Street Carnag–Oh! I Get It!

You know what I love about people who offer up easy solutions to not-so-easy problems? brightidea1Their firm belief that no one else has ever come up with that easy solution. If it were so easy, asshole, don’t you think it would already be in place?

So it goes with the National Post’s recent War on the Streetcar series, where they tap noted transit and municipal affairs expert, Terence Corcoran, and some dude from Vancouver to give us the lowdown on the congestion woes that ail us here in Toronto. Their inevitable conclusion? Replace our streetcars with buses and Bob’s yer uncle. Done, and done. Next problem you want solved?

Geez. Thanks, guys. That’s such a solid idea even Rob Ford has floated it before.

(Note to those handing out transit advice: if Rob Ford agrees with you, it has to be the dumbest idea ever. imwithstupid2He gets his views on public transit from reports he reads behind the wheel of his SUV while driving on the Gardiner.)

For all of those deciding to give voice to your opinions on this city’s congestion, the one constant in the discussion, among all the other variables, the one factor that never, ever changes is the overwhelming presence of private vehicles in the equation. If streetcars were the root of the problem, there wouldn’t be congestion on Dufferin Street, on Finch Avenue, on Bathurst Street north of Bloor, all of which run buses. What about the expressways that intersect the city? The 401, the DVP, the 427, Gardiner/QEW? No streetcars there, either. Some buses. But mostly cars and trucks.

If you want to chime in with your transit/congestion problems, start and end with how to deal with private automobile use. Anything else is simply white noise. You’re not helping. You’re hindering.

Look at the photo accompanying Mr. Hopper’s empty screed. lonestreetcarThe 501 to Long Branch, trapped on all sides by a sea of cars. What problem does he see? The one, the lone streetcar. There’s a joke in there somewhere about not seeing the forest for all the cars.

Of all the laughably contemptible points made by Mr. Corcoran in his anti-transit blathering, perhaps the most laughably contemptible is his final one. “Now there is talk of clearing all automobile movement on King Street and other streetcar-strangled streets,” huffs Corcoran, “all to facilitate the trundling vestige of the horsecar along tracks that lock Toronto into the 19th century.”

Actually no, Terry. It’s not all about facilitating ‘the trundling vestige of the… blah, blah, blah.” It’s about facilitating the movement of as many people through our streets as efficiently and economically as possible. buscongestionWithout introducing lane, turning and parking restrictions on ‘automobile movement’, replacing the 19th-century horsecars with your beloved trolleybuses (which, by the way, would take 3 times as many to move the same number of passengers) won’t make a lick of difference. Bus or streetcar will still be stuck in traffic, battling for scarce road space with cars.

To give the National Post some credit, this peculiar ‘Street carnage’ series of theirs did include Peter Kuitenbrouwer’s article ‘Streetcars are not the problem, too much automobile traffic is’ which, essentially, stated what I’ve just been stating for the past 500 hundred words or so. But the paper then spent the better part of the week trying its best to refute that article. youdontsay1Worse, refute it by ignoring the main thrust of his argument. Too much automobile traffic.

How exactly to deal with the congestion problem of too much automobile traffic. Now, there’s a poser, a real conundrum. Until you’re prepared to tackle that, everything else is just re-arranging the furniture, and chances are, somebody else has come up with the idea before you did.


yeahyeahyeahly submitted by Cityslikr

8 thoughts on “Street Carnag–Oh! I Get It!

  1. The answer is Road-Pricing for “Private Vehicle” Use – and YES, before you yelp…I am a family-of-four, Dodge Caravan driving guy…

    “Why You’ll Love Paying for Roads That Used to Be Free (A Freakonomics Guest Post)”

    As with MOST things the City offers, you eventually run-out of FREE, so pricing-use is one of the best ways to manage (and nudge) peak-demand.

  2. Tristan Hopper who hails from Vancouver should NOT be taken seriously for his comments on Toronto street cars! We are receiving 204 new ones…
    As for CARnage; Harper was in town because he was attending the funeral for the Conservative Party president’s daughter whose mother allowed her to walk/run alone… In a Ward where people were complaining about speeding represented by a Ford friendly conservative that is for cuts…

    • You stay classy, Sonny. Oh, and why do you feel the need to respond to every single one of Cityslikr’s posts, often with comments unrelated to the post? Is it some sort of weird compulsion on your part? Wouldn’t it just be easier to start your own blog (All F’d Up in the Big Smoke)?

      • Tristan Hopper wrote about street cars in the Post…
        You haven’t started the afuitcs OR the afuitms, muhaha!

  3. At one time, they used cobblestones between the streetcars. The automobiles could still roll over them, but they got a rough ride.

    What happened? They smoothed the roadway between the tracks, replaced with concrete these days. Now they automobiles get a smooth ride, leaving the right lane for the illegally parked cars so they can dash in for their coffee.

    Where there is no parking, such as downtown (in theory), they should be using either cobblestones or rubble strips, to tell the drivers they should get to the right.

  4. Poor crazy old Uncle Corky. He stopped being relevant about fifteen years ago, but no one’s had the heart to tell him.

  5. Sure take the Street Cars out of sevice…in the morning rush you are taking 213 vehicles out…Replace them with buses… lets use a convservative x2.5 to keep up service…So you are adding 532 vehicles + 319 drivers that is sure going play havoc with both operations and capital budgets, isn’t it?
    The King morning service has 51 street cars running just think of the congestion 127 buses replacing them and this on a 4 lane City centre road with no turning lanes for the most part…today the highest service bus route morning service is Finch E with 67 bus and this on a suburban road for the most part 6 lanes+turning lanes and there is consistent whining and complaining about the buses on Finch… think of the gnashing of teeth would that be caused by commuters in their cars using King, Queen, Carlton, Spadina, Dundas or Kingston Road….

  6. I fully agree with your sentiment that getting rid of streetcars is stupid. Those red rockets are a defining characteristic of Toronto and have a considerably higher capacity than buses. As you mentioned, it’s too much car traffic that’s the problem, and there’s the need to have the streetcars on dedicated rights of way whenever feasible. (e.g. Spadina, St. Clair)

    Not to mention, I have ridden on streetcars (a.k.a. trams) in a few European cities and find they work well. Especially in Lisbon, where you have the little old yellow trams in addition to the newer articulated ones, both of which do operate in mixed traffic like in Toronto. Paris and Bordeaux tends to use more grade separation.

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