TTC Chair Josh Colle has a message to Ontario party leaders: take the Dufferin bus; More transit plans for Scarborough; George Smitherman runs for city councillor; mayor says a permanent music or festival site on city lands is coming to Toronto

9:35 a.m. May 9, 2018. Mayor John Tory announced in his opening remarks at Canadian Music Week that a permanent music or festival site on city lands is coming to Toronto.
9:35 a.m. May 9, 2018. Mayor John Tory announced in his opening remarks at Canadian Music Week that a permanent music or festival site on city lands is coming to Toronto.

Weekend Newsbrief: May 12, 2018

What happened at Toronto City Hall this week

Mayor tells Canadian Music Week industry event attendees that a permanent music or festival site on city lands is coming to Toronto. Mayor John Tory promised a room with hundreds of music industry insiders that the city will make information available about its vacant land that could be used for a festival or performance site. “The city owns a lot of land, obviously,” Tory said, “and some of it is not in use [or] doing anything, it’s just there.” The mayor said he wants the industry to generate proposals for places that could be purposed for one-time events or year-round designation. “It’s going to be all about you coming forward with ideas, however out of the box they might seem. In fact, the more out of the box the better in terms of us finding some new ways to move this industry forward.” Signal Toronto tried to confirm with city staff when the consultative process will begin and end, and how big a parcel of land is being considered for the initiative, but staff could not provide any information.

TTC Chair Josh Colle has a message to Ontario party leaders: take the Dufferin bus. In response to the question of how regularly Colle rides the bus – a question that noted how Doug Ford has recently admitted he does not ride public transit very often – TTC Chair and Councillor Colle had pointed advice for the provincial party leaders. “I would say that any of the party leaders right now who are running to be premier should ride the Dufferin bus. Councillor Ana Bailão will take them on the south end and I’ll take them on the north end,” Colle offered. Bailão and Tory also weighed in about experiences on transit and the election. (Ready the story)

When it comes to transit planning for Scarborough, mayor and Scarborough councillor want to go farther on the Eglinton East LRT. At an announcement on Monday morning, Mayor John Tory, local-Malvern Councillor Neethan Shan, and Chair of the TTC Josh Colle unveiled a proposal to add to the plans for the Eglinton East LRT. The addition would have the line extend north of the 401 to Malvern Town Centre. “This [additional segment to the Eglinton East LRT plan] will give council the opportunity to consider the entire project all at once early next year,” Tory told reporters and a handful of supporters who gathered at the announcement. The idea, if passed by city council, will add more work to what is already under way in the planning of the Eglinton East LRT. “Lots of people have talked about Scarborough transit, but I’m actually determined, with my council colleagues, and with the support of the city council, to deliver significant new transit – the entire Scarborough network transit plan – to the people of Scarborough,” the mayor said, not mentioning transit users in other parts of the city who might also use the future transit. “I think it is sensible and I think it is far-sighted for us to move forward with the planning and design work now on this extension to Malvern,” Tory said, “so that we can get that work done and have a complete project in front of us when the time comes to actually talk about construction.” The report that will be heard at the Executive Committee next Monday suggests a construction timetable and funding strategy to be developed as part of a “Scarborough Transit Network Business Case Analysis” to be reported to the the new term of council in the first quarter of 2019. (Read the story)

George Smitherman registers to run for city councillor for Ward 23 (Cabbagetown/Regent Park/ St. James Town/Allan Gardens). Former deputy premier of the Liberal government, George Smitherman, registered to run for Toronto City Council on Wednesday. “[I’m] really excited and, in a certain sense, liberated… because the privilege of trying to represent a community as an elected representative — that’s what comes more naturally to me than anything else,“ he said moments after registering. Smitherman compared today’s registration with his mayoral run against Rob Ford in 2010. “It might be tempting to kind of feel like this is the next day after 2010… but that isn’t that for me because, in the years since then, there’s so many layers of me that have evolved – most especially my responsibilities as a parent. Now, you know, politics is about — [and] public services is about — parks.” In October of 2017, tvo’s Steve Paikin reported that at the time Smitherman “has expressed interest in making a political comeback in the riding. But he says that so far, his efforts have been stymied by head office, which told him (via a third party) that his candidacy wasn’t welcome.” (Read the story) On Friday, community advocate Walied Khogali registered to run surrounded by supporters with balloons and signs. “This October, we have an opportunity to make sure we have bold new leadership at city council, and I want to make sure that people that look like me are represented as well at city council.”

3:59 p.m. May 11, 2018 Walied Khogali speaking to supporters before registering to run for councillor of the new Ward 23.
3:59 p.m. May 11, 2018 Walied Khogali speaking to supporters before registering to run for councillor of the new Ward 23.

COLUMN

TOcore’s Great Streets plan can correct mistakes from the past, and help put Toronto on the road to achieving Vision Zero

by Matt Elliott

Seven years ago, Jarvis Street broke my heart.

