Speed Kills But In A Worthy Cause

June 24, 2015

Look.

When it comes down to it, there are only 2 types of city dwellers. Those who hold tight onto their belief that car travel maintain its privileged spot atop the transportation hierarchy and those believing otherwise. standfirmStatus quo versus agents of change.

In Toronto, there can be little doubt which gang holds the upper hand. Any perceived attempt to even the playing field, to demand a more equitable division of our public spaces, to take a step a little bit closer to the 21st-century is met with squeals of outrage. An umbrage of sloganeering, boiled down short and sweetly by the champion of private automobile champions, Rob Ford: A War on the Car!

Unsurprisingly, this week’s decision by the Toronto and East York Community Council to reduce speed limits on downtown streets from 40 km/h to 30 was met by great gasps of roadster rage. SPEED TRAP rips the Toronto Sun headline. “It will make congestion worse,” the paper’s editorial predicted without qualification, as if speed has something to do with traffic flow. That reasoning, followed logically, should translate into the highways around the city being unfettered by gridlock since drivers are allowed to go so much faster on them. carspeedingStill bogged down? Bump up the speed limit to 140 km/h. That’ll fix things.

Even better was the Sun’s angle that the decreased speed limits would just be ignored anyway, “impossible to enforce”, it stated. Drivers be driving, am I right? They don’t need no stinkin’ speed limits!

Just how Fuck You is that? And coming from a no-nonsense, law-and-order publication like the Toronto Sun too. Where do we draw the line on what nanny state rules and regulations to ignore? Speeding, as we know, is not just some benign, victimless crime. Speed Kills, the PSA said back in the day, and even the Sun didn’t seem to dispute the fact that the faster a car is going, the more likely serious injuries and fatalities will result in any sort of collision. Oh, and there will be collisions.

Setting aside that reality for the moment, this knee jerk reaction against the lower speed limit proposal reveals a life not led around the city much on foot (or, god forbid, on a bike). givethefingerThe faster cars are allowed to go, the more dangerous and less enjoyable it is for everyone not behind the wheel. Ever stand on the side of the 401, say? Or even an 8 lane boulevard where vehicles are allowed to go 60 km/h? It isn’t a pleasant experience. Most people would avoid it, given a choice, thereby completing the nasty feedback loop that cedes pole positioning to cars. People don’t walk (or ride) here anyway. So why are we being forced to slow down?

The Sun cites traffic planning staff in warning against blanket speed limit reductions, calling for case-by-case approvals. “Not all streets are suitable for a 30 km/h speed limit…” the staff report says. Ignoring the delicious irony of the Sun embracing the red tape loving bureaucracy at any time, we are in agreement here. In the perverse way of traditional traffic planning, streets were designed with pedestrian safety in mind, built wide to accommodate driver mistakes travelling at X km/h. Wider, assuming a certain disregard for the posted speed limit; a worst case scenario, if you will, that enabled drivers to comfortably travel above the desired speed limit.

City transportation departments are filled with people raised in that tradition, the tradition of putting cars atop the transportation hierarchy. icantdrive55Lay out streets and, therefore, cities, first for the private vehicle and adapt everything and everyone else around that. Of course said street is not “suitable for a 30 km/h speed limit” (whatever the hell ‘suitable’ means in this circumstance). It was designed for 40 km/h and is easily driven along at 50 km/h. That was the whole point.

That is the status quo. Changing it means challenging it. Drop the speed limit to 30 km/h and then slowly redesign the streets to physically enforce the lower speed limit. Narrow the streets. Give back the extra space to other users, pedestrians and cyclists. Flatten out our transportation hierarchy.

Drivers won’t put it up it, we’re informed, matter-of-factly.

“…an unsuitable speed limit could result in widespread disregard or non-compliance by motorists,” writes city staff. deathrace2000“The resulting variation in operating speeds of vehicles could result in a less safe environment for pedestrians and cyclists and increase the risk of collisions.”

In most other circumstances, that would be taken as a threat.

Reducing speed limits won’t change motorist behaviour which ‘could result in a less safe environment for pedestrians and cyclists and increase the risk of collisions’. Better keep drivers happy or else. An angry or frustrated driver is a dangerous driver.

