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Posts Tagged ‘Toronto

Freeways Without Futures

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This Press Release from the Congress for New Urbanism landed in my email inbox yesterday. And despite the specification that the list was limited to US urban highways, I was pleased to see that the Gardiner Expressway in Toronto made the top 10.  (By the way I have now discovered, thanks to one of his tweets, that Brent Toderian helped select them.)

Screen Shot 2014-02-12 at 4.16.34 PM

The Gardiner has been a candidate for removal for as long as I have been in Canada – since 1988 – and they are still arguing about it.

No mention of the Georgia and Dunsmuir Viaducts which are also still standing as I write. I did do a quick Google search to see if I could determine their status. If I recall correctly the City is still consulting the neighbourhood. And, of course, no-one has actually accepted that the City’s projections were based on the false premise that traffic would continue at present levels just differently distributed, so of course the neighbours are really worried about the impact on their streets. In reality traffic will quickly adjust – in the same way that it has for the calming of Point Grey Road and the closure of lanes on the Burrard Bridge. As we have seen everywhere that urban highways have been removed, traffic contracts or evaporates or disappears – whichever is your preferred term.

We do not actually need to “serve roughly the same number of cars”. We can confidently expect that the people who currently are making these trips will adjust their travel patterns, and that there will be fewer car trips in future. And there is plenty of evidence to support that assertion.

CNU Releases 2014’s Freeways Without Futures Report 

Today, CNU released its biennial Top 10 list of “Freeways Without Futures”, selecting the U.S. urban highways most in need of being removed. Across the country, there is a growing realization that highways do not fit in an urban context, and that there are solutions like at-grade boulevards that can serve roughly the same number of cars while creating walkable, livable communities. These transformations can even save taxpayers billions of dollars in highway construction and maintenance, while simultaneously bringing economic revitalization to cities.

The “Freeways Without Futures” list recognizes the urban highways CNU believes are, in 2014, doing significant damage to their cities and are seriously in need of replacement with more people-friendly options. More importantly, this list recognizes the grassroots advocates, city officials and others who are working locally to redefine their urban environment. The CNU top 10 prospects for highway removals in 2014 are (in no particular order):

  • New Orleans, LA – Claiborne Expressway
  • Buffalo, NY – The Skyway and Route 5
  • Syracuse, NY – Interstate 81
  • Toronto, Ontario – Gardiner Expressway
  • Rochester, NY – Inner Loop
  • St. Louis, MO – Interstate 70
  • San Francisco, CA – Interstate 280
  • Detroit, MI – Interstate 375
  • Long Beach, CA – Terminal Island Freeway
  • Hartford, CT – Aetna Viaduct
This list is by no means definitive – many more removal campaigns deserve to be internationally recognized for their scope and their resolve. Five additional campaigns are noted in the full report, as well as detail on the progress of each of these highway removal battles.

“There is a real window of opportunity right now for highway removal projects,” explains CNU President John Norquist. “Many of the freeways built in the 1950 and 60s have reached the end of their design lives, and millions of dollars will either go to maintaining these blight-creating behemoths or to creating infrastructure that will improve, rather than destroy, communities.”

CNU received nominations from more than 100 cities, which were evaluated on criteria that included:

  • Age of freeway. Most of the freeways on the ‘teardown list’ are at the end of their lifespans and will need to be rebuilt at great cost, if the highways are to be maintained. Reconstruction of these aging highways would cost significantly more than replacing the road with a boulevard.
  • Cost versus short-term mobility improvement. Often the freeway rebuild option, while costing several millions dollars more than a surface street alternative, will only lead to a few minutes off driving times or even a return to the same level of congestion a couple years out.
  • Development potential. Often including a waterfront location. All of the freeways have blighted surrounding neighborhoods and depressed property values. When the freeways are removed, the revival can start. Often a new boulevard acts as a key improvement that helps improve access to the area.
  • Improved access. Limited-access freeways often disrupt the city street grid, reducing access to adjacent neighborhoods and overall mobility, including transit, traffic, bike, and pedestrian flow.
  • Timeliness. Most of the nominees are under study now by state Departments of Transportation, often for new ramps, costly repairs or full rebuilding.
  • Local support. The best candidates for removals have strong local supporters, including civic activists or key elected officials, who understand that the lands within the freeway corridor can be transformed into community-wide assets.

