A ‘Drain’ or the Story of Toronto?

A drain feature. “I cannot justify spending … $1.96 million for a ‘drain feature’ in the St. Lawrence Market redevelopment,” John Tory announced, never mind the actual cost that is up for debate is pegged at $1.64 million.

Toronto is a young city built on land with a rich heritage. Around the time that colonists started arriving the land on which Toronto is now built was home to the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation. In 1786 land was purchased by the colonial government from the Mississaugas to establish a new settlement which would eventually be named York.

After the war of 1812 with the Americans, York grew quickly attracting workers and merchants. It grew too quickly though, faster than the infrastructure needed to support residents, and the town earned the nickname “Muddy York.” This lead to the incorporation of Toronto in 1834 and lead to its first democratically elected mayor, William Lyon Mackenzie.

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Concerns About the Rail Deck Park

I love the idea of the Rail Deck Park, a plan to deck over the railway corridor from Blue Jays Way to Bathurst and build a park on it. At 21 acres it would be the largest new park to open in Toronto since Downsview Park in 1999 and a vital infusion of green space in the already under-parked and ever intensifying Downtown Toronto. But when you look into its impact on other parks, how to pay for it, and how the idea originated, the lustre on the Rail Deck Park starts to fade.

The moment of inception for capital projects is usually not hard to trace; a report identifying a need, a milestone reached and the need to make a decision, etc. Not so with Rail Deck. One day it was nothing, the next day John Tory announced it; a fait accompli. But before work started on the park proposal there was the condo proposal.

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Flat Fines Don’t Work, Make Them Variable

A fine, as a means of dissuading anti-social behaviour, is a pretty blunt instrument. It is hamstrung by one overarching factor that renders it useless to a large proportion of the population: marginal ability to pay.

In short, if you are rich the impact of a $150 fine for parking in a bike lane may be minimal, whereas if you are poor it could mean very real sacrifices in order to pay the fine. What is needed is a way to factor the fine by ones ability to pay in order to equally dissuade anti-social behaviour.

Continue reading Flat Fines Don’t Work, Make Them Variable

Tax Cuts Cost You More

The title of this post needs to become the mantra of all those that value civilization and all that it brings us.

An alarming majority of people use services that are provided for by means of taxes and don’t even realize it. They are often small government, fiscal conservative types. A 2008 Cornell study found that 57% of Americans claimed they never used services funded by taxes but when asked if they had availed themselves of 21 programs 94% had made use of at least one with the average being four.

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Stop with Congestion Relief, Focus on Throughput

Before John Tory started his campaign to get cars moving faster under the guise of congestion relief there was a mutual understanding — through ignorance mind you — that pedestrians could cross intersections despite the countdown clock. As long as they were out of the roadway when the countdown reached zero few motorists would complain. In his various press appearances on the matter Tory has decisively punctured that ignorance, arming aggressive motorists with yet another tool to use against pedestrians and cyclists.

If Tory’s agenda in puncturing that veil of ignorance was to ensure that all road users — motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians alike — were equally aware of their respective responsibilities and to abide by them, he’s unquestioningly failed. In framing the issue as one of how to reduce congestion — read how to speed up automobile travel — he has given license to motorists to blame all congestion related issues on pedestrians and cyclists, absolving themselves of their role.

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The Impossible Journey

I listened with great interest and puzzlement to a story by Mary Wiens of CBC Radio about the daily transit odyssey of a man named Oladipupo — no family name given. Oladipupo describes his gruelling daily two hour journey from Finch and Morningside in Toronto’s extreme northeast corner to Steeles and Islington near its northwest corner and laments the great cost of time and energy that he must endure.

It is well known among Toronto transit planners and enthusiasts that the TTC is not geared to accommodating journeys described by Oladipupo. The system has been designed to funnel riders from all over the city to rapid transit lines — the subway — which all lead towards the downtown core. This system works for the majority of Torontonians but leaves many — like Oladipupo — in the lurch.

Oladipupo describes his journey as taking two hours each way. This can be easily verified using Google Maps which lists his journey as taking 1 hour and 33 minutes — in ideal circumstances — with a total trip length of 31.7km. Couple that time with road congestion, passenger causes delays, and a wait at Finch stations and rounding up this can be interpreted as taking 2 hours.

Google Maps lists Oladipupo’s daily commute as taking 1 hour and 33 minutes each way.

In her piece Wiens segues and asks Oladipupo to show her SmartTracker. This is where the story begins to fly off the rails.

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