I love to play my rock ‘n’ roll music way loud wherever I go, whenever I want. Nobody better tell me when and where I can play my rock ‘n’ roll music way loud. That would make me angry and frustrated. So angry and frustrated, I’d punch anybody who tells me to turn it down.

Why are we so quick to exempt car drivers from adhering to the rules of the road we collectively seek to establish?crybaby

Public Works and Infrastructure chair, Jaye Robinson, brushed aside the need to lower speed limits on downtown streets, pointing out that 90% of collisions involving pedestrians and cyclists, and 85% of the resulting fatalities happen on arterial roads which, for me, suggests maybe we should look at improving pedestrian and cyclist safety on arterial roads not ignore trying to improve it downtown. 15% of pedestrian and cyclist fatalities as collateral damage, acceptable losses in our ongoing war on the car.

Or as Rob Ford famously put it: “My heart bleeds for them but at the end of the day, it’s their own fault.”

Like the Gardiner East debate a couple weeks ago, drivers and their hardcore apologists cannot fathom a world where their transportation priorities do not take precedence over those of everyone else. Even a less wild-eyed reactionary than the Toronto Sun editorial board, the National Post’s Chris Selley, eye-rolled at the critics of John Tory, calling the push against keeping the 1.7 kilometre eastern bit of the expressway elevated, “overblown in quantity and misbegotten in kind”, a decision that doesn’t “matter all that much”. wrongwayWhat’s a few hundred million dollars in lost development potential, untold amounts of property tax revenue and a decade, more or less, of painstaking waterfront planning in the face of the intractable demands of car drivers?

Any pushback against those is seen as radical, unreasonable and unworkable. Change that cannot be countenanced for fear of the ensuing chaos which will inevitably follow. (It’s always with the chaos.) As A Matter Of Fact, I Do Own The Road, says the bumper sticker. Driving as some sort of divine right rather than a granted privilege.

leisurely submitted by Cityslikr


Laundry List

November 20, 2013

A variation on the old joke about violence in hockey.

hockeybrawl

The other day I went to watch the Rob Ford Shit Show Spectacle and a council meeting broke out! Ayy-Oooo!

Despite all the oxygen they sucked from council chambers and spotlight hogging they managed, the Ford Brothers’ attempt to derail city council from going about its normal business categorically failed. Sure, it got lost in the crack-and-lies fueled shuffle. Representation at an OMB hearing isn’t as sexy as a mayor and his thuggish councillor-brother baiting the gallery crowd but much of municipal governance seldom is. Getting the roads paved is dreary work but somebody’s got to do it.

Take a minute and a gander through the agenda of last week’s non-special council meeting. todolistI didn’t count all the items and motions but there had to be a billion, give or take. There was social housing. New, stricter smoking by-laws. An appointment to fill a Budget Committee vacancy and restructure the board of directors for Build Toronto. The environmental assessment for a proposed Bloor-Dupont bikeway was re-started after being abandoned last year. You want diversity in the ranks of the Fire Department? City council wants to look into that too.

And on and on the list goes, for the better part of three days, when it could be squeezed in around mayoral grandstanding and obstruction.

Then after the council meeting finally finished up on Monday, councillors broke out into their four respective community councils to meet yesterday where they all dealt with a combined 207 items, give or take a billion. You want fence exemptions? Etobicoke-York Community Council’ll give you fence exemptions. Zoning by-law amendments? Scarborough Community Council can deliver what you’re looking for. North York Community Council’s got all that and a front yard parking appeal to boot. gettingdowntobusinessOf course, where downtown gets everything, members of the Toronto-East York Community Council received a visit from world-renown architect Frank Gehry for one of the 90 items on their docket.

Today, members of the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee, among other items, set forth on a comprehensive downtown transportation operations study to consider ways to reduce congestion in parts of the core area. This afternoon, the TTC commission will resume its meeting that was interrupted on Monday by the mayor’s stuff. Among other things, the commission will consider raising transit fares once again to fill the TTC’s funding gap. Tomorrow, the Planning and Growth Management Committee will met to discuss amendments to the city’s Official Plan while the Government Management Committee goes about its business including property expropriation for the Yonge-University-Spadina subway expansion.

Oh yeah, and about the budget process that’s going public next week.

