Farewell Rob Ford

I made this comment on my Facebook recently, but I shall repeat it.

Calling a spade a spade, what RoFo did, in and of itself, was not enough to warrant getting ousted from office. He debated and voted on a motion concerning ~3 000 $. That amount of money, for someone of his means, is not a big deal. And as much as I despise the man, what he was raising the money for is a fairly respectable cause.

However, what it comes down to is he broke the law.

As a city councillor, one cannot use one’s office for personal gain. Or for gain of a personal cause. Now, if RoFo and DoFo had abstained themselves from a debate and vote on giving money to RoFo’s charity, and the city gave money to RoFo’s charity, then I would have no problem with that.

But no. RoFo (as I understand it) solicited donations using his city letterhead. That’s patently illegal.

And then add in the fact that RoFo brazenly admitted he has never read the city councillor’s handbook of rules, etc. in court.

Sorry, RoFo, but the rules DO apply to you.

You broke them. You deserve your fate.

Rob Ford … one year later

Yeah, this is still valid.

And this one is actually quite accurate. The TTC has f***ed up its streetcars. I can’t argue with this.

Gotta love the The Simpsons’ reference in this one.

And perhaps more relevant now that everyone with a brain realizes he’s going to go down as the worst mayor in Toronto’s history.

And he’s still got three years to go. God help Toronto.

Wiretap does Rob Ford

Hey Torontonians. How many of you remember CBC’s As It Happens interview with mayor-elect Rob Ford? You know the one where he cuts off Carol Off to go to his football practice.

Well, CBC’s Wiretap has done a parody of that interview. And I think you’ll all enjoy it. I know I did.

Regretably I cannot upload the two interview to this blog. However, this link will send you to where I have placed the files. I encourage you to listen to them.

My apologies

I know I said I was going to comment on Joe Pantalone’s and George Smitherman’s transit plans. In detail, no less.

But, with the election tomorrow, I do not have the time to make my thoughts known. And for that I am sorry. I had wanted to comment, but I got distracted with other things.

So, in short, I will make some generalized comments.

Joe Pantalone: His plan is the best, because it continues the much-needed Transit City plan. Unlike his fellow candidates, Pantalone does not seek to eliminate Transit City and build subways where they do not need to be built yet.

George Smitherman: His plan is the second best of the candidates remaining in the race. He plans to continue parts of Transit City, but also build some subways that are unnecessary at this point in time. I do not see a need to extend the Bloor-Danforth west of Kipling, nor is it absolutely necessary to extend it in the opposite direction past Kennedy.

So there you have it. A short, extremely simplified critique of the transit plans of mayoral hopefuls Joe Pantalone and George Smitherman.

Now, I say this to all Torontonians: VOTE!!! If you don’t vote, you have no right to complain if the candidate you did not want to see win does, indeed, win.

Horrible News

If this keeps up, we can kiss the Toronto we know and love goodbye. People, please, come to your senses before you do something you will regret.

Rob Ford opens huge lead in mayor’s race

Toronto mayoral race is Rob Ford’s to lose, poll of decided voters says

The more they see of Ford, the more they like him

Ford surges ahead at 45.8% support, new poll shows

Ford takes big lead: Polls

Again, Torontonians, I implore you. Don’t elect this man. If you do, you are dooming our city to ruin. If you love Toronto, do not vote for Rob Ford.

To wit: When Rob Ford becomes mayor…

Please actually examine all the candidates’ platforms. And brush up on how City Council works, as well as how the Canadian governmental structure is designed. If you know how it all works, you will understand how electing Rob Ford will not bring the changes he seeks.

Sarah Thomson’s Transit Plans

As I have found some time in my busy (ha!) schedule, I will now turn some of my attention to discussing Sarah Thomson’s transit plans in her mayoral platform. Much like I have done with Rocco Rossi’s and Rob Ford’s, I will look at the plans and state what I think of them.

Unfortunately, Sarah Thomson’s transit plans do not come with a video I can watch and comment on. On the flip side, her transit plans are the most succinct, which will make commenting on them fairly straightforward.

The first thing I have to say about Thomson’s plans is that they include a Downtown Relief Line. This is something I support, as the core needs improved subway coverage long before the outer 416 does. However, Thomson does lose me when she also promotes extending the ill-conceived Sheppard S(t)ubway from DON MILLS to SCARBOROUGH CENTRE. The S(t)ubway was a mistake when it was built and we mustn’t compound it by throwing good money after bad. Transit City’s Sheppard East LRT will provide the necessary capacity for this corridor at a substantially reduced price tag when compared to a subway.

Another positive I see on Thomson’s subway map is stopping any extensions on the Y-U-S at Steeles Ave. This I completely support, as it’s the Toronto Transit Commission, not the Greater Toronto Transit Commission. Sadly Thomson’s desire to see the subway not enter the 905 is not possible; but that’s another story.