About the Congress for the New Urbanism

The Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU) is the leading organization promoting regions, cities and towns built around walkable, mixed-use neighborhoods.  Learn more>>

Written by Stephen Rees

February 12, 2014 at 8:35 am

Breaking the Political Gridlock

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Anne Golden at SFU Woodwards on January 28, 2014

Actually I have shortened the title: what was advertised was “Breaking the Political Gridlock to Address the Transportation Challenge: Lessons Learned from the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area”

The first of a new lecture series with the title “Rethinking Transportation: New Voices, New Ideas” by the City Program. Gordon Price announced that the next two lectures will be by Andrew Coyne and Charles Montgomery, but he is also asking for ideas of new people we have not heard from before to address the topic. He invited suggestions to be sent by email to price (at)

I found myself by chance seated with “the great and the good” name dropping Mike Harcourt, Nancy Oleweiler, Clive Rock, Mark Allison, Ken Cameron, and many other familiar faces.

The evening started with a video on the Greater Toronto Areas transportation challenges. Sadly so far all I can find now using address is this statement from the Minister.

I have created a storify from the tweets of other people present

Anne was the Chair of a Transit Investment Advisory Panel set up by the Premier of Ontario to examine funding options for transit expansion in the Greater Toronto & Hamilton area.

UPDATE  Jan 31

Making the rest of this blog post redundant, PriceTags now has the “complete and slightly revised text of Anne Golden’s lecture”.

She said that the issues in Toronto are different to Vancouver but similar.  Population growth is rapid – and the region of 6m now is expected to reach 10 m in 18 years. The tipping point of congestion has already passed. “The situation is intolerable. Everyone agrees it’s a crisis but no-one wants to pay for it.” The region is  already exceeding earlier population forecasts and has reached the level now expected for 2021.

Vancouver was always seen as leading the way with its land use policies – the Agricultural Land Reserve and “intensification” of urban development 18 years ago when Translink was proposed. The Premier of Ontario was uncomfortable with the present situation but she doesn’t have a majority government


The Premier required a fast turnaround: the panel was given three months to produce its report and was already appointed when Anne was approached to Chair it. “The Mayor of Toronto was already misleading the public on a number of topics including transit.” It was widely recognized that finding a solution to congestion would be the “cornerstone of success” but there was considerable doubt it could be achieved.

Reaction to the announcement of the Panel was cynical: it was portrayed by the media as a way to postpone decisions. The Scarborough line was dominating discussion. The Mayor had rejected replacement of the existing SkyTrain like Scarborough LRT with a more conventional light rail system. He claimed that a subway extension was the only acceptable solution even though ridership would not justify the higher construction cost. Metrolinx was rehired to review its decision that LRT was the most suitable technology. The chaotic result destroyed public trust in the process. There is in fact $16bn worth of construction on transit under way now – including a heavy rail connection to Pearson Airport from an existing GO Transit line using diesel multiple units (see notes below).

The panel produced a plan that is “practical, doable” with unanimous support across the panel – which was drawn from a wide variety of interests inkling business and the Automobile Association. The simple solution chosen was to select a few revenue tools, and then borrow  against this new revenue stream. It included a raise in gas tax,  a “redeployment” of  some of the HST and a half percent increase in Corporate Income Tax (CIT). The amount of borrowing is to be a low multiple (2.5x) of the stream and does not affect the provincial debt. It did not ask too much from any one group.

The were dozens of meetings with groups and the public.

Hard truths

  • Subways are not the only good transit
  • Transit does not automatically drive growth: transit must link up places effectively
  • Construction is not the only cost
  • Riders are not the only beneficiary: driving commute times in Toronto exceed that of Los Angeles and building transit will relieve congestion

UPDATE Thanks to Price Tags here is a Toronto Star article which sets out six truths more clearly – notice too that the links at the bottom of the article not longer point to the source material

The benefits are spelled out in the report. The myth was that nothing was happening, and also that we can pay for transit expansion by cutting waste in the existing bureaucracy. This is the mantra of the Mayor and the opposition but it is not the case. “Where’s the waste?” The province already has the lowest spending per capita  – lowest in the country – and it is rising at less than the rate of inflation. Ontario is reducing its deficit. It is also unrealistic to sell capital assets such as land to fund transit.

After the report was released the tone of the media became more respectful. There was also some new research on employment patterns, which showed that the Metrolinx proposals no longer met expected demands so they had to “make some tweaks”. They did this by setting  priorities in the plan – which previously had not been included. Transit investments must ease congestion, and the Yonge St subway line is already congested. People already travel north to board southbound trains as they were unable to get on full services further south. The “Big Move” proposal did not add up to a network. The major adjustment was to build a relief line first to reduce existing congestion in the system.

There is widespread distrust of transit accounting. It was proposed to phase in gas tax at 3c per litre initially eventually to rise to 10c, plus the CIT increase and HST diversion.