You get the drift here.

Life goes on with or without Mayor Ford. And let’s face it. Most of these items were either too expensive or complex for him to have ever understood or cared much about. ignorethekrazykatThe more prosaic matters? Your fence exemptions and front yard parking pads? He’d simply want to sort out with a phone or house call. Probably both. It’s always good to put a face to the name on your potential voters’ list.

The mayor can’t stop the forward motion of the city, no matter how big a hissy fit he has. He can slow it down, toss sand in the gears like he displayed on Friday by holding every item he could get his hands on, and drag them out with questions to the staff and making blowhole speeches. If it becomes too problematic, council may have to take more drastic measures and approach the province about stepping in and removing the mayor from the premises.

But until such time, it’s probably best just to avoid spending too much time on the expected mayoral antics. They really won’t matter much in the scheme of the city’s operations. It’s hard to avert your eyes from a car crash but eventually you have to or you wind up veering off the road.

advisingly submitted by Cityslikr


A Tale Of 2 Community Councils

June 19, 2013

The downtown versus suburbs pissing match flared up again this week, ignited by the usual suspects, councillors Doug Ford and Giorgio Mammoliti, pissingmatchover the redevelopment of a northern portion of St. Lawrence Market.

“When it comes to the downtown part of the city, it freaks me out,” Councillor Mammoliti spouted, “it freaks me out that everybody can find money to be able to do these things when the rest of us are told no.”

“We’re going out and we’re spending (a) disproportionate amount of money downtown all the time,” Councillor Ford mouthed. “Etobicoke North we get crumbs,” the Toronto Sun’s Don Peat quotes the councillor saying, “people out in Scarborough get crumbs.”

It’s a very easy political fight to pick. All appearances would back the councillors’ claims up. crumbsAttending the North York Community Council meeting yesterday, it was wrapped up before lunch. On its agenda were some 56 items, accompanied by about 10 deputations from the public.

This allowed for enough time to get back downtown to City Hall and take in the Toronto-East York Community Council meeting when it resumed after lunch. Its agenda included 128 items with over 20 deputations for one item alone. (For the record, the Scarborough Community Council meeting dealt with 37 items and the Etobicoke-York Community Council, which both councillors Ford and Mammoliti are part of, had 52 items before it.) If you’re counting along at home, the 3 suburban community councils had just 17 more items combined than their downtown counterpart.

Certainly the Toronto-East York Community Council represents significantly more of the city’s population than the other three, with just under 1/3 of the entire population of Toronto. And without question, it’s the area of town getting the lion’s share of the development, what with the business core within the boundaries while sitting on a good chunk of the waterfront. pieceofthepieThis is where a majority of the action’s at, baby.

But that somehow this translates into receiving a disproportionate piece of the total budget pie? The claim never really comes with any concrete proof or reliable sources. It’s cache comes purely through the repetitive chant not any actual facts.

We’ve written a few times about the study commissioned back in the day by Councillor Norm Kelly, Fair Share Scarborough. Ostensibly it set out to see if Scarborough was getting its fair share of city services under amalgamation. Turns out there was no solid proof Scarborough was either getting ripped off or making out like bandits in the situation. A wash, let’s call it.

Nothing since that study has surfaced to prove otherwise.

Yet that doesn’t stop the likes of Doug Ford or Giorgio Mammoliti (Councillor Frances Nunziata is also a avid proponent of the divisive tactic) from trying to make political hay out of it.

Oh, but what about all that Section 37 money the downtown gets and the suburbs see nothing of? The slush fund. The dirty bribe money. section37moneyWhy does it only go to the wards where the development is?

“Distribute the money equally to all the boroughs not just downtown all the time,” Councillor Ford demanded.

Fair’s fair, right? All for one and one for all, yeah? We’re all in this together.

Except for the development part of the equation.

Seems the likes of Councillor Ford is all for section 37 funds as long as the development that provides it goes elsewhere in the city.

Next time the councillor from Ward 2 Etobicoke whines about his share of section 37 funds ask him about Humbertown.

 “We’re all in consensus, we’re going to kill this thing.”

So spoke Councillor Ford at a public meeting about a proposed development in his neck of the woods.

