Sunday, August 1, 2010

Margin Notes: Groundhogs, Washrooms, Kunstler

A groundhog explored the construction equipment near Simcoe Street at the Union Station Rail Corridor in Toronto, Ontario on 31-July-2010

TORONTO, ONTARIO - Last week I may have written about a wildlife drought along the Humber River, but there seems to be no shortage elsewhere in Toronto. A raccoon stared at me for some time along the shores of Lake Ontario at dusk recently until a bicyclist chased him away, and the groundhog above took his time exploring the Union Station Rail Corridor near Simcoe Street yesterday.

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A big announcement which will impact service in and out of Toronto's Union Station came this week. Metrolinx announced that it will own and operate the "Air-Rail Link" between Pearson International Airport and Union Station, instead of SNC-Lavalin. It's hard not to view this as incredibly good news, as the process of building the airport branch will now be much more transparent, and revenue from the service will now go to Metrolinx, rather than a private company. Ontario may be finally leaving the Mike Harris era of infrastructure thinking behind.

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Toronto's first public pay washroom sat unused at the corner of Queen's Quay and Rees Street on 1-August-2010

Then again, Toronto is experimenting with pay toilets. Despite its proximity to the CN Tower, I had never bothered to go down to look at the first such public washroom at Rees Street and Queen's Quay until today. I was surprised to find it on the northwest corner of the intersection--where almost nobody walks, unless they are parked in the small lot there--not the south side of Queen's Quay where all the tourists generally wander. If it isn't doing well, I'm afraid it's all about location, location, location.

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I doubt the economy has affected washroom use, even when it costs a quarter, but I saw an interesting description of the current United States economy this week--compressive deflationary collapse. The phraseology comes from James Howard Kunstler in a recent blog post. Kunstler is an almost-amazing pessimist in his long-term view, but it's harder to argue with his short-term analysis. Near as I can tell, the United States is far closer to deflation than inflation, no matter what right-wing politicians say.

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