So That Happened

With the rental car out back in the garage, waiting to whisk me away for weekend (a detail pertinent only as proof of, see, weekendgetawayI too on occasion drive an automobile and am not just some anti-car zealot), let me leave you with this passing thought.

In a book I am currently reading, Transport For Suburbia: Beyond the Automobile Age by Paul Mees, the author summarizes a consultant’s report written for the city of Los Angeles:

the region required an integrated, multi-modal public transport system comprised of high-speed rapid transit trains running on segregated rights of way, fed and linked by urban and interurban trams, with buses serving sparsely settled and recently developed areas. A single organization would need to control these services to ensure integration and eliminate wasteful duplication, and substantial public funding would be required for the capital works.

Oh right. I forgot to mention this report was written in 1925.


Public transit planning has been with us long before the car, folks. Private automobile use is, in fact, the interloper here. Designing cities and communities around the mobility of drivers is the real radical experiment in social engineering. It’s just that for anyone under the age of, say, 75, we don’t realize it because we’ve been living it. It’s our normal but not society’s.

I don’t begrudge urban planners from 50, 60 or 70 years ago their dreams of autopia, to use Mees’s word. We were still largely a rural, small town people with a deep suspicion of big cities (although I will look askance at some likely racist sentiment behind that. urbansuburbiaCities were where wave after wave of immigrants settled.) Cities offered economic opportunity but were not places someone would choose to live given their druthers.

Cars delivered a promise of personal mobility, easy and inexpensive access to a place in the country. With wide open spaces to expand and now a means for everyone to get there, the suburbs became a way of life. Cities were transformed, designed for the convenience of personal vehicle use.

But I think it safe to say that it’s been a spectacular failure, a victim of its own success in many ways. The lure of the suburban lifestyle has drawn more and more people to it. We have grown increasingly urbanized as a society. As that has happened, it’s become apparent such a lifestyle, dependent as it is on the automobile, is not sustainable. Not economically. Not environmentally. And, most importantly, not socially.

failedexperimentSo it’s time to turn the page.

What we shouldn’t lose sight of, however, is that we’re not starting a new chapter. We don’t have to chart entirely new territory. This isn’t a blank slate.

We simply have to revert to a previous way of doing things. With a few new wrinkles for sure but we’re not re-inventing the wheel here. Remember, cars and the lifestyle they introduced are the new kids on the block. Party crashers we initially were excited about having shown up but who turned out to be drunken bores. When we asked them to leave, they trashed the place on the way out.

Car dependence was the bold new theory that looked great on paper but eventually worked out poorly in practice. Shit happens, right? As we set out to undo and repair the damage, don’t forget that. Our attempts now to deal with the fallout, like fixing traffic snarls by giving right of way access to public transit or keeping cars off streets during certain hours, shouldn’t be viewed as way out there, never been tried before plots to destroy capitalism as we know it or whatever other conspiracies the knuckleheads will try and come up with.


We’re simply regressing to the mean, baby. Reverting to the way things used to be before the crazy kids and their souped-up hot rods convinced us they knew better. Proponents of alternative methods of transportation, whether walking, biking or public transit, are the real conservatives in this discussion. They have nothing to be defensive about and need to start acting accordingly.

old schooly submitted by Cityslikr

34 thoughts on “So That Happened

  1. Certainly, an offensive approach will only harden attitudes and result in few, if any, car owners becoming part of any suggested solutions, even if they agreed that there was a problem. Those guys stuck in “congestion” can stick there. If there is a “congestion” problem let them live it, they’re the problem, and let them figure-out how to solve it. Being told what needs to be done by a bunch of downtown elites is never going to work. Telling them to sell their house in Mississauga and live in TO closer to where they work will help. That might even help if the condo bubble bursts.

  2. I’ve suggested this before, but I think that it is worth repeating: In the short term until we get a Downtown Relief Line… A cheap alternative would be to build a couple of mega parking structures around the perimeter of the Downtown so that people can drive into town from areas where transit is sparse. Then have transit only in the down town core.

    • Another good idea would be to create parking spaces in the holes where the LRT stations are to be sited. There’s room for 800 parking spaces at the YE hole alone. The problem is, we need leadership and all we’ve got is opposition, jockeying for position, whining and moaning.