It is critical how these things are communicated. The CAA’s Executive Director felt it would be unpopular but “it’s the right thing to do”. The gas tax could be capped if necessary and the revenue replaced by a switch to more HST diversion. “Don’t have to go back and ask again.”

There is a two year “kickstart program” including desirable improvements such as real time next bus information at bus stops.

The price of gas went up 5c since the report was released. “No one noticed.” Gas tax will still be less than Montreal and the average impact was calculated at $80 per family per year. At the same time it was also projected that $800 would be the cost of more congestion but the mainstream media ignored that.

Business was in favour of getting a bigger, better labour pool. Companies that had moved to the outer suburbs were moving back into town to get better labour. And even after the increase Ontario will still have a comparatively low  CIT.

Tolls are seen by the public to be avoidable. But even though they would have to be applied to every route they would take too long to implement, and the cost of collection would be high.
Road pricing will be needed eventually

As one of those consulted remarked: “Dedicated or fuggeddaboudid”

Transparency is going to be critical. Depoliticized decision making will replace decisions  “unimpaired by any information”. Every project will have a published business case analysis.
The Scarborough subway is not justified by ridership: but even Karen Stintz of the TTC defended it on the grounds that “Scarborough does not feel part of the City”. Investments must be based on more than just self esteem. This had given rise to projects like the “Sheppard stubway” – “at least you can always get a seat on it!”

Each proposal is designed as part of an integrated network


Toronto Hamilton doesn’t have a region wide government. Many people suggest “Make it an authority like the airport”. Metrolinx does not have tax power

They would like to be able to capture land value increase but it is not seen as a reliable revenue source. She said that the Reichmann company drove the financing of Crossrail in London.

All governments have a role to play, but the feds are “missing in action”. Federal contributions are ad hoc and not programmed. Jane Jacobs said that large cities are what drive the economy of Canada (as opposed to natural resources).

Guidelines have to become policies with teeth. It is not about ideology. We must all be on the same side. We need champions. The strategy is not just about transit it is about transportation [and should also be about land use].


There is a “new world of ADD communication” Reporters is the “lock up” at the reports release were already tweeting and filing before the report document was handed out. These days, she said, everyone is an expert. [Actually I heard that forty years ago when I started work for the GLC: everyone with a driver’s license thinks its an advanced degree in traffic engineering]

There is a “dumbed down” broadcast media driven by a short news cycle. They only rporte th gas tax increase with instant responses from live interviews with startled people at the gas pumps. “Informed people are [portrayed as] elites  – who drink cappuccino!”

She said “Democracy works best with filters” and equated the Referendum with “mob rule”. She also pointed to an [Gary Mason’s] article about the Denver transit referendum in Monday’s Globe & Mail [paywall] People had time to absorb what was proposed – and could see benefits for themselves. Business leaders got behind the proposals. There is “no short cut”.


A dedicated standalone fund is necessary but not sufficient. People are influenced by events like the Senate scandal and find institutions untrustworthy – including the church. But they
trust the airline pilot or the surgeon “because you have no choice”

There is no single rule for leadership – despite all the books proclaiming their own. There are always going to the inherent tensions requiring  compromises and tradeoffs. There is no template for regional government: the Greater Toronto Services Board (which preceded Metrolinx) did not last. Land use and economic planning is not integrated – and TransLink does not meet the test of good governance.

Our reputation is at stake, “the region that does it right … mostly.”

The will be ten million people in 18 years time in the GTHA. City regions cannot rest on their laurels. Greater Vancouver  produces about half of BC’s GDP: the GTA 40% of Ontario’s


1. Are there many other regions in same boat?

New York (pedestrians, bicycles, role of design) Washington (streetcar), Denver, LA (at long last). We did study what others are doing

2. Intermediate Capacity Transit Systems were not considered in Toronto. Do you have an a priori down on SkyTrain?

I don’t know nearly enough knowledge about technology to answer that. The business case is the analysis to determine mode choice. “Buried LRT” was chosen for the Eglinton Line (“to keep it out of the way of the traffic”) but its business case never published. It is now halfway built but great care was taken not to take away the road space from cars.

3.  Were walking, biking, car sharing considered?

Our remit was  very specific. We not have time to consider cycling

4.  Transit Oriented Development:  what research did you do on value capture?

Didn’t get into value uplift not done enough

5. What would you have done if you had had 6 months?

If we had we would have done more consultation, and considered options like no parking on King and Queen Streets [major streetcar routes in downtown Toronto] as well as reconsidering truck delivery rules

6. Does concentration on office employment makes peak hours worse?

An excellent relief line will help

7.  Development charges?

These are under review. We don’t charge the true cost of debt in suburbs. They got hooked on Development Cost Charges: they are a perverse incentive “like a drug”. 

