streetcar, transit
Demands for removal of streetcars from Toronto, usually accompanied by anecdotes and/or falsehoods rather than facts, seem to originate slightly more often on the right. So I thought I'd investigate whether that made sense. Spoiler alert: no.

I wrote the following as an op-ed submission for the National Post, but since they passed on it (which I'm fine with, it's pretty wonky) I'm publishing it here.



Russell Kirk’s principles of conservatism argue for retaining Toronto’s streetcars, rather than the radical option of removal often found in some newspapers.

First, the conservative believes that there exists an enduring moral order.”

Morals hold no relevance to transit mode, however a strong sense of right and wrong should encourage efficient public services. Streetcars carry as many as three or more buses.

“Second, the conservative adheres to custom, convention, and continuity.”

Radical change brings with it larger risk, and inefficient learning curves. Streetcars have been in Toronto (and around the world) for generations, and we have learned much about what works and what does not. We have not yet put it all into practice, due to our veneration of the car and on-street parking.

“Third, conservatives believe in what may be called the principle of prescription.”

Edmund Burke said the individual is foolish, but the species is wise. Over 250 cities worldwide currently use streetcar or tram systems (in mixed traffic, as opposed to modern LRT in exclusive rights-of-way), and nearly 50 of those streetcar lines began operation in the 21st century. I submit that these cities are neither outliers nor populated exclusively by fools.

“Fourth, conservatives are guided by their principle of prudence.”

Popularity should give way to probable long-term consequences. Removing streetcars would mean adding more, smaller vehicles to the road; hiring more high-cost drivers and maintenance workers; removing more on-street parking for buses to access the curb lane; but do nothing to improve capacity or speed for the nearly 300,000 daily riders of TTC’s streetcar system.

“Fifth, conservatives pay attention to the principle of variety.”

Reducing options and forcing square pegs into round holes is seen in conservatism as limiting. Not every purpose can be served by a small-capacity bus or a large-capacity subway, especially given the dramatic budgetary implications. We’ve seen in Toronto the time and cost risks inherent to depending on subway-building alone.

“Sixth, conservatives are chastened by their principle of imperfectability.”

There is no such thing as utopia. Arguments that streetcars bring only negatives, and removal would bring only positives, are unworthy of consideration. Every transit mode has challenges: anywhere from the TTC’s multi-year early-shutdown projects to replace subway tunnel liners and rails, Vancouver’s recent SkyTrain evacuations, and the hundreds of bus accidents each year involving fixed objects such as streetlights and hydro poles.

“Seventh, conservatives are persuaded that freedom and property are closely linked.”

Public transit, much like other public infrastructure, costs rather than lines the public purse, in all but the densest cities. Inefficiency through lower-capacity vehicles should be avoided to reduce required taxation and required property for storage of larger fleets.

“Eighth, conservatives uphold voluntary community, quite as they oppose involuntary collectivism.”

A group should not needlessly or excessively restrain an individual. Since public transit provides freedom of movement, efficient transit rather than no transit is our goal. Subways to every door are neither affordable nor possible, and buses for all would increase our collective costs through labour, capital, and travel time. Those increased costs constitute involuntary collectivism.

“Ninth, the conservative perceives the need for prudent restraints upon power and upon human passions.”

Decisions should be made on data, evidence, and learning from mistakes, not due to angry repetition of magic words such as “subways,” “gridlock,” or “folks.”

“Tenth, the thinking conservative understands that permanence and change must be recognized and reconciled in a vigorous society.”

A conservative should see value in both heritage and in new ideas. Requiring only old, or only new, robs us of potential benefits from the other, and therefore radical change is to be avoided, and overall benefits should be considered. Which is to say, that streetcar in front of you is helping scores or even hundreds of your neighbours, even when it annoys a smaller number of people in personal vehicles nearby.

Cameron MacLeod co-founded CodeRedTO, which advocates for all transit modes in appropriate locations.
Contrails
Yesterday, a complete stranger offered me some coffee.

I was in an apartment building half-filled with people who don't speak the same language as me, half-filled with non-citizens, and about 98%-filled with people who care way more about the World Cup than why some downtown white boy is knocking on their door.

