For anyone who’s followed the travails of the King Street Transit Corridor (aka ‘The Little Pilot Project That Could!’), last week’s report from the Toronto Star’s Lex Harvey about the lawless and negligent disregard and disrepair that’s now rampant along the run of it, the news comes as little surprise. Continue reading
With the rental car out back in the garage, waiting to whisk me away for weekend (a detail pertinent only as proof of, see, I 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. Cities 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.
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
So this morning TTC CEO Andy Byford lit the always short fuse of car-loving Ford Nation. In an interview with Matt Galloway on Metro Morning, he floated the idea of closing King Street to car traffic during the morning rush hour. Reaction from the auto-huggers was swift and sadly predictable.
“Where are the cars supposed to go?” tweets radio talk show guy, Jerry Agar.
WHERE ARE THE CARS SUPPOSED TO GO?!
WAR ON THE CAR!!
Nothing Mr. Byford suggested was new or novel or particularly bold. In fact, King Street has been a problem for the city’s transportation department for over 20 years now. I wrote about this very thing in February. Back in the early-90s, city staff tried banning cars along the route during peak times in the day, using overhead signs and markings on the road.
“… this “passive” system of deterrents didn’t work,” according to a staff report, “motorists did, and continue to, ignore it.”
Motorists ignored the rules of the road. Just said, fuck it. I need to turn left here, I’m turning left here.
There’s no war on the car going on. It’s the exact opposite. This is all about the over-weening sense of entitlement and primacy in the minds of those using their private vehicles as their sole source of getting around the city.
I attended a seminar last night given by Jarrett Walker, author of the book and blog site, Human Transit. He talked about ‘symbolic transit’ and symbolic decisions made about transit based on incomplete information.
For at least two generations now, the Car has been presented as a symbol of freedom. That which will get you wherever you want to go whenever you want to go there. There are car advertisements attesting to it. Sleek machines blowing down the open roads, never another car in sight.
I remember that happening with me behind the wheel once. Driving in Montana. When was the last time you experienced that commercial sensation making your way through Toronto or the GTA?
The fact is, the primary source of congestion on our streets now is the over-abundance of private vehicles, and the position where they sit at the top of our transit policy decision making. Streetcars aren’t the problem. Not even the St. Clair disaster. Not bike lanes. Not scrambled pedestrian intersections.
Cars, and our continued catering to those who drive them.
Of course, you can say this until you’re blue in the face, trot out studies to back up the case but those fixated with their cars will simply tighten their grip on the wheel and demand the removal of anything they perceive that impedes their forward motion. The Deputy Mayor’s response to the TTC CEO’s thinking? Replace the King streetcars with buses. How would that be better? Who the fuck knows other than they can get out of the way of cars when they pull to the curb to pick up and drop off passengers.
But a car driver’s sense of their right to the road is boundless.
Who else demands a space to stop their car right in front of the place they’re stopping? I live on a street that neither buses nor streetcars run down. I have to walk to where they are. And then, when I arrive where I’m going, I have to exit at the nearest stop to my destination and walk to it.
Why do drivers expect preferential treatment?
And why do people look around and see congestion on King Street, or Bathurst Street or Dufferin Street, Bloor Street and Finch Avenue, all roads with different modes of public transit, snarled in traffic, and come away saying, get rid of the streetcars/buses/build us a subway? When the one common element is cars and the excess of them on our roads?
It’s car madness, frankly. A steadfast refusal to admit the obvious and be open to real solutions in alleviating the problem. Problem, what problem? I don’t have a problem.
The first step to dealing with it is to admit you have a problem.
— sanely submitted by Cityslikr