8.  You talked about congestion not Climate change or carbon taxes.  Flooding Richmond might be a bigger cost than congestion

We didn’t look at Carbon tax not viable. Canada is becoming less interested in being green
People are stretched and cranky

Cost of collection of tolls is too high

Revenue from gas tax has a limited life. The 1m more cars the rein expects will help but it is time limited

9 Province doesn’t have a clue about munis

From where you sit is what you see. TTC is bigger than Metrolinx but they have to concentrate on immediate political situations. Maybe need a provincial office for the Metro area – that used to be the case in Toronto when Gardner Church ran it. BC should bring Metro Vancouver and Translink together

10 Do people understand opportunity cost (citing the avoided cost of congestion she referenced)? E.g. road tolls

“I am not optimistic that there is enough white space”. The speed of communications defeats the consideration of complex issues. “The big lie is winning”



GTA Toronto population is 5.8 million.

“Big Move” is a comprehensive 25 year $50bn transit plan for GTHA with a goal of a 33% mode share. Phase 1 is the $16bn under way now which includes $800m for a makeover of Union Station. The Bloor Danforth subway extension to Scarborough City Centre will cost ~$3bn. The Eglinton Crosstown line is 12 miles png and will open in 2020. The 7 mile Finch West line will start in 2015 with scheduled completion in 2020. An 8 mile Sheppard East LRT will connect the Sheppard subway  terminal at Don Mills to Morningside starting in 2017 completion by 2021. The Union Pearson line will be open next year. 37 miles of BRT are being built in York Region and Mississauga. Tunnelling has been completed on a 5.4 mile extension of the Spadina subway to Vaughn. It will open in 2016 and is the first TTC line outside of the city.

source: Trains February 2014

Written by Stephen Rees

January 29, 2014 at 10:52 am

Own Your City

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This was actually my first visit to the SFU Woodwards campus: tribute was paid to Warren Gill – this was the third lecture in his honour – and he was credited with the initiative to establish SFU in downtown and in Surrey.

Attendees were encouraged to tweet using the #sfucity hashtag. I have produced a storify from them. Credit should also go to SFU for providing free wifi access. Thank you.

Jennifer Keesmaat
Chief Planner and Executive Director
City of Toronto

At SFU Woodwards
December 6

Cities are our greatest hope and our greatest risk. Vancouver and Toronto (where the mode share for transit is 23.3% for the journey to work is comparable to ours when using the Census Metropolitan Area (CMA) rather than the city.

She has identified critical success factors that are going to be necessary for securing a different future to business as usual.

Canadian cities are suburban, auto oriented. We are not as rich we thought we were. WE have a number of perverse subsidies that have led to suburban sprawl. We need to increase density to increase the utilisation of existing infrastructure. Areas that don’t change will be left behind. The legacy we are leaving our children can be seen in the weather. Echo boomers want something different whether the city changes or not.

Illustration of city suburbs “expensive mistakes”. [For an instructive comparison see also the recent SFU lecture by Charles Marohn on “Strong Towns” which is one I missed but the video has now been posted on the Stroad to Boulevard tumblr.]

In the city of the future everything will be within short distance, which means less commuting and more time for everything else.  Is this vision what our suburbs might become? We continue to build suburbs. Consensus on how to change eludes us.

Three Critical Success Factors

1 the need to believe in a better future
She used the frequently cited prescience of the builders of the Bloor viaduct, which had the ability to accommodate the subway under the roadway 48 years before the subway opened. [As a transportation economist I have a somewhat different view of overbuilt infrastructure]
“I don’t get the baby platforms of the Canada Line” [I agree with her there]
Leaders don’t use polling to determine direction

2 the need to cultivate deep understanding about drivers for change
Clear coherent vision for the future essential for consensus. Walkable neighbourhood is better term than ecodensity
Learning and respect – fundamental to democracy

3 the need to engage to build broad and deep constituencies for city building

Chief planner round table
Our urban fabric
Resilient city
Next generation suburbs

Planners in Public Spaces

Partnered with LEGO

Transportation Planning
Feeling Congested?
The future is about moving less
Whiteboard video

One imaginative giveaway was used for on platform TTC surveys and other locations giving respondents free pack of tissues with the feeling congested? web site address on them.

80% of those polled after this exercise now agree with new funding sources for transit

[Saw this today in the National Post “I don’t much care where the money comes from, just tax me however you see fit and build, for God’s sake.”]

