It’s very easy with our 21st-century hindsight (such as it is) to look back through the history books and scream in frustration at the mistakes made by our predecessors. “It’s the fleas, you dimwits!” you yell at the poor bastards suffering through the plague. In the sixth century. And again in the fourteenth century. And the seventeenth.
Clear out the rats! Stop living in such squalor! It’s a bacteria! No, flowers in your nose won’t help! Invent antibiotics, already!
Progress is a slow march, sometimes imperceptible. The scientific method was a long time in coming and still hasn’t fully taken hold. Iterative trial-and-error, plugging in acquired knowledge as it becomes available to us. We proceed humbly with the best information we have at the time, knowing it’s not always going to be perfect or even correct.
Educated guesses. Informed assumptions.
Or there’s this.
A Transportation Town Hall for the residents of Councillor Mike Del Grande’s Scarborough Agincourt ward. “Transit And You. Subways. Public Transit. (TTC/GO Transit) Hwy 401. Road.”
The evening’s guest speaker? Put your hands together for Mr. Frank Klees, MPP and the Progressive Conservative Transportation Critic. Yes, folks. That Frank Klees. Member of the Mike Harris government that buried the hole where an Eglinton subway would’ve run and cut the provincial contribution to the TTC’s annual operating subsidy. Mr. Frank Klees, everyone.
(Full disclosure: I did not attend the event and am only relaying the sense I got via social media. Grain of salt not included.)
Mr. Klees pleaded for transit planning to move “beyond politics.” Too many times in the past we have seen incoming administrations simply trash can the work of their outgoing counterparts for little more than partisan reasons. Marking the territory. Male lions, taking over a new pride, killing the offspring of its defeated rival.
Hard to argue with that. I mean, Mayor Rob Ford unilaterally killing Transit City. The aforementioned dispatch by the Harris government of Eglinton subway. Such crass politics should be called out, detrimental as they are to healthy city building.
But strangely if not unsurprisingly, Klees ignored those examples and hopped into his way back machine in order to trot out… wait for it, wait for it… the Spadina Expressway! Yep, folks. The Opposition’s Transportation Critic at Queen’s Park sees everything that’s wrong with transit planning in this city traced back to the ignominious end of the Spadina Expressway at Eglinton Avenue.
Again, I was not in attendance, so can’t be entirely sure of Mr. Klees’ exact point. Was it just the reversal that he believed wrong or the fact that the Expressway would’ve been a boon for transportation? Whatever, but it seemed to establish a tone for the evening where the car needed to reclaim its exalted position atop the transportation hierarchy, all public transit must run underground and, why not more bridges?
Bridges? Yes, bridges. Where there are more bridges, there is less gridlock.
“Resident says for 50 years roads have been considered dirty words. Same with cars. And trucks. And bridges.”
Sixty-five years ago or so, there was a different prevailing view. After a Great Depression and World War, after nearly 20 years of selfless sacrifice, there was a little breath of freedom in the air. Land was plentiful. The energy to get people to those far flung places was cheap. So the approach to designing cities reflected those sensibilities.
Why wouldn’t they? It was based on the best information at hand. Thus, places like Scarborough Agincourt were planned into existence.
More than half a century on, we’ve realized a couple of those key suppositions turned out not to be quite right. Land is plentiful but the sprawl that followed was not really sustainable or economically viable. Energy, or at least a cheap version of it, turned out not be in infinite supply and it also happened to be hazardous to our collective health.
Again, life is not an exact fucking science. Best laid plans and all that. Mistakes happen. You learn from them and seek to correct them with the knowledge you’ve gained from experience.
What you don’t do is insist on repeating them in the hopes of a different outcome. We all know what the definition of that is.
Frank Klees, Mayor Ford and Councillor Del Grande are all conducting a flat out assault on reason when it comes to transit planning. (It’s especially galling from the councillor who leaves no opportunity wasted to tout how he as the former budget chief removed the “emotion” from the budget process.) They either don’t know or don’t care about any evidence that’s emerged that runs contrary to their strongly held opinions, apparently forged in steel in the 1950s and 60s.
It’s reactionism at its worst and a complete abdication of leadership and responsibility. Leveraging parochial resentment for political opportunism, they insist on spreading mistruths and false hope. No, guys. More roads don’t lead to less congestion. They are deniers of reality and need to be dispatched to the trash heap of irrelevancy.
Just like the experts who blamed the plague on the humid air. Only, let’s not wait as long to see that it happens.
— impatiently submitted by Cityslikr