Public Amenities in Urban Centres: Toronto

Djenabu Mare lives in Toronto Canada with her family. She is a singer/songwriter and documentary filmmaker.

(Kenya London News) Public Amenities in Urban Centres – The Toronto Scenario: There are a couple of mundane things that I always took for granted which I have come to appreciate wholeheartedly. Toronto's reliable public transport – Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) and the sidewalks. There is an African saying – ‘Travel so you can learn’!

I say African because it doesn't belong to any one ethnicity and it is said in a number of dialects, Swahili included. (Tembea ujionee mambo = Travel and learn) Toronto is a very busy city and the downtown core is quite crowded. Needless to say, there is no space that is free. Any area which has not already been occupied by a building is a parking space. Paid parking space. So for a hefty chunk of money - if you intend to drive into town daily to work, you by design need to ensure that you have a second rent/mortgage payment for the amount that your monthly parking will cost you. This being said, it means that unless you own your home, if you are living in an apartment or are renting, you pay a small fee in addition, for the luxury of being an automobile owner. So many Torontonians are by choice, leisure drivers.

We walk to the corner store, can opt to walk to the park - a lot of us walk pretty much anywhere we want to go - or maybe it's just me. Driving to work is not something I particularly care to do. Road rage, fighting and grappling for space, stressing myself out before and after I leave work, cursing and swearing along does not suit my laid back, happy go lucky nature one bit. So - I choose to leave this feat to paid professionals - namely the transit employees who are paid quite well I might add. Let's call it my contribution to another individual's hefty union paycheque.

In my travels to certain areas of the U.S. it amazes me how individuals can survive without sidewalks - and transit systems that are really an afterthought. Some sure fire ways of getting people to drive - build the cities around driving, make it mandatory to own a car in order to go across the street (or across the loop to end up directly across the street in the first place.....) and in order to be absolutely sure of this - limit transit to a saturated centre core. If you can't afford to own a car, you need to be live in this saturated core. This is also a very good system to force individuals to own gym memberships and fuel this industry, because if you need to drive 2 minutes to the corner stor - you are limited from walking and/or jogging there. So - if you are planning on staying in shape then by all means. Go to the gym.

I am drifting so far from what I actually meant to say. In a nutshell, these are the reasons why I appreciate the TTC and sidewalks. Taking public transit used to be a reason for me to finish novels and books of interest, up until the point when I started suffering from motion sickness. Back then, walking around with a CD player was quite cumbersome - plus I had specific songs I wanted to listen to on a given day. The MP3 age changed all this for me. I could listen to exactly what song I wanted in whatever order I chose, without carrying anything bulky. This is an excellent reason for me now to take walks and ride the TTC. It is all an excuse for me , just like the rest of the individuals with headphones in the bus or train, each of us living in our head. I often look at my fellow riders who comprise of the fraternity of the headset. I notice that aside from myself who tries unsuccessfully to restrain myself from going into mid-dance or bobbing my head, or the other 2 in the corner over there who are singing - probably off key judging from the eye another individual is throwing over their way - that others are quite calm, looking around like they aren't listening to anything at all. What is the point of wearing headphones and listening to music if you can't react to it? I would like just once, to get into a train with 20 of us in the car each dancing to their own rhythm. Hey - it is the one time when nobody can tell that you are dancing off beat. I am going to instigate this movement. I just need the nudge to get my courage over to the edge and start this new craze - Transit Bopping! Let's take it worldwide why don't we? (source)