It seems that you can suck and blow at the same time.crybabies

There are many residents of this city who can rightfully claim that they are being left out of the politics, the planning, the development of Toronto. Their claim is legitimate. But politicians like Doug Ford and Giorgio Mammoliti are simply piggybacking on that grievance, attempting to leverage it for political gain. They’re looking for others to do the heavy-lifting of governance and city-building while they just squawk away noisily in their little corners of the city.

submitted by Cityslikr


Who Wouldn’t Want A Casino?

April 17, 2012

I joked about this on the Twitter last week. Probably wasn’t the first one. Definitely not the last.

But now it seems to deserve more than the 140 character treatment as, zombie-like, it’s an idea, a dumb idea, a highly unoriginal idea that just won’t die. A waterfront casino cash cow. Ching-ching!

It reminds me of one of my favourite movie lines from one of my favourite 80s movie, Prizzi’s Honor. “If Marxie Heller’s so fucking smart, how come he’s so fucking dead?”

If a casino’s so fucking smart, how come suburban councillors are so fucking dead set against having one in their ward? Never does a council or committee meeting go by when we don’t hear the whine from the likes of councillor Mammoliti or Nunziata or Ford about how downtown gets everything and the suburbs get stiffed. Hey, folks. Here’s your chance. Step right up and claim your casino.

Remember The Great Sheppard Subway Struggle of 2012? Sure you do. Scarborough councillors Ainslie, Berardinetti, Crawford, Del Grande, Kelly and Thompson all demanded that Scarborough residents get what downtown had, subways not no stinkin’ streetcars. They weren’t second class citizens. They deserved first class transit.

Well, where  are they all now? You want something downtown doesn’t have? Here, take the casino. Please. There’s some waterfront out there in your neck of the woods, isn’t there? Stick the casino there, why don’t you.

That's NIMBY not GUMBY

I heard Budget Chief Del Grande on the news this morning, suggesting that the old city of Toronto’s inability to say no is a source of the city’s money woes. Well, here you go, Mr. Budget Chief. Downtown’s finally saying no to a casino. Maybe Ward 39 would like to take it off our hands.

For the casinos biggest supporters, it’s a really good idea in someone else’s ward.

Just like transit planning. As John McGrath wrote about the commissioner of Los Angeles transit, Richard Katz’s seminar yesterday, “…everyone wants a transit solution that other people use.” Or development planning. John tweeted from today’s Toronto-East York Community Council meeting (he’s everywhere, that John McGrath): Councillor [Pam] McConnell, speaking for every deputant against height ever: “This is a beautiful design, for somewhere else.”

Everybody wants the upside — Yeah, whatever. That’s for another post — of a casino, the benefits but none of the headaches. Parking and congestion. Down-and-out gamblers. A Jeff Foxworthy crowd streaming out into the streets, looking for a post-show nosh at a Cracker Barrel.

If I wanted a fucking casino in my neighbourhood, I’d move fucking downtown!

It’s almost as if these councillors all know a casino is little more than a dog and pony show, it’s not really going to contribute much to city’s bottom line but it’s a great way to stick to downtowners. Ohhh, they’re gonna hate this! Like they did tearing up the Jarvis bike lanes, de-fancifying the Fort York bridge and making threatening noises about the Portlands.

In his Metro article today, Matt Elliott pointed out that one of the mayoral campaign platforms of Rob Ford was to give “…more power to local community councils to make neighbourhood decisions.” Instead, we’ve seen a whole lot of imposing their will upon others by Team Ford. Might I suggest that for some of the more vocal, pushy ones, they take a little more time to tend to their own garden, gussy up their own respective wards. That way, perhaps, in the future we won’t have to listen to their bellyaching, complaining how they never get anything.

How about starting with a casino?

Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

generously submitted by Cityslikr


The Meter’s Running

January 19, 2011

Parking my ass down on a chair in committee room #1 at City Hall to take in the view of the first Toronto-East York Community Council meeting of the new year, look at all these shiny, fresh faces in action. Councillors Fragedakis, Bailão, Matlow, McMahon, Layton, Wong-Tam. Such a relief after being subject to the grizzled, grim visages that occupy desk space on the Budget and Executive committees. Cllrs. Del Grande, Shiner, Thompson, Kelly, Pelacio. Del Grande, Shiner. Did I mention them already? Yeah well, slap an eye-patch on either of them and we’ve got our very own Rooster Cogburns minus the infinitesimal traces of empathy displayed by the fictional cowboy. The Toronto-East York Community Council also includes 3 of my 4 favourite councillors, Cllrs. Vaughan, Davis and Perks who is serving as the council chair.

