Posts Tagged: jarvis street


26
Jul 11

City Council Scorecard Update: Jarvis Lanes and Public Health Nurses

Toronto Council Scorecard

July 19, 2011 Update: Download (PDF) – Download (PNG) – Google Docs

July’s Council meeting was a feisty three-day affair with a strong emphasis on an issue I’ve already written about at length: the Jarvis Street bike lanes. I’ve included the key voting result from that item in this month’s scorecard, along with an item relating to the acceptance of two provincially-funded public health nurses. While it was the former that captured the city’s attention, the latter is probably more interesting in that it provides a very clear glimpse at existing ideological voting lines within Toronto City Council.

New Votes

City Council Scorecard - July 19, 2011 New VotesThe votes added:

  • PW5.1, Motion 7A — Moved by Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam, this was the most explicit “Save Jarvis” motion. It read as follows: “That the Jarvis Street bicycle lanes be retained and the traffic signal improvements to accommodate left turns for the Gerrard Street East intersection be implemented no later than July 31, 2011, as recommended by Toronto Transportation Services.” It should be noted that, without explanation, several councillors who voted in favour of installing the lanes in 2009 flip-flopped on their position, voting now to remove them. Councillor Josh Matlow said afterward that he voted incorrectly on this item, and should have been recorded in the affirmative. But I’ve decided to institute a policy: the scorecard will always reflect actual, recorded votes, regardless of intent.
  • MM10.9 — A member motion moved by Councillor John Filion, this item required a tough-to-find two-thirds majority to pass. It would have seized and allowed a new debate on an earlier item, deferred by Rob Ford’s Executive Committee, regarding two provincially-funded public health nurse positions. Ford had deferred the item in a bizarre decision not to accept the funds. This 21-21 result gives a clear indication of the current ideological lines at City Hall. I’ll highlight, too, that three councillors — Ford-supporters Karen Stintz, Jaye Robinson and James Pasternak — are conspicuous in their ‘absent’ votes on this item.

Trend Watch

After crossing the 75% threshold, Councillor Ron Moeser has now officially joined the ‘Ford Nation’ faction on council. The Scarborough politician had shown early signs of independence, voting against pivotal motions like designating the TTC an essential service, but in recent months has been a more reliable vote for the mayor’s office.

Of the remaining ‘mushy middle’ councillors, Chin Lee and Josh Colle tend to swing toward Ford Nation more often than not, while Mary-Margaret McMahon and Ana Bailāo have been edging toward the left. Josh Matlow, fittingly, is at a dead-even 50%. Maybe, for him, the truth is in the middle.

Questions

Questions about the Council Scorecard? Read my notes on methodology. Also, you can email me.

For those who have noticed that this document is getting progressively harder to read as it grows, take solace: things are happening. Stay tuned.


25
Jul 11

The annotated Rob Ford: notes on the mayor’s interview with CP24 (VIDEO)

The mayor was on CP24 this past Friday for a rare sit-down interview. Unfortunately, the journalist sitting down with Rob Ford was one-time mayoral candidate and aspiring softball pitcher Stephen LeDrew, who didn’t give the mayor much in the way of challenging questions.

Still, Ford’s statements on a variety of important issues are notable for the number of outright falsehoods and misperceptions they contain. Standing on the shoulders of giants like The Grid’s Edward Keenan, who ran a Fact Check column relating to this interview on Friday afternoon, I’ve put together an edited version of the mayor’s interview, pointing out the moments where he departed from the truth.

I call it the annotated Rob Ford. You can watch it below.

Some notes:

First, this is a six-minute edit of a twenty-minute interview. The editing process by its very nature removes context. To be objective, readers should also watch the full version of the interview at CP24 before they make any conclusions.

00:00:35 — The top three priorities identified by Toronto residents comes from Page 4 of KPMG’s summary of the Core Service Review Public Consultation process. Note also that the item given the least priority was “Fair and affordable taxes.”

00:00:55 — The KMPG report lists “Detailed analysis of services to identify efficiency and effectiveness opportunities” as “Out of Scope” on page four of the introductory document. The report does note that an efficiency study could take place at a later date, as a separate report.

00:01:22 — The KPMG report to the Public Works & Infrastructure Committee lists Solid Waste Management Services as having a net budget of 0 on page 12.

00:01:25 — Council voted to send an RFQ out to tender for solid waste collection (and a few other services) west of Yonge Street at the May Council meeting. The quotations will come back to Council for approval, probably early next year.

00:01:29 — Edward Keenan, writing for The Grid: “The right to strike in Canada is considered a constitutionally protected right (as it is in every other large democracy in the world), and contracting out garbage collection does not take away anyone’s right to form a union, bargain collectively or go on strike.”

00:01:42 — See note for 00:00:35.

00:02:17 — Quote is from the Toronto Star. David Rider recently dredged up the quote and discussed its ramifications.

00:02:43 — In fact, most of the grants Ford dismisses as unjustifiable are for programs that help needy people. They include organizations like the Rexdale Women’s Centre, the Crime Prevention Association of Toronto and the New Canadian Community Centre. The Toronto Star’s Daniel Dale has a partial list.

00:03:00 — The City of Toronto’s own website for the Toronto Atmospheric Fund is probably the best resource for information on the fund, its history and the benefits it brings to Toronto.

00:03:28 — Per KPMG’s report to the Public Works & Infrastrucutre Committee on page 39: “Consider reducing snow plowing and snow removal standards on residential streets.”