Belief understanding and engagement

Individual action ..every time you make a choice
Collective action .. Finding ways to shape political decision making



q Do City staff follow the advice of living where they work?

a City of TO is actually very weak at walking the talk for staff. Divisions working together on Complete Streets initiative building internal consensus. Water

q  What Provincial and Federal policies are needed?

a  Social housing … Regent park … Impossible for muni tax base to support affordable housing. Transit funding reward for density.

q Transit

a  Compare the NY subway to TTC and Canada line. Capacity!!

q Affordable housing

a  Mid rise stick construction lower price point

q How to frame conversation with professionals

a Not everything worked … you have to take risks
Look at what worked best practices as reference

Right now took it in house with councillors to ward level workshops

TO has not been as ambitious as other cities to get great buildings ( “Despite the talk, it’s now clear Keesmaat has succumbed to the same timidity that has kept Toronto from achieving the greatness it so badly wants.”  Christopher Hume Toronto Star)

Canadian cities do pretty well
Building is not the lynch pin
Great urbanism is about the neighbourhood not the building. [She said that we visit New York to see Greenwich Village or Soho not just the iconic buildings. Don’t say that to the people who run the Empire State Building, or Rockefeller Centre, or the Lincoln Centre. Or am I alone in being an architectural tourist?]
Profound mistakes with heritage

“I’m very concerned with the implication that sexy buildings define a city. I don’t have stars in my eyes about starchitects.”

Gehry thinks that only two buildings in Toronto are worth preserving

q Cities to watch?

a Washington DC currently mid rise but now looking at variances for high rises
Portland OR they did it in the seventies. They stuck w the plan
New York resilience legacy of Blomberg
Removing cycling lanes “Other people do dumb things too!”
Vancouver West End plan
Old Montreal “architects with a gentle touch”

Written by Stephen Rees

December 6, 2013 at 9:54 pm

The Road Ahead: Learning from Toronto

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Elyse Parker, Director Public Realm Section, Transportation Services, City of Toronto

November 26, 2009 at UBC Robson Square. Last of the SFU City Program “Changing Gears” series

This post was updated on  May 3, 2010 to include this link to the SFU video of this event

The idea of creating better streets is tied into both dealing with climate change and creating a more livable city. Toronto is Canada’s largest city and sixth largest government, has 2.6m residents and is a result of the 1998 amalgamation: half of that population was born outside of Canada.

On May 25, the City examined a change to Jarvis Street. The area has been “intensifying” and the engineers were examining alternatives to the reversible centre lane. The best alternate was to eliminate the fifth lane entirely and add bike lanes and sidewalk width. The removal of the fifth lane would add 2 minutes to vehicle travel time. The debate lasted seven and a half hours. However, this approach is preferred to that adopted by New York City. That means that change happens slowly, but that is because it is democratic and intensely political. In NYC the process is one driven by executive action.

Clean and Beautiful City

Mayor David Miller introduced a five point action plan –

  • sweep it
  • design it
  • grow it
  • build it
  • celebrate it

Much of the city was showing a lack of continuous maintenance. The new approach required the planners to sit down with solid waste management which in itself was an innovation. The objective was to re-establish civic pride. “No one could save us but ourselves”. The city has a complex management structure, which meant that in many places it was not clear who had responsibility for a given public space. The idea was to  “find a home for orphaned spaces”.

Neighborhood beautification – The first example was the Bathurst Wilson mural. The wall was a sound barrier for Highway #401, which was painted after the famous Seurat picture of a beach. This is a process started to create places, bottom up, with change through small actions: doing not talking, but that will happen in all 44 wards of the city.

The next project was at Senlac and Burnett (unfortunately not on the City web site so far as I can see)  a neglected intersection where what instigated change was the support of city. It was succesful due to the speed of action which she described as  “urban acupuncture”

What Makes a City Great? – Mayor David Millar’s vision for the City (the link is to a pdf file) commits the city to spend $100,ooo per ward on improvements to the public realm.

Take BAC 13

St Clair W TTC Station was a major project (which a web search shows was not free of controversy)  which was made possible by a “convergence of owners”. Her presentation relied on images which are not on line.

She then spoke about “boulevard transformation” essentially inserting small strips of green along Sword Street between the roadway and the sidewalk. She that this simple act of replacing bare dirt with grass had  significant community impact. The work was done by the city but the community had to accept responsibility for maintaining the boulevard. The picture she showed was just of grass but she said that other types of planting would have been equally acceptable.

She argued that actions such as this are a real tool for community development. She then cited the Jameson Ave photo project – an outdoor gallery of photographs on tree planter boxes which features local residents

The Rexdale Drainage Swale, on the other hand, replaced the usual grass median with an open planted ditch designed to slow water run off and through increased permeability recharge local ground water. She remarked that the engineers who design and maintain such places are some of the lost “hard nosed” of the city employees, but they seem to have been won over to a more green approach to storm drainage.

