Here’s another blog post about Toronto streetcars. It also contains an uncanny coincidence, another of which you can read about on the blog of the Museum of Inuit Art.

Yesterday really felt like spring in Toronto. It was sunny, warm enough to be out in shirtsleeves, and Ori and I had both finished all of our schoolwork for the year. (That also means that Ori is done her Master of Museum Studies degree! I, on the other hand, have another year left in my Urban Planning program.)

It was so nice that Ori and I decided to go for a walk. I brought my camera, and we went to take some photos of her capstone exhibition project at the Parliament Interpretive Centre near the Distillery District. It’s a very impressive exhibition – it looks like the work of professionals, not graduate students – and you should definitely check it out if you’re in Toronto this summer.

As we were walking home, we came across a mess of TTC streetcars at the corner of Queen and Parliament Streets. That corner is at the intersection of several streetcar routes, and there’s all kinds of turning, queuing, dinging of bells, etc. I took a few photos, and said something to Ori like, “wouldn’t it be cool if the new streetcar showed up, too?” (The Toronto Transit Commission has been gradually testing a fancy new prototype streetcar on all the track in Toronto, before they place a final order with Bombardier.)

And then I realized that it was actually there, hiding behind some of the old streetcars! (Can you spot it in the photo above?) Feeling very glad to have a camera with us, we snapped a bunch of photos:

The new streetcar looked right at home in Toronto traffic.

It was bizarre, wishing to see the streetcar and then having it appear like that. But if you think that is crazy, you’ll never guess what happened later that day…

Around 7pm, Ori and I were walking along Queen Street (by the Eaton Centre) to go attend an end-of-year party for Museum Studies students at Campbell House. As we were crossing Yonge Street, I made a joke about my streetcar-summoning abilities to Ori. And then I heard it – the electronic bell recording that replaces an actual bell on the new streetcars. I turned around, and there it was, the new streetcar! Again! Twice in one day, both times immediately after I had made a casual remark to Ori about wanting to see it. It was surreal. (I’m glad Ori was there both times to witness it, because nobody would ever believe me otherwise.)

I didn’t have my camera with me the second time, but I snapped some photos with my phone as proof. Behold, the new TTC Flexity streetcar, in Friday-night rush hour traffic on Queen Street. Seeing it twice in one day really was remarkable.

You can see all the photos I took of the new streetcar here.
Yesterday was the 60th anniversary of the Toronto subway system. Partly in celebration of that, and also to thank east-end residents for putting up with streetcar track construction, the TTC offered free rides on a 1951 PCC streetcar up and down Kingston Road.

I took advantage of a beautiful Sunday to get my bike back into working order, then riding over to take some photos. Everybody was out with their kids and cameras, and everybody was smiling.

Two years ago, I posted about the annual contest operated by Canadian coffee chain Tim Horton’s, Roll Up The Rim. Well, the contest is back. Though I used to love my “large triple-triples,” I normally don’t drink much Tim Horton’s coffee these days – there’s better coffee to be had in Toronto (and I don’t mean Starbucks). But I do love my risk-free gambling, so my consumption of Timmy’s coffee does increase during the contest.

This year, I thought I’d do a bit of data analysis on the official contest rules. First of all, the contest began on February 17, 2014, and special contest cups will be handed out until April 25 (unless they run out). So that’s a cup-distribution period of 67 days.

Second, a word about the prizes. This year, they’re keeping it simple with only four prize categories:

  • Toyota Corolla: 50 available
  • $5,000 Visa prepaid card: 100 available
  • $100 Tim Horton’s gift card: 25,000 available
  • Food/beverage prize (e.g., coffee or donut): approximately 47,100,000 available (I have calculated this based on the stated odds of winning, because they don’t state this explicitly)

By the way, you can’t ask for a cash substitute for any of the prizes unless you have a disability, or if a prize is unavailable. Even then, it’s at Tim Horton’s discretion.

Third, let’s examine the geographic extent. Tim Horton’s is operating the contest simultaneously in Canada and eleven of the United States (some Canadians might find this surprising). The US market is relatively small; these eleven states will receive approximately 16 million contest cups, slightly less than the 19 million cups that British Columbia – a single Canadian province – will receive. Tim Horton’s claims that the distribution of prizes within each contest region is random, so your odds of winning should be the same whether you’re in Toronto or Kenora (but different if you cross the Manitoba border to Steinbach).

