The Divine Right To Drive

We now return you to our regular scheduled programming…testpattern

With the conclusion of baseball’s post-season last night, it’s back to my normal television viewing pattern which consists of largely of DVRing, Netflixxing and disappointment shaded avoidance. I mean, really? Storage Wars?!

Sports, in general, baseball specifically, is the only time that I spend watching TV in the traditional manner any more. That is, with unfiltered commercial breaks. Sure, I will take to muting them, using them for a bathroom break or to simply stretch my legs. I mean, come on. That first week of October, there were 4 games a day!

Still, baseball broadcasts are when I am really subject to television advertisements, and I can only conclude one thing: televised professional sports exist merely to maintain our automobile industry. carad3How many car ads can they fit into one commercial break? A lot, let’s just say.

And like every other form of advertising, car commercials in no way reflect real life, do not in the least represent any sort of the reality of car ownership. In the ads, a lone automobile contends with the elements of nature. A shiny private vehicle transforms a dreary life into one of white teeth and daring do. A luxurious ride provides escape and calm from the horrors and blight of the modern world.

Your car is different than their car. Your car, in no way, contributes to the grind of your daily commute. Your car is a haven. Your car is not traffic. Their car is.

None of this is a revelation to any of you. Neither is it, I know, at all novel or a new thought. Mark it with a big ol’ shrug and a Well, d’uh.

I bring it up because this morning a group called the Ecofiscal Commission (“Practical solutions for growing prosperity”) released a report calling for a more sensible approach to road pricing in some of Canada’s largest cities. carad2Matt Galloway spoke to one of the report’s authors on Metro Morning today. Matt Elliot took a ride with another one of the authors. In the Globe and Mail, Oliver Moore wrote an article on the report. Tess Kalinowski did the same for the Toronto Star.

In short, we’re talking tolls. We can’t sort out our mobility woes until we start properly charging drivers more fairly for their use of the roads, especially our urban expressways. This is important for any number of reasons, none more so, perhaps, than providing ammunition in the perpetual debate over whether or not drivers already pay more than their share. Gas taxes, and all that. They don’t.

I also bring up the subject of car commercials, the glut of them and their lack of grounding in reality, because one day last week 16 pedestrians were struck down by cars in the GTA. Sixteen! In one day! Ten more than the average daily pedestrian-automobile number of collisions. Six! A day!

The Toronto Police Services responds by announcing a Pedestrian Safety blitz this week, complete with this video:

While we’re told that there’s a 50/50 split in responsibility between drivers and pedestrians for “accidents” that occur between them, this is all about pedestrians taking full responsibility. Be Prepared. Be Seen. Be Safe. “Cross the street as if your life depends on it,” the nice police officer tells us.

Nary a word about drivers driving as if their lives depend on it, as if somebody else’s life depends on it. carad1Why aren’t we instructed to operate our motorized vehicles as if there’s always the possibility that a 4 year-old child could pop out onto the road out of the blue? Why don’t we demand drivers drive to accommodate the most vulnerable of us who they share the road with? Why is it that in 2015 we still behave as if roads are the sole domain of automobiles and the rest of us have to ask nicely and behave properly in order to share the space with them? Even though pedestrians (and cyclists and skateboarders and rollerbladers) pay disproportionately for them?

The most obvious answer to those questions is that that’s just the way it is, the way it’s been for 70 years or so. In the hierarchy of transportation modes, the car is king. Change is slow, the status quo bias strong.

It is a mindset reinforced every time we turn on the TV. carad5With every car commercial we watch, with the freedom of the open road, blowing through our hair, with the high end, Bang & Olufsen sound system blasting out our favourite tuneage, with the rich Corinthian leather (not even a real thing) that cocoons us from the stop and go, years off our lives traffic we find ourselves in every time we get behind the wheel, no report on road pricing is going to convince us to pay more for our right to drive our cars, to persuade us to share the roads more equitably, to assuage our unrelenting and misplaced rage at being stuck behind a streetcar. Television promises drivers unfettered access anywhere and everywhere they want to go, no money down, don’t pay until next year.

Reason and rational thought have nothing to do with it. Driving is a singular experience. Normal rules don’t apply.

rationally submitted by Cityslikr

Meet A Mayoral Candidate — XII

It’s Friday, folks. Surely you know what that means by now. Let’s get ready to M-m-m-m-meet A Mayoral Candidate!

This week, Baquie Ghazi!

“Whether we are believers of God or Nonbelievers – We all can be believers of Social Justice.”

So Mr. Ghazi wrote to us. A long time social activist, Mr. Ghazi has been involved with the struggles of new immigrants, housing, anti-poverty and the anti-war movement. He is running for mayor in the hopes of bringing change to the old traditional governance in the Toronto City Council.

His platform consists of what he calls “an effective Peoples Economic Stimulus Package.” It is a plan that would help 90% of the people who, in Mr. Ghazi’s opinion, have not benefited from the government stimulus money that has been spent to date. Items would include reducing property taxes “to accelerate economic growth and increase housing and small businesses.” He’d cut the cost of a monthly metro pass by more than half and allow seniors to ride the TTC for free along with increasing the numbers of electric buses and subways in use.

Like many of the candidates we have profiled in this space, Mr. Ghazi’s plans are long on worthy ideas and short of financial specifics. Mr. Ghazi would institute toll/congestion charges for non-Torontonians using the city’s roads but aside from that he seems to be relying on a lethal combination of “obtaining funds from the federal government to increase the prosperity of small businesses” and the dubious neoliberal claim of decreasing taxes to increase revenues. To our minds, that’s purely phantom economic planning. When was the last time a federal government expressed any interest in municipal matters?

