Time for a vanner revolution? Column from Matt Elliott on the city of Toronto choosing cheap parking over car sharing; Lifeguarded beaches open this weekend, but how’s the water quality?; Pride Month celebrates activism, includes programs for passivism 

10:22 a.m., May 30, 2018. Mayor John Tory speaking at announcement for Bike Share free half-hour rides on Wednesdays in June. Rhonda English, Chief Marketing Officer at CAA, looks on.
10:22 a.m., May 30, 2018. Mayor John Tory speaking at announcement for Bike Share free half-hour rides on Wednesdays in June. Rhonda English, Chief Marketing Officer at CAA, looks on.

Weekend Newsbrief: June 2, 2018

What happened at Toronto City Hall this week

By Arianne Robinson

Half-hour free bike rides on Wednesdays. The city’s Bike Share program is offering a free half-hour ride on Wednesdays in June, sponsored by CAA. “[Our members] have asked that communities should be investing more in cycling infrastructure, and the Bike Share Toronto is a perfect example of that,” Rhonda English, Chief Marketing Officer at CAA, said at the announcement on Wednesday. Mayor John Tory endorsed increased ridership as a result of the program. Asked if he thinks there’s enough bike lane infrastructure in the city right now, Tory answered, “The answer is no, there isn’t enough, but it’s also something where you have to do it on an annual basis and do as much as you can in a given year,” he told reporters, adding that creating more bike lanes for the city is the No. 1 priority. The mayor also noted this will include more separated bike lanes, which he said he “believe[s] in very strongly”.

Pride Month kicks off at city hall with a theme celebrating activism – and programming  for everyone (including the passivists). This year’s Pride and Trans flag raising at city hall kicked off Pride Month, which this year is running with the theme of celebrating 35 years of AIDS activism. “There is a long history of folks in our community not having access to services, which is part of why we’re celebrating Casey House as our honoured group,” Erin Edghill, co-chair of Pride Toronto’s board of directors said on Friday. “[The theme is] really about going back and looking at our roots, and then looking at how we can move forward.” Kevin Rambally, the other co-chair, added, “And it’s about action … what changes that we can make now by taking action to move forward to make a larger and more inclusive space where everyone feels like that, they’re actually included and not just necessarily one voice is being heard but multiple voices are being heard in order to make change in our society.” Asked about programming for those that don’t want to be activists, Rambally said there are many options. “There are different [programs] for people to have access to, and it creates that opportunity for people to want to identify themself, to be like, this is where I feel comfortable. If an action space is not for me, then maybe I feel comfortable going to a human rights panel to find out more about the history. Maybe I feel it’s important for me to go to Hanlan’s Point for an all-day dance party, because all I want to do is celebrate.” The Toronto Pride Parade is on June 24, 2018.


Good to know

Toronto beaches will have lifeguards this weekend, but not all are Blue Flag certified

Nine Toronto beaches will be supervised with lifeguards this weekend from 11:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., but not all of them are certified by Blue Flag on the water quality.

Blue Flag’s website describes itself as “a world-renowned eco-certification for beaches and marinas. When you see a Blue Flag flying, you know a beach or marina is clean and accessible; has great water quality; meets high safety standards; and is working hard to protect local shorelines and ecosystems.”

Blue Flag beaches opening this weekend with lifeguards are:

– Bluffer’s Park Beach
– Centre Island Beach
– Cherry/Clarke Beach
– Gibraltar Point Beach
– Hanlan’s Point Beach
– Kew-Balmy Beach
– Ward’s Island Beach
– Woodbine Beach

Non-Blue Flag beaches opening this weekend with lifeguards are:

– Sunnyside Beach

Marie Curtis Park East Beach and Rouge Beach will have lifeguards on duty as of June 16.

Signal Toronto asked Toronto Public Health if Sunnyside is safe to swim at, as it is not Blue Flag certified and the city’s website does not have information about the water quality of this beach. A spokesperson for the organization responded via email: “TPH has begun sampling water quality for Toronto beaches and all are presently safe to swim according to the test results that will be posted online on Monday.”  

Road closures this weekend

Saturday

Pape Village Summerfest. From 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., Pape Avenue from Mortimer Avenue to Cosburn and Gamble Avenues will be closed in both directions.

Riverside Eats and Beats Streetfest. From 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., Broadview Avenue from south of Queen Street East to the north side of the public lane will be closed in both directions.

Dundas West Fest. All day Saturday until 3 a.m. Sunday, Dundas Street West from Ossington Avenue to Lansdowne Avenue will be closed in both directions.

Sunday

Manulife Ride for Heart. From 2 a.m. to 2 p.m., the Gardiner Expressway will be closed from the Humber River to the Don Valley Parkway, and the Don Valley Parkway will be closed from the Gardiner Expressway to York Mills Road.


Letter from a reader

May 29, 2018

I connected to your blog today and discovered the article of Arianne Robinson. I wrote to the Toronto Star when the announcement was made about the TTC/Universal competition, and copied the mayor and several members of the Toronto Music Advisory Council. The so-called ‘tradition’ of seizing the rights from composers/musicians by record companies, in my opinion, should be stopped. This is a shameful situation and shouldn’t be “just the way it is. It’s art” or as Menno Versteeg [told Signal Toronto], songs always have value … the profit is significant for musicians.  Later, his advice to musicians is [that their work] should be about the love of doing it. “If you’re a master of your craft, it’s not your right to get paid for it,” [he says.] There seems to be some confusion. Don’t professionals in other fields earn from their creations? Where is the social justice here? How can city councillors [working] on poverty reduction be oblivious to this so-called tradition while at the same time acknowledging the impact musicians make to Toronto’s economic development? Are musicians really happy to work “for the love of it”?   

