The Friday Rant: What’s The Plan, Stan?

Is there a plan for the city of Toronto?

Or is it just “steady as she goes,” and Torontonians are expected to take it as it comes?

Roads, highways, public transit, and construction are all in absolute chaos, and the following video shows that there’s never going to be a long term solution…

I say that there is “no long term solution” in reference to this video, because Jarvis Street has gone through a constant makeover during the past few years.

First, we had five lanes, with the centre lane going south or north depending on traffic flow.

Second, we had four lanes, with two bike lanes on each side.

Third, we went back to five lanes, with the flexible centre lane.

And now, we are down to one southbound lane from Gerrard to Shuter.

I know that the right-hand turn lane I showed in my video is only “temporary” due to the condominium being constructed, but it’s going to be 18-24 months of construction, so I don’t really think that can be called “temporary.”

This bothers me, not necessarily because I drive this road every day, but because it shows that there is no long-term view for the roads, or for traffic flow.  The fact that Jarvis Street can be remade every couple of years depending on the political agenda of the mayor, and which developer is building which condo, further proves that the decision-makers are changing their minds daily.

Toronto is an absolute mess right now.  Combine the awful roads, inadequate highways, squabbling over TTC projects, and constant construction on the roads, highways, and streetcar tracks themselves.  Then throw in road closures for condo developers, and it’s amazing we can get around at all.

There are three major road closures in the downtown core right now that, on their own, would be a massive headache.  But all three at the SAME TIME is making traffic a nightmare:

1) King & Spadina is closed for two weeks (meaning one month).
2) Richmond Street is closed in between Bay & University.
3) The eastbound Gardiner Expressway, between Jarvis & DVP, is down to two lanes from three.

It’s insane.

So I have six questions on my mind, which I don’t have answers for; just statements.  I find these questions to be both rhetorical in nature, and yet impossible to answer at the same time…

1) Will we build more subways and/or LRT’s, and if so, when?

If somebody had said, six years ago, “They won’t have a shovel in the ground in 2013,” you’d think they were kidding.  But here we are, and city council is still arguing, with no end in site.

2) What is Metrolinx, and why do we need them?

262 Metrolinx employees were on the “Sunshine List” in 2012, which was up 50% from 2011…

3) Are we ever going to talk about tearing down the Gardiner Expressway again, or can we all admit that’s just insane?

Okay, I guess that question had an opinion in it as well…

4) Is there a future for BIXI, or another program?

Torontonians seem to be split 50/50 on that one.

5) Should Billy Bishop Airport be allowed to expand operations?

Will this further congest Toronto?  Do we have the infrastructure to support it?

6) What, if anything, could be done in Toronto to reduce traffic congestion, inprove public transit, increase highways, and reduce the amount of construction needed on roads?

That last one’s a doozie.

I guess I’m just wondering if it only gets worse from here on out?

Do we have the money, people, and skill to improve the city’s infrastructure?  I’d like to think so.

So is it really the fault of 50-something bumbling morons at City Hall, or is there more to this?

Do we have a plan?

I’m beginning to think we don’t.  I’m beginning to think that it’s like Groundhog’s Day, or Memento, and every single day, we start over…

27 Comments

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  1. Alex says:

    Aren’t condos the solution? The more people that live within walking distance to work, the less traffic there will be. The more people paying property taxes, the more money for infrastructure improvements (and since condos have so many people in a small area they generate a lot of revenue for the city). The more talented people living downtown, the more jobs and business taxes it will create.

    In the short term though, kill street parking on all major streets. That would clear up a lot of traffic. Also Toronto is currently re-programming the city’s traffic lights to try and make things better, but I don’t know how long that is going to take and how much they can improve traffic with it.

    I hate to say it, but isn’t a city full of people trying to get places a sign of progress? Think of all the major cities in the world and you’ll see huge traffic and transportation issues there too. A great city attracts people, and more people causes more congestion. Traffic will never get better because our population will keep increasing, but we can try to keep it from getting too much worse I guess.