This complete stranger doesn't speak English. She was pretty old, and I'm betting she's not a Canadian citizen (yet?), and so when I knocked on her door she couldn't help with electing my friend to council, and she couldn't even understand why my friend would make a good councillor. So I said thank you and moved to the next door.

But she stayed in her doorway, and asked if we wanted a drink. When's the last time you offered a drink to someone who knocked on your front door?

---

My friend Idil Burale is running for City Council in Toronto. She's super awesome, well-informed, rational, friendly, smart, and would be a wonderful asset to her neighbours and the city as a whole. If I had to pick just one new person to make a councillor, it would totally be her. (sorry Luke, Peter, Keegan, Lekan, JP, Alejandra, Saeed, Alex, Dan... just if I had to pick only one!)

I went canvassing with Idil and some other volunteers yesterday. It was amazing.

---

Matt Elliott keeps track of council votes, and calculates who votes with Rob Ford most. That used to be a thing we worried about, even though today our Mayor is more of a media celebrity than a vote winner. But here's the thing: even recently, some important votes have been close.

Here is a list of significant items that passed by just one vote:
2011.CD1.9	Don't condemn fed govt cuts to immigration agencies
2011.EX3.4	Cut $75,000 from the Tenant Defence Fund
2011.MM8.6	Kill the Fort York Pedestrian/Cycling Bridge
2011.MM10.9	Reject two provincially-funded public health nurses
2011.EX10.1	Consider eliminating the Hardship Fund
2011.EX13.2	Start charging charities & churches for waste collection
2013.ST11.1	Keep Adam Vaughan off the Executive Committee
2013.EX36.18	Don't exempt charities from paying waste collection fees
2013.EX37.3	Don't allow council vote separately on a general property tax increase 
		and a Scarborough subway extension levy

I list these because the current councillor for ward 1 supported every item listed above. And those decisions affected residents across the whole city.

---

I've never canvassed before. I've never done anything for a candidate. Other than vote, and ranting online about bad candidates, I haven't done much else. I've never joined a political party, because I disagree with too many things in every party I encounter (and truth be told I'm not good at toeing a line unless I really believe it already). I was drawn to municipal politics because of the lack of political parties, which meant I could focus on one issue but not have to consider everything else a specific councillor might support. One inch at a time seems to make sense for me.

I always assumed volunteering for a political candidate would be really hard to do. Or maybe boring. Or maybe too political, when I value being (in my mind) independent and non-partisan. Plus I've never known any personally until this year.

I've had a really busy year (sold our house, bought a new house, started the adoption process with my husband, got promoted at work, traveled to Thailand, plus other things I've forgotten already). So it's been easy to be too busy to help out. Oh, I'll retweet things that seem important, but that's not a way to effect change, it's just a way to participate in a very small circle of more-affluent, more-privileged, more-downtown friends. Slacktivism is the term some people use - pretending to have an impact because it makes us feel better.

But finally I realized that if Idil didn't win, and all I did was sit in East York posting encouragement on Twitter, I would be really unimpressed at myself. I can't spend way too much time at work and at home complaining about bad decisions by city council, but really do nothing beyond complain - that's a Rob Ford tactic! He rants and moans and complains but doesn't offer any solutions. I can't let myself do essentially the same thing. I'm lucky in that I have a pretty progressive and rational councillor, but council votes affect everyone.

So yesterday I hopped on the TTC for 90 minutes to get to the top-left-corner of Toronto. I met up with Idil and five other volunteers, and we set off into a few apartment buildings to talk about Idil and her ideas.

It was a revelation, because it was fun!

It was really nice people who care about their community, talking to other really nice residents who never get asked their opinion and love their community too! In just 30 seconds I would mention a few things Idil wants to improve in that area like transit, housing, child care, community centres, fixing potholes, and residents would not slam the door. Not yell. Not ignore. They would smile. They would engage. They would frequently agree to VOTE for her.

After just 30 seconds, THEY WOULD HAND OVER THEIR NAME AND PHONE NUMBER TO COMPLETE STRANGERS AT THEIR DOOR.

It was like being on a different planet.

Canvassing was fun, interesting, and it was a tangible way to have an impact on my community. I can't wait to get back to Etobicoke North to do it again, and you should come with me. The more people the less time it takes (or the greater impact we have!), and the more cool people we all get to meet.

