Reading Between The Lines

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Reading between the lines of Mayor Tory’s remarks about the Gardiner Expressway – May 12, 2015:

Good afternoon.

[One day before public deputations at the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee about the options for the eastern section of the Gardiner Expressway. Before public deputations. Almost like they didn’t matter.]

In the next few days and weeks, there will be a lot of discussion about the future of one of Toronto’s most important pieces of road infrastructure – the Gardiner expressway.

The fact is there has already been a lot said about the eastern section of the Gardiner.

Positions have been advanced. Editorials have been written. [Almost all of it coming out in favour of the removal option. Except for some special interest groups like the CAA.] There is an active and ongoing conversation on the subject and I welcome that. [Although by publicly proclaiming a stance before deputants spoke, he’s essentially ignoring it.] That’s as it should be in a healthy democracy.

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It’s come to the point now where I believe I should let the people of this city know where I stand on the issue as their mayor. [In order to dampen any enthusiasm that might spring up from public deputations the following day.]

To set the table briefly, there are three options before us. We can maintain the Gardiner as is, repairing it to ensure it remains safe for drivers and pedestrians walking nearby.

Option two, we can tear it down and replace it with an eight lane roadway at grade, or street level.

And finally, option three, what’s known as the hybrid approach, which would remove a section of the expressway and open up lands to the east of the Gardiner [As would the removal option, in addition to which another 12 acres that the “hybrid” option will effectively shutdown development on.], but also maintain a continuous connection with the don valley parkway [For 3% of the morning rush hour commuters. 3%. An extra half billion dollars for 3% of the morning commuters. Do the math on that.]

Some will know that during the election campaign I favoured the hybrid option. [A different “hybrid” option that engineers declared wouldn’t safely work in joining up with the DVP. A different “hybrid” option that didn’t negatively impact the 12 acres of so-called 3C lands. A different “hybrid” option from the new one Mayor Tory’s stumping for that just went public a month earlier.]

I did so because I believed then, as I do now, that we have to keep traffic moving in this city. Not just traffic but commerce as well. [Somebody should ask FedEx about their traffic study, and why they’re moving their time-sensitive business east of the Gardiner as if it didn’t matter to their ‘commerce’ whether or not the Gardiner is removed.]

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We have one of the worst congestion problems of any large city in North America and there was little doubt in my mind that tearing down the eastern section of the Gardiner would only make matters worse. Much worse. [There is very little actual evidence to back this claim up. In fact, just the opposite. Almost all studies of traffic post-expressway removal show little to no adverse impact of the removal. Look it up if you don’t believe me.]

Since the election there have been a number of studies and reports on the subject. There have been public meetings, as well. [Again, almost all in favour of removing the eastern portion of the Gardiner.]

I have listened, and have read the reports thoroughly, including ones dating back ten years on this issue.

Just this past weekend, I drove the eastern section of the Gardiner and I have also looked at it, and the area around it, from below, on foot.

I did what, frankly, I think people would expect from their mayor – a careful and thorough review of the available facts and evidence. [And somehow still arrived at the same conclusion a less ‘careful and thorough’ mayor, like say, Rob Ford would. Odd, that.]

This is not an easy decision. Not by a long shot. There are compelling arguments on each side. [The one Mayor Tory is about to make the case for, a lot less compelling. Unless by ‘compelling’, the mayor means, I don’t know, ‘hollow and self-serving’.] Ultimately, for me, it came down to a number of important considerations.

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Right at the top of the list – traffic. We simply can’t go on the way it is. We have to keep people and goods moving in this city. It is vital both to our quality of life and to our economy. [The “hybrid” option will do nothing to make this better. Nothing.]

There are also the lands to the east of the expressway – the so-called Unilever lands – which are primed and ready for development. Not just a handful of buildings, but a transformational development that would employ thousands of people and pump billions into our economy. [Removing the eastern portion of the Gardiner would do the exact same thing. The. Exact. Same. Thing. No either/or like Mayor Tory’s trying to make it. Plus, the removal option opens up an additional 12 acres of waterfront property that the “hybrid” option locks outs.]

I also considered how these plans fit with my desire – and the desire of so many of us – to build a truly great city – a city that is on par with the other great cities of the world in terms of urban design, taking into account the aspirations of all of our residents, whether they drive, cycle or move around on foot. [All truly great cities are falling over themselves to put up or maintain waterfront expressways. Every. Single. One. Of. Them.]

The option to maintain the eastern section of the Gardiner as is would keep traffic moving. What it would not do, however, is unlock the tremendous potential of the Unilever lands. For that reason, I don’t believe it is a good option. [Agreed. What do you know? Mayor Tory can actually not talk nonsense when he puts his mind to it.]

Now to the remove option.

While parts of me understand the desire to tear down the eastern section altogether [Just 2 years ago, in his role as head of CivicAction, John Tory championed doing just that, tearing down the eastern portion of the Gardiner], I don’t believe we can and let me explain why.

In the next few years, another million people will move here. Those people need to get around. The businesses that serve those people, and the 2.8 million that are here already, need to get to them as well. Whether we like it or not, and notwithstanding transit projects like Smarttrack that will be built – that involves cars and trucks.

I didn’t get elected to make traffic worse. And let’s be clear – removing that piece of the Gardiner will almost certainly make traffic worse. [Ooops. There he goes, talking nonsense. It won’t. In almost every other situation where an expressway was removed, traffic did not get worse.]

While experts disagree on just exactly how much worse – one says three to five minutes, another says ten – [Classic he says/he says argument that suggests equal weight should be given to both sides. Kinda like climate change deniers. This is not an equal debate. A critical mass of experts and accomplished city builders want to tear down the eastern portion of the Gardiner.] there is no doubt that there will be a negative impact on commute times, [Yes, as a matter of fact, there is some doubt.] and that means bad news for families, bad news for business, bad news for the environment and bad news for quality of life overall. [None of which the “hybrid” option will help.]

A number of weeks ago when we were able to re-open sections of the Gardiner early, I got all kinds of emails and messages from people who said that their commute times had dropped by 20 or 30 minutes. [Purely anecdotal evidence based on a far more used portion of the Gardiner. In no way salient to this debate.]

They told me what an enormous difference it was making in their lives, just to have that extra time at home with a child or a spouse. [Ahhh, that’s nice. But again, utterly irrelevant to this debate.]

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The remove option would take us in the opposite direction. [It would not. What reports was Mayor Tory reading?] It would erase those extra minutes and hours with the ones we love and, quite conceivably too, add even more time to already long, frustrating commutes.

To me, a great city is many things, but it must be one where you can get to work in a reasonable amount of time. A great city is one that allows you to be at home with your kids, instead of spending hours in your car fighting traffic. [The “hybrid” option would do little to alleviate this. Sorry if I’m repeating myself. It’s just that the mayor keeps saying the same thing over and over again.]

Great cities, some will say, don’t have elevated expressways. They have boulevards and friendly streets.

But take the time and look at it and I think you will reach the same conclusion I did.

The eight-lane roadway that would replace the eastern section of the Gardiner would, for all intents and purposes, be a street level expressway. [Now Mayor Tory is just out-and-out making shit up. Think University Avenue.] Any notions of sipping a coffee in a café [A Ford-like dog whistle statement! Downtown elitists, sipping coffee in a café, sipping not drinking or chugging.] next to a busy, congested eight lane highway should be put out of your mind, because it’s just not a reflection of reality. I mean, the traffic could just disappear or divert itself onto other streets. But ask yourself. Does that accord with common sense? Is that a likely scenario? Again I don’t believe so. [Doesn’t matter what Mayor Tory may believe, despite all the reports he claims to have read, traffic does largely disappear or adjusts to the new reality. Maintaining road space maintains traffic. Induced demand. Look it up. Clearly the mayor didn’t.]

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The fact is there are elevated expressways in great cities in the world. New York. Amsterdam. Tokyo.

What they’ve managed to do there, and in cities like Rio de Janeiro and Shanghai and Glasgow, is make use of the space underneath the expressway, transform it from dead space to a vibrant piece of the urban fabric. [I’ve been to every one of those cities save Glasgow and the one thing I don’t remember is what was going on under their expressways.]

We’ve started to do that here with the Fort York Centre and underpass park. That’s what innovative, forward thinking cities can do. [No, that’s what cities do to adapt to horrible decisions they’ve made in the past that can’t be easily redone.]

I intend to take on the challenge personally. I will take the talent we have and, using the examples from around the world, bring the space under the Gardiner to life. Make it creative, welcoming urban space. Skate parks in Philadelphia, markets in Rio and an art gallery in Amsterdam. The possibilities are endless.

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It should be obvious by now that I support the hybrid option. And I do for the reasons I have just laid out. It will keep traffic moving. It will keep our economy strong. And it will ensure that the development potential at the Unilever site is realized and with it thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in value.

And we will take up the opportunity to do something unique with the space below and around the expressway as other great cities have done.

[Mayor Tory’s just on a loop repeat now, regurgitating easily refuted points here.]

Cost is always and issue and so let’s spend a minute on cost. There are those who say that the hybrid option is too costly, that the dollars needed are greater than either of the maintain and tear down options.

It’s true that the hybrid option costs more. But when the costs looked at in real dollars, once you discount the effect time has on money, they are only slightly greater.

And ask yourself this – what are the costs of congestion getting substantially worse.

[Congestion the “hybrid” option will in no way help to address.]

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What are the costs of halting development of an exciting new downtown on the east side of the city with thousands of new jobs, new homes and new stores? [Again, Mr. Mayor. Removing the Gardiner east will not halt development of the Unilever site. In fact, if you’d waited just one day to listen to the public deputations, the First Gulf – Uniliever developers – representative said it didn’t matter to them aside from the maintain option. “Hybrid”, removal, whatever.]

We need to unlock that development. And we need to keep this city moving. [Absolutely. The removal option unlocks even more potential waterfront development.]

The best way – the only way – to do that, in my view, is the hybrid option. [How many reports did you actually read, Mr. Mayor?]

The public works committee will consider this issue tomorrow. Whatever the outcome, whether it makes a recommendation or not, ultimately this is an issue that will be decided by the full City Council with all of the facts on the table and after a full and thorough debate.

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I’m confident that once that happens, when we have those facts and we have that debate, it will become clear that the hybrid option is the best choice, the best way forward.

The best way to keep our city and our economy moving, the best way to unlock potential and value in emerging areas, and the best way to ensure our place among the great cities of the world.

[Yaddie, yaddie, yaddie. Boilerplate gibberish. The mayor’s decision has already been made, facts, thorough debates and convincing deputations aren’t going to change his mind. The next couple weeks are going to be filled with propagating bullshit and backroom arm-twisting of a compliant city council.]

Thank you and I look forward to taking your questions. [But you already know what Mayor Tory’s responses will be.]

parsingly submitted by Cityslikr

2 Responses to Reading Between The Lines

  1. Lorna Schiralli says:

    Politics is a difficult job and it is not always the right thing to do “the right thing”. You quite rightfully point out that Tory in his previous incarnation was all in favour of the tear down option for a variety of reasons. But he is now mayor and in a different role. In my opinion, the political fallout from the hybrid option will be less than the possible political fallout from the tear down option. Or should I say the political fallout resulting from the hybrid option can be better managed. That is the crux of this dilemma and the handwriting is already drafted on the wall. Tearing down will create more short term pain for an unmeasureable possible long term gain. Hybrid solution minimizes short term pain for a measureable long term gain. There you have it.

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