  2. Frances says:

    Once upon a time, before amalgamation, we had a Board of Control whose members were elected over the whole city. What was the point of eliminating it?

    1. jeff316 says:

      The point was that it concentrated power in the hands of all of four representatives that had no relationship to the City’s elected council, which was effectively neutered by the higher-up board. The Board of Control was eliminated in 1969.

  3. Irena says:

    David,

    King and Spadina was on time and is open today as planned.

    1. ScottyP says:

      And the crazy thing? I think I saw a pig with wings hovering over the intersection….

  4. Julia says:

    You know what drives me crazy about this city – the total lack of common sense! For instance, my neighborhood of Yonge and Eglinton is being taken over by condo towers with no apparent care or concern to amending the surrounding infrastructure – have you tried to navigate the Eglinton subway platform in the morning rush hour?? Yet, the city is right on the ball preventing me from parking a 2nd car on an existing private pad – yes, because that’s where our time and effort should go in preserving the look of the neighborhood!! I think I’d have better luck parking a new condo development on my driveway!!

  5. George says:

    I’d love to see a long-term financial plan for expanding our subway system. The cost would need to be spread over 50 years or so to be fair to all generations involved, but maybe even then it’s still way too high to be feasible. Do I want to pay an extra $1,000 a year in direct and indirect taxes to pay for more subways? Not even close. But anything under $100 per year per taxpayer becomes much more desirable.

  6. JG says:

    I don’t have David’s gift for writing, but i will try to make my points.

    I’m a born and raised in Toronto kid – through and through – always loved Toronto and always stood up for her,
    however its very unfortunate that I have to now admit, I am done! Its over. I’ve left.
    Toronto has just become too unbearable.

    I cannot stand the traffic. No matter what time of day it is, it is near impossible to get around town.
    8am? 1pm? 3pm? 5pm? It use to be called Rush “HOUR” because it lasted an hour. Might as well call it, the
    Rush All Day Long
    “Whats that? – you want to visit your friend over at his restaurant for 6pm? Well you better leave at 5pm to make
    sure you can get there on time for a route that shouldn’t be more than 20mins” (and thats on either TTC or Car)

    I cannot stand the TTC, its pathetically useless – both the Subway system and the Bus system. Over populated,
    daily break downs, delays, etc. Signals went down the other day causing untold of headaches for all commuters.
    The normal brutal commute in your car became an absoulte nightmare when the Shuttle Buses were deployed? Quite
    literally, it was a very slow moving parking lot. People want to talk about Toronto being a ‘world class’ city.
    Stop all ready! When we have a Public Transit system like proper ‘World Class’ cities do, maybe then we can
    start that discussion again.

    You simply can’t win for losing here in Toronto.

    Development of the City has zero forethought, no cohesion, utter disregard to the long term future of the city.
    Its like the planning dept said, lets increase the density of the city 1000x fold (by way of Condo Developers)
    without a thought to how the existing infrastructure can handle the increased amount of people – who will use
    Public Transit, Drive, Walk, Bike, etc. – until it implodes!
    Even the Wealthier people of Toronto who had their – what i called their Private road into the city –
    Bayview South/Rosedale Valley Drive route (Moore Park, Lawrence Park, Leaside, etc) – have had their main artery
    clogged with conjestion too!

    Its sad to say, but even after the skyline has been built, the towers are complete, the building developers have
    left, the existing infrastruture we have in place cannot service the increased density.
    Where’s the infrastructure?
    -Allen Extension south of Eglinton?
    -we have 2 main arteries North and South and 2 main arteries East and West. That’s it! This is suppose to service
    the hundred of thousands of people coming in and out of Toronto?
    -when did we build roads last?
    -God forbid if the Gardiner was to ever come down, and I truly think that will be a very real issue within 10yrs

    I really don’t see it getting any better.

    1. ScottyP says:

      I don’t disagree with anything you said, JG.

      The traffic insanity now has cyclists riding on the sidewalks (something that NEVER happened when I was growing up), pedestrians wary of crossing the street on a green light, a level of overall stress that I’ve never seen before. TTC vehicles hitting pedestrians on a weekly basis, the DVP slammed at 1:30pm on a Tuesday afternoon, cars blocking intersections with impunity to gain that extra few meters of real estate. Madness, madness, madness.