---

In 2000, the current ward 1 councillor lost by 97 votes.

In 2003, the current ward 1 councillor lost by 882 votes.

In 2006, the current ward 1 councillor did not run.

In 2010, the current ward 1 councillor won by 509 votes.
---

Yesterday, I personally knocked on 90 doors.

What I'm saying is you can make a difference.

So come on, let's go.

Seriously, message me - I'll take you along and you'll have a buddy!
streetcar, transit
I submitted a formal complaint to the City of Toronto CFO and City Manager yesterday regarding their comments to media on the Mayor's inaccurate representation of budget changes:

10:25AM 2014-03-27

Dear Mr Rossini,

It is important that the civil service remain out of partisan political sniping, and that they provide quality advice and then implement council's wishes, regardless of personal opinions. I fear your personal opinions, or perhaps poor judgement, led to involving yourself in Toronto's mayoral election. I request that you please stop.

Mayor Ford uses large numbers, often fictitious or exaggerated, and it is important that everyone (including the Mayor and Council) sees you as an honest arbiter of *facts alone*. Your release yesterday puts that in doubt, and is doubly offensive in an election.

It is absolutely correct that there have been legitimate efficiencies and savings identified by staff this term, just as there were in the previous term - to similar degrees and amounts, as you are I hope aware. Commenting on term, and including misleading information, is really not acceptable. Just two examples:

1. Claiming that eliminating a user fee (the PVT) "saved the taxpayer $50 million" is false. It saved car owners $50 million, and while property taxes did not increase that year, TTC fares did by a significant amount, bringing similar revenue back to the city, and increased the overall cost to taxpayers.

2. Claiming both that TPS wanted even more than the increased budget they received so we saved money, and at the same time that user fees were raised $30 million (which taxpayers have to pay) so we saved money, is irrational and misleading. Both meant higher costs to city taxpayers.

I would request that you simply release detailed separate lists of actual budget changes, requested budget amounts, user fees added, and tax increases and decreases. Then candidates, elected legislators, media and the public can review all the information. I would also request that you refrain from trying to comment on large numbers stated by candidates. Trying to figure out how to comment neutrally is not working for either the CFO nor for the City Manager, and you are (accidentally I hope) misleading voters.

Please accept this complaint in the spirit intended: making the civil service stronger through greater public trust. You and your staff do good work despite honestly pretty insane council decisions at times. But it is dangerous to participate in the election, as you colour how future councillors treat your advice.

Sincerely,
Cameron MacLeod
[phone and address removed]

Attached: City of Toronto Complaint Tracking Form



3:48PM 2014-03-27

Hi Mr. McLeod, thank you for your email and for expressing your concerns.

Let me say categorically that I have no intention nor desire to involve myself in the election or partisan political matters. I agree 100% with your statement that the civil service must remain totally unbiased.

Please allow me to clarify a few matters on what transpired yesterday.

First and foremost, the information released yesterday is not new. I just provided information to Councillors which the media have had for quite some time.

The information in the Briefing Note more specifically Appendices 1, 2 and 3 was provided to the media on Budget Launch day back on November 25, 2013. We also referred to the "Budget Savings" component in our 2014 Budget Launch presentation to Budget Committee (please see slide 11 to the link provided below.). You will note the preliminary number in the slide for 2014 has changed since November 25th from $155 million to $147 million (reported yesterday) as adjustments / changes to the budget were made during the City's approval process.

http://www1.toronto.ca/City%20Of%20Toronto/Strategic%20Communications/City%20Budget/2014/PDFs/Presentations/FINALrevisedDec2.1_2014%20Operating%20Budget%20Launch.pdf

We have released various versions of the Briefing Note Appendices since November 25 most often in response to many media requests. But we had never formally provided it to Councillors. As this matter has already become an election issue, as a courtesy, I felt it was important that Councillors officially had this same information ie the Appendices, as well. So we also had to do a Briefing Note to Councillors to explain the Appendices.

I know the timing of the release of information to Councillors looks bad, but it is and was something that needed to be done. There was no partisan intentions on my part.

I understand that in your complaint you request additional information and details. We are in the process of collecting this information which may take about a week to assemble. I do want to point out that Appendix 2 of the Briefing Note does contain links which provide some source details to the various initiatives.

