Metrolinx

June 14, 2015

garyowens

Today we talk transit with insidetoronto.com’s Rahul Gupta. And it’s not all about the Scarborough subway!

audibly submitted by Cityslikr


Gardiner East Conclusion (Round ??)

June 12, 2015

“People had different sets of facts… but they were all facts.”

Mayor John Tory, after scoring a 24-21 city council victory, enabling him to push forward with some sort of hybrid option of the elevated Gardiner east expressway.

I just canx.

(It has returned.)

canx

numbly submitted by Cityslikr


Day 2 — Gardiner East

June 11, 2015

All signs point to a stumbling, bumbling, blustering, bullshitting, typical-in-Toronto absolutely incomplete victory at city council for Mayor John Tory’s Gardiner east “hybrid” option. pickacardWhich “hybrid”? Who knows? Staff will be directed to report back on ways to make the ‘not perfect’ “hybrid” the mayor’s been pitching a more not perfecter “hybrid” including last year’s original hybrid version that city staff has already determined unworkable.

Or as former councillor John Parker tweeted: “It’s a request for a modified hybrid if necessary but not necessarily a modified hybrid.”

But don’t you dare call the motion Mayor Tory tabled yesterday a referral. A referral would mean months of delay. The mayor’s motion will be reported on back to council probably in September. Just a couple, three months from now. There’s a distinction there if you have just the right eyes to see it with.

I hold tight to my belief no elevated Gardiner east “hybrid” of any sort will ever be built. All this last minute design wrangling, on the fly in the face of a decade or so of far more careful waterfront planning will stray so far from the terms of reference of the provincial environmental assessment that Queen’s Park will have little choice but to rein it back in to reality, miragetugging city council firmly from the 1950s into the 21st-century. Or a mountain of litigation from developers negatively impacted by the “hybrid” awaits to drag the proceedings to a standstill. Not for nothing did council go in camera for couple of hours to deal with that very situation.

But all that is beside the point. It’s always been beside the point. Securing any sort of perceived victory for any sort of “hybrid” version will give Mayor Tory bragging rights to being the true champion in the ongoing war against the car that’s been raging in this city. Who’s looking out for you, Mr. & Mrs. Automobile Driver? Mayor Tory, that’s who. Who spent an astounding amount of political capital this early in his first term to protect this city’s drivers from the nasty clutches or urbanists, latte-sippers and the blinding reality of the future? Mayor Tory, that’s who.

And don’t you forget it. Even if the Gardiner east is brought back down to earth, at-grade, by saner voices, don’t you forget Mayor Tory had your back.

focus

Mayor John Tory, 2018.

prognosticatingly submitted by Cityslikr


A Full Accounting Of Council

June 10, 2015

Here’s the thing.

No matter what happens at city council this week, it won’t be the last we hear about the Gardiner east. thisisntoverI think it was Brian Kelcey who said a week or so ago on Twitter that (and I’m paraphrasing here because I’m too lazy to go back and find the exact wording) no big decision is ever made in a city just once. Not just this city. Any city.

My gut tells me that even if Mayor Tory’s “hybrid” option wins the day, whatever day it gets voted on, we’ll never see it. There are too many obstacles in its way, out of city council’s hands, for it to remain… a-hem, a-hem… standing. A provincial EA. Federal involvement in the waterfront development. A keenly interested segment of the development community. David Crombie.

And for some members of council including the mayor, I think that might not be the worst outcome. Standing up for car drivers and having the right decision taken out of their hands by forces beyond their control would be a nice tidy narrative to have in their back pocket when any sort of final decision is made. whatareyouuptoI did what I could but, you know, my hands were tied.

While I would’ve thought a couple days ago the “hybrid” option was squeaking through, just yesterday loud and loopy voices began making tunneling sounds. Bury the whole thing! This threatens to take the council debate to the Fordian stratosphere of unpredictable madness that winds up banning cars from the downtown core. Let’s call it, Stage Jimmy K.

The tunnel strategy could quite simply be another take on establishing pro-car credibility. Nothing’s too good for you, Uncle Otto. Nobody loves you as much as I do. And then, once that gets blown out of the water by a whiff of, reality, let’s call it, the diggers will wind up in the “hybrid” camp, reluctant compromisers.

All hypotheticals and conjecture, of course. It’s not as if I haven’t been wildly off on my city council prognostications before. revealitselfLick here now for that grain of salt.