Now, on to my strong criticism. Again, another mayoral candidate is opposed to Transit City and will attempt to cancel it. Again, another mayoral candidate refers to the Transit City lines as streetcars. Again, it bears repeating, streetcars are not LRT. The differences are many. If you don’t know the difference, learn the difference. On the plus side, at least Thomson does refer to the lines themselves as ‘light rail lines,’ so it seems she is only ignorant of the vehicle types.

Actually, before I continue with my criticism, I must say I am impressed that Thomson does not explicitly state that streetcars (or LRT) create congestion. She does imply it when she says, “. . . called ‘Transit City’ involves adding streetcars and building light rail lines on our already congested streets,” but she is not blaming streetcars/LRT for congestion.

With larger capacity and faster transit times, a subway system can bring in much higher revenues.” But this increased revenue must be balanced against increased capital costs (to build the tunnels and stations and buy the trains) and increased operating costs (to staff the stations and run the trains) and increased maintenance costs (e.g. currently the Y-U-S is shut down at midnight to allow for tunnel maintenance to be performed). The benefits of a subway system are outweighed by these drawbacks. Plus, there is the issue of what you can build for the money you wish to reallocate from Transit City. You get much better cross-town transit coverage for the cost of Transit City than you would get from taking that money and using it to pay for subways.

The above having been said, Thomson does propose road tolls to help pay for new subways. She also proposes working with the private sector to build density around subway stations. This is also in addition to a subway bond. Now that’s a novel, yet underused, idea. A subway bond. We’ve had war bonds and we have Canada Savings Bonds; why can’t we do a subway bond? I, for one, would be willing to buy bonds (provided the interest rate is high enough) to pay for better transit investments.

As for the road tolls, I am not necessarily opposed to them. But I challenge the numbers Thomson says the tolls could provide. Plus there are other attendant issues with road tolls, such as those people who don’t want to pay will naturally drive through residential areas, making them unsafe for pedestrians and children. And working with the private sector? It could work, but again I challenge how much money that could raise. The goal of the private sector is to turn a profit. The private sector will try to get as many concessions as it can to reduce its costs before it shells out any money to help the public sector.

Funds from these tolls will go directly to the expansion of our subway system and a sunset clause put in place so that the funds have to be directly solely to subway expansion and can not be used for anything else. The tolls will come off once our subway expansion is complete.” It is integral the funds be limited to what they were enacted to pay for. As for them coming off once expansion is complete, I say that would be stupid. Two reasons: (a) it’s unlikely a revenue stream will ever be cut off once it’s been opened; and (b) why not keep the tolls to fund subway maintenance once expansion is complete? I mean, you have to pay for the operation of the subways, so why not use a revenue source you already have set up for subway-related uses.

Getting back to discussing with the Province about reallocating the funds for Transit City to build subways. I don’t have any confidence that would be possible. I have a strong suspicion (which I stated in my Rob Ford critique) that the contracts have been signed for the LRVs to be used on the Transit City routes. Breaking those contracts would not come cheap. And then there’s the issue of all the money already spent on designing the routes. And land acquisition to build the routes and house the LRVs.

Overall, I feel Sarah Thomson’s transit plan is the best of the three I have critiqued thus far. Unfortunately, that’s not saying much. Yes, her subway expansion includes a DRL. But at the same time she is planning to eliminate Transit City. And her funding sources, I feel, are not sufficient. As for her budgeted values as to the cost of her plans, the DRL by itself will likely cost more than 4 $ billion. And that’s if construction began today. In my opinion, it’s best to adopt a hybrid approach, with a DRL and Transit City built concurrently.

Up next? Either George Smitherman or Joe Pantalone.

Rob Ford’s Transit Plan

In what I plan to make a continuing series, here are my thoughts on Rob Ford’s transit plan, as he posted on his Youtube channel.

1 ) “Toronto is choking on congested roads. Gridlock creates pollution and keeps you away from your families. Gridlock and poor public transit makes (sic) it harder to connect people with good jobs.” Well, clearly. We do need to find a way to alleviate the gridlock found on our downtown streets, as well as the more suburban streets (e.g. McNicoll Ave.). What remains to be seen is if we as a city can do that.

2 ) He says there are more cars on our streets today, and our city is growing. Well, that does happen. And I know cars are here to stay. But, like it or not, Mr. Ford, that doesn’t mean we can’t still be looking for better ways and cheaper ways to get around our city. Cars have their uses. I call those uses trips outside the city, or shopping trips when you are trying to feed a small army. You should be able to get around this city without a car, and not be disadvantaged because of it.

3 ) War on cars. I hear that constantly. Trust me, if there were an actual war on cars, there would be no cars. Period.