Thanks again for bringing your concerns to my attention.

Rob




4:07PM 2014-03-27

Dear Mr Rossini,

Thank you for your quick, detailed, and quite encouraging response.

My intent with my request was to suggest a better approach to releasing data, rather than to create a new project for your team - my apologies for any headache this may have caused. I completely understand that this would take time, and it's not my intent to create a five-alarm fire, but rather improve future documentation created by your team.

I hope that any future discussions on this can be presented in a more clear way, since by way of example, that $155M on slide 11 appears in no other location in your entire presentation. This is confusing to someone trying to learn the facts.

Would you be comfortable with this correspondence being posted online, or with portions being quoted? As I have posted online that I sent my letter, I would like to post your the full email chain if you don't mind.

Best regards,
Cameron MacLeod




4:13PM 2014-03-27

Hi Mr. McLeod, yes you can publish my response to your email. Don't worry about the extra work, others have requested similar info, so we will do it regardless.

Thx again and have a nice weekend

Rob





3:00PM 2014-03-31

Thank you for your note and submission, Mr. MacLeod.

This is to advise that upon consideration of your submission with the City Manager's Office, this complaint will be tabled as a Request for Information.

Formal complaints received on the template/form that you had filled out are treated with a different process and is reserved for customers who are dissatisfied with the service they received.

Nevertheless, we thank you for your comments and trust that the response from Mr. Rossini is satisfactory.

We will work on providing the information you requested.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Alex

Alex Mozo
Program and Strategic Support Manager
Office of the Deputy City Manager and Chief Financial Officer
City of Toronto
Tartan
Groups of animals have various names - we all know herds and packs, but there are other fun ones too. A murder of crows, a colony of beavers, an intrigue of kittens, a cloud of grasshoppers. (more)

The other day, Astrid mentioned a goal that triggered something in my head.

twitter1

And then we were off. First, a few obvious ones, with what may have been too layered an attempt for @gordperks. Click and drag to see my explanations in case you don't know what the hell I'm on about. That's right I said H E DOUBLE HOCKEY STICKS.

  • An expensing of Perks (as in "perqs" or "perquisites" are work things that you might expense, they might be expensive, plus Gord Perks is on the side of government spending to achieve rational goals)

  • A showcase of Vaughans (as in his past on TV, and/or loving the limelight)

  • A pipe of Fords (as in you can figure this one out)

  • A ledger of Carrolls (she was budget chief under Miller, and has a very strong grasp of the numbers)

  • A contradiction of Nunziatas (she calls for decorum as Speaker but then hypocritically reacts in biased ways)

  • A fence of Matlows (popularly called a fence-sitter, but in fact he does always end up deciding and voting)

  • A reversing of Parkers (reversed the Jarvis bike lane installation sneakily without consulting with KWT, said another bike item had merit recently and then immediately voted against it, etc)

  • A rage of Mammolitis (he's not on the cool end of the behaviour spectrum)

  • A cycle of Mihevcs (cyclist - this is where we start to get weaker)

  • A silence of Grimes (I think he's the one who never talks)

  • A routing of Stintzes (just a poor TTC Chair pun)

  • A sail of de Baeremaekers (flaps in the wind as public opinion changes? maybe? this was a stretch and needs improvement)

  • An apoplexy of Minnan-Wongs (the original one from Astrid)

twitter2

Also:
twitter3

  • @MonicaRooney: a conspiracy of Mammolitis

  • @sharkdancing: The embarrassment of Fords

  • @dd_toronto: A klaxon of Nunziatas

  • @dmrider: A bellow of Perruzzas

  • @accozzaglia: A filibuster of Perruzzas

  • @SylvanWalks: A bluster of Perruzzas

  • @christ: A bucket of Grimes

I started to meander as well. Not just #TOcouncil.