What I will say is, regardless of what happens with the Gardiner east debate, a fuller picture of our council make-up will fall into place. We’ll be able to ascertain just who seems prepared to face the future challenges of building and developing this city in a forward-thinking manner, differentiating themselves from those refusing to make decisions with any guide other than past measures. This is how it could be versus this is how it’s always been.

Good information to have in hand. A useful guide going forward to 2018.

judgingly submitted by Cityslikr


CAPITALIZING The Future

June 9, 2015

“Realistically cars are NEVER going to disappear.” [Capitalization ENTIRELY the author’s doing.]

So proclaimed former city councillor and transit advocate, Gordon Chong, in this weekend’s Toronto Sun, and in one sentence putting out there EVERYTHING that is wrong with the Gardiner East’s “hybrid” supporters – led by Mayor John Tory — argument.blinkers

They cannot get see a future that will not be exactly like the past, their past.

That no one I’ve ever heard (or, at least, taken seriously) has stated that the private automobile is going the way of the dinosaur is of no consequence to “hybrid” proponents. Hyperbole and the assigning of extremely held beliefs to opposition voices is the hallmark of those pushing policy that lacks any sort of evidentiary base. The entrenched status quo sees any change as wild-eyed and unthinkable revolution. Utopian. Idyllic. Latte-sipping.

The fact that driving patterns have changed since the Gardiner first went up seems of little consequence to unabashed automobile enthusiasts like Gordon Chong. The number of drivers using the Gardiner, the ENTIRE Gardiner, during peak commute hours has remained relatively stable since the 1970s despite the explosive growth the GTAs have seen in the period. Why? Because there is only so much road space. Only so many cars can fit onto it at any given time.

So people use alternative methods to get around the city and region. Public transit, for one. There’s where you’ve seen a corresponding EXPLOSIVE GROWTH to our population boom. Despite what the TTC CEO called this morning “a chronic lack of funding” for public transit in this city, people in greater numbers keep using it. keepdiggingStill, “hybrid” supporters don’t think it’s up to the task of accommodating whatever overflow may occur if the elevated portion of the Gardiner East is removed.

Which is a funny position to take because, looking at the morning rush hour to downtown (that is where the Gardiner east is located), there isn’t a ward in the city that has more than half its commuters driving. (h/t Laurence Liu). Fun fact? In Ward 2, the beating heart of Ford Nation, transit users coming downtown in the a.m. outnumber drivers, 77%-22%. You read that correctly. Unfortunately, I can’t capitalize it for emphasis.

Driving has become only a component of how people move around the city and not the primary one either, certainly not downtown. There is a shift in our relationship to automobiles. Many more of us aren’t experiencing the freedom we’re promised in car ads. Trends suggest more people are settling down into the core. Driving becomes less desirable.

That’s before we even get to the hard charging technology of driverlessness which promises to alter not only the occupant’s experience but the efficiency with which traffic flows. Will it? Who knows? But pretending it won’t possibly be a factor is tantamount to suggesting computer chips haven’t changed how we live our lives.

Refusing to accept reality, though, is a big part of the “hybrid” game plan. caradIt’s no mistake in his speech yesterday to the Empire Club Mayor Tory raised the spectre of Fred “Big Daddy” Gardiner, the first chair of Metro Council and the political architect of urban expressway building in Toronto. The mayor talks Gardiner, and speaks of cars and driving, while ignoring process.

Gardiner (the man) threw his energy into making Toronto car-friendly because he was operating on the best available evidence of the time. The private automobile was about the future, with cheap gas and limitless land in which to build our suburban getaways as far as the eye could see and the mind imagine. It’s easy, with more than half a century of hindsight, to roll your eyes. What were they thinking?!

Unless, of course, you support the “hybrid” option. You can’t let go of that thinking. As it was, so it must ever be. Mayor Tory touts Fred Gardiner. Who can argue with Big Daddy, am I right?

In their mind, as expressed by Gordon Chong in the Toronto Sun, “ …an expressway under Lake Ontario is the REAL VISIONARY FUTURE [capitalization mine], much like the Bloor Viaduct was decades ago.” Build more car infrastructure! Screw the cost (BOSTON) or technical nightmares of tunneling near water (SEATTLE). This ‘guerilla war fought against the car for decades’ must come to an end. Driving is not the source of congestion. aroundinawarenessNot enabling more driving is.