00:03:48 — The only scenario in which Ford’s claim makes sense is if we include some of the new off-road recreational paths that are to be added as part of the plan, but those serve an entirely different purpose than on-road bike lanes. The Agenda Item History for the 2011 Bike Plan is available online and details which lanes were added and which were removed. The Plan does float the idea of new lanes, notably on Richmond or Adelaide Street, but those are only being studied at this point.

00:04:09 – See page 17 of the 2011 Bike Plan Staff Report for details on traffic levels on Jarvis Street before and after installation of the bike lanes. You can also read my FAQ on Jarvis Street.

00:04:33 — It’s not true at the moment, at least. If Ford enthusiastically supports separated bike lanes on Richmond Street, for example, his statement would have more weight.

00:04:44 — It really isn’t true. See note for 00:03:48.

00:04:55 — As per “Mayor Ford votes against all community grants” in the Toronto Star.

00:05:15 — Ford skipped both the traditional Pride flag-raising kicking off the event, which took place steps from his office. He was touring the Air Canada Centre at the time. He also skipped an earlier flag-raising held by the Parents & Friends of Lesbians & Gays, which was presided over by Leafs GM Brian Burke.

00:05:40 — Per the Toronto Star’s “Ford expected to plow surplus into 2011 budget” by Robyn Doolittle: “Mayor Rob Ford is planning to use the city’s one-time surplus to help balance his 2011 budget, avoiding unpopular service cuts and delivering on a property tax freeze, say members of the executive and budget committees.”

 


18
Jul 11

Councillor Josh Colle misled constituents in lead-up to Jarvis vote

In the frantic lead-up to last week’s vote on the Jarvis Street bike lanes, Councillor Josh Colle told at least two Toronto residents via email that he would not support spending money to remove the lanes. “The City of Toronto currently faces a projected deficit of over $700 million dollars and will have many tough decisions to make in the coming year,” wrote the councillor. “In light of this, I do not believe it would be an appropriate use of limited City resources to eliminate bike lanes on Jarvis Street.”

Colle later reversed from this position, voting with Public Works Chair Denzil Minnan-Wong and the right-wing of Council against an amendment moved by local Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam that would have saved the lanes. He also supported the 2011 Bike Plan as a whole, even once it was clear that his support would mean approving spending limited City resources to eliminate bike lanes on Jarvis Street.

Councillor Josh Matlow, who had previously made a commitment to saving the lanes, also voted against Wong-Tam’s motion to preserve them. He later clarified that this was a mis-vote, and his intention had been to vote “Yes” on the item. Fair enough.

Worrying that perhaps Colle too had made a mistake, I emailed the councillor for clarification. His response read, in part: “In response to resident concerns to secure a north-south passageway in the city centre, I felt that separated bike lanes on Sherbourne Street with better connectivity north of Bloor was the best alternative. I made it a priority to ensure that nothing would happen to the Jarvis Street bicycle lanes until separated bike lanes were fully installed and operational on Sherbourne.”

This is disappointing behaviour from a councillor and works only to diminish valuable and critical trust between residents and elected officials. I would cheerfully suggest to Councillor Colle that any advantage he or his family gets from being seen as a “team player” with the Ford administration could very well be erased if the electorate starts to perceive him as lax with his convictions.


14
Jul 11

Searching for Council’s conservatives

Yesterday, Toronto City Council endorsed spending approximately $400,000 removing cycling infrastructure downtown and in Scarborough, despite staff reports that indicated the bike lanes had no substantive impact on traffic flow. They followed this up hours later by voting to uphold an earlier decision by the Executive Committee that, due to concerns that maybe someday the funding might be removed, Council not accept provincial money that would add two new public health nurse positions to the City’s payroll.

Let’s phrase that another way: over the course of one summer afternoon, councillors decided both to recklessly spend $400,000 for no clear reason and to play it safe, eschewing needed resources at public health because they might, one day — but probably not –, get stuck with a $200,000 per year bill for their trouble.

The same Council then had the relative gall to pass a motion calling for the province to step in and fund a greater percentage of the operating and capital budgets for the TTC. And so Council both rejected provincial money and asked for more of it on the same day.

Meanwhile, outside Council chambers, consulting group KPMG has spent the week releasing delightfully concise Core Service Review reports that all follow a similar template. First, they point out that the department they’ve examined has very little waste. Then, they drop a bundle of ‘considerations’ — not recommendations — that range from things like eliminating water fluoridation to selling the city’s stable of barnyard animals.

The consultants — who already have a checkered history with this kind of thing, having once produced a report arguing amalgamation would save the Toronto municipalities a significant amount of money — are clear that they aren’t even really looking at efficiencies as much as they’re laying out a list of things that could legally be cut from the city’s portfolio of public services. That this stands contrary to an election promise made by the mayor seems to have been tossed to the curb.

Also on that curb? The results of the city’s exhaustive consultation sessions regarding the Core Service Review. A full 60% of people who attended indicated they would accept increased taxes to pay for existing service levels. Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong, who’s had a fun week, said Monday that that group was irrelevant. “Self-selecting,” he said. Okay.

For the record, Toronto — you know, the city that we continue to hear is suffering from near-fatal fiscal wounds that can only be treated by deep government cuts — has some of the lowest property taxes in the GTA and recently voluntarily reduced its annual revenues by $60 million.