  • A fit of Dougs (since Doug Ford has a low-level fit when challenged on literally anything)

  • A deep sigh of Byfords (I can only imagine this is his most-frequent reaction to this city)

  • A repetition of Toronto Council clerks (I was remembering the repetitive calls for votes in the chamber)

  • A stroll of Micallefs (Shawn Micallef wrote a book called Stroll)

  • A patience of BradTTCs (since any TTC job requires intense patience, especially the "explaining things to the public" role)

  • A bridging of Millers (because he cancelled the bridge to YTZ, didn't build bridges much with his political enemies, but he did build bridges with other governments and organizations)

  • A token of Robinsons - oh, that’s out of date now (formerly 1/13th of the Executive Committee)

  • A hedging of Holydays (as deputy mayor, stuck trying to reconcile reality and the Mayor)

  • A banning of Filions (source of our short-lived and surprising plastic bag ban)

Next, I was asked how I would name a group of Astrids, and that led to me to think about specific #TOpoli people. Astrid didn't agree with my first draft ("a disruption of Astrids"), and upon reflection I found a better one.

  • A study of Astrids (always educational and from whom I learned intersectional)

  • A correction of Nevilles (who won't put up with your shitty marginalization or unawareness of privilege)

  • A snark of Heathers (of course for LadySnarksALot)

  • A beard of Brads (Brad has a beard, and tweeted something about it the other day. I was getting tired.)

  • A hat of Darens (CitySlikr wore a hat last time I saw him)

  • A cigar of Paikins (Oh Rosedale Club. sigh)

  • A pun of Proskows (Jackson has been known to pun his way through the day)

My second wind found (Astrid: "A recovery of Camerons!"), I thought up a few more.

  • A transit of Munros (SteveMunro.ca is the definitive data source for Toronto transit issues)

  • A soundbite of Milczyns (I feel like he's in front of the cameras instead of in the meetings maybe a bit often)

  • A peeping of Dales (sorry Daniel - I know you were not peeping in the mayor's backyard)

  • A hinting of Goldsbies (Jon loves his blind items)

From others:

  • @jm_mcgrath: A flight of McGraths?

  • @accozzaglia: An analysis of McGraths

  • @christ: A graph of Elliotts

Then a new one came to mind that I knew was the end of my road.

twitter4

Fin.
streetcar, transit
A letter I sent today to Councillors Lindsay Luby, Lee, Pasternak, and Robinson of Toronto City Council.

Councillor,


I am a homeowner and resident of Ward 29, and I walk, bike, drive, and take transit at various times depending on where I'm going.

I bike the Jarvis bike lanes regularly (more than twice a week), and they have made the street safer for me. Not just opinion: actual stats show this. http://cycleto.ca/news/2012/09/17/fate-jarvis-street-bike-lanes-hands-city-council

I also drive Jarvis regularly (more than once a month), and I find it behaves better with four standard-size lanes rather than five unsafe lanes that suddenly end and cause congestion partway down the street.

Finally, I am concerned about wasteful spending. As you are likely aware, removing the Jarvis bike lanes and restoring the unsafe middle lane will cost over $250,000. There is no need to spend that money on making the street more dangerous.

If you are asked to reconsider the issue of Jarvis bike lanes, I'd ask that you please do so. You're on Council to make Toronto better. Removing bike lanes, making a road more dangerous, and spending a quarter-million dollars unnecessarily... these are not making our city better.

If you disagree, I would appreciate a response as to why. I have reviewed the facts and history, and to me it is clear that the council made a mistake, and should reconsider.

Sincerely,
Cameron MacLeod
System report
Note: this is just being posted for me in case I need it and for those poor long-suffering google searchers who can't find this solution easily as it's pretty well-hidden!

The problem: make an event in Outlook (single event or recurring), and invite people to it. Later, your synchronization app like Google Calendar Sync syncs everything up like it always does. However, the next time you want to modify that meeting (like add another person, or cancel it) you can't, because Outlook no longer believes you're the owner!

Note: THE FIXES BELOW ARE NOT MY CODE. DON'T ASK ME HOW TO CHANGE IT PLEASE. I don't know VBA. This is just to help you get a head start if you need it, and for my own reference.


The fix!Collapse )

Willie Nelson sings the #bikeTO blues

Running
I wanted to do a song from the other angle, but what ended up coming out was a lament about Jarvis. Oops!

