existent. This is rather unfortunate, as SmartTrack was originally proposed as a frequent, subway-like service between Mississauga and Markham, with full TTC fare integration. Today, it’s merely six…

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A new low for the Scarborough Subway champion

Sean Marshall

Note: a version of this article has been cross-posted to Spacing Toronto

For 2016’s annual Torontoist Heroes and Villains feature, I nominated Toronto Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker (Ward 38, Scarborough Centre) as villain of the year. (“Pedestrian blaming” won that dubious honour.) But I remain proud of my choice. As I wrote back in December:

De Baeremaeker’s record of environmentalism has been overshadowed by an increasingly antagonistic tone, pitting supposedly downtrodden Scarborough against the rest of the city in his one-track quest to build a one-stop subway extension to his ward. In his myopic support of the subway, De Baeremaeker is opportunistic and vindictive, takes the low road, insults critics who engage in good faith debates, and in the process does a disservice to the community he represents.

Councillor De Baeremaeker hasn’t changed his tone.

Yesterday, May 10, the City of Toronto held a public consultation at Scarborough Civic Centre…

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The TTC double-charged me again when I used Presto

Sean Marshall

14840286353_4aaff50047_k.jpgSugar Beach

The weekend of May 26-27 in Toronto was a lovely one. My fiancée and I spent the Saturday and Sunday walking around Toronto, visiting some of the Doors Open sites and Harbourfront. Among the highlights were the new Daniels School of Architecture at 1 Spadina Crescent, a beautiful heritage re-use of the original Knox College (the neo-gothic building that looms over Spadina Avenue), and the Toronto Railway Museum, located at Toronto’s Roundhouse.

After the Doors Open sites closed at 5:00 PM, we walked along the waterfront as far east as Sugar Beach, before heading west to the High Park neighbourhood for dinner. With the Bloor-Danforth Subway (Line 2) closed for maintenance between Broadview and St. George Stations, we opted to take a local bus on Queen’s Quay to Union Station, transfer to the subway there, and transfer again at St. George to Keele.

Route 72B Pape operates between…

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The streetcar returns to Detroit – but who benefits?

Sean Marshall

IMG_1489-001Woodward Avenue at Mack Avenue, August 2017

I grew up in Brampton, a suburb of Toronto. Our family could not justify long, expensive vacations, but we did make several trips to Detroit and the region, usually to visit the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village. We’d stay at a hotel outside Detroit, usually one with a swimming pool. Besides the museum visit and the pool, my parents would usually include a stop at an outlet mall. We’d also drive through Detroit itself, sparking my enduring fascination with the city.

Since my first visit in the mid-1980s, the Hudson’s Department Store has been demolished, the Michigan Central Station has been permanently closed and allowed to deteriorate, and several downtown skyscrapers have closed and been abandoned. The city itself continued to lose population as more auto plants closed in the city and surrounding suburbs, and city services declined.

But on recent trips, on…

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