In case you don’t know, community councils serve as a direct contact between citizens and City Hall. Members from council sit and listen while people depute. Depute. Didn’t even know that was a word. There are 4 community councils throughout the city and, while they were given some power over local matters like by-laws and permits with the City of Toronto Act back in 2006, they still seem to operate more at an advisory level than an actual hands-on enforcement body.

Armed with information from their respective deputations – fun fact, the word ‘deputation’ can mean the group or person who deputes as well as both the act of being deputing and the state of being deputed. Put that in your pipe and smoke it, ya thesaurus loving kooks! Each Community Council will then take their recommendations on their respective local matters to the full city council for further consideration and an eventual vote.

More or less.

Civics pseudo-lesson over.

During the course of a deputation regarding a planned condo development out on King Street West, the subject of parking came up. A lot. (Pun not intended but not shied away from either.) It has been my experience watching public debates on proposed high(er) rise developments throughout the downtown core of Toronto that parking is up the list of resident and business concerns. Which comes as a surprise to me, frankly. Density intensification, public transit concerns, these things I get. But parking?

Of course, business owners will beat that drum, intractable as they are in the mid-20th-century mindset that cars equal sales. No number of studies suggesting that may not be the case will convince them otherwise. Local residents, too, are leery of new apartment/condo developments not only because of increased congestion but because of the premium it puts on their street parking. In the face of these fears, developers claim that there’s seldom a dearth of parking spots in their new buildings as those buying condos downtown don’t seem to want them. Hear, hear. I say. Urban dwellers reducing their dependency on the automobile. That sounds about right.

Not so fast, says Councillor Pam McConnell, our Katherine Hepburn’s Eula Goodnight I think for no real good reason other than I’ve still got True Grit-ish things on my mind. She says that those buying condos pass on parking spots not because they don’t own cars but to save money. Councillor McConnell claims that spaces in the condominiums comes with a price tag anywhere from $20-30 K. Why pay that when you can buy a six month street parking permit for $60?

Wait. I’m sorry. What? Sixty dollars for six months of parking! Are you sure about that, Councillor McConnell? It’s 2011 not 1980. Nobody living in the downtown core could be paying $10/month for parking. You must have your facts and figures wrong.

Checking the city’s website and it turns out that the councillor’s numbers are, indeed, off. With no access to off-site parking, a resident will pay just under $15/month for their first vehicle. It’ll cost them under $40/month for any subsequent vehicles. If a resident wants to park out on the street just for the convenience of it, you know, they have access to off-site parking, they’ll be out of pocket slightly under $50/month. That’s about $12 a week, under $2 a day, to park on the street simply as a matter of convenience.

How’s that for your Gravy Trains?! In fact, if you want to guest street park your gravy train outside your house, the city merely asks you to hand over $21.18 for a week. That’s $3 a day for those of you not good with the long division. To park on a street in downtown Toronto.

The War on the Car indeed.

Now I know that parking is a mystifyingly visceral topic, driven more by some ancient sense of entitlement than by good economic/environmental sense. I own a car therefore I am allowed to put it right here at no extra cost to me whatsoever. It just seems outrageous that a city as purportedly under the fiscal gun as our current administration claims it is simply gives away huge tracks of its public space for peanuts. Yes, I called on-street parking ‘public space’ and I’m not the only one. In fact, I lifted the idea outright from a much smarter writer on city stuff over at Urbanophile. Parking on a city’s streets for chump change is not some inalienable right.

We’ve talked about this before and much brighter minds than ours deliberate over the concept of proper pricing for parking to maximize profits while mitigating congestion and the resulting environmental impact. But it doesn’t take a genius to conclude that Toronto, at least in terms of its handling of on-street parking, is simply acting as Santa Claus to drivers. If you own a car, you better be prepared to pay for it. That includes the real cost of parking. And the price of that is a lot more than pennies a day.

indignantly submitted by Cityslikr