On The Road Again - Willie Nelson (adapted)

On the road again -
Just can't wait to bike on the road again.
The Jarvis bike lanes making enemies not friends

And I can't wait to bike on the road again.
On the road again

Dodging sedans 'cause I'm never seen.
Hittin' brakes or else I'll never bike again

And I can't wait to bike on the road again.
On the road again -
Like a band of gypsies we bike down the highway
We're the best of friends.
Insisting that the cars stop turning in our way

And our way
is on the road again.
Just can't wait to bike on the road again.
When Sherbourne finishes it means that Jarvis ends

And I can't wait to bike on the road again.
On the road again

Like a band of gypsies we bike down the highway
We're the best of friends

Insisting that the cars stop turning in our way

And our way
is on the road again.
Just can't wait to bike on the road again.
Can't see a court case helping me make any friends

And I can't wait to bike on the road again.
And I can't wait to bike on the road again.
streetcar, transit
It's claimed that light rail that serves twice as many people and covers six times the distance is a slap in the face to Sheppard residents. Hardly. Sucks that the misleading information has led people to believe that anyone is trying to build a BAD transit system. But in that COMPLETELY JOKING VEIN...

Fuck You (Sheppard)

I see you tryin' to go downtown
With The Girl I Love And I'm Like,
Fuck You!
Oo, Oo, Ooo

I Guess The Range of The Rocket
Wasn't Enough I'm Like,
Fuck You!
And Fuck Her Too!
I Said, If I Was Richer, be underground wit' Ya
Ha, Now Ain't That Some Shit? (ain't That Some Shit?)
There's no Sheppard Treasure Chest
I Still Wish You The Best With A...
Fuck You!
Oo, Oo, Ooo

Yeah I Gotta Say, I Can't Afford A Subway,
But It Still Is The Better Way.
Guess He's LRT - I'm More Island Ferry,
But The Way You Commute Just Ain't Fair.

I Picture The Fool That Falls In Love With You
(She ain't no tunnel digger)
Well
(just Thought You Should Know N*gga)
Ooooooh
I've Got Some News For You
Yeah Go Run And Tell Your Big Brother!

(chorus)

Now I Know, That I'd Have To Borrow,
Beg And Steal And Lie / Mislead.
Trying To Keep Ya, Trying To Please Ya.
'Cause tunnels in suburbs just ain't cheap.

I Picture The Fool That Falls In Love With You
(She ain't no tunnel digger)
Well
(just Thought You Should Know N*gga)
Ooooooh
I've Got Some News For You
Don't hate or fight the needs downtown

(chorus)

Now Sheppard Sheppard Sheppard, Why D'you Wanna wasteful subway So Bad?
(so Bad, So Bad, So Bad)
You Tried To Tell the council But they Told you
"this Is for Premier Dad"
(or Jim, or Steve, it's your bad)
Uh! Whhhy? Uh! Whhhy? Uh!
Whhhy Sheppard? Oh! I Love You Oh!
I Still Love You. Oooh!

(chorus)


Not completely happy with it, but have to get back to work. The perspective flips from the Mayor to an opponent a little too randomly. Maybe it's a duet?

So long, H4! We won't miss you much.

streetcar, transit
For Torontonians who take the Bloor-Danforth subway: you know that really old subway train with the vinyl seats and no air conditioning? Those are called “H4” trains, and the very last one of those goes out of service forever in about 20 minutes. Hooray!
The H4 cars were ordered in 1973. So smart transit decisions matter, cause you’re stuck with them for a few decades!
Over the next year or two, the TTC is getting lots of the new Toronto Rocket (“TR”) trains for the Yonge line, and the red T1’s are switching to Bloor, and the orange/brown H6s will disappear too! (they’re being sold to Nigeria)

New transit vehicles aren't everything the TTC needs, but they're something.
streetcar, transit
Yesterday, several media outlets received an email regarding the goals and activities of #CodeRedTO and the abilities of Light Rail Transit (LRT) systems. This email was misleading in some places, flat out incorrect in others. If you missed it, read the original message here. (What's CodeRedTO?)

The official #CodeRedTO response, sent this morning:


Dear all:

On Tuesday morning, you may have received an email that provides an alternate viewpoint to transit policy in the City of Toronto. CodeRedTO welcomes this debate and would like to present the following as a rebuttal to the arguments posed by Mr. Gutierrez.


CodeRedTO's motivations

"There is an ongoing attempt to revive the former Transit City plan as an alternative to building subways in Toronto, with its proponents getting attention to their cause in a series of articles and interviews by the Toronto media."

