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Thursday, 29 July 2021

Time to reclaim the Sunnyside Bus Terminal: Toronto's forgotten bus station

The Toronto Coach Terminal's closure earlier this month was a reminder that the TTC used to operate an intercity bus service called Gray Coach, until it was sold off in 1990. Much like the GO Bus system today, Gray Coach served much of southern Ontario (as far west as London) and even had a route to North Bay. The Toronto Coach Terminal, known for years as the Grey Coach Terminal, was owned and operated by Gray Coach and when the bus line was sold, the TTC retained ownership of the station (ownership was transferred to the City of Toronto on July 8, 2021, days after the terminal's last bus departed.
However, what isn't generally known is that the TTC retains ownership of a second former Gray Coach Terminal at the intersection of the Queensway, Roncesvales, and Queen in Toronto's west end.
The Sunnyside Bus Terminal opened in 1936 and remained in operation until 1992 - two years after the TTC sold Gray Coach. Like its sister station on Bay Street, Sunnyside was designed in the Art Deco style and just as the Bay terminal had the Ford Hotel operating across the street, Sunnyside had the equally seedy Edgewater Hotel operating next door.
Sunnyside was originally a popular destination due to its proximity to Sunnyside Amusement Park and Bathing Pavillion as well as providing a convenient transfer to the CNR via the Sunnyside Train Station across the street. The station also served as a second Toronto stop on Gray Coach's routes between the Bay Street terminal and Niagara Falls and Buffalo. Passenger use of Sunnyside declined with the closure of Sunnyside Amusement Park in 1955 to make way for the Gardiner Expressway. With the construction of the Bloor-Danforth subway in the 1960s, Islington Station replaced Sunnyside as a stop on Gray Coach's route to Kitchener and London, Ontario In 1967, GO Transit opened and took over CN's Toronto-Hamilton route choosing to bypass the Sunnyside rail station, ending Sunnyside Bus Terminal's role as a transfer point between Grey Coach and the rail system. The station remained in service until 1992 when Gray Coach was sold to Greyhound and was ended as a seperate bus line. The TTC retained the building, which is adjacent to the Roncesvalles streetcar yard. The former bus terminal was rented out as a donut shop for several years and is now used as a McDonalds. It's a shame though. It's a charming building and could be used as a public building and rented out to, say, the West End Food Co-op which has been homeless for several years, or as a public market. Stalls could be rented out to individuals or local groups to sell food, or to farmers to sell produce, or to members of the community to sell other goods and services. It would be good if the TTC transferred ownership of the property to the city, as it has done with the Bay Street terminal, and if the city then put the building to a better community use than its present role serving Big Macs and fries. The question is, though, what are the terms of McDonald's lease with the TTC. If it's one of those 50 or 99-year leases that the city sometimes commits itself to, it may be sometime before the property could be reclaimed for public use.
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Sunday, 4 July 2021

The last bus - final coach leaves the Toronto Coach Terminal

The Toronto Coach Terminal, formerly known as the Gray Coach Terminal, has come to the end of its life as a bus depot after 90 years of operation. Last night at 11:30 pm, Ontario Northland 799 trundled out of the terminal heading for North Bay. Ontario Northland was the last bus line still using the Toronto Coach Terminal, tomorrow the service will be using the new Toronto Union Bus Terminal as its Toronto terminus, joining Canada Coach which made the move on June 8th. TCT's third tenant, Greyhound Lines, suspended its service in May 2020 due to the pandemic and announced on May 13, 2021 that they were permanently ending Canadian operations. The terminal building and bus opened on December 19, 1931 though the lot itself had been used as an open air terminal since 1927. The terminal was built and has always been owned by the TTC, originally through its Gray Coach Lines subsidiary - an intercity bus line that served southern Ontario and replaced the earlier interurban radial (streetcar) service that used to connect Toronto with communities around Lake Ontario and the Niagara Peninnsula and north to Lake Simcoe. The TTC sold off Gray Coach in 1990 but kept the terminal, operating it under a TTC subsidiary - Toronto Coach Terminals Inc. On Thursday, the property's ownership transfers to the City of Toronto which, in 2019, identified the Bay and Elizabeth Street terminal properties as an asset that is underutilized, "with an opportunity to unlock value and address City needs and City building objectives, such as affordable housing, employment uses and community infrastructure.
Northland coach 5332, travelling on route 799, pulls out of the station while a small crowd of bus enthusiasts watch across the street.
Here's the terminal earlier in the day.
A few shots of the coach waiting to leave.
An old fishbowl bus with Hamilton Lakeshore destination sign idles in bus bay 1. This isn't a scheduled bus but was chartered, I believe, by the small group of bus enthusiasts who came to the terminal to watch the last coach roll out. I guess technically *this* may be the last bus to use the terminal.
The terminal building itself has been closed since Coach Canada left on June 8th. When I heard their departure was imminent, I went through the terminal (at least the parts that were still open) and took some pictures. (the lower level and tunnel to the Atrium have beeon closed since 2020, as is the upstairs level).
Greyhound and Coach Canada Toronto Operations Ltd. (GACCTO) have leased the terminal from the Toronto Coach Terminal Inc (a subsidiary of the TTC) since 2012. The lease ends on July 7, 2021 and the next day control of the terminal reverts to the TTC. The next day ownership of the property transfers to the City of Toronto due to a vote by the TCTI board last month. What will the city do with the property?
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Wednesday, 30 December 2020

Mystery of the missing macaroni - solved!