One of the main sources of action came from the need for a new street furniture contract. The city choose to seek a new, co-ordinated contract  as set out in the  Vibrant Streets guidelines. This is an advertising based system which will see 25,640 pieces of street furniture installed over 20 years at a cost of $1bn. This is the largest harmonised system in the world. The Public Realm Section was created as the formal unit to take responsibility for the revenue stream from this program. It is dedicated to be spent on beautiful streets, pedestrian projects and  street furniture (bus shelters, waste bins, newspaper boxes, benches etc).

Toronto is a member of the c40 Group which was created from the observation that national governments are falling short on the necessary action to deal with climate change while cities are getting results.  One of its first initiatives was to set up a Sustainable Transportation Plan.  Dr. David McKewen, Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health, recently released a report stating that traffic related air pollution contributes to about 440 premature deaths and 1,700 hospitalizations per year in Toronto. This clearly demonstrates the health benefits of moving to a more sustainable transportation system.   The Toronto Walking Strategy will, among other initiatives eliminate ten right turns on red (its most controversial proposal). She said that this is not just a feel good campaign. We know that getting people to walk more, and safely, is one of the few things we know will reduce the incidence of obesity and type 2 diabetes.

She talked about the  guiding principles (which can be downloaded as a pdf from the previous link) and showed a map of the incidence of diabetes in the city which is strongly correlated to the outer parts of the city which are auto oriented. The way to tackle this she said  was through the  Transit City Priority Neighbourhoods. The plan is to greatly expand the reach of good quality transit by switching to surface light rail rather than the cities earlier approaches based on subways and ALRT (which had stalled due to high costs). There is she said a “walkability challenge” of the outer parts of the city. The first priority is keeping children safe: giving priority to car traffic means road death is principal cause of child mortality. The most vulnerable people are the elderly and the young.

Young and Dundas “Barnes Dance”

How clear was my running trail

the first in a pilot project that sees the city clearing snow on a priority basis from Coxwell to Lower Sherbourne in the east end and the Humber River to Bathurst in the west, each a stretch of just over five kilometres.

It sounds like a small thing – a trail length of 11 kilometres compared with the thousands of kilometres of roads the city clears every snowfall. But the decision to clear the Goodman may indicate that the city bureaucracy is growing to
understand the needs of cyclists and pedestrians. And initial reports show the newly cleared trail is having a transformative effect on the lives of the winter athletes.

Jane’s walks – “An annual extravaganza of urban love” . Kensington Market is closed to cars on last Sunday of the month in Summer. Toronto Islands are car free year round, and the two downtown universities (Ryerson and UofT) are looking at street closures.

The city organisation has split the cycling and pedestrian areas and the emphasis for cycles is for bikeways that are continuous and connected. They intend to concentrate on infrastructure and will introduce bixi bikes next spring. They have also built a “bike station“, will provide secure bike parking at all TTC stations and have erected 16,000 post and ring bike parking devices

Selected Q&A

(I have only recorded questions that got a substantive answer. Where she said she would get back to questioners, the question has not been recorded below)

The first question referred to a Spacing Magazine article which contrasted the  elected vs executive  approaches in Toronto and New York.
She replied that beautiful streets are non-partisan, but the tension has been about active transportation. The suburban  councillors are dubious about such approaches in their wards compared to the downtown councillors.

“I would love to just do it!”

2    “What is going to happen to car dependent suburbs?”

One of the strategies is the transit city plan, and the tower renewal programme which redensifies neighbourhoods and adds more shopping uses. But it is an uphill battle

3    Street furniture – what is the city’s ability to control where those things go?

Lot of concern to us and city council. The “Vibrant Streets” document issued at the time of the request for proposals was very specific about this issue  and how much advertising can be on the furniture. It is not allowed on bins or benches. We work with the street furniture company on location and we meet with the city councillor and the adjacent land owner(s). The city has the absolute right of refusal on ads.

4   What about temporary public spaces? Can they have a transformative impact on community?

Kensington Market is exactly that. But we do have to get more sophisticated how we do these things

5   You mentioned the breakdown of the silos in your department. Is that happening elsewhere?

Toronto is moving towards an integrated service delivery model.  We are at the tip of the iceberg. We have the resources to implement these things. I am one of 13 director champions for the 13 neighborhoods. We add another layer of thought for social services in the priority neighborhoods.