I’m not sure what you call the ideology that drives these decisions, but it can’t be conservatism, can it? Certainly not principled conservatism. A conservative would demand to see a business case before spending public money modifying infrastructure. In the case of Jarvis, Birchmount and Pharmacy, there wasn’t one. A conservative wouldn’t turn away provincial money — which the city has said it needs –, especially if there was a guarantee in place that the new positions could be eliminated should the funding ever be removed. (Which was the case.)  A conservative wouldn’t call on the provincial government for funding only months removed from electing to decrease the city’s own revenues, and hours removed from opting out of committed, ongoing provincial money for public health.

Our Conservative Mayor

Early in the day on Tuesday — before Council had really started rolling with the big items of the week — Mayor Rob Ford rose and asked to be recorded in the negative on four items relating to grant funding for community groups, including Etobicoke Services for Seniors, the Crime Prevention Association of Toronto and Variety Village. (The latter is interesting, as it comes only a couple of months after Ford made a rare media appearance announcing a new bus stop implemented to serve visitors to the organization, which supports disabled children.) The Mayor also stated his intention to vote against grants for heritage buildings. Late in the day on Wednesday, the Mayor added to this bizarre tally, lodging a vote against the 2011 AIDs Prevention Community Investment Program. This vote marked a milestone for the councillor-turned-mayor: he’s now voted against AIDS funding five years in a row.

The bottom line: If the Mayor of Toronto could have his way, it would appear that the city would cease most community grants, end some of its heritage protection programs and drastically cut back on public health funding.

My kingdom for a conservative

I don’t lean even slightly to the right politically, but I would like to think I understand the merits of conservative thinking. It’s about mitigating government risk, off-loading ambition to the private sector and, in times of economic hardship, turning to austerity as opposed to reinvestment. That’s fine. As much as I disagree with that line of thinking on an ideological level, I respect it. I can hold it in my hands and argue against it. It feels firm.

But what we’re seeing at Council these days isn’t that. It’s a weird mishmash of spite-based decision making and conservatism-when-convenient, held up by the enthusiastic wishes of a “silent majority” that only communicate through the cellphones of the mayor and his brother. It’s all glazed over with a slapdash of pseudo-libertarianism, the kind that exists in the minds of high school students who are like halfway through reading Atlas Shrugged.

Rob Ford is Rob Ford. I can’t fault him for that. He’s maddeningly consistent in his anti-government views and has been for years. What disappoints me — and continuously surprises me — is that he has commanded the support of a cabal of once-sensible Liberals and conservatives on Council, and has driven them to this point where Toronto is now governed by a Council with no consistent guiding ideology, principles, or direction.


13
Jul 11

The Jarvis vote: What the hell happened?

After a long and contentious debate that spanned across two days, Council voted today to remove the bike lanes on Jarvis Street and return the  street to its original five-lane configuration. The move will cost the city at least $200,000. The debate was marked by a series of (mostly) cogent arguments by councillors opposing the elimination of infrastructure that has, by all accounts, had no significant impact on traffic flow and increased the number of cyclists in the city. Those who supported the elimination responded by generally just wandering around the council chamber and not listening.  The hundreds of taxpayers who came to City Hall to support maintaining the lanes were dismissed by some councillors — notably Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday — as “bike people.”

The media narrative spinning out of today’s vote will be that the cyclists won a “concession” after Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong, chair of the Public Works & Infrastructure Committee and architect of the 2011 Bike Plan, supported an amendment that will see the Jarvis lanes removed sometime in 2012, simultaneously with the installation of new, repaved, separated bike lanes on Sherbourne Street. This is a too-simplistic interpretation that ignores the damage Council has now done to ongoing neighbourhood revitalization efforts across the downtown east-side.

What Council really did today was move to reclassify Jarvis Street — a place where people live and work and go to school — as a kind of downtown highway with a reversible fifth lane. In doing so they’ve thrown out a 2009 Environmental Assessment, a series of exhaustive community consultations and the objections of the local ward councillor, who was in the midst of ongoing neighbourhood beautification efforts in concert with local residents and business.

The vote on Jarvis came down with 18 in favour of keeping the lanes and 27 opposed. Or maybe it was 26-19. Or 28-9. No one is really sure.

Political Gamesmanship

Late on Tuesday afternoon, Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam — the local councillor for Jarvis Street — moved three individual-but-connected motions. Together they worked to protect her efforts to continue to improve Jarvis Street, a recognized “cultural corridor” in the City of Toronto. You can read the motions in full in the Decision Document, but here’s a quick summary:

  1. Council not eliminate the Jarvis bike lanes
  2. Council not eliminate the Jarvis bike lanes before the proposed separated bike lanes on Sherbourne are implemented
  3. Council not eliminate the Jarvis bike lanes before extensive community consultation

Her third item, calling for the involvement of a variety of community groups in an extensive consultation, showed signs of support from a few right-leaning councillors. And why wouldn’t it? Most would acknowledge that it seems cold-hearted to make significant changes to a street over the objections of a local councillor without so much as a public meeting.

Minnan-Wong, as the last speaker on the item, had an ace up his sleeve, however, as he moved an amendment to Wong-Tam’s second motion, explicitly calling for a return of Jarvis to its “pre-existing operation.” This stood as the first significant reference to Jarvis’ former five-lane configuration, and came after several of Minnan-Wong’s right-leaning colleagues had made arguments seemingly in support of a 2009 Environmental Assessment that called for wider sidewalks — instead of bike lanes — and the elimination of the fifth lane. His amendment also employed softer language, calling for more limited coordination between the removal of the Jarvis lanes and the installation of the Sherbourne lanes, as opposed to the original implication that one not happen without the other.

