The first that I'd heard of Scarborough was in Laurie Brown
's Success Without College
, wherein she called the communtiy of her childhood "Scarberia" and suggested that its monotonous suburban sameness played a critical role in her decision to join Toronto's post-punk music scene. The first that I'd heard of Scarborough rapid transit
was in an article in the Toronto Star
suggesting that the system had run its course and needed to be put down somehow, anyhow. I've been curious about this system--apparently an orphaned technology, a dead-end in the field of mass transit--for a while, and yesterday I'd nothing to do, so I decided to go. larkvi
was also interested, and east we went.
I hadn't disembarked into the Kennedy TTC station
before, and even though larkvi
warned me ahead of time I wasn't prepared for the draftiness. As we ascended to the top level of the complex, the reasons for the cold wind became apparent when I saw that the rapid transit level was basically a wind tunnel, entirely exposed to the air. The site of the actual Bombardier Advanced Rapid Transit
train itself took me aback. I was reminded of the 1980s, and not necessarily in a good way. I kept thinking of my venerable Commodore 64, and of the Lego cities that I built as a child.
The aesthetics were off. Even though the RT cars are only half as wide as subway cars, inside they look like TTC vehicles with the standard upholstery and signage. From the outside, they're a bit blocky and a bit unfashionably coloured; on the inside, too, I could feel snow flakes force their way through the too-quickly-closing doors. Neither of us was very surprised that this is an orphaned technology, with plans to replace the line with conventional streetcars or to extend the subway further east or to do other things (throw more buses at the problem, say). It's a pity that this didn't work out.
We disembarked at the Scarborough Centre
stop, and left the station. Turning south, we went past some featureless office towers framing a sort of blue basilica skeleton that faced, indirectly, upon the former city hall and the wind-swept square before it. Turning back to the north before my fingers snapped off, we entered the Scarborough Town Centre
shopping mall. It's a big shopping mall, to be sure, but still a shopping mall. The Scarborough Historical Society
had set up some booths on the lower level, advertising aerial photos on sale for five dollars each amidst placards and posters of Scarborough's history. The photos were dramatic enough with their time-lapsed portrayals of rampant urban growth and the historical information reminiscent of things I've read back on the Island, but I was left with the distinct impression that Scarborough's rural past was utterly irrelevant to this urbanized and suburbanized present.
In retrospect I might have liked to explore more of Scarborough, but we decided to head west. A minor comedy ensued when larkvi
took a picture of me entering a rapid transit car, I turned to face him as I got in, and the doors slammed shut. I got off at the next station and waited for him, but, alas, chatting on the telephone I missedhim, getting in one car just as he got off and moving a station ahead. On the plus side, we got some fresh air, training if you would for the effort we made when we got out of the subway stop at Warden
to try to get to a nature trail we'd seen heading east earlier that day. On the map below, W
represents the Warden Station, while P
represents the park and the red arrows trace our direction.
It would have been a good idea for me to have taken a map, I think.
The temperature made me wish I'd been a good Canadian and brought some gloves and a hat; but then, as larkvi
pointed out, up above was a beautiful sky.
More of larkvi
's photos are available here, on my Flickr page