It’s not that cars are NEVER going to disappear (although, it seems, they do if you take road space away from them). It’s the zombie-like belief Gordon Chong, Mayor Tory and all the other “hybrid” supporters hold in the primacy of cars as the transportation mode people will use that refuses to die or, at least, face reality. Driving habits have already changed since the time of Fred Gardiner. Evidence heavily suggests it’s a trend that will continue into the future. Investing unnecessarily to fight congestion in the name of cars is doing nothing more than fighting the future, and investing in a dream Fred Gardiner had more than 50 years ago.

As it turns out, a dream that has not aged particularly well.

submitted by Cityslikr


A Vital Civics Lesson

June 8, 2015

Let’s set aside the cynicism for a moment. Ignore the urge to tabulate political calculations. Don’t discuss whose voices get heard in this city, whose opinions matter. cuphalffullNot yet, at any rate.

We need to revel in the fact that fierce citizen engagement can directly affect change. Take a moment. Take that in. Enjoy it. Learn from it.

Mayor John Tory came out yesterday in full support of ending the practice of police carding in this city. It’s a huge shift from the mayor who, less than a week ago, was full of — How’d John Barber put it in the Torontoist? – “marshmallow circumlocutions” in defense of reforming rather than ending the system.

The personal stories I’ve heard in recent months and even before, the words, laden with deeply-felt emotion, have been building up in my conscience and they have stuck with me.

And so after great personal reflection, and many discussions — highlighted by a very candid, thoughtful discussion with a number of people including Desmond Cole and others — I’ve concluded that time has gone on too long and that it was time for me to say, enough.

It was time to acknowledge that there is no real way to fix a practice which has come to be regarded as illegitimate, disrespectful and hurtful. It was better to start over with a clean slate.

On Metro Morning today [no link yet], that very same Desmond Cole whose article in Toronto Life on his personal experiences with police carding served, I think, as the tipping point in the conversation, humbly deferred any sort of hero designation, rightly pointing the community and members of it who worked to bring about the change. No one person can ever successfully challenge a status quo system. desmondcoleThey can lend a voice, serve as a catalyst, contribute mightily, doggedly, relentlessly as part of the cause. Lone white knights are just fairytale characters.

The few times I talked with Desmond Cole about the issue, it was obvious the kind of personal and professional toll it was taking on him. I’ve been caught up in far less significant issues (yes, the Gardiner East pales in importance next to carding) and found everything else can fall by the wayside. Doctor appointments. Social engagements. Personal hygiene. Civic engagement, especially something as fundamental as our civil rights, comes at a cost. There are only so many hours in a day, so many fucks to give.

Which is why the more people who slice out even a few hours of their lives to contribute collectively to issues that matter to them, their family, their community, the less onus we place on individual efforts. Yeah, everything needs an instigator, an organizer, somebody to do a website. But it takes an army to knock on doors, to stand up and speak at public events, to testify on that one thing that serves as a barrier, that squeezes opportunity, that impedes the possibility of living fulfilled and meaningful lives.

So, let’s acknowledge this moment. That time when a bunch of people, almost exclusively from communities throughout the city normally without such a powerful voice to force the powers that be to take notice and actually change course. firststepIt’s something we need to relish. Change can happen.

Tomorrow’s the time to worry about the fuller picture. I am always wary of an on the road to Damascus conversion like Mayor Tory has seemingly experienced. He foisted himself immediately into the middle of the carding issue, putting himself on the Police Services Board after becoming mayor and mucking about with carding reforms that were already underway. But his words, if bloviatingly verbose at times, came across yesterday as genuine and heartfelt.

There’s no reason to expect the police services and its new chief will roll over passively on the issue just because the mayor said so. The service (with its former chief of police) resisted earlier calls for carding reform, ignoring directives from the board to do just that, creating the impasse Mayor Tory coddled up to just a few days ago. Systemic racism isn’t magically wished away by some mayoral fiat.

This issue ain’t over, is what I’m trying to say but, holy shit, did it receive a decisive body blow with Mayor Tory’s change of heart. Grab hold of that. Hug it close to you for a moment. Realize, as a matter of fact, you can make a difference. We just have to stop waiting for someone else to do it.

lilliput

hopefully submitted by Cityslikr


Reading The Tea Leaves, Scientifically Speaking

June 7, 2015

garyowens

With the Gardiner east debate revealing city council to still be a place full of cut-rate representation, we sit down and talk with Marshall’s Musings‘ Sean Marshall to ask the burning question: What the hell went wrong in last year’s municipal election, Sean?

audibly submitted by Cityslikr


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