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Willie Nelson sings the #bikeTO blues

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.
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.

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.
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

Dental Exam went well? Thank Fluoride!

"Every $1 invested in fluoridation saves approximately $38 in dental treatment costs, according to the C.D.C. The cost of a single filling averages $140, and that’s only the beginning. Through the years, a filled tooth is likely to require further repairs and maybe even extraction and replacement with a bridge or implant costing thousands of dollars.

None of this, however, has quelled the controversy over the safety of fluoridation, which dates back to the first studies in the 1940s. In addition to being labeled a Communist plot and an unconstitutional form of mass medication, fluoridation has been accused of causing a host of medical horrors: heart disease, cancer, Down syndrome, AIDS, allergies, Alzheimer’s disease, mental retardation, osteoporosis and fractures, among others.

None of these supposed risks has ever been established in scientifically valid studies. The only proven risk, a condition called fluorosis, which results in white and sometimes brownish markings on the teeth from too much fluoride, rarely results from a normal intake of fluoridated water."


Read the full article here: http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/01/23/dental-exam-went-well-thank-fluoride/

(and city Councillors in Toronto and Calgary and elsewhere who like to cut costs by scaremongering about fluoride? I'd like you to shut it, please.)

Update: Learn more about fluoride history and controversy here: http://www.anzhealthpolicy.com/content/4/1/25 
A note from your host, @c_9: This email was sent to CodeRedTO.com, SaveTransitCity.com, 11 reporters from the National Post, 10 reporters from the Toronto Star, 4 reporters from the CBC, 2 at the Sun, 1 Global, 1 CTV, plus others.

I personally found it misleading in many cases and factually wrong in others. I have not responded to it yet. This is included only for discussion purposes, not for trashing the author. Personal attacks will be deleted.

If I personally respond, or if CodeRedTO sends an official response, I will post it to this blog as well.


Yes I still have a LiveJournal. Shush.


Dear all,

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. 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. Transit City proponents argue that this plan would take hundreds or thousands of cars off the roads, by assuming that car trips are linear, when in reality they are not. 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. 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.

From the experiences above, we observe that LRTs on separated right-of-ways in Toronto do not move faster than buses in mixed traffic. 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. Also, if Toronto begins a large subway construction program, economies of scale would apply, which would further reduce the cost per km for building subways. 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.

Having said all the above, Toronto commuters still remain without a plan to improve the road conditions in this city. And this is for the majority of Torontonians, who commute on private cars. Even if we execute Metrolinx's entire "The Big Move" plan, we would still have over 50% of commuters in Toronto travelling on private cars. Without increasing road capacity, but with the population increasing 43% in Toronto and its surroundings, in the next 20 years (as forecasted by Metrolinx), traffic gridlock will only get much worse. 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.

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.

Yours sincerely,

Jose Ramon Gutierrez


P.S.:  Links to recent articles about reviving Transit City, as referred above:
http://news.nationalpost.com/2012/01/21/code-red-gears-up-to-fight-for-a-better-way/
http://www.nowtoronto.com/news/story.cfm?content=184596

Excel Formatting Tip

Putting this here for my later use, and for anyone else interested.

Have you ever wanted currency in Excel to be red when it's negative, so your bad budgeting mistakes leap out at you quickly? Well that's easy: just select the cell, hit Ctrl-1, and choose "Currency" on the Number tab. Pick one of the red options. No biggie.

The downside to the currency format though is it is a bit crowded - the currency symbol is mashed right against the number, and the number's mashed right against the margin. So some people prefer to select Accounting instead. It gives you great indenting and plus it replaces "0" with "-", which looks super-slick.

But it has a downside too! In accounting there is no red ink (which strikes me as ridiculous, btw). So how do you get the great arrangement of Accounting with the cheerful judgement of the colour red? Easy: just paste this in the Custom box:

_-$* #,##0.00_-;[Red]-$* #,##0.00_-;_-$* "-"??_-;_-@_-

This concludes today's tiny Excel tip which managed to become an entire blog post.

Tags:

Japan Update: Not Moving

Turns out the transfer isn't happening, so all the stress can be replaced with calm, comforting regular life stress.

What's the Japanese word for ulcer?

So my dear 1_2_ready_go is interviewing for a full-time job with his company in Tokyo. Eeeep!

He can speak Japanese - the job would be in English anyway - but I can't and have zero career prospects. Teaching English is always an option but would mean essentially stopping my career aspirations for a while. We're not sure whether this makes sense yet, but I know he really wants to go and won't go without me.