      I own a business here, and am therefore unable to simply pack up and leave. (I love it when people blithely say “Don’t like it? Move then!”. As though doing so were the easiest thing in the world….) Should my work situation change, I’ll most certainly be looking for greener pastures.

      Living in a broken city is taking a daily toll, one that I’m growing more and more unwilling to pay.

    2. Joe Q. says:

      I also don’t disagree with what JG said, but I don’t think new road construction is a panacea. There were very good reasons for not building the Spadina Expressway or the cross-town expressway that would have been built over Davenport Road. IMO there is a lot that can be done simply by changing policies or improving service with existing infrastructure. Expansion of GO service frequency (two-way, all-day) and a reform of parking rules (on-street parking on major arterials, as practiced currently in Toronto, is unsustainable) conversion of some streets to one-way operation, and rigid enforcement of no-stopping rules — all of this would help immensely. I do agree that expansion of the rapid-transit network will be necessary, but this will cost money that the city doesn’t have currently.

      1. ScottyP says:

        Good post Joe. I’ve got a family visiting from Japan, and they’re blown away by the fact that there’s parking at all on Yonge Street — or on any commercial street, for that matter.

        Store owners will bitch, but if you make it a blanket policy then theoretically no one will be at a particular disadvantage. Of course, the NIMBYers on the residential side streets would be up in arms — and no politician has the gonads to fight that fight.

        The biggest problem, of course, is that there’d be a severe shortage of parking spots due in part to the rapid disappearance of parking lots at the hands of Condozilla. Not to mention the recent trend of turning one’s front lawn into a field of Unilock, meaning less street parking as well. For every solution, more problems emerge: It’s the Toronto Way!

        Totally with you on the GO expansion and conversion to one-way streets tho — the latter being yet another issue that was discussed at length 20 years ago, only to be tabled for further discussion.

        1. Joe Q. says:

          Thanks. There are going to be NIMBY issues no matter what. People in this city are used to being able to park pretty much wherever they want but I think this attitude will need to change… at some point you wonder whether roads exist for transporting people or whether they’re just a place to store cars.

          I live in the Corso Italia area and the issue is particularly acute here — Dufferin is a mess to navigate, especially on weekend afternoons, as street parking takes up an entire lane and lines of cars waiting to turn left take up the other lane. It affects traffic flow, safety, and the reliability of public transit. I know this is an issue for other arterials in the core as well.

        2. Joe Q. says:

          The idealist in me says that if we can reduce on-street parking on major arterials, all traffic (including public transit) will flow better, and we can thus encourage people to take transit rather than attempting to drive and park downtown.

          The GO expansion is on its way — there is fairly frequent all-day two-way service on the Lakeshore lines already. Hopefully the other lines will follow suit. Though parking at the GO stations is another can of worms…

      2. Bertie Wooster says:

        No parking on the major roads (eg Bathurst) would be a huge improvement.

        Dedicated street car lanes so that one street car doesn’t stop two lanes of traffic.

        A fast road to get from downtown to the west end would also be nice. Richmond stops at Bathhurst then you have no good way to travel west.

        1. ScottyP says:

          Bertie,

          I was going to mention Bathurst as well! Nothing like being stuck behind a streetcar, with the only additional lane being occupied by parked cars. Insane.

  7. ScottyP says:

    You neglected to mention York Street being closed from Front to Piper Street, Front Street being closed between York Street and the Royal York east entrance, and Queens Quay being converted to a one-lane, one-way nightmare.

    I guess it’s better to rip the band-aid off at once than to peel it off slowly. Too bad the city will remain just as dysfunctional and backwards as ever once the bandages come off.

    1. @ ScottyP

      I just rattled off the three big ones, but you’re right – there’s probably a dozen others.

      Even driving west along Wellington shows the problems. They’ve got lanes closed just to store tractors and pylons!