      • Dear Mr. Smyth,

        You are proposing providing a space to bring 800 more cars to Yonge-Eglinton?

        We here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke must be interpreting that incorrectly. Nobody would think inviting more cars to midtown would be a good idea, would they?

      • Dear Mr. cityslikr,

        Yes, thinking rather than obsessing. Absolutely, you could never imagine such ingenuity.

        The 800 cars I propose should be parked in the YE hole, rather than simply back-filling it, are already in the YE neighbourhood.

        I believe many local residents would happily pay to park there and ride the TTC. (All the holes could accommodate a lot of other community benefits too.)

        Unfortunately, the downtown elites are too focused on their needs and there’s only opposition where there should be leadership.

      • Dear Mr. Smyth,

        Don’t we think highly of ourselves? “Ingenuity”! “Thinking rather than obsessing.”

        OK, genius. Run your master plan by us again. We here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke are obviously too slow to follow your crackling mind.

        There are 800 local residents of the Yonge-Eglinton neighbourhoods desperately looking for a place to park their cars. So desperate that they’d happily pay for a spot if they had one. In order to park their cars and take transit to wherever they’re going.

        Have we missed some logical step? The idea’s not gelling for us.

      • Dear cityslikr,

        “The idea’s not gelling for us.” As I said before……you really do have to spend less time pontificating and less time obsessing about the Fords to be able to think creatively.

        The only plans the TTC and Metrolinks have for the LRT holes is to back-fill them when all the subway plumbing is finished. That’s a terrible idea but it does shine a light on some of what has hurt this city for years – a lack of comprehensive planning.

        There are easily 800 households in the YE area that could benefit from being able to drive 1 or 2 kms to park underground at LRT stations. It would encourage more public transit use, especially in winter.

        Your war on cars strategy is ideological, designed to impress the elites living below Bloor.

      • Dear Mr. Smyth,

        So you are proposing building parking for people to drive 1 or 2 kilometres to hop aboard the Eglinton LRT.

        And our strategy here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke is ‘ideological’ and not creative?

        You must sleep like a baby, swaddled as you are in a warm blanket of self-delusion.

      • I was thinking in terms of East/West travel through the core. A Mega Parking Lot in the Exhibitions Grounds which pulls traffic off of the QEW, Lakeshore and Gardiner to connect with the existing transit hub for Streetcars and GO Transit.

        Another Mega Parking Lot at the foot of the DVP and the addition of a GO station at that location.

        Expanding parking at Yorkdale and/or Downsview to pull more cars off the 400/401.

        Get more people to take GO trains within city limits to get downtown. (Parking fee has to be tied into the fare).

        I don’t think that it’s a good idea to bring more cars into a construction zone at Yonge/Eglinton. Even if you can fit 800 cars at YE, how do you get cars to and from YE?

      • Dear cityslikr,

        The LRT will connect to the TTC subway.

        That means, I would be able to drive to the big hole, park my car, take in a hockey game and not give the downtown ideologues more sleepless nights.


        the idea for YE stems from the fact that there will soon be a big hole there. Local residents would make good use of parking and taking public transit. I don’t see that attracting extra cars. It’s like the King Street idea – I don’t think making it car-free will mean there will be fewer cars downtown.

        Your idea to give car owners good reason to park and ride is excellent.

      • Dear Mr. Smyth,

        Again, your plan confuses us here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke.

        Where exactly are you talking about putting the parking when you say YE? Do you mean in the actual vicinity of Yonge and Eglinton? Where the subway already stops?

        And if the parking isn’t going to attract extra cars, why build it? You need to read up on the idea of induced demand.

      • I’m not south of Bloor, I’m North of Eglinton. My idea is for something that could be implemented in the next couple of years instead of waiting nearly a decade before the Crosstown is complete.

        There’s no way that a subterranean parking garage could be built and functioning before construction of the Crosstown is built over-or-under it.

        It has been found that the congestion on King Street isn’t from the moving vehicles during rush hour. The big problem is from vehicles that are stopped/parked that block traffic.

        Steve Munro – Preliminary Analysis of King Car Operations AM Peak Downtown (Updated)

        It’s not a matter of giving people a place to drive, it’s a matter of finding parking space.