Wong-Tam challenged the amendment, which was ruled to be in order by Chair Frances Nunziata. A vote on whether to uphold Nunziata’s decision saw councillors support their Chair 27-18.

From here, things quickly broke down into procedural chaos. After the vote to retain the Jarvis lanes failed 18-27, the vote on Minnan-Wong’s amendment passed 26-19. Wong-Tam’s amended motion then passed 31-14 in the confusion, which had the probably unintentional effect of making her third motion — the one that would have allowed for public consultation — redundant. Minnan-Wong’s efforts thus had the dual impact of explicitly calling for the return of the fifth lane on Jarvis Street and ensuring that no consultations would ever be held on this issue.

The rest was noise. Some councillors lobbied Nunziata with the sensible suggestion that council vote on the individual items contained in the 2011 Bike Plan one at a time, as this would allow them to express support for elements of the plan while opposing others. Nunziata, as is her way, was obstinate and opted to instead hold only one vote. That prompted nearly all left-leaning councillors to leave the chamber before the results of the vote were read, with eight of them opting not to register a vote at all.

Not About Bikes

The most disappointing thing about today’s outcome is that it cements Jarvis as little more than a strategic battleground in a spite-driven war between cars and bikes. Bike lanes on Jarvis were never the entire issue. A reasonable compromise would have been to see a return to the original staff recommendations made as part of the 2009 EA: removal of the bike lanes in favour of wider pedestrian thoroughfares, and perhaps the installation of a few key left-turn lanes for automobile traffic. Instead, some councillors were disingenuous enough to pretend that this was their favoured option while ultimately placing their support behind a reversible fifth lane.

Today’s decision does little except increase the speed of automobile traffic, foster a substandard pedestrian realm and prop up Jarvis Street’s mid-century-to-now legacy as the tragic story of a once-great street in perpetual decline.

 


8
Jul 11

Who to call & email to save the Jarvis bike lanes

With some information that’s rolled in over the past week, I’ve been able to update my projected City Council Scorecard for the vote on keeping or killing the Jarvis Street bike lanes that will take place at next week’s Council meeting.

Councillor Josh Matlow made us wait, but confirmed last night that he would not support removing the lanes. The other Josh — Councillor Colle — has also indicated in responses to email that he does not believe that the City should spend money to remove the existing bike lanes.

I’ve moved some 100% Ford-supporting councillors like Giorgio Mammoliti and Frances Nunziata into the kill-it category, despite that they both voted to implement the lanes two years ago. There was never really a chance that they would vote against the mayor.

That leaves a scorecard that looks like this:

This leaves us with 19 in favour of keeping the lanes, 18 opposed, with eight undecideds or uncommitted councillors. Of the undecideds, six lean toward the Ford Nation side of Council, with middle-skewing Ron Moeser joining them more often than not. My suspicious is that Councillor Ana Bailão is likely to vote in favour of keeping the lanes.

The Toronto Cyclists Union reported yesterday via their twitter account that Mayor Rob Ford has claimed that 70% of the calls he has received regarding Jarvis Street support his view to eliminate the lanes. This is despite numerous reports via Twitter and social media channels from those who have called the Mayor’s famous phone number — 416-397-FORD — who say they were not asked for their name nor was their position seemingly recorded.

Calling Ford is never necessarily a bad idea, but I think it is becoming increasingly clear that it is not an overly effective strategy on this issue. As far as I can tell, the phone calls the mayor talks about receiving have only ever hardened his stance on key issues. Dissenting voices are dismissed as a minority. Calling him is not going to make a significant difference on this issue.

For those who want to truly influence the vote — which is likely to take place this coming Wednesday — I’d urge you to contact the councillors who are still listed as uncommitted votes in the chart above. Particularly if you live in their ward. You can find their contact information on the City’s website.

And if anyone has received an email or message from any of the uncommitted councillors above that makes their intentions clear, please let me know.


6
Jul 11

FAQ for Councillors considering the removal of the Jarvis Street bike lanes

Update: A version of this post is now available at OpenFile Toronto.

Confidential to Toronto city councillors still considering their vote on the elimination of the Jarvis Street Bike Lanes: So, hey, you’re one of those uncommitted councillors, probably hanging somewhere in the middle of the political spectrum.  I understand that it’s a challenging position to be in. Even if you are a tad uncomfortable with the Rob Ford brand of conservatism, you can’t deny the mayor’s popularity coming out of his crushing victory in the October 2010 election. And if he won big in your ward, doesn’t that mean that your constituents expect you to follow the mayor’s lead and support his team on key matters? Isn’t that the definition of democracy?

Spoiler Alert: The answer to that question is no. I’d suggest that you were elected by your constituents with the promise that you would use your best judgment and work to do what’s best for your ward and for your city. Sometimes that will involve going against what’s perceived as popular. Sometimes that will involve going against the mayor.

So, all that said, you’re considering an upcoming item relating to the potential removal of the bike lanes on Jarvis, and I thought it might be helpful to know the ins and outs of the issue before the motion comes to a vote next week. That way, you won’t have to worry yourself with what direction that famous thumb is pointing. You can just vote based on what you feel is right.

And that’s all we could ever ask of you.

Weren’t the Jarvis bike lanes implemented by the previous council, over the objections of many of those who currently hold the balance of power?

No. The previous council voted to implement Item 2009.PW24.15 “Jarvis Street Streetscape Improvements – Class Environmental Assessment Study by a margin of 28-16. Four members of the current Executive Committee voted to implement the lanes.