What the Hole Is Going On? The very real, totally bizarre bucatini shortage of 2020. Rachel Handler gets to the bottom of the mystery that has been troubling Americans all year- why has bucatini - the tasty tube-like spaghetti - disappeared from store shelves?
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Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Once upon a CKLN

I was on the board of CKLN from the summer of 2009 until the station's demise. It was a very intense, and ultimately very disappointing time. We certainly made mistakes as a board but we also faced challenging circumstances - getting the station up and running after it had been off the air and locked out of its offices for several months, doing so with no funds (the RSU refused to release CKLN's student fee money for several months) and facing an onslauight that included a lawsuit that absorbed all our funds once they were released and a determined and unscrupulous band determined to take the station over, or take it down whose activities included a barrage of mostly pseudonymous complaints to the CRTC and online harassment of various individuals. The lockout and several month gap in programming is what got the wheels rolling at the CRTC and resulted in the hearings into our license. Our key mistake was not hiring a station manager and instead trying to manage the station on a volunteer basis. We had planned to hire a station manager but the lawsuit resulted in the the funds that would have been used for that, and many other station functions, to go to legal fees instead (the previous board had allowed the station's insurance policies to lapse and the lawsuit was filed while our new insurance application was being considered - resulting in it being rejected). 
Andy Lehrer

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Michael Laxer turns the page

Michael Laxer
I've known Michael for about 25 years. He's a good friend, activist and writer. Recently he and his partner Natalie shut down their used bookstore in Etobicoke, which had existed in various forms on Lake Shore for 14 years, and will be moving his bookselling business online in a recognition of changing consumer habits. While the loss of yet another used bookstore, as well as what had become a unique community space, is sad the good news is that this will give Michael more time to write. Check out his blog, The Left Chapter, where Michael writes about politics, food, social issues, and various other topics.
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Saturday, 25 April 2015

Fred Checkers is watching you (if you're an NDPer)

Michael Laxer reports on his Left Chapter blog on Fred Checkers and the state of internal democracy in the NDP. 
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Sunday, 5 April 2015

Quote of the day

"I can't give you a brain but I can give you a diploma"
 -- The Wizard of Oz
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Monday, 30 March 2015

Quote of the day

There are two types of people those who divide people into two types, and those who don't.

-- Edward A. Murphy, Jr.

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Wednesday, 8 August 2012

CFRC: A debate on community radio in Kingston

This past February, I wrote an article for the Queen's Journal on a proposal by the the AMS Board of Directors (the student government body at Queen's University) to restructure the radio station and impose on it essentially the same management and employment structure and rules that other services operate under. As a former member of the AMS Board of Directors who had played a role in having CFRC transferred from direct university ownership and control to student ownership and as someone who had also been on the board of CKLN in Toronto which lost its license in 2011, I felt I had some insights to contribute.

My "No" article arguing against the AMS' proposals was paired with a "Yes" article by the (then) current chair of the Board.

CFRC structure in perspective

Among other things, I pointed out that the AMS' attempt to impose a new management structure and staff policy directly without consultation with CFRC was a violation of CRTC regulations requiring the station to be managed by its own board, one that reflects all its stakeholders (including volunteers and the community). The AMS ultimately agreed and on March 1, 2012, the AMS abandoned its restructuring proposal. However, subsequently things headed in the opposite direction:

Radio station's separation finalized

CFRC has become independent of the AMS. On the one hand, the AMS was not interested in having a service that it did not completely manage, on the other CFRC wanted to be independent, particularly in light of the restructuring attempt. Independence, however, is a bit of a risky strategy. For one thing, the station's student fee is $4.93. While that would be sufficient at a large university such as U of T or York, Queen's only had 15,792 full-time undergraduate students in 2011/2012 meaning that the total yielded by the fee was just under $78,000. While half the station's budget has come from fundraising, advertising and other sources there has been a budget shortfall of about $10,000 a year which has been covered out of the AMS' budget in addition to student interest fee revenue. That arrangement will end after a transition period and CFRC is now seeking an increase in its student fee. Queen's students, however, have been very reluctant to approve any fee increases in recent years and CFRC specifically has been unsuccessful in several past referenda attempts to increase the fee. Moreover, as CFRC is no longer an AMS service but an "external service", its fee will be up for triennial review meaning it could be lost in its entirety in the future. The mandatory fee review will, however, keep CFRC accountable since it will have to not only continue to provide volunteer opportunities for hundreds of students but will also have to maintain a good relationship with the student body as a whole if it is to maintain its fee.

CFRC remains dependent on a certain degree of goodwill on the parts of both the university and the student body. The station's studios and officers in Carruthers Hall are provided rent free by Queen's and, of course, the student fee represents 40% of the station's budget - a figure which will rise to 50% if the student interest fee increase is attained. CFRC can't afford to allow independence to go to its head. CFRC needs to maintain and enhance it's relationship with students and faculty so that they have a real stake in the radio station's survival and success.
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