CodeRedTO's goal is not to revive Transit City but to ensure Toronto moves forward on an achievable, evidence-based rapid transit strategy. We are not advocating against subways: we're questioning the appropriateness of directing all committed funding and resources to needlessly bury the planned on Eglinton Avenue, ignoring the transit needs of northwest Etobicoke by cancelling a funded and approved LRT line, and halting construction of a LRT line on Sheppard Avenue East to spend over a year on studies that show a subway line is not affordable by the private sector, let alone the through public funding.


LRT plans and road space

"Contrary to what they say, Transit City is the wrong approach to solve Toronto's gridlock problem, since it is about taking existing, and scarce, road space in exchange for short trains going on their own right-of-ways, quite similar to current Toronto streetcars on St. Clair, or Spadina."

Approved LRT plans on Eglinton, Finch, and Sheppard, largely minimized the reduction of road space for cars. On each line, the number of general traffic lanes are maintained. This is possible because the surface sections of these LRT lines are in road right-of-ways that are 30 metres, or more, in width. As noted in yesterday's Toronto Star (http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/politics/article/1120102--cohn-mcguinty-ford-lrt-deal-destined-to-collapse-under-its-own-weight), the Province is said to have offered expropriation on Eglinton Avenue East to actuallywiden the roadway to accommodate an extra general traffic lane, but Mayor Ford reportedly declined.

More importantly, transit lanes are arguably a more efficient use of road space than a general traffic lane. The throughput of people is much greater, given a two-LRT train could carry as many as 400 people. With auto occupancy rates in Toronto averaging around 1.1 persons per vehicle, that's over 350 fewer vehicles on the road, which would occupy much, much, more road space.


Congestion and travel speeds

"People use their cars mostly because they are able to travel in much shorter time compared to transit, and this happens everywhere in the city, except for downtown during rush hour."

First of all, we have to be clear that vehicular congestion is not just a "downtown" problem. Much of the congestion downtown can be traced back to inadequate transit and other travel options in automobile-dominated suburban neighbourhoods. We should also note that some of the worst congestion areas in the Toronto region are in the the most car-friendly places. If building wider roads and more highways is the solution, then Highway 401 would never be congested, with sixteen lanes of constantly free-flowing traffic.

"If a proposed LRT is expected to save 5 minutes compared to an existing bus route, that will still remain uncompetitive to the car. And that is "if", because streetcars on separated right-of-ways do not seem to go faster than buses in mixed traffic. Let me explain with the 5 cases below:

  • Taking the Queens Quay-Spadina streetcar LRT between Queens Quay/Bay and Spadina/Harbord (on its own right-of-way) takes 21 minutes and 15 stops, on a 4.3 km stretch.
  • Taking the St. Clair streetcar LRT between Yonge Street and Dufferin Street (on its own right-of-way) takes 19 minutes and 17 stops, on a 4.1 km stretch.
  • Taking the Eglinton West bus between Yonge Street and Dufferin Street takes also 19 minutes, but 19 stops, on a 4.4 km stretch.
  • Taking the Finch West bus between Yonge Street and Dufferin Street takes 12 minutes and 18 stops, on a 4.5 km stretch.
  • And last, taking the Bloor subway between Yonge Street and Dufferin Street takes only 8 minutes and 7 stops, on a 4.1 km stretch."

The comparison of LRT plans on Eglinton/Sheppard/Finch to streetcars downtown is common, but wrong. With all transit technologies, travel time is largely determined by design. It is also inappropriate to compare downtown operating speeds with suburban operating speeds. For example, the Spadina Streetcar is "slow" by suburban standards, at an average speed of approximately 15km/h, but it is "fast" by downtown standards, when the comparative Bay bus (similar traffic conditions and activity) travels at an average of just 10 km/h.

Stop spacing is a major design consideration when it comes to speed. Mr. Gutierrez's comparisons largely prove this point: the more stops you have the slower a service runs. Spadina/St. Clair has stop spacing of about 200 metres. The LRT plans provide much wider stop spacing (approximately 500 metres) to increase travel speed and will have signal priority to reduce long stops at intersections.