But I heard the bike lanes were added at the last minute when the cycling community hijacked the debate?

Not really true. Though it is factual that the original plan for streetscape improvements on Jarvis Street did not include the provision for dedicated cycling lanes, the preferred option from that plan did include wider curb lanes that would have allowed for ‘sharrows’ to allow safer travel for cyclists.

A quick history lesson: Jarvis was, for much of its existence, a tree-lined residential street, home to many of the city’s wealthiest families. Its decline roughly coincides with a decision to better facilitate automobile traffic with the installation of a reversible centre lane on the stretch of roadway north of Queen Street to Mount Pleasant. This middle lane caused an increase to the speed of traffic and made for a hostile pedestrian environment. A 2005 traffic study concluded that, on Jarvis Street, “the pedestrian exposure to conflict is undesirable.” (pg. iii) The study recommended the removal of the reversible middle lane, which led to a staff report calling for streetscape improvements. Following advocacy efforts from the city’s cycling community, the recommended plan was altered to include the provision for cycling lanes, which were installed following the removal of the middle lane in 2010.

But don’t the results of the 2010 mayoral election mean that people want the lanes gone?

No. During his campaign, Mayor Ford told the Toronto Star that he would not remove the lanes: “It would be a waste of money to remove it if it’s already there, that is unless there was a huge public outcry in the area.” As far as “public outcry in the area” is concerned, Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam, who supports the bike lanes, prevailed over opponents who vowed to remove the lanes in the municipal race last fall.

But Rob Ford says he’s gotten a lot of calls from people asking him to remove the lanes, shouldn’t we listen to them?

Absolutely. Consultation with the public is always important. Unfortunately, the item as amended by Councillor John Parker does not allow for further consultations regarding the future of Jarvis Street. In fact, a motion by Councillor Mike Layton that would have required proper community consultations before any changes are made to Jarvis Street was defeated at the Public Works & Infrastructure Committee by a vote of 4-2.

Wasn’t the original plan for Jarvis Street, which didn’t call for bike lanes, a better one?

It very well could have been. Jarvis Street suffered because the 2009 debate became entirely about bikes-versus-cars, when it rightly should have been about what’s best for Jarvis Street. But either way, that plan also called for the removal of the reversible middle lane, so impacts on traffic flow would have been similar.

As far as I know, there is still roughly $6-million allocated for beautification efforts on Jarvis Street, though I don’t think there’s a timeline attached to the work. Before removal of the lanes was put back on the table, Councillor Wong-Tam was also planning to spend $1-million of Section 37 funds to improve the street. Some of that money would have gone to synchronizing traffic lights to further improve traffic flow. All of this work is currently on hold, pending City Council’s decision.

Haven’t the bike lanes on Jarvis Street have resulted in significant traffic delays?

Not really. The bike lanes on Jarvis Street haven’t caused any significant delays. The removal of the reversible middle lane — which, you’ll remember, was going to happen anyway, bike lanes or no bike lanes — did result in a small increase in travel time at peak periods. Average travel times increased by approximately two minutes northbound and southbound in the a.m. rush, and by approximately three-to-five minutes in the p.m. rush.

Much of the increase in the p.m. rush is due to long queues as vehicles wait to turn left onto Gerrard Street. Traffic Services was set to install an advanced green phase this summer, which would alleviate much of the delay. At the very least, Council would be wise to wait for the results of a future traffic study, which should detail the effectiveness of the intersection tweak, before they take any further action on Jarvis Street.

Again, any delays are primarily due to the removal of the reversible lane. Removing the bike lanes could allow for the installation of dedicated left-turn lanes at major intersections, but that alone seems unlikely to substantially improve travel times. If council wants to explore that option further, I’d recommend commissioning a report.

What if I choose not to believe staff’s reported numbers?

You should panic. If that’s the case, I would suggest council has far bigger problems that they need to deal with immediately, and that those problems should take precedence over this issue. If you’re concerned that staff are being negligent or improper with the data they’re reporting to council, steps must be taken to improve that situation.

Of note: A recent news story relating to inaccurate cycling counts on John Street was due to a city-hired consultant using staff-reported numbers incorrectly.

Is it even feasible to re-add the fifth lane to Jarvis Street?

I don’t think so, no. Removing the bike lanes and installing some dedicated left-turn lanes is set to cost somewhere in the neighbourhood of $80,000. Reinstalling the reversible middle lane, on the other hand, would cost approximately $570,000. That’s a substantial financial outlay for the city, given current budgetary challenges.

Further, there are some relatively serious safety and design concerns relating to the previous configuration of Jarvis Street. Typically, the city recommends a minimum width of 3.3 metres for mid-block traffic lanes. Jarvis, in its five lane layout, had lane widths of only 3.1 metres. The 2005 Jarvis traffic study described the lane widths as ‘substandard.’ (pg 25)

Isn’t Jarvis kind of useless as a bike lane? It doesn’t even connect to anything.

It does, in fact, connect to existing bike lanes at Shuter Street. It will also connect to new separated bike lanes on Wellesley Street, should the new Downtown Bike Plan as proposed by Denzil Minnan-Wong be approved and built by this council.

Also, it’s important to remember that cyclists do not burst into flames should they come to the end of a bike lane. Jarvis also connects to numerous bicycle-friendly side streets, as well as popular destinations like St. Lawrence Market and Allan Gardens. The lanes are also directly adjacent to three BIXI bike rental stations.

But the plan for separated bike lanes on Sherbourne — only a block away — means Jarvis is no longer necessary for cyclists, right?