4 ) “My plan takes a sensible approach to improve transportation and reduce congestion in Toronto.” Uh, no it doesn’t.

5 ) He claims his plan will better transit, better roads and a new bike and pedestrian trail network across the city. Or that’s what he wants us to believe. Don’t get me wrong, if he were actually to bring about these things, I would support his ideas. But his plan doesn’t do what he claims it will.

6 ) No taxes, tolls or congestion charges. In other words, no chance of happening. Listen, Rob, I know you’re all for being thrifty and cutting taxes and spending, but you need income to pay for your plans.

7 ) “Rapid transit is important.” Yes, yes it is.

8 ) His video puts up a (crudely-drawn) diagram showing that one can get to more job opportunities with a one-hour subway trip than one can with a one-hour streetcar trip. I beg to differ. One hour on a streetcar brings you past more potential job sites than one hour on the subway does. But, this is not a factor of the distance a subway can cover, but rather a factor of being at street level on the streetcar. Clearly this is not the angle Ford is taking.

9 ) Again, stop calling LRT ‘streetcars.’ Seriously, there is a difference. I am tired of listening to uninformed people say that when you have rails in the street and overhead power lines, you automatically have streetcars. Streetcars run in mixed traffic. LRT runs (more often than not) in segregated rights-of-way. If you don’t know the difference, you do not instill confidence in me. And yes, it has to be said again, calling the 509 Harbourfront and 510 Spadina streetcar routes ‘LRT’ does nothing to inform Torontonians of the true value of LRT. That was a bad marketing move the TTC made, and one that does not impress me.

10 ) Stop. Just stop, Rob. Stop and get your facts straight. Transit City routes will not stop at almost every block. They will, however, stop at major transfer cross streets.

11 ) This one I love. Ford says streetcars slow down car traffic and make congestion worse. Do you know what makes congestion even worse than your hated streetcars do, Rob? Do you really want to know? How about the cars you love. Cars are why there is congestion on our roads. It is the height of arrogance to have the implicit belief that a single-occupancy car has the right to block traffic when trying to a) make a left turn against oncoming traffic, and b) block cross traffic because the driver tried to get through the intersection when there was no space. Another way cars contribute to congestion: when they are parked illegally. This point can also be applied to delivery trucks.

12 ) Toronto needs more subways. I don’t disagree.

13 ) (a) He wants to focus on subways where they are needed most. He wants fewer new lines, but they will be fast. His first planned new subway would be extending the Sheppard line from DOWNSVIEW to SCARBOROUGH CENTRE. Like I said in my analysis of Rocco Rossi’s plans, please pardon my caps: SHEPPARD IS NOT A PRIORITY! BUILD A DOWNTOWN RELIEF LINE! The Y-U-S is overburdened from ST. GEORGE to BLOOR. In other words, you can’t keep adding subways in the outer 416 without also building capacity in the core. Additionally, Ford’s second planned new subway is to convert the SRT to subway from KENNEDY to SCARBOROUGH CENTRE. For why this won’t work (assuming he wants to follow the same alignment as exists today, I borrow a few words from Toronto transit advocate Steve Munro:

«That SRT conversion has appeared in other candidates’ platforms, and it suffers from problems with assumptions about recycling the existing infrastructure and route. Kennedy Station faces east, and an alignment up the SRT corridor would require a new subway station. . . . Further north on the SRT there are narrow sections, a tight curve at Ellesmere, and stations that were not designed for full subway service.»

This plan will create a closed loop, Ford claims. This is just me being pedantic, but a closed loop would mean one could travel from DOWNSVIEW to KIPLING without changing trains, whereas Ford’s map does not make this seem to be possible.

14 ) (continued from (13)) Money for the subway plan is to come from reallocating the money the Province is giving for the (soon-to-be) cancelled Transit City plan. Call me naïve, but I don’t think the Province is going to look too kindly on Toronto deciding to change what the money is for.

15 ) “Subways move ten times as many people as streetcars.” I debate the exact numbers, but I believe he is overestimating the carrying capacity of the subway. Now, if he is referring to mixed-traffic streetcars, then he is close. If he is referring to LRT, he is off by nearly four times. [To wit, IIRC: LRT – max 10 000 pph, subway – 35 000 pph; these numbers can be debated depending on who is doing the analysis.]

16 ) “With a subway you can live in north Scarborough and work downtown. With a streetcar network, that’s impossible.” No, it’s not impossible, it just takes longer. But, again, a properly expansive LRT network would make the trip quicker than it is now.

17 ) (continued from (13)) Both lines will be completed and operational by 2015, in times for the Pan-Am Games? Ha! Surely you jest. Toronto hasn’t built a subway line in five years since the original Yonge line. And even that’s pushing it. There is no way Ford’s two new (really expanded) subway lines will be up and running by 2015, especially considering ABSOLUTELY NO WORK has been started on them yet. Not going to happen.