6 The need for more public toilets –

Toilets are part of the street furniture program. In addition a local by law requires that stores over a certain size must provide a public washroom –

7  Are newspaper boxes a blight or a source of revenue? We have heard about the need for more  freedom of expression and the papers are  “pushing back” on multi publication racks (mpr)

We don’t have any mprs up yet. We are aggressive on licensing and management.  We are now seen as a way of saving costs. We won’t have them everywhere and we will monitor and enforce licences. As well we will provide the boxes and maintain them.

8  The City of Vancouver has tried to integrate programs. On priority neighborhoods, who gets them and how it is prioritised?

The ability to redevelop streets especially  old heritage streets only comes with new development. The determination is based on statistics and excludes  downtown simply because that area has better access to social services. There are 44 wards and our job is to serve everyone – keep detailed lists and always try to balance – dollar value is not always an indicator of effectiveness of performance. The source of funds is only from development charges on neighborhood streets. The only capital fund is on arterial roads.

9   TIF?

Capital financing is not the biggest problem – new programs for BIAs – Bloor St – may happen on major street but not for neighborhoods

10.  Does the introduction of a bike lane improve streets?

Not aware of that

11. Wayfinding?

Currently none – but eager to develop one

12   Healthy walk proposal?

An academic idea not yet implemented.

13   Swales and storm water management

The funding makes the difference: we can add on to the base funding to make innovation possible e.g. the first truly green parking lot

14  What is the relationship with the parks department? For instance, Cloud Park has degenerated as has the linear park along Front St in the distillery district.

We are aware of that are we are trying to get better maintenance. We need to connect people with the street and we have been impressed by recent work in New York.

15   Community Consultation

We will not put any dollars into projects if they are not willing to maintain the project but this is a “gentle persons agreement” which may not be enforceable, but the city councillor usually has an interest.

UPDATE Saturday November 28, 2009

In a nice piece of synchronicity, when I turned on the radio this morning, Stuart McClean was reading his story of Emil, the homeless man, who created a garden in “One of the planter boxes on Bloor Street where the city put a small tree and sometimes water”. The story also appears in one of his anthologies of stories from the Vinyl Cafe. Recommended.

Written by Stephen Rees

November 27, 2009 at 12:52 pm

“Wake up and smell the exhaust”

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That exhortation comes from Christopher Hume writing in the Toronto Star – about a month ago. Devon Rowcliffe and Jim Harris picked it up on facebook today – and I thank both of them since I missed it when it came out. While he is talking to the GTA he could equally be talking to the GVRD

…we are rooted in the mindset of the 1970s, blissfully unaware that a new reality has dawned.

Let’s look instead to cities that lead, cities that are reinventing themselves as places where people live because they want to not because they must, places that are remaking themselves in the image of a human being, not a car, places that offer quality of life not just low taxes.

Cities as disparate as New York, London, Stockholm, Copenhagen and now Sydney, Australia, are moving to reclaim their public realm for people. Historic squares that were turned into parking lots in the years after World War II are now being returned to pedestrians. Café life in Copenhagen, for instance, which didn’t exist 40 years ago, now flourishes. And, yes, they know what winter is.

Whole precincts in these communities and others have been set aside as pedestrian zones. And local merchants notwithstanding, business prospers in these designated areas.

Vancouver is, of course, the city that cancelled its Sundays only closure of Commercial Drive – becuase the local merchants complained of reduced takings.

It doesn’t help that we have fallen 25 years behind the rest of the world in public transit, which alone has seriously harmed the GTA’s ability to keep pace. Now we are desperately trying to catch up, but many fear the (high-speed) train has already left the station.

How ironic that as we become more like the U.S., the U.S. wants to become more like us.

Indeed I heard a clip on the radio today of Bill Clinton, speaking to a rather less than sold out house at the CNE, about how great Toronto is. Perhaps this is the problem – for them and us. Americans keep coming here and telling us we are doing better than they are – but that is not much of a test.

Hume talks about becoming more competitive internationally. I think we should do it even if we don’t attract any more visitors or footloose investors. We should do it because we care about our own well being, our own environment – and that of the world we inhabit. Indeed this push for economic growth is what is driving us to extinction. Building a freeway that will put an end to Burns Bog – paving over Delta farmland to store empty containers – increasing the number of single occupant vehicle commuters along the Fraser Valley and (probably) throwing billions at a tube to UBC when most of the region is starved for decent transit all seem to speak of  “the mindset of the 1970s” – before the first oil scare of course.

Written by Stephen Rees

August 30, 2009 at 5:37 pm

Posted in transit, Transportation, Urban Planning

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Transit plan promises plenty but pays for precious little

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Globe and Mail

It’s déja vu, all over again

Yet another massive transit plan is promised for Toronto. And once again there is no real idea how to pay for it. Or rather the option of making the people who live and work there pay for it themselves is not eactly going to make any politician very popular. In fact the same probelm besets Vancouver (metro that is). We have a “plan” – only $14bn not $50bn but the same order of magnitude given the relative popluation. And also no real idea how to pay for it.