As much of an advocate for increased use of public transit as Mr. Ghazi is, he has an immense dislike for the LRT aspect of Transit City, believing that with streetcars clogging the middle lanes, car idling times increase which causes more pollution. We’d like to see some evidence backing that claim up. Wouldn’t dedicated streetcar lanes help alleviate that problem? Sure, subways would be preferable, Mssrs. Ghazi, Ford, Rossi and Ms. Thomson but how do we pay for them? None of their numbers add up.

Baquie Ghazi

We’ll forgive Mr. Ghazi his fuzzy math, however, because at the core of his campaign is a passion for people especially those long marginalized by our political system. Mr. Ghazi would like to see the number of councillors increased to reflect our growing population. He’s in favour of a two consecutive term limit for both mayor and council, hoping in that way to help increase the diversity of our elected representation at the municipal level. He’d also pledge to introduce more transparency into the voting process at City Hall with the use of paper ballots, counted in public for each vote, increasing both accountability and citizen participation. We imagine with the work he has done on immigration issues, Mr. Ghazi would heartily endorse extending the franchise to all those possessing landed status.

When asked the question, If the current mayor wants his legacy to be that of the Transit Mayor, what would a Mayor Ghazi want his legacy to be?, he answered: The Mayor of Social Justice, the Environment Mayor, the People’s Mayor. A tall order, for sure, but utterly refreshing in its compassion and lack of cynicism. Something most of the frontrunners could learn a little about.

dutifully submitted by Cityslikr

Meet A Mayoral Candidate — Part VII

Good Friday. A good Friday for another installment of Meet A Mayoral Candidate!

In the spotlight this week… Wendell Brereton For Mayor!

With the 1st unofficial mayoral debate officially behind us and nothing much gleaned from it aside from the fact that none of the candidates who have been mysteriously tapped as “serious” contenders have given us any reason to vote for them (and plenty why we shouldn’t), it is timely that we present to you the Wendell Brereton candidacy. One of the 19 registered candidates uninvited to Monday’s Summit of Giants®™©, even a cursory glance at Mr. Brereton’s website reveals the omission to be a glaring gaffe on the part of debate organizer, Councillor Mike Del Grande. Candidate Brereton possesses a platform packed with details in such depth that puts the front running campaigns to shame.

A 12 year veteran of the OPP, Mr. Brereton calls himself an entrepreneur and activist. Many of his approaches reflect that dual sensibility, with a heavy emphasis on promoting public-private enterprises in areas ranging from transit to waste and energy management while showing a Keynesian predilection for government spending during a recession on things like child care. He is for road tolls albeit much more modest than the $5 proposed by Sarah Thomson. Brereton would also introduce fees for bike permits as part of a very interesting approach to dealing with cyclists and traffic that is worth further exploration. His thoughts on the matter underline just how empty the bike lane debate that’s been going on between the “serious” candidates has been. Nothing but pure puffery.

This is true of almost every aspect of Wendell Brereton’s candidacy. After reading through his platform and watching his announcement video, we asked for some further details of his campaign and were almost immediately presented with 7 pages! Unlike his higher profile rivals, Mr. Brereton is not merely sloganeering. He appears to be slowly putting together a… what you call that?…  A vision thing. A vision for the city. A vision for how a Mayor Brereton would lead.

What stops us up of a full fledged embrace of Wendell Brereton for Mayor is his overt and enthusiastic public embrace of his religious beliefs. A Pastor at the Glorious Church-Faith Temple, there is no doubting the importance religion plays in Mr. Brereton’s life. To a bunch of godless heathens like we here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke, this makes us supremely uncomfortable especially when it manifests itself in an anti-gay pride position as it does in Mr. Brereton’s platform. He will have to explain himself much better than he did to us about the matter if he wants to speak to a wider audience.

On every other issue, however, Wendell Brereton deserves a fair hearing. Although excluded from Monday’s debate, he was in attendance and passed along a number of interesting points about what the candidates didn’t talk about. Waste and energy alternatives. Day care. Infrastructure. Serious plans about transit in the face of the provincial governments $4 billion renege delay. All important matters Mr. Brereton has views on and ideas for implementing.

How we ensure that he secures a place on stage at the next all candidates debate is in and of itself a matter for debate. Better civic minds than ours are at work devising a formula to allow serious candidates like Wendell Brereton in the door. Although at this still early stage in the campaign, there is little reason to exclude anyone from the fray and arbitrarily handicap the race. The time for winnowing comes later after we’ve had an opportunity to look at and assess all the candidates. Yes, that paves the way for the true fringe candidates, the cranks and crackpots (as if a few of those haven’t already slipped past the gatekeepers) to let loose. But we do live in a democracy last I heard. Everyone’s voice must be heard. It will be worth the effort for the exposure it would bring to viable and significant candidates like Wendell Brereton.

When asked our requisite question, If the present mayor would like his legacy to be that of the Transit Mayor, how would a Mayor Brereton like to see his legacy written?, he responded: Mayor Brereton, the Innovator.  That hardly does him justice in our opinion. A little too prosaic. So let us supply our own answer to the question: Mayor Brereton, bringing 22nd-century thinking to 21st-century problems.

dutifully submitted by Cityslikr