Toronto City Council’s debate over whether to remove the bike lanes on Jarvis in the summer of 2011 was the first time I got really fired up about a municipal issue. Living just a few blocks away from Jarvis at the time, I put my soul into it. I wrote passionate, overlong posts on my blog about why the bike lanes — approved and installed under Mayor David Miller’s administration in 2010 — should stay.

I got really nerdy about it, too. I pored through city reports and researched the unique history of the street. I transcribed speeches given by councillors who had once supported the bike lane plan, but had since changed their views. I armed myself with stats: after the installation of the Jarvis bike lanes, for instance, bicycle traffic along Jarvis tripled, while the number of collisions was reduced by 23 per cent.

And then I sat, alongside a hundred helmet-wearing cyclists, in the gallery during the city council meeting where the ultimate decision was made. I even tracked the projected council vote result with a spreadsheet.

I was young and idealistic, but I also thought – and still think – I had the facts on my side. And I thought – looking around the chamber at the room full of cyclists and urbanists that seemed just as passionate as I was about this issue – that I could help push council to make the right direction.

In short, I had hope. Hope that a majority of councillors would grasp that cities around the world were installing more bike lanes, not removing them. Hope that appeals to safety would win out.

But that didn’t happen. Instead, Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam’s motion to keep the lanes was defeated, 18-27, the opposition led by Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong and then-mayor Rob Ford. The bike lanes on Jarvis Street were removed in November of 2012, despite last-ditch attempts by some cyclists to physically block the line-erasing machine by sitting in front of it (as reported by The Canadian Press on CBC).

I remember leaving city hall after the vote and just feeling sad about the state of the city and the priorities of the mayor and council. Wondering if there was a real point to my political involvement, when the stuff I valued about the city didn’t seem valued at all by council. When council in fact seemed okay with making one of the major ways I got around the city more dangerous. Heartbroken.

However, this was not just a case of removing some paint on the road. It also put an end to a process started in 2001 to revitalize Jarvis as a “cultural corridor.” And it restored Jarvis Street’s reversible middle lane, a feature that encourages high-speed driving and makes Jarvis one of the most unpleasant streets for pedestrians and cyclists in the downtown core.

Instead, the debate needs to be about making downtown streets more pleasant and safe to get around for people who aren’t driving cars. It needs to be about creating accessible space for walking, riding, and rolling. It needs to be about trees and public spaces;  it needs to be about designing streets in such a way that does not encourage reckless and dangerous speed, which causes injury and death.

In effect, Jarvis, with its reversible middle lane, is more like a highway than a street that runs past schools and homes. It’s my least favourite street in the downtown core.

Seven years later, though, I have a bit of hope again.

Last week, the city’s Planning & Growth committee approved the next phase of the TOcore plan for downtown Toronto. It includes a public realm plan for what planners term “Great Streets” – ambitious transformations to 12 of downtown’s most prominent streets.

Jarvis is on the list. Jarvis, my first municipal love – the one that got away.

“Once a grand and elegant tree-lined promenade, Jarvis Street today is a wide, multi-laned arterial roadway, widened in 1947 in response to increasing volumes of automobile traffic,” the report says, before laying out a plan to narrow the street by removing the reversible fifth lane, widen the sidewalks and add lots of space for trees and greenery.

The goal is to “re-establish Jarvis Street as a grand tree-lined promenade that supports civic life, celebrate its significant heritage structures and connect its significant public parks.”

There are no bike lanes in the plan. They probably should get added. But I do hope this time the debate over Jarvis – and the other “great streets” – doesn’t simply get reduced to public squabbling over whether these streets should have bike infrastructure. What’s at stake is bigger than that.

Instead, the debate needs to be about making downtown streets more pleasant and safe to get around for people who aren’t driving cars. It needs to be about creating accessible space for walking, riding, and rolling. It needs to be about trees and public spaces;  it needs to be about designing streets in such a way that does not encourage reckless and dangerous speed, which causes injury and death.

That last point is critical. The city has done a lot of valuable work over the last year on its Vision Zero initiative to eliminate road deaths. But this work is undermined by the continued existence of streets like Jarvis – streets that by design prioritize traffic speed over the experience of other road users. With high vehicle speeds, narrow sidewalks and erased bicycle infrastructure, Jarvis Street is fundamentally incompatible with Vision Zero.

When Toronto City Council considers the TOcore plan for Great Streets at their meeting later this month, Mayor John Tory and councillors need to see this as more than just aesthetic improvement. It can’t just be a meaningless aspirational exercise.

This isn’t a plan that should sit on a shelf. If approved and implemented, this plan will do more to keep people safe than any amount of signage or police enforcement blitzes – the typical ways we hear about safety.

Road safety starts with transformation. Its starts with taking space previously given to cars and trucks and redesigning that space so it’s available – and safe – for pedestrians and cyclists.

So do it. Make Toronto’s streets, including Jarvis, great at last. After seven years, please, council, un-break my heart.

SHARE