Regardless of the intra-regional distribution, the inter-regional distribution of cups is not proportional to population distribution:

In the plot above, the United States really throws things off, with their 83 million people in eleven states compared to Canada’s 35 million across the entire country. However, removing the USA shows that, even within Canada, the cups are not distributed proportionally to population:

Ontario gets more than its fair share – it has less than 40% of Canada’s total population, but it receives more than 50% of the contest cups. I think we can probably assume that the distribution of contest cups matches Tim Horton’s usual distribution of coffee sales (because every coffee sold during the contest period will be served in a contest cup, except for Extra Smalls). So those Ontarians really love their Timmy’s coffee. Philistines!

In the contest rules, Tim Horton’s also tells you how they’re distributing the prize-winning cups across the regions. The following graph shows how the cups are distributed in absolute terms. Ontario really does win the prize, so to speak:

However, it’s interesting to also look at the distribution of cups per capita. Visualized this way, the data show the Atlantic Provinces winning out:

The distribution of prizes doesn’t always match the distribution of cups, although it’s reasonably close:

If you want to win a car, your odds are slightly better in British Columbia (they get 8% of the cars, but only 7% of the cups), Ontario (50% of cars vs. 49% of cups), and especially the Atlantic Provinces (14% of cars vs. 10% of cups). The $5,000 Visa cards favour the Atlantic and “Other” provinces (Alberta, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, territories, etc.). The $100 Tim Horton’s gift cards are distributed exactly the same way as the cups. They don’t provide data on the food prizes, but it’s safe to assume they’re distributed evenly across all the cups, too.

Tim Horton’s says they’re giving out $57,102,519 in prizes during the contest. This is only true if everybody uses their winning food/beverage rims to get a small coffee or a donut (the cheapest menu items) – and who does that? If everybody got an extra-large latte or a muffin instead, the total prize value would balloon to $165,900,000. I wonder if the total prize value has any tax implications for Tim Horton’s, and whether they’re avoiding something by implying that everybody goes for the cheapest food/beverage option?

On a per capita basis, Tim Horton’s rewards the Atlantic Provinces. Both the number of prizes per capita (2.02) and the total prize value per capita ($2.43) are highest in this region. Excluding the United States, Quebec has the lowest per capita statistics: 0.70 prizes per person, and an average of $0.83 (not even a whole donut!) in prizes available to each of them.

Can you gamble at Roll Up The Rim, and Win? Every time you drink a coffee, you have a one-in-six chance of winning a food or beverage prize. You also have much smaller chance of winning a car, $5,000 Visa card, or $100 gift certificate (but still a chance!). Knowing these chances, you can compute the “expected value” of the prizes you might win on any given cup by multiplying each prize value by the chance of winning that prize, and summing these results. If you always go for the extra-large latte or muffin when you win (the most expensive food/beverage prizes), the maximum expected value of a contest cup is $0.59. That’s not bad if you only paid for a small coffee, but your return on your investment is still pretty poor (and negative). By the way, this varies inconsequentially by a tenth of a cent from region to region.

Finally, based on the contest period of 67 days, you could expect to win eight coffees and 3 donuts/muffins if you drank a coffee every day during the contest.

Some other fun facts from the rules:

  • All major prize cups have been individually inspected to ensure they are legible. I assume this means that they check over the printed sheets before they are folded into cups, not that they roll up the rims and roll them back down again.
  • If you want to know who won the major prizes this year, you can send a request between May 18 and August 18 to: Roll Up The Rim 2014 – List of Winners, P.O. Box 13096, Saint John, NB.
  • Technically, to claim a coffee or donut prize in Canada, you must officially fill out a tiny claim form and answer a skill-testing question:

The answer is 9.
Yesterday, I surprised Ori with a trip to the BMO Project Room, a tiny art space on the 68th floor of First Canadian Place, Canada’s tallest office building. As it turned out, we ended up seeing a lot more than just the Project Room. For one, the view was fantastic..!