No. Just as Sherbourne and Jarvis are both useful for drivers and pedestrians depending on where one wants to go, cyclists use both routes. You would never argue that sidewalks are unnecessary on Jarvis Street because pedestrians can just use Sherbourne Street.

In addition, the Sherbourne Street bike lanes are currently in a shabby state of despair and require resurfacing. Given that council has not yet approved any aspect of the proposed plan for separated bike lanes downtown, removing Jarvis because of the existence of improved lanes on Sherbourne seems premature.

Finally, the installation of bike lanes on Jarvis have more than tripled the number of cyclists who use the route on a daily basis, which would indicate that there is significant demand for a safe bike route on the stretch.

Jarvis was one of the only working traffic arterials left downtown — how could making it slower be considered a good thing?

Jarvis is not simply a traffic arterial. It’s a street that has historically been residential, with a rich character all its own. In 2001, Jarvis was identified of one of seven “cultural corridors” in the City of Toronto. Thousands of people live and work on Jarvis Street, and more are coming as condo construction works it way east of Yonge Street. Jarvis Street is also home to schools — both a regular one, and Canada’s National Ballet School — and the aforementioned Allan Gardens, one of the city’s largest downtown parks.

As noted in remarks made by Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti, which came just before he voted to install the bike lanes, Jarvis is worth far more to the city as a vibrant place to live and work than it is as a simple traffic pipe. And given that the number of vehicle trips has not decreased even after the removal of the reversible fifth lane, it’s difficult to argue that Jarvis has lost utility as an arterial. It’s still doing the work it used to do, just in a slightly more civilized way.

What’s the big deal? Let’s just remove these things and move on with our lives.

Removing infrastructure should always be a big deal. Whether or not you agreed with the process that led to their installation in the first place, the Jarvis bike lanes are here. The city spent approximately $60,000 putting them in, and they are used by approximately 1,000 cyclists every day.

To justify their removal, councillors need to prove that the removal of this infrastructure is cost-effective. You’ll need to show that the money the city will spend removing these lanes will be recouped through increased economic activity. To do any less would be fiscally irresponsible.


29
Jun 11

Mammoliti on Jarvis Lanes: “Everybody has the right to use the road”


During the 2009 debate over the removal of the reversible fifth lane on Jarvis Street — which, of course, led to the Jarvis Street Bike Lanes — Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti stood on the floor of City Council and gave an impassioned — if slightly confusing at times — speech supporting the narrowing of Jarvis Street. Specifically, he said that lower speeds will be good for businesses along the stretch. He praised Councillor Kyle Rae for his work bringing the project forward, and scolded councillors who were critical of the plan. “Get off your rear ends,” he told opposition councillors. “When someone goes down to party on [a narrowed and revitalized] Jarvis Street, they’re going to say what a wonderful street Jarvis is.”

He calls for the end of the oft-fiery debate between “the rights of drivers and cyclists,” telling council that “he doesn’t like that argument because I think everybody has the right to use the road.”

YouTube user HOOFandCYCLE was kind enough to post video of Mammoliti’s remarks. I’ve also transcribed the speech below. Any errors are my own.

Madame Speaker, I want to give some examples of what I would consider human nature, I guess. And that is… — when many of us go to restaurants we tend to look into the restaurant and tend to wonder how busy it might be and how popular it might be. And we tend to go into the restaurants — if we don’t know them quite well — that are loaded with people. The ones that seem to be busy. The ones that seem to be a little crazy.

The ones that are empty we usually say, “Well, the food might not be very good here. And I don’t think I’m going to take the chance.”

When we go to shows and concerts, we usually go to concerts that are the busiest with the most people — blah blah blah blah blah

Night clubs? Lineups out the door? Those are the ones we choose to go in because there must be something special with respect to this nightclub and the amount of people that must be going through.

(Another Councillor asks “What’s the point?”)

My point is — that I’m trying to make — is, that for some reason, the busier the street, the more popular it becomes. The slower a street, with respect with how people move through, the more popular it becomes.

In fact, I believe that if traffic is at a standstill, then businesses actually thrive on those streets. A prime example of that — you remember Yonge Street? Years ago? How congested it was? How you could not move on Yonge Street? The store owners on Yonge Street absolutely loved it. They didn’t want the traffic to go through quickly. They felt that that contributed to their success.

And around the world, that is the case. That, in fact, if you attempt to slow down traffic — in whatever manner — it becomes more popular for the pedestrian who does a lot of shopping. And it becomes a lot more popular for cyclists — yes, it does.

And why don’t we want to take a page from some of the successful cities that have learned from their experiences? That’s all that some of us are saying here. I’m saying it because I believe in that model. I think it actually does create business.

Jarvis, if you drive down, is very fast. Somebody has mentioned — I think it was Councillor McConnell who mentioned it in her speech — that traffic is actually very fast, at times, on Jarvis. And it’s time to slow it down.

So you slow it down by proposing to remove a lane, and, yes, you slow it down as well for people to pay attention to others that are using that street and sidewalks. Whether it’s pedestrians or the cyclists that now will be using Jarvis.

When we all go for our license, and the privilege of having a vehicle license — whether that’s car, or a bicycle license — one of the first things you’re taught about is cyclists. Use your rearview mirrors, watch our for cyclists, be careful. You’re at fault even if the cyclist does something wrong. You’re at fault.

And so, now the debate becomes the debate between the difference in rights between someone who is driving a vehicle and the cyclists. That’s what I’ve been hearing. And I don’t like that argument because I think everybody has the right to use the road.

