14 November 2007

Best in the World!

Normally, I'm not particularly sympathetic to Canadian regional resentment of any kind, but when I see articles like this, I get it. The actual content: the City of Toronto will announce a plan to refurbish Union Station, which will be good for commuters but which is not as elaborate as a previous proposal by architect Jack Diamond. But no, we can't just say that. Diamond advises us that "we could have probably the best interconnected, intermodal transit terminal in the world, in the centre of Toronto". City councillor Gloria Lindsay Luby is a bit more modest, proposing only that "Union Station should be recognized as the premier multi-modal transportation hub in North America".

This fits Harry Frankfurt's definition of bullshit in the strictest sense. Unlike the liar, who knows and consciously disregards the truth, the bullshitter has no regard for truth or falsity at all. None of these people actually thinks that it's important or likely that Union Station be a "better interconnected, intermodal transit terminal" than the newly refurbished St. Pancras, or the Gare de Lyon or Shinjuku Station. Nobody is going to actually assess whether Grand Central Terminal and Penn Station are only North America's "secondary multi-modal transportation hubs". The point is not to assert anything meaningful at all, but merely to express the feeling that Toronto is better than you. You only have to read the Toronto Star or listen to our city council for five minutes before you'll hear an utterance of this kind. No wonder the rest of the country is sick of us.


Luke said...

Apparently being the "the premier multi-modal transportation hub in North America" involves having a fish market on the premises.... This is an irony of truly historical proportions.

Bronwen said...

i thought the premier multi-modal transportation hub in NA was the Providence bus/trolley station ?

Nick said...

Well, at least we didn't tear Union Station down like old Penn Station, though I suppose many would have wanted that in the days before you could get a cappuccino in Toronto (i.e. 1793-c.1975). Nor is our city's total lack of ambition, vision, and grandeur anything new. Remember this?


No, probably not. Federal avenue was the one chance Toronto ever had to rival the architecture of... Buffalo. But it failed. Union Station, grandiose but a bit severe (it lacks the panache of Coutain's mighty Commerce, who sits atop Grand Central flanked by Hercules and Minerva- supposedly the largest sculptural group in the world), couldn't even start operating until 1927 (the station was finished by 1914 but the train shed took another 13 years!). That is why they built the now-Summerhill LCBO, as an interim solution.

Geez, call me when they tear down the Gardiner.


simon said...

of course, none of these multi-modal hubs compares to that of Columbia, or whatever it was called, nick.