10c a km toll seems to me to be a bit unlikely.

Metrolinx also says it will study new ways to “capture” some of the boost to land values created by public transit, as well as looking at increased development charges and partnerships with the private sector.

Also just like here. Except that the Sheppard subway was going to be paid for like that and the developers just refused – and siad there were plenty of other places they could put up buildings where they could take nearly  all of the profits for themselves, so they didn’t need to develop on Sheppard West. And then the development business was going full blast. This will be an even harder stunt to pull off in a recession.

Metrolinx’s draft plan also shows the continuing state of the disagreement between Metrolinx and the Toronto Transit Commission over Toronto’s proposal for a partially tunnelled light-rail line for Eglinton. Metrolinx and the TTC had clashed over the provincial agency’s insistence on a more expensive but faster and fully tunnelled rapid-transit line using vehicles similar to those on the Scarborough RT or Vancouver’s SkyTrain.

Oh no, no that one again. The argument should be about why transit has to be the way to wean us off car dependency – not what kind of train, for goodness sake. The future of humanity on this planet is at stake. And we are arguing about details?

and the plan still includes

Extensions to Highways 407, 404, 427 and 410, as already identified in provincial growth plan

and that is the problem. That sounds even worse than Gateway, and for exactly the same reason. For years Metro TO has been spreading out all over the last warm flat bit of Ontario. Just like our sprawl has taken over the Fraser Valley. If Metrolinx and the Province of Ontario stick with this, that just means more low density subdivisions on land that will be needed to grow food. And all those people will still be driving and have to pay whatever the the oil companies and governments feel ike gouging from them. This is not sustainable development.

Tear up that plan and start again – and this time take as your starting point peak oil and the need to reduce fossil fuel consumption. Because those horsemen of the apocalypse cannot be ignored.

Written by Stephen Rees

September 24, 2008 at 10:02 am

It’s time to lift our heads a bit

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I have been beavering way on local and regional issues and have not been looking further afield recently. So let’s see what’s going on outside.

Our nearest Cascadian neighbour is getting ready for another round of voting on things. They seem to think that asking their citizens to approve government spending on transportation (and other) projects is a Good Idea. Odd. It never seemed to catch on here. Anyway, a group not too dissimilar to the Livable Region Coalition here, called The Washington Public Interest Research Group has released a study on the benefits of transit. “And it’s using its conclusions to help campaign for expanding light rail service beyond Seattle and Sea-Tac Airport.”

King County Metro transit saved an estimated 12.5 million gallons of oil and $32.7 million in gasoline costs and reduced carbon dioxide emissions by 87,907 metric tons, because transit buses eliminated other vehicle trips.

Sound Transit, according to the report, saved more than 6.8 million gallons of oil and $17.9 million in gasoline costs and reduced carbon-dioxide emissions by 49,622 tons.

Community Transit in Snohomish County saved more than 1.9 million gallons of oil and $5 million in gasoline costs and reduced carbon-dioxide emissions 12,697 tons.

Pierce Transit saved more than 2.7 million gallons of oil and $7.1 million in gasoline costs and cut CO2 emissions by 4,201 tons. In amounts of oil, cost and pollution savings created, the report ranks Puget Sound’s transit systems 14th among 25 major metropolitan areas, topped by the New York-New Jersey area and with Las Vegas last.

Unfortunately they do not have a really competent web master like we do so you will have to rely on the good old PI, since the PIRG web page is out of date and does not have the report yet. Tut tut.

Meanwhile over at the centre of the known universe, federal money promised for transit expansion has yet to be sighted. Christopher Hume the Toronto Star’s columnist is getting downright snippy

Talk about gridlock. It was a year ago yesterday that the Prime Minister himself, the Right Honourable Stephen Harper, stood in front of a TTC bus in Downsview and promised almost $1 billion to help fund regional transit.

Since then, nothing has happened: zilch, zero, zippo. Except for the energy spent bickering, our elected “leaders” have failed to advance the file one iota. Not a penny has flowed.

This should not be surprising; back in 2000, Ottawa promised $25 million for the revitalization of Union Station – that hasn’t been delivered, either.

Hume seems to think it is because the Tories aren’t urban – not having any seats in any of the major urban areas where 80% of Canadians live. Tough being a minority government, ain’t it?

Written by Stephen Rees

March 7, 2008 at 5:57 pm

Posted in politics, transit

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