Toronto Choosing Sides in the “War on Cars”

Their goal is to “Get people out of their cars.” They are shrill and they are loud. They have the city government and the press behind them. Auto lanes and parking spaces are being eliminated in favor of cycle lanes. A $60 annual fee was imposed on Toronto cars by the city (people that drive in from the ‘burb’s don’t have to pay). Plans are afoot to take down the “mistake by the lake” ala San Francisco’s Embarcadero Freeway.

The Anti-Car juggernaut looked unstoppable, but now, maybe, it appears that the Mayor paused. After a very controversial move to remove the center lane of  Jarvis, the Bloor-Danforth plan is on hold at least when it comes to cycle lanes.

The Mayor’s detractors are using this as a wedge issue.

Council plans are for very little money to be spent for roads, sidewalks or bicycle lanes. Most of it will be for new transit systems. So it appears that cyclists and their lanes are being used as cannon fodder. In other words, to advance the anti-car agenda, cyclists get all the credit and all the blame.

14 replies
  1. Kevin Love
    Kevin Love says:

    Well, if there is a “war on cars” in Toronto, it looks like the cars are winning. Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health, Dr. David McKeown, reports that car pollution alone kills 440 people in Toronto and injures 1,700 so seriously that they have to be hospitalized. The offical report may be seen on the City’s website at:

    http://www.toronto.ca/health/hphe/pdf/air_pollution_burden.pdf

    For public health, Dr. McKeown recommended an immediate 30% reduction in the volume of car traffic. Table 8 of page 33 of the report sets out ways of achieving this goal. Needless to say, cycling is one of them.

    What happened since the November 2007 publication of this report? Did the city spring into action and treat car drivers about the same as if they were a terrorist gang that was killing 440 people a year? Alas, no.

    The City of Toronto is dragging its feet on implementing the public health recommendations of its Medical Officer of Health. Cars continue to kill 440 people per year and injure 1,700 so seriously that they have to be hospitalized.

    The “war on cars” is a phoney war.

  2. Kevin Love
    Kevin Love says:

    Eric wrote:

    “Council plans are for very little money to be spent for roads, sidewalks or bicycle lanes”

    Kevin’s comment:
    The plans approved by Toronto City Council involve spending over two billion dollars ($2,000,000,000) on maintaining roads for cars and other car infrastructure such as city-owned car parking lots and garages. At the same time only 70 million dollars will be spent on bike infrastructure. Bike spending is only a little more than 3% of car spending. Needless to say, this imbalance is grossly unbalanced and unfair.

  3. Eric
    Eric says:

    “Despite a massive, $50 billion transportation plan to improve road, rail and transit across the GTA over the next 25 years, there are no plans to make it easier for cars to move throughout the city.

    Instead, Toronto’s “anti-car” council has focused its spending almost exclusively on public transit, including a new $950 million light rail transit line along Sheppard Ave. E., and allocated relatively modest funds for a pedestrian and bike lane strategy. ”

    You have to follow the links, Kevin.
    http://www.torontosun.com/news/torontoandgta/2009/05/17/9483606-sun.html

  4. Kevin Love
    Kevin Love says:

    Regretfully, the Toronto Sun is mixing apples and oranges to push its ideology. Not the first time. This tabloid newspaper is known for its extremist right-wing ideology and big-busted girls on page 3.

    The $50 billion “Big Move” transportation plan is by a provincial government agency, not the City of Toronto. This plan is for transit throughout the Greater Toronto Area. Although it is a good plan, it is a provincial government plan, not a City of Toronto plan. It is also a plan whose funding has not been approved by Ontario’s Legislative Assembly, where Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition has plans of their own which are somewhat different. If the Opposition should become the government after the next election, guess what happens to the unapproved, unfunded plans of the current government.

    As I wrote before, the City Council of the City of Toronto has approved over two billion dollars on car infrastructure and only 70 million for cycle infrastructure. Rather unfair for cyclists to get only a shade over 3% of what cars get. Particularly since bicycles currently have a 7% mode share vs. 48% for cars.

    Although it is the policy of the City to reduce car use and increase bike use, their spending says exactly the opposite.

    The unfunded, unapproved plan of a provincial government agency really can’t be said to be part of an alleged “war on cars” on the part of Toronto’s mayor and City Council.

  5. Kevin Love
    Kevin Love says:

    The Sun can’t even get its facts straight when the truth actually helps their argument. Consider the following quote from Eric’s link:

    “In 2007, Toronto Public Health released a report called the “Air Pollution Burden of Illness from Traffic in Toronto,” which estimated that traffic pollution contributed to 1,700 premature deaths and 6,000 hospitalizations each year – costing Toronto taxpayers $2.2 billion each year.”