  8. Mayor Melle Mel says:

    There is no plan. Everything that happens is part of the mechanism to transfer taxpayers dollars into the hands of construction/developers. Ultimately, they don’t care about inconveniencing us peasants. What, we’re going to vote them out? Like, does it make a difference?

    Get with the program people. The system is broke, and it ain’t going to get fixed.

    1. FRBYWA says:

      You ARE the problem Mayor Melle Mel. In the last election in Toronto, there was a candidate for mayor who was very good…..much much better than any of the bozos who were running. It was just so damn obvious. But guess what? He got so little support, he didn’t even put his name on the ballot.

      Do you know who I am referring to? Of course you don’t….and so people like YOU are the reason we have these issues today.

      1. @ FRBYWA

        Who are you referring to?

        Also – who will run and/or win the next election?

  9. FRBYWA says:

    Don’t forget the damn movie shoots. Wellington and Adelaide had huge stretches blocked off due to movie shoots this past week.

    So who’s fault is it? Well, politicians are only as smart/dumb as the people that elected them in. Torontonians elected these clowns in. And only clowns vote for clowns. Ultimately the public is the problem.

    1. ScottyP says:

      I never voted for Mel, I never voted for Miller, and I never voted for Ford. (And yes, I’ve voted in every municipal election since reaching voting age, aside from one. Great way to spend an afternoon.) So I guess I’m off the hook?

      Maybe I got a couple counselors wrong along the way, but they’re almost universally useless anyway — generally speaking, any choice would have been the wrong one.

      So FRBYWA, I respectfully ask you: When there aren’t any good options, how exactly is “the public” supposed to make the right decision?

      1. FRBYWA says:

        Do you really think that in Canada’s largest city, there wouldn’t be any good options? There was one very very good option but he go so little support he didn’t even put his name on the ballot.

        50 cents for ANYONE here who can name this person. If you can’t, then you are the problem.

        By the way, if I said who this person was, I’d get 50 responses saying that he would have been terrible for this and that reason. And those responses would just further my conviction that it is the electorate that is the problem……

        1. Mayor Melle Mel says:

          If you think that one person can make the difference on council,…I wish you the best in life.

          It doesn’t matter who it is. They are all beholden to money interests and if you think any candidate would stand a chance against the vested, entrenched interests on council already….okay….

          Don’t vote. It only encourages them.

        2. ScottyP says:

          Please don’t tell me you’re referring to John Tory, FRBYWA.

  10. Joe Q. says:

    3) Are we ever going to talk about tearing down the Gardiner Expressway again, or can we all admit that’s just insane?

    The main issues with the Gardiner are (a) it’s ugly and obtrusive from a planning perspective, and (b) it’s falling down anyway and it’s only a matter of time before someone gets killed by a piece of falling concrete.

    Do we have the money, people, and skill to improve the city’s infrastructure? I’d like to think so.

    We have the latter two, but I’m not sure about the first — at least not with the way the city currently gets its revenue.

    So is it really the fault of 50-something bumbling morons at City Hall, or is there more to this?

    Partially their fault, and partially the result of the way our three levels of government interact, IMO. Certainly having 44 councillors and a Mayor on a four-year re-election cycle doesn’t help.

    I often wonder whether Toronto would be better served by having only one councillor per federal riding (rather than the two we have now) along with 5-6 “at large” councillors elected from a separate list. Several cities in the USA work like this. It allows for a mix of neighbourhood representation and longer-term vision not tied to individual ward fiefdoms.

  11. JoBo says:

    Metrolinx is the old GTTA with a cute name and bigger bureaucracy. Kinda reminds one of ORNG huh?

    What I cannot comprehend is why, why, why simple things aren’t being done to optimize traffic flow. Estimates of ~ 25% increases in efficiency could be gained from reprogramming the city’s traffic lights. Why isn;t this done? It doesn’t make a lot of sense, coming coming from hockey at 10:45 pm, to stop at the scatter 8 way stop light at Bay Bloor when all the stores are closed and not a soul is around. (every night pretty much). WHy does this happen?

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