Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Subways, Art, Finances and Priorities

I’m no expert on finances. Ask my husband. Look at the balances in my chequing and savings account.

So that might explain why I don’t completely understand how the city of Toronto, my home, is always short of money when it comes to city services. We’re a wealthy city. We’re prosperous here. We have people with money, a thriving downtown, booming real estate market and more well-dressed latte –drinking young people and Starbucks outlets than we do new high-rise condos going up in our downtown core.  And that's a lot. Trust me. We’re doing well here. Not everyone, of course. We have our share of social issues. But we’re doing okay. Doesn’t that mean something?

So how come we’re always short of cash and forever hearing about much-needed cutbacks. Aren’t people paying taxes? Don’t the wealthy pay their fair share? Let’s, for the moment, assume affirmative to both (and please be advised, 'the moment' refers to the course of this blog, only).

So what’s with our transit system?  Like most cities, it is, of course, subsidized. But fares are continually rising, there’s always a crisis, service is poor and…the subway stations are so bloody ugly.

This is where my question about finances comes in. Why do other ‘great’ cities of the world, a title which Toronto is forever aspiring to (ad nauseum), have architecturally stunning and art-filled subway systems they can be proud of?

Are Stockholm, Barcelona, Brussels, Dubai, Budapest, Athens, and Berlin so much wealthier than we are? Maybe Dubai, but Athens, Budapest? Or is it a question of priorities. Or both.

As I said, I’m no expert on finances. If Toronto had the money, would we turn it into art like these other cities have? I’m not sure, because they also have free city-run museums and art galleries, unlike us. Is ‘art for the people’ (and tourists) a low priority for us here in Toronto. Or are we just happy pushing people through because we have to save bucks to build the next line.

Whichever, here’s what we’re missing. Take a look. Stockholm’s system is the most impressive. At 110 kilometres long, it’s said to be the longest art exhibit in the world.

Once you’ve checked out Stockholm, take a look at these other wonderful spots.

So what's with Toronto?


  1. Dazzling! What an eye-opener... makes me want to plan a trip consisting only of visiting subway stations (and maybe an occasional Mandel Bread and tea break).
    I have bookmarked the 2nd site and plan to return to it often - especially before travelling anywhere.
    Thank you!

  2. It's simple mathematics: the federal go'vt collects income and corporate taxes from Toronto and gives only a fraction of it back. In many other countries, the national governments fund public transit because they understand the importance of cities. Like the US, we build correctional facilities instead. Sad really.

  3. The art is incredible, but you fail to mention the moving sidewalks! Now that's something to talk about LOL!!!

  4. Back in 1955 when our subway was built it was considered quite remarkable. You got to know each station by its unique colour; the stations were spotless, and the tiles gleamed. Also back then the federal government had not downloaded services onto the provinces (or refused to disclose the amount of equalization payments to "have-not" provinces as recently complained about in a G&M article), and the provinces had not downloaded all kinds of services onto the city.