And I said it it earlier when I stood that cyclists don’t have any other options. They can only use the road. They can’t use the sidewalks. So what is the debate about today — seriously? Some have pointed out that it costs money, and saying that perhaps we should be fixing other roads before this one. Is that the argument today?

Or is the argument about a fundamental logic that you don’t like cyclists on the road? Why don’t we be honest about that if it is?

Now Councillor Rae has worked this into his equation and he must be patted on the back for doing that. And it takes work to put this into any equation. To try and get lanes — cycle lanes — in your communities is a hard task. So might it be that some other councillors don’t want to work as hard, and when they find somebody doing [something] they want to hide behind policy and say, “It’s because of the policy. We shouldn’t be straying from it. How dare we do that?”

Get up off your rear ends and do the same thing.

And if it isn’t about bike lanes, do something else. Take on your own pet project. And don’t just sit at City Hall and try to change people’s minds and create scenarios in the back rooms. Spend some time in your communities and change the flavour of your communities. Councillor Rae is suggesting to change the flavour on Jarvis — and it will.

And then when everyone wants to go down to party on Jarvis, they’re going to say what a wonderful street Jarvis is. It’s so wonderful. At that point, who’s going to be around to remind everyone that perhaps it was the local councillor that changed the way things are done. Perhaps it’s someone who actually stood up and actually cared for his community and cared for the voices — yes, the voices — that I hear everyday.

So when Councillor Holyday stands up and says he’s in Etobicoke and he never sees any cyclists, well — I do. And I think most of us do who are in the West district. And I don’t know where [Holday is] coming from.

Perhaps the cyclists that aren’t there get the feeling that the politicians don’t want them there. And that’s probably why they’re not using our streets. I say something different — I say let’s make sure that we try to get them out there as well.

It’s not just about the Humber River [trail], as someone pointed out, it’s also about encouraging people to use the roads. Encouraging them and wanting them to do it, and not saying they’re excluded because [other councillors] believe some policy needs to be changed or [that] maybe we should be fixing another road somewhere in Scarborough before we do something like this.

Thanks.

Less than a year after making these remarks and voting to approve installation of the bike lanes, Mammoliti reversed course. As part of his abortive campaign for mayor, he told The Toronto Star’s Robyn Doolittle “When I’m the mayor of the City of Toronto, if they succeed with these bike lanes, I will take them down — and that will be the first thing that I do.”

Mammoliti, now one of the most loyal Ford supporters on Council, will undoubtedly vote to remove the Jarvis Street bike lanes when the item comes before council at next month’s meeting.

He has yet to offer a credible explanation for why he changed his mind.


28
Jun 11

City Council Scorecard: How to save the Jarvis bike lanes

On May 25, 2009, a very different-looking Toronto City Council considered PW24.15, “Jarvis Street Streetscape Improvements – Class Environmental Assessment Study.” This item ultimately led to the installation of the controversial Jarvis Street bike lanes.

In the coming weeks, thanks to a motion by Councillor John Parker on PW5.1 “Bikeway Network – 2011 Update”, council will once again debate Jarvis Street, its role in the city, and whether it should continue to be of use to the 900+ cyclists who ride the route daily. While the exact nature of that debate is still a bit unclear — Public Works Chair Denzil Minnan-Wong would appear to favour the return of the reversible fifth lane, but the cost may be prohibitive — cycling advocates within the city have already begun a campaign to Save Jarvis Street.

But given the divisive nature of council and Mayor Rob Ford’s effectiveness when it comes to gathering support for major issues, the question has to be asked: Can the Jarvis lanes be saved? Is there any realistic hope of Rob Ford and company not getting their way?

Combining data from the 2009 vote and trends from my City Council Scorecard, an answer to that question does seem to emerge. And that answer is: maybe. But there are still a number of blanks that need to be filled in.

DISCLAIMER: This is highly speculative. For novelty purposes only.

Surprisingly, seven councillors who are currently hardline Ford supporters voted in favour of the bike plan on Jarvis Street in 2009. Joining them in support was Councillor Ron Moeser, who leans conservative but tends to vote more with his conscience than with the whip. The 2009 vote passed 28-16, with 1 absent. (I’ve included a breakdown of that vote at the bottom of this post. Just for the hell of it.)

Making a bunch of assumptions based on current voting patterns — along with some statements councillors have made since this issue resurfaced, e.g. Mary-Margaret McMahon’s comment on Twitter –, council currently breaks down with 17 in favour of keeping the Jarvis lanes, 15 opposed and 13 unknown votes. Six of the uncommitted councillors need to break for maintaining the status quo for the Jarvis lanes to win the day.

Of the unknowns, Councillors Mammoliti, Nunziata, Kelly, Palacio & Grimes are likely to flip-flop on their earlier position and support the removal of the lanes. It’s hypocritical and barely justifiable, but that won’t be enough to stop them.

Of the remaining eight, the best bets for cycling advocates are Councillors Matlow, Bailão, Colle, Moeser, Robinson and Di Giorgio. The first three will be significantly easier to convince than the last three, who might trot out the argument that, following the results of the 2010 election, Council has a democratic mandate to remove the Jarvis bike lanes.

It all adds up to a very tough-looking fight. The next council meeting is set for July 12.

If anyone has any information on voting intentions for the councillors I’ve identified as unknown — or if I’ve got a ‘likely’ vote wrong — please let me know and I’ll update the chart. I can be reached via email or on Twitter at @FordForToronto.

Continue reading →


24
Jun 11

What we talk about when we talk about Jarvis

At yesterday’s meeting of the Public Works & Infrastructure Committee, while discussing Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong’s new bike plan, Councillor John Parker moved an amendment to kill the bike lanes on Jarvis Street.

Here’s the text of Parker’s amendment:

City Council rescind its decision related to the bicycle lanes on Jarvis Street.

via Agenda Item History – 2011.PW5.1.

Council will debate the item at the July council meeting. If approved by a majority of council, the lanes will be removed.

No Justifiable Reason

I’m going to have lots to say about this over the coming weeks, but let’s get some stuff out of the way. First, the big one: as far as city planning, traffic engineering and economics go, there is seemingly no justifiable reason for removing the bike lanes on Jarvis.

The city’s own numbers tell the story. Since the lanes were installed, traffic levels for cars has remained at the same level as previous. Travel times increased by about two minutes in the morning, and three to five minutes in the afternoon. If that latter figure seems a tad high, staff agree, and are taking steps to correct it:

Much of the increased travel time could be attributed to the delays and queues experienced at the Jarvis Street/Gerrard Street East intersection, particularly in the northbound direction during the p.m. peak period.

The introduction of an advanced left turn phase in the northbound direction at this intersection, scheduled this summer, will reduce the delays at this intersection and the overall travel times between Queen Street East and Charles Street East.

via Bikeway network — 2011 Update. (pg 17)

Most notable, however, is that the total number of vehicles (cars + bikes) using the road in both directions during daily peak eight hour periods increased from approximately 13,290 to 14,180 after the installation of the lanes. 100% of this increase comes from bikes.

In other words: a $63,000 one-time investment in infrastructure increased the daily utility of a Toronto roadway by about 7%. That’s an incredible value-to-dollar ratio.

This isn’t some hippie pinko gut-based opinion. This is black-and-white fact. The Jarvis Street bike lanes aren’t preventing people from moving through the city. They’re enabling people to move through the city.

Let’s ignore cyclists in this debate

But, on this issue, we might be best to ignore cyclists. I have a very real concern that if we let this debate spiral into the same tired car-versus-bike war we’ve seen a dozen times before, bikes will lose. And lose bad.

Rob Ford car-friendliness isn’t just a part of his character. It turns out it’s also what drives some of his most bedrock support. In a post at OpenFile yesterday, John Michael McGrath took a look at an academic paper by doctoral candidate Zack Taylor at UofT, which laid out the strong correlation between people who commute by automobile to work and those that supported the mayor:

The other strong predictor in Taylor’s paper was car ownership and use. No surprise, the man who ran against “the war on the car” picked up the support of Toronto’s most car-dependent areas. “Toronto isn’t the only place you’re seeing this happen. Once you own a car, once you experience the street as a car—a car driver—you experience anything that impedes you as an annoyance,” says Taylor.

via Why suburban motorists voted for Ford, and why this is news | OpenFile.

If the Jarvis lanes are simply held up as a key battleground in the ever-ongoing war between cars and bikes in the city, Rob Ford likely still has enough clout on council and enough popular support to kill the lanes. It’s as simple as that.

You bike guys had your way with the previous council, they’ll say, but things are different now. We have to give the people what they want.

What Jarvis Street means

Jarvis Street was, for much of Toronto’s history, a place for Toronto’s well-off. One of the richest thoroughfares in the city, it was lined with trees and huge mansion homes setback from the roadway. To illustrate, BlogTO’s Derek Flack compiled a beautiful-then-sad series of images that sets the scene.

Spacing’s Shawn Micallef described the old Jarvis in an Eye Weekly column as “once the most beautiful street in Toronto” that “has been reverse-gentrified and turned into a fat arterial traffic pipe between North Toronto and downtown.”

The widening of Jarvis street and the installation of a reversible centre lane — one that flowed south in the morning and north in the evening — immediately changed the character of the roadway.

During the first debate over what to do with Jarvis, a local resident told the National Post’s Allison Haines that “many consider Jarvis Street to be a freeway and it’s not – it’s a downtown city street.”

Yes, Jarvis is a downtown city street. It’s a street with numerous homes — and more coming, with a recent condo proposal for the once-thought-uninhabitale Dundas intersection — businesses and institutions. The National Ballet School calls the northern part of Jarvis Street home, as does a public high school and a large downtown Toronto park and conservatory.

The Jarvis bike lanes were not part of the original plan to revitalize Jarvis Street. The thought was to instead improve the pedestrian realm with wide sidewalks and landscaping. The idea was that the street would look like this:

 

via Jarvis Street Streetscape Improvements Class Environmental Assessment Study (2009) pg 13

That may have been a better option in the long-term than what we got — further improvements to the streetscape on Jarvis seem to have stalled out after the bike lanes were installed — but the two approaches carry one thing in common: both called for the removal of the reversible fifth lane.

Removing that lane under any context was a huge win for Jarvis Street.

It’s unclear at this point whether Parker’s motion means that the fifth lane will be reinstalled if council approves his amendment, but it is important that councillors understand that Jarvis Street about far more than just travel times. It is a downtown city street with all that entails: a place for people to live, learn and work.

Any further discussion about what to do with Jarvis must take that into account. It is not and should never be again thought of as a mere urban arterial, where speed is king, and nothing else matters. Not only does that sort of argument shortchange the growing number of people who call the area home, it also ignores the huge economic impact a revitalized Jarvis could have.