Artists giving up the rights to their music makes no sense in today’s digital market! Today, they can hire service-based companies like Kobalt Music to develop and implement successful careers – without needing to give up their rights.   

Sincerely,
Ann Summers Dossena
Founder/Director
International Resource Centre for Performing Artists (IRCPA)

This letter has been edited and condensed for publication. We are always interested in your feedback. Please send your letters to be considered for publication to letters@signaltoronto.com.


COLUMN: Toronto chose cheap parking over car sharing, so maybe it’s time for a vanner revolution

by Matt Elliott

Let me tell you about maybe the cheapest possible way to live in this city.

First, get yourself a van. It doesn’t need to be a nice or a new van. You can go vintage. Then, find a friend who lives in Toronto on a street with on-street permit parking. Get them to apply for a permit for your cool van.

Then live in your van.

Assuming your friend doesn’t have their own car or on-site parking, it’ll cost you $15.44 a month, plus HST, for the permit. If they do have a car or on-site parking it could cost a bit more — up to $54.12 a month, plus tax.

But either way, you’re living in Toronto at a massive discount.

Sure, there are downsides to van life. Sleeping in a van in a permitted on-street parking space probably runs afoul of some “laws.” And it might get awfully cold at night sometimes. And you’d need to dispense with modern amenities, like running water and electricity. And by becoming a person who lives in a van, you’d be obligated to grow a hipster beard and spend half your day on Instagram.

But again: after the upfront costs of buying a van off Craigslist or whatever, you’re looking at rent that basically costs 15 bucks a month. 51 cents a day! That’s a lot cheaper than the $1,829 the average Toronto rental is listed for these days, according to a February report by the city’s Tenant Issues Committee. And – let’s be real – those units are probably not a whole lot bigger than the square footage of your van anyway.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately. Toronto’s streets are a shared resource. They are principally designed to move people. And yet the cost of parking vehicles on those streets is priced so low that van life starts to look appealing.

Should we be looking at better uses of our streets beyond parking? Beyond van living?

Well, easier said than done.

For proof, consider the saga of car sharing agency car2go, which announced last week that it would be suspending operations in Torontoeffective today. The company cited two reasons for their decision to leave the city, both related to a new set of regulations affecting car sharing passed by Toronto City Council in April, as part of a pilot project.

One of the reasons was cost. The 18-month pilot project passed by council on April 24  specifically affects “free-floating” car-share services. This isn’t about flying cars, but rather services in which users don’t need to start and end their trips in designated parking spaces or lots, but rather can park on most streets with on-street parking. The purpose of the pilot was to permit these vehicles to park legally in Toronto, collect data and report on outcomes. For free-floating car-share services – of which car2go was the only one of the kind operating in Toronto – the staff report proposed an annual permit fee of $1,499.02 per car-share vehicle.

That’s a bit steep. For comparison, it’s about eight times more per year than you’d pay to park, and maybe live in, a van.

In their letter to customers, car2go North America president Paul DeLong noted it’s higher than the fees the company pays in any other North American city it operates in. But this feels like a solvable problem. Put car2go and other operators in a room with city staff and have them come up with a number that feels fair.

But the other reason car2go says they’re leaving is a much harder nut to crack. It goes back to why I opened this column by bizarrely espousing the benefits of living in a van. It’s about Toronto’s addiction to cheap and plentiful parking.

Council debated the free-floating car-share regulations three times – in October, January and April – the first two times opting to delay the issue rather than approve the item. Every time, the debate on the council floor focused almost exclusively on one thing: parking.

Councillors wanted to know what this would mean for residents who park on their street. They were concerned about homeowners who might have to park further away from their homes. They fretted about whether these cars might come to suburban streets. Nowhere in the debate was there any significant discussion about whether parking rates for vehicle owners are too cheap. Or whether there are better uses for our streets than cheap storage for people who own cars – uses like, say, allowing people to access on-demand car-share services.

In the end, council’s concerns about parking resulted in two substantial changes to the pilot project initially proposed by city staff. First, they blocked car-share vehicles from parking on all streets in which the permit parking supply is deemed to be at 95% of available capacity, limiting where car-share users can access vehicles. Second, they created a mechanism through which community councils would be able to restrict car-share parking on other streets.

The result is a jagged little map with a lot of restricted areas, and the potential for more parking restrictions to come. Not really the kind of regulations you would implement if you were serious about increasing car-share usage.

It is, on the other hand, exactly what you would do if you were more concerned about making sure residents who own cars continue to enjoy cheap and available on-street parking.

Car2go’s decision to leave Toronto rather than play by these rules isn’t the final word on the pilot project passed by council. Other operators – such as Montreal-based Communauto, who has said they have plans to set up shop here – may find the regulations more palatable than car2go did.

But even still, car2go’s decision – and the drawn-out debate that preceded it – speaks to the enduring power of the parking status quo, and the struggle to change it. The benefits of embracing widespread car sharing are clear. According to studies cited in the staff report, car sharing reduces vehicle ownership, reduces vehicle kilometres travelled and reduces emissions. All of these things, weighed objectively, should matter more than cheap and available parking.

But council chose not to see that. In a battle between parking and mobility, parking won out. At this rate, permit parking might one day be the last affordable thing in Toronto.

Time, I guess, to start van shopping.