        So I’d like to see more people from the ‘burbs parking at peripheral transit hubs and not driving all the way downtown. YE is too far downtown to drive.

      • Ron, I think your idea has a lot of merit. Additional parking at YE is for the many cars that reside in Midtown and would increase use of public transit.

    • Dear cityslikr,

      I suppose it’s the living north of Bloor that is so foreign and confusing to you, eh? That’s actually why the downtown Community Council shouldn’t be allowed to dictate to the rest of the city.

      Yes, the hole will be for 200 meters along Eglinton frontage.

      Do not think of it attracting cars, (I know hard for an anti-car warrior to think that way) think of it as a way for more people to accept public transit as a way of getting around town.

      Think of it as a revenue-generating convenience (I know that’s challenging too for a downtown elite) for the local community.

      Think of a hole better planned that will alleviate congestion in the area and one that allows for better servicing of retail stores above and below the YE intersection.

      Don’t think that residents are going to give up their cars because some whiny ideologues imagine it’s better for them.

      • Dear Mr. Smyth,

        Actually, what’s foreign and confusing to us here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke is your complete ass-backward understanding of transit and planning.

        Your proposal would bring more cars to the Yonge and Eglinton area regardless of how you try and couch it. Whether or not these people get onto transit, you will be increasing congestion at Yonge-Eglinton.

        If you’re building an LRT that will feed into the subway at Y-E, why do you want to encourage people to drive to the station? Why not just increase the feeder lines to the LRT?

        You accuse us of being some sort of anti-car warriors when in fact the intransigent mindset here is yours. You only see transit through the eyes of a car driver. Getting people out of their cars isn’t about ideology or some south of Bloor whiny elitism. It’s about building a city not exclusively around the demands of car owners.

      • Dear Mr. cityslikr,

        Waging a war against citizens who use cars is narrow-minded and divisive in this city but it seems to be the extent of your imagination.

        Likewise, thinking above Bloor is beyond your experience level too.

        That’s what happens when you are ideological and lose the ability to think for yourself.

        If you wish people to change their behaviour you must engage with them. Telling them they are stupid likely won’t work.

        I believe you are every bit as hard-headed as Rob Ford and as David Miller was. Not good for this city!

      • Dear Mr. Smyth,

        Only those unable to see past their own windshields would think that we here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke are waging a war against citizens who use cars.

        Like your constant blather about affordable housing, you refuse to back up any of your claims or ideas with anything resembling data, facts or figures. Just nonsense you think as common sense. We have done nothing but engage with you and provide you a platform to make your case. You can’t do it so you resort to name calling and then accuse us of doing exactly that.

        The problem this city faces isn’t crappy politicians or hard-headed ideologues. It’s those who think they have the simple answers to complex problems we really have to worry about.

      • Dear cityslikr,

        “we really have to worry about.” You’re a messiah too, eh?

        Sorry to burst your wee bubble but you really have to get a grip. You’re a downtown blogger. One of a gaggle that pounced on keyboards when they realised Joey Pants wasn’t going to win the last Council election. You’ve been unhinged, pissed and obsessed ever since the downtown elites lost control at City Hall.

        I think suggesting that car drivers are the problem, and asking them to go away, is a more simplistic statement than what either Mr. Ron Wm. Hurlbut or I have put forward. Telling us that we should go back in time might make for a cute movie, but wouldn’t we have problems parking our horses?

        No, my suggestion for better use of the LRT holes is more worthy of consideration than ‘Hail Mary’ ideas. It’s the kind of thing this City should have been considering when every TTC station was being planned. I’m even on record advocating for Affordable Housing to be built over public transit stations.

        Mr. Ron Wm. Hurlbut has some excellent suggestions too. I suspect too sensible for you to let your guard down and comment on. Or, are you ignoring his ideas because he hasn’t backed them up with data, facts and figures? What’s your fascination with me alone?

        There are over 156,000 TO residents in need of decent affordable housing and the majority of downtown councillors voted to eliminate a provision for more in my neighbourhood. They simply said ‘no’ when presented with a part-solution to a complex problem. Crappy councillors and ideologues are a big part of TO’s municipal administration.

        Just to be sure, you do call yourself a name (cityslikr), right? Like, that’s not your real name, is it? Maybe you shouldn’t call yourself names. It’s childish.