I learned about the Project Room while reading about Toronto’s observation decks. As it turns out, nearly every tall office building had one when it was first built, but each deck closed as new, taller buildings were constructed (often with their own decks). Sometimes, decks would be closed when the views became blocked by other skyscrapers. Virtually every observation deck closed when the the CN Tower was completed, but as a urban planner-in-training, I think there is value in being able to see the city from more than one perspective.

I’ve visited a few observation decks already thanks to Doors Open (e.g., City Hall, Canada Life Building), but I’m always on the lookout (ha) for new opportunities to see the city from above. I’d particularly love to visit the old observation deck at Commerce Court, with its unusual gargoyles, someday.

The 68th floor of First Canadian Place is where BMO operates its own conference and meeting facilities. It’s just like the facilities you would find in a hotel, with boardrooms, offices, presentation spaces, and even dining rooms with their own chef. Despite all this, it apparently saves them money compared to renting space elsewhere. It was a bit surreal to ride the express elevator (complete with popped ears from the change in pressure) to the 68th floor and find an opulent “living room” in front of us when the doors opened.

We were shown around by curator Dawn Cain, with whom I had made an appointment. Dawn is responsible for all of BMO’s corporate art collection, which is extensive and international. She also works with Canadian artists to commission year-long installations at the Project Room. At the end of each installation, the pieces are returned to the artist. It’s quite a generous sponsorship.

The Project Room is a very small art installation space at one end of the floor, no more than about 8 feet wide and 15 feet deep. It only exists because, during a recent renovation, Dawn asked that it be carved out from one of the conference rooms. This year’s installation features Myfanwy MacLeod, working in bronze for the first time. MacLeod’s works are satirical and humorous, but also a bit on the dark side. Her Project Room installation features a cartoonish drunk sitting on a log, holding an empty glass bottle. I didn’t photograph any of the artworks, so you’ll have to go see it for yourself. It was great!

The Project Room formed just one part of a long tour of the much broader collection on display on the 68th floor. Dawn graciously and generously took us around the entire floor, which was quiet on a Friday afternoon. We saw portraits by Nicholas de Grandmaison (the pieces BMO kept after a significant donation to the University of Lethbridge), and works by David Milne, Kim Adams, Lawren Harris, and Emily Carr, to name a few. Of course, as we toured the floor, I couldn’t resist the incredible views on all sides.

It’s one thing to visit the AGO and wander through the galleries with an informational booklet in hand. It’s another thing entirely to be given a personal tour of a top-notch corporate collection by its curator. Dawn’s interpretation brought the collection to life, and it was fascinating to hear her explain her decisions about everything from what to keep and what to sell to how the rooms should be laid out, with what pieces where. She had plenty of good stories, too.

It was the perfect activity for a young urban planner and a young museum professional in Toronto on a Friday afternoon. Afterwards, we admired the CN Tower as Jack Diamond said it should be admired: as an abstract, accidental sculpture when viewed between the buildings of Mies van der Rohe’s Toronto Dominion Centre. And we popped into the TD banking pavilion to complete our afternoon’s experience with modernist architecture (they even have Mies’ Barcelona Chairs scattered about). It was a great day!

All of my photos from the trip are here.
Last summer, Ori and I visited the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic in Lunenburg, NS. In the corner of one display, I noticed some prints and printmaking equipment. As it turned out, they belonged to Earl Bailly (1903-1977), a Nova Scotian artist who lost the use of his hands due to polio. Bailly’s work is well-known in the province and beyond, and it’s all the more amazing that he accomplished it holding a paintbrush or other tool in his mouth.

I was inspired by Bailly’s 1936 Christmas card (above), and I decided I would copy his idea this year. Because Toronto’s City Hall had been in the news so much in 2013, and because it’s an iconic symbol of the city (with its enormous Christmas tree, this year from Bancroft, 250km away), I picked it as my subject matter. The print is a bit rough around the edges, but I think the overall effect is pretty good.

I think I’ll continue to make our Christmas cards in future years.

I also made a limited edition run of reduction linocuts as holiday presents. I think I’ve solved the issue of registration, and I’m very pleased with the end result. Here’s how the print turned out: