Roads To Nowhere

Although never far from the surface, if you ever want to scratch open the drivers’ sense of entitlement, entitledask one How’s it going? during their favourite time of the year, construction season.

2014 is turning out to be doozy.

“This is not how you run a city,” mayoral candidate and noted transportation expert John Tory pronounced in the wake of the news there’d be concurrent construction on both the Gardiner Expressway and Lake Shore Boulevard. “Torontonians shouldn’t be forced to arrive late for work because of the lack of thought or planning by city officials. Sadly, the situation on our major roads is now once again a world-class mess.”

Ahh, there it is. Always with the world-class, one way or another. And by Torontonians, Mr. Tory means car-driving Torontonians of course.outrageous

“When we should have been planning ahead and making calculated decisions to address congestion, this administration has provided poor judgment by compounding gridlock on our roads,” another mayoral candidate and one with some actual municipal governance under her belt, Councillor Karen Stintz said. “We have a responsibility to ensure residents have options to move in and out of the city. Today, we have created roadblocks.”

They do, Councillor Stintz. It’s called getting out of their cars and using public transit.

Even noted cyclist and alleged car hater, Olivia Chow (also running for mayor) got in on the indignant act. “My traffic plan says you can’t shut a street (Lake Shore) if used to avoid one (Gardiner) under construction,” Ms. Chow stated on the Twitter.

With everyone jumping on the city staff kicking bandwagon over this, obviously somebody screwed up, somebody fell asleep at the switch. The mistake is so glaring, there’s no way anyone who was paying any attention would’ve allowed it to happen. This requires a strongly worded admonishment.

“Believe it or not, I have confirmed that the office running the smaller Lakeshore job did not communicate with the office running the bigger Gardiner job, overreactionwhich is simply unreal,” John Tory said in his e-mail blast blast. “As mayor I will ensure this will never be repeated.”

Simply unreal.

Or “completely untrue”, depending on whom you ask.

“I’m at the table for both of these,” said General Manager of Transportation Services, Stephen Buckley. “However, the reality is we needed to get the Gardiner work going, and we needed to get the Lake Shore work done. Folks want the infrastructure to be upgraded and put in good condition. Unfortunately these are both in the same location.”

Folks want their infrastructure upgraded, and want it upgraded at their convenience.

Mr. Buckley went on to say that, “The two specific teams carrying out the Gardiner and Lake Shore work were fully aware of what was going on and meeting regularly.”

Between the long harsh winter just past and the upcoming PanAm Games next summer, the city is obviously facing something of a construction crunch. Given there’s going to be work on the Gardiner well into the next decade, chances are, more overlaps in our future. roadconstructionThat just comes with aging infrastructure over-burdened by usage.

Only in car commercials are our roads ever open and maintenance free.

“This drives people crazy,” said Public Works and Infrastructure Chair and automobile nut, Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong, “it drives me crazy and hopefully an important lesson has been learned and will be applied.”

And what lesson would that be, councillor?

“Some disruption with the daytime Lake Shore work,” suggests Mr. Buckley who is being paid to manage road work. Much of the work is being done overnight. No lanes would be closed going in the direction of rush hour traffic. The city, he said, is keeping an eye on the situation. outofmywaySo far, during the day, delays on Lake Shore were “about a minute long.”

“This is probably the worst of it, we’re not seeing significant delays,” Mr. Buckley claims.

Insignificant delays and maximum outrage.

Stirring up driver resentment is a potent political tactic. Just ask Rob Ford. War. On. The. Car.

It feeds into that ingrained sense of privilege that once you’re behind the wheel of your automobile, nothing and no one should obstruct your ease of movement between point A and point B. I pay my taxes, dammit! I shouldn’t be inconvenienced.

The thing is, hundreds of thousands of other drivers believe the exact same thing at the exact same time of day, every day. As that old saying goes, you’re not stuck in traffic, you are traffic.

The only way we’re going to actually address the soul-sucking, business-hampering congestion that is plaguing us now is to confront the entitlement of the car driver head-on. We cannot road build our way out of this. punchyourselfThe private automobile is the least efficient and least cost-effective way to move people and goods around this region. Leadership means acknowledging that and offering up real alternatives.

What we’re getting right now is craven opportunism and political posturing. A supreme silly season during peak construction season.

under constructionally submitted by Cityslikr

A Dark Gloomy Day

Maybe it was just the rain and the relentless reminder that we’ve been forsaken gloomydayby pleasant weather. Everybody’s lost a little grip on their senses. Or maybe it was the void of idiocy left behind by Mayor Ford after he went all radio silent, having dared the city’s top bureaucrat to run in the election so they could debate the $1.1 billion in savings claim the mayor makes and the city manager disputes. Quick! Say something dumb before a reasonable conversation breaks out.

Or maybe, just maybe, politicians and their handlers all now just assume we’re prepared to put aside critical thought to fall happily for any snappy slogan or nonsensical notion that involves us not having to actually contribute anything to the future well-being of this city. Let’s call it the Ford Factor. No problem too big to pretend there’s not an easy fix for it. And it won’t cost you a single dime, folks!

Whatever the reason, yesterday had to be about the most dispiriting day in the 2014 mayoral campaign so far. stunt1And it hasn’t exactly been an embarrassment of riches to date. Just kind of embarrassing.

It started with Karen Stintz’s transit announ—

No wait.

First it was Team Tory’s PR grab. Olivia Twister (at least, that’s what I’m calling it in the spirit of fun. A pun. Olivia Twister. Oliver Twist?) The classic party game Twister played to highlight Olivia Chow’s apparent policy changes. The Relief Line isn’t a priority. The Relief Line is a priority. The Scarborough subway. No. The Scarborough LRT.

It was hilarious. Actually, it was as hilarious as you’d imagine a John Tory campaign stunt to be. Which is to say, no, it wasn’t hilarious.

As for Karen Stintz’s announcement, she fleshed out how she planned to pay for the city’s portion of the relief line. Sell off a majority of the city’s share of Toronto Hydro. Bring in a parking levy in city owned downtown Green P lots and use some of the revenue from enforcement fees – parking tickets. All things considered, it wasn’t completely and utterly mad. One terrible idea. One intriguing idea. One debatable idea. seeifitsticksNot a bad percentage, coming as it was from the Stintz campaign.

This was followed by Olivia Chow’s speech to the Toronto Region Board of Trade. Pretty much old news. She’d revert back to the original Scarborough LRT instead of the subway, re-directing the already agreed on property tax increase for the proposed subway to start on the Relief Line which, according to transit planning timelines, still wouldn’t be done until 2031. Ms. Chow was also going to lean on the provincial and federal governments to chip in with their fair share… More infrastructure spending… Increased bus service… Nothing new. Nothing particularly exciting or scandalous.

Nothing we hadn’t already heard.

But it was more than enough for some.

Setting aside any credibility she might have garnered from her transit announcement, Karen Stintz fired off an indignant tweet. Today I proposed a war on congestion, while Olivia Chow proposed a war on taxpayers. twisterFollow this if you can… a property tax increase to pay for a subway in Scarborough is a war on congestion. That very same property tax increase to pay for the Relief Line is—Don’t bother. It’s not even supposed to make any sense.

Untangling themselves from Twister, Team Tory was not to be outdone in its outrage and incredulity at the Chow speech. Of course, the NDP candidate for mayor would resort to taxation as a way to pay for a subway. Of course. And in 2031?! Just because it’s part of Metrolinx’s 25 year plan!? We need the relief line now!!

John Tory has officially been in the race for about two months now. From the very beginning he’s made the Relief Line his number one issue. Yet, he still hasn’t told us how he’s going to pay for it. He still hasn’t told us how he’s going to get it built any sooner than 2031. But well, Olivia Chow’s an NDP candidate. That’s the thing to remember right now. Not how John Tory’s going to pay to build a subway on an expedited time line. Hey. emptypromiseDid you see us playing Twister earlier today?

And if that ain’t all underwhelming enough for you, with a provincial election quite possibly looking down the barrel at us as early as mid-June, and the fate of many of these transit plans in the balance, pending the outcome, the opposition leader, Tim Hudak waded neck deep into the dumb with a promise to kill the Hamiliton LRT proposal and replace it with… wait for it, wait for it… a new highway! You can’t load pipes onto a bus, harrumph, harrumph, harrumph…

As we all know, the best way to relieve congestion on our roads is to build more roads. Don’t believe Tim Hudak? Ask Atlanta.

What’s truly amazing about this parade of the ridiculous is that our mayor played no part in it. Not so much as a peep from him during the sad spectacle. He’s just established the route. John Tory, Karen Stintz and Tim Hudak are simply following in his footsteps, hoping it ends up just like it did for Rob Ford in 2010. sadparadeWith them first past the finishing line.

As long as the cheap stunts, empty rhetoric and painless promises prove effective, politicians will return to that well. Why wouldn’t they if we continue to reward them for doing so. We keep acting like chumps, they’ll keep treating us like chumps.

That’s as sure as another gloomy grey day in April.

soggily submitted by Cityslikr

Still Undecided

I know what you’re thinking.

Olivia Chow’s in the race to be mayor of Toronto. She’s got his vote.notsofast

It’s true.

She was my city councillor until 2006. She was my MP until yesterday. I voted for her every time there was an opportunity.

But my vote on October 27th is not a given.

Here’s what Olivia Chow in her campaign to be mayor of Toronto has to do to ensure my vote.

She has to embrace every aspect of her progressivism and repudiate everything that the current mayor, Rob Ford, stands for. There is nothing, nothing, of this mayor’s record that should be embraced or applauded. His 3+ years in office have been an unmitigated disaster for this city. listofmydemandsMs. Chow must not miss any opportunity to point that out.

I do not want to hear hedged talk or cautious goals. I want a full, warm embrace of real city building, an acknowledgment of the responsibilities we have to make Toronto a healthier, more sustainable, more equitable place to live. I don’t want to see any ducking away from the inevitable epithets thrown in her direction, that have already been trotted out in expectation of her entrance into the race. Tax-and-spender. Yeah? What of it? That’s what people elect politicians to do. Tax fairly. Spend wisely.

While I recognize Ms. Chow was only around for a part of David Miller’s tenure in office and she could try and keep her distance from his record, I’ll become suspicious if she does so. There’s nothing to be ashamed of, especially in light of what’s come later. In fact, now is the time to set that record straight. That we were never on the precipice of fiscal ruin. That we weren’t being nickel-and-dimed to death by overly onerous taxation. whatareyougoingtodo1That the gravy train was nothing more than an effective campaign concoction.

Olivia Chow also needs to come right out of the gate with a realistic transit plan that is not designed to mollify parochial concerns. As the federal transportation critic for the NDP, she was conspicuously silent during the last Scarborough subway debate. Perhaps she felt it wasn’t her fight to fight. Now it is. How she proceeds on this issue will go a long way to how I wind up casting my ballot.

As a left of centre voter my support should not be taken for granted or assumed to have nowhere else to go.

With only one declared major candidate on the left right now, the other contenders realize they have to chip away at that base if any of them have a hope to win this time around. They have to roll out their progressive cred, as it were. allearsWoo those voters who aren’t yet or never will be able to bring themselves to vote for an NDP labeled candidate.

I will be listening to their pitch too.

Truthfully, I’ve already ruled out Mayor Ford and Councillor Karen Stintz. Neither one of them has shown any progressive stripes while in office. John Tory makes a big stink of his red Tory politics but certainly coming out of the gate he’s shown off none of that, relying so far on flying monkey attacks on Chow’s fiscal record and alleged use of public resources to kick off her mayoral campaign. You can’t team up with the dark side and not expect to collect any of that dirt on you.

That leaves David Soknacki so far as the reasonable voice of the centre-right big name contenders. He’s certainly made meaningful announcements about the Scarborough subway and transit file. I’ll wait patiently to see what else he has to say and the policies he rolls out. (I’m even prepared to overlook his first serious gaffe, yesterday uttering some divisive suburban vs. urban nonsense to greet Ms. Chow’s entry into the campaign). It’s a long race. caucusraceThere’s no need to decide on anyone yet.

And don’t forget. I’m not afraid to cast a ballot on a long, long, long shot, doing so in 2010 on Himy Syed. While the stakes seem higher this election, we now know exactly what damage can be done and not what damage may be done, I will not be beholden to voting strategically and settling for a lesser of two evils. I’d really like to go out and vote without holding my nose and believing I was making a positive contribution to Toronto’s future.

That possibility exists currently. Let’s cross our fingers and hope it stays that way.

hopefully submitted by Cityslikr