      • Dear Mr. Smyth,

        We here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke are going to try and sum up the gist of every comment you make on this site.

        Here goes:

        Miss point entirely.

        Create series of straw men and wrestle with them unsuccessfully.

        Make claims you never ever substantiate.

        Finish off with a flurry of name calling.

        That sound about right, Mr. Smyth or should we start referring to you as Dave From Yonge-Eglinton?

      • Dear cityslikr,

        It sounds spot-on for the folks at AFUITBS. But, unlike you, I don’t need a name change – I’m not pretentious.

      • Dear Mr. Smyth,

        We here at All Fired Up in the Smoke were wondering if you meant to say, I know you are but what am I?

    • Mr. Smyth,

      I don’t think that we’re in the same camp.

      Least of all, I’m not ashamed to say that I voted for “Joey Pants” as you call Joe Pantalone.

      I define the downtown core as being Bathurst to the Don and Eglinton to Lakeshore.

      Anyone coming down the center of the city (Yonge Street) should already be on the Subway, so no parking at YE.

      Parking would be further north to be near the 401.

      I would bring back the Vehicle Registration Fee (VRF) to pay for transit and parking at transit hubs.

      I’d also issue windshield stickers as part of the Vehicle Registration Fee. The city would be divided into zones and the stickers would show which zone your car comes from.

      That way, the people who live in the downtown core would be able to drive in and out of the downtown core.

      Other cars would have restrictions, but allow them to park at the transit hubs I’ve already described.

      You will notice, if you’ve been paying attention, that I put the parking lots at existing transit hubs. Mainly GO Train Stations.

      Then they’d have the option of express service into the core on the GO Train, or a Streetcar/bus ride into town.

      I’d also like to see single fare payment that would allow transfer between the systems.

      We wouldn’t need a downtown relief line if we could transfer between TTC and GO and add a couple more stops inside the city along the several GO Train lines.

      • Mr. Hurlbut,

        I was paying attention and I didn’t think of being in your camp either. I simply wanted to congratulate you on some original thinking. Have you forwarded your ideas to City Staff?

        The only things we have in common are the notions that cars parked are better than cars on the move, and that we need better use of our existing transit infrastructure.

        Suggestions such as you make are all worthy of consideration. I also believe much more could be done to alleviate traffic problems in the core. Nor am I a fan of spending $50b until we have more adults in charge on Council, at the TTC and at Metrolinks – no matter how loud the Toronto Board of Trade shouts!

        Cars and trucks parked illegally in the core are still a big problem. Yet, parking enforcement resources are still more visible on my almost-deserted street north of Eglinton every morning between 8am and 10am!

        The VRT should not have been rescinded. To think that we owe that to supposedly seasoned councillors is a sad reflection on the state of affairs on Council. That doesn’t bode well either for better management of the business down there at City Hall!

        You shouldn’t be ashamed to say who you voted for. I was not a fan of Joe Pantalone. Although I would categorize myself as a supporter of socialism, I considered him part of the phony left on Council.

      • Hi Pat,

        “forwarded your ideas to City Staff?”

        Nah, my ideas are just musings. Farts in a hurricane. I just toss them out and if anyone wants to take them and run with them then that’s fine with me, but I don’t have any skin in the game…

        I have the pleasure of suffering through the construction of the Crosstown without getting much enjoyment out of its completion because I’ll be retired by that time.

        GO Transit services 905. There’s too much of a premium on it to be a reasonable option for 416ers to utilize for in town express service and any provincial gov’t would be afraid to change that.

        “You shouldn’t be ashamed to say who you voted for. I was not a fan of Joe Pantalone. Although I would categorize myself as a supporter of socialism, I considered him part of the phony left on Council.”

        I always say that if you don’t vote, you don’t have the right to complain.

        Under the political climate of the day, any Socialist Candidate didn’t have a hope in hell in the 2010 election. Any viable candidate was more concerned with maintaining their voice on council by keeping their seat as a Councillor.

        I think that Joe Pantalone was a long shot, but he was more interested in retiring. His constituents could excuse him for taking a run for mayoralty, but not for just up and quitting. It was his way out.

        As for being a “phony left”… There’s too much polarization in politics where moderates and centrists are harangued for being wishy-washy. Joe is left of center, just not far enough left of center, but he was the best of a bad bunch of socialist options.

        At the other end of the spectrum, the right wing fielded a pretty good team. I think that Ford came through for a couple of reasons. Vote splitting was a major factor as well as his being seen as a harmless dolt who wouldn’t do much damage.

        Boy were they wrong on that!

      • “a harmless dolt who wouldn’t do much damage.”

        Ronn, I’m interested to know what damage he has done? Yes, he’s been very effective in shutting down the old enemy (what he refers to as ‘the left’) and damage has been done due to lost opportunities but what actual harm has come to us since he became mayor?

        YE is my ‘hood too and it’s going to be a huge mess for the next 10 years at least – assuming no major cock-ups, such as happened with the St Clair project. The real danger is that so much re-development is happening and we still don’t have a Master Plan for the Public Realm. Even some of the developers are worried what the place will look like when it’s all developed!

        I’m no transit expert but, as an new experience I took public transit to and from the airport earlier this month. Subway to York Mills and Go Bus to the airport, and same on the way back. It worked well. Everything happened without delay. What amazed me was that the link is in place and working well but Go Transit doesn’t seem to advertise this service. The Go Bus was only at 25% capacity each way!

        There’s so much more that could be done before we commit to $50b.

        We got Rob Ford because previous City Halls ignored the divide and made it worse. He has exposed it now, well and truly. So, maybe we’ll attract a seasoned, mature replacement – if the old enemy don’t screw it up again.

      • Hi Pat,

        “I’m interested to know what damage he has done?”

        Well, now that I’ve managed to wipe up the coffee that sprayed from my nose when I read that….

        Time is Money: Rob Ford has wasted thousands of hours nickel and diming this city.

        Just on the subject of transit (In order to stay somewhat on topic) he’s wasted time and money pushing Subways, Subways, Subways. Unilaterally cancelling Transit City has cost us a lot of time and money.

        Oh, that damage…

        “assuming no major cock-ups, such as happened with the St Clair project.” Rob Ford is a major cock-up to the Crosstown by putting it behind schedule by at least a year.

        Oh, that damage…

      • Hi Ron,

        I believe greater damage has been caused by the culture on Council.

        Did Ford kill the VRT or did that happen because a majority voted for it to be killed? Councillors like Matlow, Carroll voted with Ford.

        Greater damage was done by Stintz when she helped Ford pull the plug on Transit City, even though she was for it and before that, against it.

        Damage is done when we tolerate incoming mayors cancelling previously approved projects – such as Miller’s pandering to the downtown NIMBYs and killing the bridge to the airport.

        More damage is done by allowing councillors to act as planners. Such as when Vaughan and Perks vote against a 6 storey midrise on Ossington yet they approve massive developments elsewhere.

        Councillors regularly vote to ignore stated policies of the City, for purely political reasons. Like when almost all the councillors on the Toronto East York Community Council voted to kill Affordable Housing units at Yonge/Eglinton.

        Nailing only Ford is damaging. (Big cross enter, stage left) It takes the focus away from much else that ails this city’s municipal administration. Ford’s poor performance, and that of the TTC, City Planning and Transportation, for example, exists only because it was tolerated during previous administrations.

        Weak management skills is killing this city, and that’s been happening under every mayor since Amalgamation.

  3. A barrier of proportions larger than Ford Nation is the auto industry in ontario. Its not hard to think of legislative examples to keep us driving and trucking. We are atleast we didnt privatize the tram system like they did in US cities so the could be scrapped for buses that again fed the auto industry.

    We may get proper transit only when our auto sector is hollowed out or the collective impact of grid lock on all the other sectors has the captains of industry calling in their marker of years of political support.

  4. Let’s start by having a term of employment with any city service be that you have to live within Toronto city limits. I have yet to meet a Police officer or TTC driver that lives in Toronto (and they commute in from Whitby, Hamilton, and Barrie).

  5. So the trash/bag talking Fords told the Premier to get her fiscal house in order. since Toronto has consistently had surpluses greater than $50 million a year during the Liberals. Souza is CUTTING $150 million over 3 years to the City.
    Analysis; this means Ford/Di Giorgio can’t freeze Property Taxes and/or “eliminate” 10% of the LTT heading into an election year…

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