18 ) “Where we can’t afford to build subways today, like Eglinton Ave. for example, we’ll introduce new express buses using clean technology.” No, where we can’t afford to build subways and where the demand is insufficient to require subways, we’re going to build an underground LRT, like Eglinton Ave. Rob, have you seen Eglinton Ave. W. between Allen Rd. and Dufferin St.? Half the time there’s on-street parking taking up two of four lanes. At other times, I call them rush hour, that stretch is still slow because all the buses that are already there take up space. I know buses are useful and have their place, but ramming more buses through where they already are not moving at speed is a recipe for increased, not decreased, congestion.

19 ) “Buses are cheaper, faster and safer than streetcars.” Per unit, yes, they are cheaper. Faster and safer? That’s debatable. More on this in point (28)

20 ) Cost of Ford’s subway expansion plan? 4 $ billion. Or so he claims. Now, factor in inflation and tell me what you get.

21 ) At this point Ford refers to a 250 $ million backlog in road repairs. I am not up-to-speed on this issue, so I will refrain from commenting. However, I do know there are people who have already refuted the severity of that backlog. But that is not something on which I can comment, so I will leave it to you to draw your own conclusions. The same for comments on upgrading and synchronizing our traffic signals/lights. The same for comments on connecting disjointed arterial roads.

22 ) Colour-coded curb painting vis-à-vis parking. I think it’s a good idea.

23 ) He plans to seek to coordinate roadwork projects. I wholehearted agree. My neighbourhood got a new sidewalk ~4 years ago. Then Toronto Hydro came around ~2 years ago to install new hydro vaults and upgrade their wiring. Result: we have a black strip of asphalt down the middle of our new sidewalk. It’s not a roadwork issue, but it does speak to the need to coordinate public works projects.

24 ) “Toronto cyclists and pedestrians deserve safe and enjoyable choices whether they are commuting to work or riding, running or walking for recreation or pleasure.” No argument there. But what I will argue is that putting cyclists, et al. in trails off the roads is wrong. Some of these trails, in fact I would argue most of them, do nothing to help cyclists commute to work. Or, they help cyclists get closer to work, while leaving them still needing to ride the roads to complete the trip. People like Ford need to get it into their heads that cyclists have a right to the road, the same way drivers do. It’s not an ‘either/or’ situation, it’s an ‘and’ situation. Some drivers, no doubt, would prefer to cycle to work, but don’t because the roads are too dangerous. Making them use your specially-designed trails to get to work is only going to cause them to take their cars because the alternative is now more of a hassle than it used to be.

25 ) The above having been said, more bike paths that are looked after and maintained would be appreciated by the cycling community. But these trails need to be in addition to proper bike lanes, not as a substitute for.

26 ) And I spoke too soon. Ford is planning to add bike lanes where they make sense and don’t increase congestion. A laudable plan, but one I think is being too naïve. See (24) for why I think that.

27 ) He speaks to selling development rights above the (soon-to-be-built) subway lines. I do not know economics well enough to say if Toronto could actually get the 1 $ billion Ford says can be raised through those fees. But it just seems like a pie-in-the-sky number to me.

The following points are derived from reading Rob Ford’s transportation plan that accompanies his Youtube video, and includes some things not discussed in the video.

28 ) “We will improve traffic flow downtown by removing some streetcars. Streetcars on downtown arterial streets will be replaced with clean buses that provide the same capacity on the same routes. This will make the system safer and more accessible for all users. It will also improve traffic flow. Zero net cost. Cost to purchase and operate new buses will be offset by savings from reduced purchase of streetcars, sale of existing streetcars and reduced streetcar system maintenance.” Where to begin? The order has already been placed with Bombardier for the new streetcar fleet for use on the downtown routes. While, yes, on a per-unit basis buses are cheaper that streetcars, it will take 2-3 buses to replace the capacity of a single streetcar. This will increase congestion, not reduce it. Buses need to pull into the curb to pick up and drop off passengers. With on-street parking, buses often are only able to pull their noses into the curb, leaving the rest of the vehicle blocking traffic. Last time I checked, this leads to long lineups of cars, increasing congestion. Further to the number of buses needed to replace the capacity lost through removing the streetcars, there is a corresponding increase in the number of TTC operators required. Thus, another increase in City expenditures.

I think that should sum up my analysis of Rob Ford’s transit and transportation plan. Needless to say, I don’t like it and I don’t believe Ford knows what he is talking about.

As a refresher, please feel free to read my comments on Rocco Rossi’s subway plans. As I find the time, I will attempt to discuss the other major candidates’ transit plans. This means I expect to post three more analyses: Sarah Thomson, George Smitherman and Joe Pantalone.