Needless to say, stress.
  • House: we could put stuff in storage and rent it out.
  • Job: I could teach English (dunno how long I would like that), act/model* (but only in English), or possibly work remotely for a company in Canada (but this only works short-term because I can't stay in the country more than 6 months in any 12-month period). We're not recognized as married for visa rules as far as I can tell, so even with his job visa I couldn't stay.
  • Cats: can't go with us, can't stay with house or friends or family due to heavy budget and care requirements and inability to not get eaten/run over. No solution here yet.


The end point of all this is a big question mark. No idea when/how/if. But luckily that doesn't prevent stress and ulcers from getting started right away.

Anybody know anyone working in Japan that needs an English-speaker?

[crickets]


* No seriously! Being a white guy is valuable, even if I'm not a svelte model-type. But there's a lot of competition in this area from other slackers hanging out in Japan. :)

This weekend I happened to be near Parc Downsview Park with some time to kill, and I decided to try and find the Canadian Air & Space Museum, as I had never been. In fact, I didn't even know it existed until it hit the news a couple months ago, when its landlord (the federal government) served them with an eviction notice. Apparently their site is slated for redevelopment as a 4-pad hockey rink.

Members and volunteers at the museum are understandably upset about this. Hurting for funding and volunteers, and now losing their home, they're fighting back with letters to decision-making politicians and influencers, a petition, and an information campaign to help people realize what's happening. They even got some help from Harrison Ford! One challenge: they compete, in a sense, with the Canada Aviation and Space Museum in Ottawa, the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum in Hamilton, plus other aeronautical museums out in western and Atlantic Canada on and off military bases. All of these museums have amazing stuff to offer and funding needs, so it's very hard to figure out whether they all should be kept.

Avro Arrow, Canadair Regional Jet 700-series, and de Havilland Beaver

One thing the Canadian Air & Space Museum has that none of the others have is an historic building at 65 Carl Hall Road that hosted some amazing elements of Canadian aerospace history. It's the original 1929 home of de Havilland Aircraft of Canada Ltd -- maker of the Dash-8 and many many more incredible aircraft. This building and others beside it (long gone now) were home to warplane and engine design and assembly, even satellites were built here. The Downsview site was hugely important in Canada's war efforts (and therefore Britain's too), and the building itself is really in good shape due to good construction. Sadly, the museum's funding is almost nonexistent -- over $100k behind in rent, for example, though the situation was improving when the eviction notice came. When I drove up there was an engine part sitting outside in the rain - a big problem for any museum that has more history to display than it has space to store.

I can't say for sure that I believe that building should be saved. It would be easiest for the museum, and Downsview has a LOT of space -- surely a hockey rink could be located across the parking lot, for example. Being forced out would result in the loss of several amazing pieces of history that would be damaged in the move, and if no storage could be located who knows what could happen to the many one-of-a-kind mid-restoration aircraft? It's scary to contemplate the death of a museum.

If a new location and sufficient storage space, and stable funding, were to be found, then I'd be OK with them changing locations. The building holds great meaning, but if the choice is die a slow death there or potentially grow and find new visitors elsewhere... it's all awful timing since the new York University subway extension will have its first new subway station only a couple hundred metres away. So many potential visitors! But that makes the land worth even more as something else of course.

Without official heritage designation, 65 Carl Hall Road is at risk. The locks have been changed, and a lockbox sits on the front door, but there are still volunteers and staff inside maintaining the museum. When I found it Sunday morning I tried the door just in case it was open. It wasn't, but a volunteer quickly ran to the door and let me in. He explained that the museum was closed to the general public by order of the landlord, but that members were still welcome... would I like to become a member? It took be about 3 nanoseconds to decide that I would like that very much indeed.

The gift shop helped me with my heavy wallet...

I'm so glad I went. I spent over two hours wandering the museum, photographing as much as I could. I knew that the chances of getting back to the museum soon, or ever, were slim. My photographs and captions can be viewed in this Facebook gallery. Sorry, non-Facebookers, but it appears to be accessible to all even logged out.

All photos: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10151021988855593.767591.610245592&type=1&l=3e576d5ff0

I highly recommend a visit. Buy your membership online, throw in a small donation maybe, and head up there soon! TTC bus route 101 will take you right there from Downsview (soon to be Sheppard West) station. Let me know if you want somebody geeky to join you - I'll clear my calendar!