Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Provide Your Input to the TTC!

The TTC is doing a survey amongst its riders to determine what measures are most ‘popular’ to take in terms of its budget issues – raising fares or cutting services – here’s the link to the survey page http://www.toronto.ca/ttc/myttc.html.

My bus route is in jeopardy! I suggested congestion charging in the downtown core or tolls on freeways as a sustainable source of transit funding as well as a way to cut car use and improve air quality. However, David Miller has already said he's opposed to such a scheme. For decades our government has heavily invested in roads and neglected transit, resulting in a car-dominated culture with more traffic congestion, urban sprawl, and environmental and social degradation. This is our children's inheritance. We must change.

Green transportation hierarchy

“The green transportation hierarchy is the basic concept behind transportation reform groups all over the world, including Transportation Alternatives. The hierarchy puts city-friendly cyclists and pedestrians first. It rewards their low cost, space efficiency, and zero environmental impact. Trucks are not last because they perform vital commercial functions in cities. An important part of the green transportation hierarchy is that trucks get priority over personal automobiles for scarce curbside parking.”

--From the Spring, 2001 newsletter of Transportation Alternatives, NYC’s advocacy group for cycling, walking and environmentally sensible transportation.

Urban transportation policies that put walking, bicycling and public transit above cars can result in:
  • Cleaner air—300,000 children and 700,000 adults in New York City have asthma.
  • Better and stronger communities—Studies show the less traffic on your street, the more friends you have.
  • Less time spent commuting—Congestion slows average NYC traffic speeds to just 8 miles per hour in rush hour.
  • A more robust local economy—In NYC, for example, congestion costs an annual $13 billion in lost jobs, productivity losses, travel costs and wasted fuel.

WalkScore: Measure Your Neighbourhood's Walkability

WalkScore is a handy little online app that calculates the walkability of a neighborhood--good for comparative analyses, or if you're looking for a good place to move to.

Monday, August 27, 2007

$100M to Ease Gridlock in 2 Years


I was glad to read about these recommendations; but the $100 Million seems like small steps compared to the $17.5 Billion Move Ontario 2020 plan.

'New urbanism' projects put jobs close to home; Forget long commute to downtown Toronto. Residents can walk, bike to work, retail stores in 'compact l

The Toronto Star, Sat 25 Aug 2007

A new live-work development planned for Whitby is part of an evolution in urban planning that will see more of us walking to work, riding our bikes and parking the car, say architects, planners and politicians.

"My sense is that we're at the beginning of what is going to be a profound transition to a more healthy, balanced and sustainable way of building our communities," prominent architect and urban designer Ken Greenberg said yesterday.

A planned development in Whitby that grabbed attention this week may provide homes for 14,000 and jobs for 10,000 when it's completed in a decade. Residents will be able to live and work in the same community rather than spending hours commuting to jobs in downtown Toronto.

It's the latest in a string of such developments planned or under construction in the Greater Toronto Area.

"It's the new urbanism. It's all about sustainable communities," said Dave Ryan, mayor of Pickering, where the largest of such projects is now in the works.

Construction of the Seaton community in North Pickering is to begin in about two years. When it's complete, about 20 years from now, it will be home to 70, 000 people and 35,000 jobs.

The high-density developments will include more condominiums, more mixed-use buildings and more "green" components.

"It's about a more compact lifestyle where people are taking up less space in their living environment. The complete community provides jobs as well as places to live. It brings the amenities that contribute to the quality of life closer so that people don't have to get in their cars to go shopping and go to schools," Ryan said.

The province is pushing for more developments like this through its Places to Grow Act. Passed two years ago, it requires that at least 40 per cent of any new development in the Greater Golden Horseshoe be in areas that are already built up.

This movement in planning, also known as smart growth, is responding to a way of life that has its roots in the Industrial Revolution.

"It was at a time when smokestacks were spewing soot and toxic fumes. People wanted to get away from workplaces that were seen as unhealthy environments. There was this whole idea of a bucolic life in the countryside," Greenberg said.

The emergence of the car made this possible. Zoning followed, with central business districts, industrial districts, residential districts, cultural districts, shopping centres and the list goes on.

But the downside of this way of life spawned a counter-movement.

