Sitting on a patio at the corner of 71st and 1st on the upper east side, taking a lunch time margarita for a test drive. What’s a lunch time margarita, you ask? Well, as far as we can tell, it’s just like a night time margarita only cheaper. A slippery distinction that’s difficult to pass up.
Acaphlegmic’s in yet another lather. Truth be told, he’s been in some sort of lather or another since we arrived here in New York. First, it’s the ‘mallification’ of Times Square. You see, Acaphlegmic hasn’t been back to the city since around the mid-80s when, as an aspiring actor training at the Neighborhood Playhouse (alma mater of Jimmy Caan!), he prowled the mean streets of the East Village.
“In those days,” he tells us, “Times Square was gloriously seedy. Just like in Taxi Driver.” Apparently, you could buy yourself a cold beer from any squalid convenience store that had a bullet proof glassed enclosed cash register, pop it into a paper bag and then wander around, taking in the sights of open prostitution and live sex shows. “It had character,” we’re told. “Not just this soulless, neon lit commercialization.”
While we all agree on the latter point, Times Square is just another American strip mall, full of cheap souvenir shops and chain stores, there has to be some sort of compromise between that and the old stomping grounds of Travis Bickle. We’re called ‘cheap punk corporatists’ for that view. Another round of lunch time margaritas is then ordered as Acaphlegmic launches into a new day’s outrage.
Grid patterned numbered streets and avenues.
“Where’s the romance in that?”, we’re asked rhetorically. “You always know where you are. It’s impossible to get lost!” Huh?! Just when we thought an argument couldn’t get any loopier. The man tops himself. “In great cities, you always get lost. That’s what makes them great. By getting lost, you make new, unexpected discoveries.”
We’re going to find no common ground on this discussion. The utilitarianism of Manhattan’s numbered grid system is pure gold as far as we’re concerned. Not only do you know where you are but you know roughly how far it is you need to go to get to your next destination. Say, for instance, you’re drinking lunch time margaritas at 71st and 1st and you’re planning to head off to the Guggenheim. Its coordinates are 88th and 5th. That’s roughly 17 blocks north and 4 west (give or take a couple big name avenues that intrude. Like your Park and Madison Avenues). Your journey is about 25 blocks. Accordingly, you adjust the number of drinks you can have before heading off to get to the gallery before closing time.
Furthermore, we love the alternating one way street set up running both north-south and east-west. Odd number streets go west. Odd number aves head south. Or do evens go south? No, definitely odd number avenues travel south and the evens go north but even numbered streets flow… ? We had this all figured out before the lunch time margaritas.
Either way, it works well and a pedestrian catches on very quickly, within minutes realizing they only have to look in one direction in order to jaywalk safely. It’s not that Manhattan isn’t still congested but that’s a matter of there still being too many cars trying to fit into too little space rather than a badly designed traffic flow.
“Why don’t we have more one way streets in downtown Toronto?” Urban Sophisticat wonders. “Start south of Bloor. Leave it two way. Harbord-Wellesley goes west. College-Carlton east. Dundas travels west. Queen east. Etc. etc., all the way to Front Street. Same thing north-south from Parliament to Bathurst or so, leaving Yonge as a two way.”
Why not? With all the talk of bike lanes, transit and traffic congestion during this year’s municipal election campaign, where are the radical ideas? Anyone who’s traveled through the downtown core can tell you that the big one way thoroughfares, Adelaide and Richmond streets move more smoothly (not including the construction corridor between Bay and Yonge) than any of the other east-west roads. Granted, they don’t have to contend with streetcars using the two middle lanes but wouldn’t one way traffic on those streets that do help improve the situation? Turning vehicles would be off to either side not blocking the flow up the middle. Would the streetcars have to be uni-directional as well or is there a way to control having one lane coming the opposite way just for streetcars?
Surely there are traffic flow experts who have answers or solutions to these questions. Studies must have been conducted somewhere. So why isn’t there a discussion happening over bigger view ideas and grander visions for improving traffic congestion in Toronto?
“Because,” opines Acaphlegmic, noisily finishing off yet another lunch time margarita, “people are afraid of change.”
Truer words have never been spoken from drunker lips.
— lubricatedly submitted by Cityslikr