Saturday, December 12, 2015

STICKING UP FOR CARS IN TORONTO


WHY LET ACTIVISTS STRANGLE OUR ROAD

I still remember my shock reading a Toronto Life article about the "new suburbanites" because "the reasons to abandon the overcrowded, overpriced, not-so-livable city are beginning to outnumber the reasons to stay. More and more of us are tempted by the 905 and beyond. Screw Jane Jacobs. We're out of here."
Readers who dislike this theme would point out that it appeared in September, 2011, and the great rush to buy condos downtown since then shows that many love living close to what is important to them and so put up with the costs and hassles.
What surprised me about the article was not that it made so much sense but that it appeared in Toronto Life, that trendy journal that celebrates a life style as far removed from the mortgaged middle class as Gatsby from a street beggar. It was a good read!
Thanks to Toronto Life and the Toronto Star and urban activists who worship at the shrine of the foot power of pedestrians and cyclists, Jacobs became such a Toronto god that it was ignored that most of us allowed the choice would not live on a street that she ruled was ideal.
I suspect her books were idolized by the intelligentsia but never really read except in urban planning courses where the profs put her on a pedestal because by their standards she was a safe rebel. I once made these points about the Jacobites to a MIT professor writing a book on her who interviewed me when he was here for a conference.
The problem with Jacobs and John Sewell and all the other guerrilla fighters against urban sprawl is that they ignore the middle ground between the Yonge St. condo and the two-storey four-bedroom  attached garage home on a 50 by 120 foot lot on a wide street.
I live near Royal York and Bloor in a 1 1/2 storey home on a smaller lot and a narrow street with no sidewalks. It's a great area, in fact so great that there is pressure to build condos, replace smaller homes and increase density. Like all such areas, in-fill is a fact of life.
I have the Royal York subway station for support when I have to go downtown and don't want to drive because of the congestion created by ineptitude by politicians, officials and police.
And the congestion isn't going away, not with the current thinking of politicians and planners because they still think it's fashionable to hobble vehicles.
Here's a typical paragraph in a Star column. "The Toronto the car built is giving way to another city, one that's dense, high-rise and compact. It is a city where bicycles make as much sense as cars, and in which pedestrians are demanding freedom of the streets."
That was so dumb and offensive and lacking in reality that it prompted another Star columnist, Norris McDonald, to point out that the car's a necessity for many commuters and there is a life for many outside the "tiny piece" of the city from Bloor to the lake and Bathurst to the Don.
Since the Star isn't a great place to work if you don't like their missionary approach to issues, and writers are not encouraged to attack colleagues who are their evangelist columnists, McDonald summarized by saying merely "a gross misunderstanding of current realities" was demonstrated.
I would say it was bullshit!
City Hall and Queen's Park have been terrified that they may be made to be seen as caring about the car. Yet this city continues to have to move four out of every five commuters by car. They have been so defensive about helping the car that it ruined Black Creek Drive, which was supposed to be, heavens, an expressway. They also let the Gardiner deteriorate when it would have been so easy to repair and improve its looks.
I think it is wonderful that a nice and impressive couple are giving $25 million to prettify under the Gardiner. Yet the idea of dressing up the Gardiner is an old one, proposed to me a couple of decades ago by Charles Templeton, a brilliant inventor and communicator, who suggested that if people hated its looks so much, cover it where it crossed major roads with the reflective cladding used on buildings. Nice plantings along major roads have been routine in countries like China for years.
Writers like Christopher Hume denigrate the "ugly scar"of the Gardiner and ignore that many more people get a great view of the city from driving along the workhorse road than are bothered by the view on the ground.
Critics like Hume and planners have never figured out that more people will enjoy the view if  a subway line goes through a valley than ever hiked through the same valley.
I just love this stupidity that bicycles "make as much sense as cars." The space consumed by bike lanes and the interference of the cyclists with the traffic around them is a contributor to traffic congestion and all cyclists should be banned from major streets from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
The lame answer is road tolls to the latest burst of stories that Toronto has the worst traffic of any Canadian city, or even Hades for that matter. We've known that for years, as we've burned while our politicians fiddled.
You know those funny plays where women withhold sex in order to achieve some victory. How about if everyone outside the subsidized burghers of downtown not drive downtown for two weeks.
First, the TTC would stagger to a stop because it just wouldn't be able to handle the crowds.
Second, the provincial and federal governments would have a huge increase in their deficits because of the loss of gasoline taxes.
Third, all the stores and offices downtown would be crippled
Fourth, it would prompt many more to work from their homes or encourage the boss not to just think about moving outside the city, like all the other head offices.
When people look back from 50 years in the future to our era, they will be baffled as why we so interfered with the vehicles that deliver all our goods, and the cars that transport four times the daily crowd on the TTC, and think we really were a primitive people.
And we were rather stupid too. Transit riders are hurt by congestion too. The smartest investment in transit is improving the flow of traffic for everyone instead of politicians cutting off their economic nose to spite the angry faces of the driver. 

1 comment:

Ima Fakeologist said...

Couldn't agree more John. Too bad there are no other columnists that bother writing about cars and roads and how they make the city run.