"At least for the last couple of generations, there has been a realization that there were some terrible downsides and opportunity costs," Greenberg said.

"Life on the fringe was isolating, it was hard on families, it left women very often as the primary caregivers and homemakers in situations where they were separated from everything else. We got to the point where virtually every adult had to make every trip in an automobile and traffic congestion became astonishing," he said.

Today's workplaces aren't the health hazards they once were and it's possible for people and their jobs to co-exist in the same community.

"This mixing of things is the most fundamental thing you can do about sustainability. We need to get people not to spend enormous amounts of fuel and fumes and time moving from one thing to another. We need to bring things in closer proximity to each other," Greenberg said.

In addition to homes and jobs, this also applies to recreation, retail and culture.

This kind of mixed-use community stands in stark contrast to what most of the GTA looks like today.

"If you fly into Toronto, 90 per cent of what you see from the air is old- style subdivisions. They are essentially tract housing," Greenberg said.

There is little employment in these neighbourhoods. Residents have to jump into their cars just to buy a litre of milk, and there are few amenities.

Gary Wright, Toronto's director of community planning, cites Maple Leaf Square, being built beside the Air Canada Centre, as an example of the type of development the city is encouraging. The development will include a hotel, offices, condominiums, restaurants, stores, a daycare and underground access to the subway.

"In a lot of areas, we do want mixed-use because it just adds to the vitality," Wright said.

Common motoring myths.... busted!


Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Tick Tock

From CoolPeopleCare.org

Spend 5 minutes checking out the World Clock. This handy contraption, while not precisely accurate, is increasing at the correct ratios. Tracking more than time, the World Clock is a great way to begin to get your head around the alarming rate at which the Internet is growing, how many people are dying from traffic accidents, and how much oil is being produced. In fact, in the time it took to read this, hundreds of people were born, many people died, and lots of acres of forest were destroyed. Now that you know the numbers, it's time to act.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Escape to cottage country

As our cities and suburbs became more healthy, stress-free places, fewer people would feel the need to escape to cottage country on weekends in their cars taking with them all
the comforts of their urban homes. Wilderness, or at least what remains of it, should be preserved and only be accessible to, as Reed Noss says, those willing to travel long distances on foot.

Elect Better Transportation

Questions for municipal candidates drawn from the Better Transportation Coalition's Guide

  1. Will you support a Safe Routes to Schools program, which would enforce traffic speeds between 15-30 km/h, and require traffic calming design measures within designated school zones?
  2. Will you support the adoption of Transit-Supportive Land Use Planning Guidelines as official policy for your municipality by incorporating them into the Official Plan for the municipality?
  3. Will you support a moratorium on all new road building and widening projects?

Rethinking Traffic Congestion

Widening roads can be counterproductive...

Going Car-Free

From Asphalt Nation....

"As we enter the twenty-first century, it is clear that we are not only a car-driven but a car-ridden population. The vehicle that was out rescuer is arguably our ruination, certifiably, the root of many of our ills. Yet for all our automotive follies--for all the costs, the inconveniences, the destruction--the motor vehicle remains entrenched. The reason is obvious: it is a prerequisite for mobility in America. We cannot see our personal and global dilemma or perceive an escape from it. Our lives and landscape have been fashioned to the automobile's dictates for three-quarters of a century. A rescue movement is in order."

"From the fight to "just say no" to highways, to the battle to create codes to release us from bondage of bad land practices, to traffic calming and the depaving of the kingdom of the car, to the proper pricing of our mobility and the political fight to install mass transit, the struggle engages a new constituency. The process is as participatory as democracy itself. The smallest householder and the largest corporation, the humblest local government maneuver and the grandest federal program must figure in the sea change for a new century."p287

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Then the car came along...

"The 250,000 miles of railroad lines that defined the continent's architecture of settlement beginning from the mid-nineteenth century, was the envy of the world. The second, the sturdy interurban, meshed city and city, city and countryside over many miles. The lightest, the electric streetcar, the city's artery, connected downtown and neighborhoods, the dwelling and working places of America. The efficiency of this triad of railed movement set the outlines that produced the finest streetscapes and architecture in America."
Taken from Asphalt Nation: How the Automobile Took Over America and How We Can Take It Back, by Jane Holtz Kay