    In my previous post, I provided a link to this report. Here it is again:

    http://www.toronto.ca/health/hphe/pdf/air_pollution_burden.pdf

    As may be seen from the Executive Summary page i), traffic pollution actually kills 440 people per year and injures 1,700 people so seriously that they have to be hospitalized. Where did The Sun get its wrong numbers from? The Sun confused this report with a previous 2004 report that showed that air pollution from all causes (not just traffic) kills 1,700 and injures 6,000.

    What is interesting is that the Sun’s error overstates the death and injury toll from cars, undermining their pro-car ideology.

    In this article, this particular newspaper can’t get its facts straight even when the truth helps its argument and blames Toronto City Council for the decisions of a provincial government agency. Not a very reliable source. Which is something that people who live in Toronto know quite well.

  6. andrewp
    andrewp says:

    Can Toronto transportation planners say with any degree of certainty “we can’t continue to grow the roads and parking the way we have — there just isn’t going to be enough room” based on projected population and auto growth numbers?

    If that is true, then there is no need for a debate. But I suspect, like anything else, it can be done — it just takes more money.

    So …. the question in my mind is if there is a cheaper option (mass transit, biking, etc.), then people might listen and give it a try. But if it costs the same, most people will opt for the auto (other stats, like pollution, health, etc be dammed) …………

    But if

  7. Eric
    Eric says:

    “if there is a cheaper option”

    It’s not just the money, it’s the time. According to the guy writing in one of the links, “While many motorists like the concept of taking public transit to work and shops, the truth is buses run too infrequently to be convenient. Residents in Scarborough and North York speak of taking 90 minutes to travel by bus and subway from home to downtown.”

    and

    “For my part, I confess I like to drive my car in the city. By driving, I can cut 30 to 45 minutes off each one-way commute. I can get to appointments on time. I can pick up groceries and still reach the arena before my hockey game starts.”

  8. Eric
    Eric says:

    Dragging four or five sacks of groceries on the bus is a real headache. The brakes are applied, a sack falls over and the onions roll all the way to the front.

  9. Rantwick
    Rantwick says:

    I live near Toronto, and like many cities, they seem pretty good at making all the right noises and only some of the right moves… politics and gov’t spending are like a big mysterious machine – and the people trying to operate it change every four years or so.

    In light of the fact that relatively few who are driven out of their car (excuse the pun) are likely or able to take to two wheels, I think Transit investment is always good. More room for me, and passing buses is far easier than tangling with lots of cars.

  10. Keri
    Keri says:

    Rantwick is absolutely right!

    Transit serves a much broader demographic. It’s a much more sensible place to invest than in bicycle infrastructure… and the investment pays off for cyclists by extending the range of the bicycle (one would hope by getting more cars off the road, too)

    …and

    Half-assed investments in transit create a system that is worse than useless. The community has to make a commitment to do it right.

  11. Eric
    Eric says:

    “I think Transit investment is always good.”

    But there is no reason for cyclists to be the “shock troops” for the anti-car crowd and that is what they are becoming in Toronto.

    First they get sucked into the idea that bike lanes are safer, then they are used to demand lanes all over which does nothing but inconvenience motorists. This helps the anti-car crowd, but it does nothing for cyclists.

  12. Kevin Love
    Kevin Love says:

    Keri wrote:

    “Transit serves a much broader demographic. It’s a much more sensible place to invest than in bicycle infrastructure.”

    Kevin’s comment:
    I must disagree with both statements. I believe that cycling, because of its lower cost, serves a broader demographic than public transit. Cycling serves the transit needs of those who cannot afford public transit services.

    The only possible demographic that I can think of that could be served by public transit but not cycling is the severely disabled. One has to be very severely disabled indeed to be unable to cycle.

    As to investment, cycling investment delivers a much higher return than public transit investment. Over the next ten years, the municipal and provincial governments plan to spend approximately twelve billion dollars on public transit in the City of Toronto (and more in the Greater Toronto Area). The City of Toronto plans to spend only seventy million dollars on cycling in the same ten years. The province plans to spend zero on cycling in Toronto in the same time period.

    Public transit mode share is currently 28% vs. 7% for cycling. If cycling were to get its proportionate share of spending, that 70 million should be three billion dollars. Cycling has one quarter the mode share, why shouldn’t it get one quarter of the spending? Cycling spending would have to increase to 40 times its present level to be mode share proportionate to public transit.

    And, by the way, the City plans to increase that 7% to 15%. Good luck.

    Bottom line: Cycling is the cheapest way to move people in the City of Toronto, and each dollar of cycle spending gives 40 times the benefit of public transit spending

Comments are closed.