The LRT lines on Eglinton, Finch, and Sheppard were all designed to achieve an average design speed of at least 25 km/h.

The average speed of the Bloor-Danforth Subway today is 30 km/h.
The average speed of buses on Eglinton and Finch during rush hour is 20 km/h.
The average speed of a car on the Gardiner Expressway during rush hour is 22 km/h.

There are ways to further increase the design speed of the LRT lines. Further increasing stop spacing, grade separating the LRT line at congested intersections (as was planned at Eglinton and Don Mills), and different approaches to signal priority are all approaches that can be investigated.


Debating the costs of rapid transit

"Therefore, it is very hard to justify Transit City's $167 million per kilometre expense (figure taken from Transit City proponent's website:www.savetransitcity.com). On the other hand, the inflated estimate of $348 million per kilometre for building subways, seems to be taken from the current construction of the 8.6 km long Spadina subway extension (at $2.63 billion, or $305 million per km). However, this line includes 6 expensive subway stations that, by themselves, will cost about $1 billion dollars. If they had designed real estate opportunities (commercial or residential) above these new subway stations, TTC would've had these stations paid with private funds, therefore reducing the public cost for this subway extension to $1.6 billion, or $186 million per km."

To assemble enough land to create a development parcel to finance a subway station is virtually impossible. Given expropriation requires "fair value" to be paid to the landowner and that any subway plan would dramatically increase the value of the land, the cost-benefit of this type of land assembly would be a tough sell. There's also the argument against the legitimacy of expropriating land by a municipality primarily for the purpose of developing the land for profit themselves.

A good point is made here: subway stations are expensive; even the most spartan and value-engineered station would cost at least $75-million, whereas the most elaborate surface LRT station would be a fraction of that cost, under $10-million. It's easy to see why: no need for elevators, escalators, extensive digging, or disruption to the surrounding community.

"Alternatively, we can build elevated mass transit systems like the city of Vancouver does, where we would keep our scarce road space unaffected. We can even do this at a lower cost compared to Transit City's LRTs, since Vancouver's 19.2 km long Canada Line, including its 16 stations, cost about $2 billion, or $104 million per km. This is less than 2/3 of Transit City's cost."

Elevated lines are an option and it should be investigated further as a potential design solution. However, Mayor Ford also refused this option on Eglinton Avenue East when it was proposed. Most definitely, lessons from the Canada Line should be considered, such as public-private partnership options, and extensive value-engineering. Do note that station costs for Canada Line are significantly lower because they're much smaller stations (50 metre length compared to 150 metres for a subway station, and 100 metres for an Eglinton LRT station).


Is the motivation misguided?

"To our advantage, Toronto has a series of corridors where we can put additional road capacity; and without having to destroy neighbourhoods, as it was done half a century ago in many cities in North America."

Additional road capacity is not a solution to Toronto's transportation woes, if we even have room for it. The motivation of providing enhanced rapid transit should not be to free up space for road widening and expansion. Why? Read about induced demand (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Induced_demand), which is an important concept. In short, increasing road capacity will only add more cars to our roads. Providing more transportation and mobility choice is the key to reduce our reliance on driving to get around the region. Driving when necessary, but not out of necessity.


Agreeing on a balance

"Toronto doesn't need a Transit City plan. Instead, we need a Transportation City plan that would improve transportation for all commuters. A balanced plan that serves transit riders, car drivers, walkers and bicycle riders, alike."

We finally agree here. We need a balanced plan. A subway-only plan is not balanced. Nor is a LRT-only plan.

A balanced plan means:
  • We can build subways where they make sense: providing York University with a much needed subway connection, extending the Sheppard Subway to the employment centre at Consumers Road or a downtown relief line where more transit capacity is needed to support the transit-dependent development in the core.
  • We should build LRTs where its flexibility is an advantage and capacity is appropriate.
  • We should ensure our local bus network remains well-funded and provides reliable, frequent service.
  • We should make it safe and convenient to walk, bike, and carpool to transit and other destinations.

Those are the makings of a balanced plan. Instead, we face the danger of following a random, untested collection of ideas that claims to be balanced, but is deliberately unachievable as to stall transit progress in a city starved for travel options.

We must move forward on solutions.

Laurence Lui
for CodeRedTO

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