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What needs to happen to get more funding to GO Transit?  It really ought to be expanded.  This is what I was thinking about today:

1. Go Transit needs the least subsidies per ride in North America.  It’s a great investment in infrastructure and you get a good bang for your taxpayer buck. (Source: Wikipedia for the comparison, GO Transit (Background section) for the claim that it’s consistent)

2. The new GO trains hold over 1900* people each (new engines can pull 12 passenger coaches rather than 10).  How many cars is that?  Let’s do some math, and choose values that hurt my argument.  A 10-coach train could hold about 1580 people.  Metrolinx reports that “Currently the average vehicle travelling on the GTHA’s roads and highways during the morning rush hour carries less than 1.2 people” so let’s use 1.25, because the info seems like it’s from 2008.  1580/1.25 equals 1264 cars that could be taken off the road with a single GO train.  So I wondered how much space that would take on the highway.  1264 cars/3 per “row” is just over 420 rows of cars.  And I’ll estimate the length of a car to be 4 metres, which means that all those cars would fill the DVP one way from Bloor to Dundas, bumper to bumper.

*Edit (10/24/16:00) A reader noted that this is the seating capacity; I didn’t read carefully.  I can’t find an accurate figure for standing passenger capacity. Maybe an extra 40-50%?  Well, all the more reason to add trains.

I’m not even going to get into the environmental aspect (like CO2 emissions), the economical aspect (like productivity/man-hours lost in traffic), or how awesome it would be if they re-opened North Toronto Station (at Summerhill) so you could get from Kipling to Old Cummer or Agincourt in less time than it would be to drive.

How can I put this idea forward to the right people?

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Also why I don’t pick up dimes off the ground

xkcd comic 951

This reminded me of this earlier post, being another way how people think they’re saving money when they’re not. (from xkcd.com)

 

Ever wondered what your time is worth?  If you’re shopping for a product online, and you spend 3 hours online and save $20, was that really worth all that effort?  I’m not even 100% sure it’s worth it (from an economics standpoint) if the item is relatively cheap (it seems less useful if you’re buying a car*, but is it?)

Anyhow, it makes more sense to think of your time as valued at your salary.  If you make $20/hr, and you have work to do, any time spent saving money had better save you money at a higher rate.  Taking three hours for $20 just wouldn’t be worth it.

If you’re just a busy person (with activities & tasks other than work), and free time is hard to come by, then it makes sense to value your time similarly.  Think of it from this perspective: If you have work, taking your kids to soccer practice, your own social life, and necessary time to eat and relax, then if you can save yourself 3 hours of free time for only $20, wouldn’t you take that deal?

This doesn’t mean I’m advocating buying from the first place you find something, but if it doesn’t look promising after half an hour, the possible savings had better be worth it.

* we’re assuming identical products, so this isn’t the best example.  Just saying I’m aware.

 

Ride for Jarvis

I attended the Ride for Jarvis this week, organized by the Toronto Bike Union.  I enjoyed taking part, and I believe the cause is worthy.  We cyclists are not even asking for more, we’re just asking not to lose what we have.  We don’t want Toronto to be taking steps backwards.

We should be getting more, but that isn’t even the point right now.  Claiming we need more space for cars, the bike lanes are being removed in favour of returning the reversible lane.  However, studies have shown that adding more roads or more lanes just means more cars fill that space (npr.org article which references a UToronto study).  Bike lanes might affect traffic, but you know what contributes even more to gridlock?  More cars.

The counterargument is that when the two cars at an intersection want to turn left and right, nobody can get through.  The fifth lane helped the busier direction by ensuring always at least one lane would flow.  Possible remedies: restrict left turns, or even right turns.  It would be nice if Toronto had more one-way streets, because then that happens automatically.  Anyway, the only reason this is even an issue is because Jarvis used to have that feature.  Driving on Yonge, or Queen, or College, you can often find the same problem.  Yes, it’s a nuisance, but that’s what driving downtown is like.

And for those who say Jarvis is “intended to” be a quick route downtown for those midtowners, via Mt. Pleasant, I say that the bigger traffic problems are on Mt. Pleasant itself.  The northbound afternoon rush is backed up from St. Clair all the way down to Roxborough (approx 1.7 km, with only one traffic light in that span).

I say “intended to” with quotation marks, because not only is that a debatable issue, but it seems ridiculous that roads are created for one specific purpose.  Shouldn’t they be multipurpose?  Connecting people and places, being an avenue for cars, streetcars, bikes and buses, being part of a neighbourhood or community or facilitating commerce, or just plain being beautiful (rather than barren).

This is an issue of fairness (we just want to share the road), and safety (bike lanes make streets safer for cyclists).  It just seems ridiculous to rescind what’s already been provided, at large cost in a year when the mayor is projecting a large shortfall (which is being used as a political tactic to push through right-wind ideology)

I wonder if it would be effective to organize similar events for lanes on Birchmount and Pharmacy.

More links:

Cycling as a women’s issue – Torontoist article

Toronto Bike Union – they organized the event

Downtown Relief Line (part 4)

This Thought will look at the West end of a potential Downtown Relief Line.

But first: I was thinking about the Greenwood plan from part 3, and while I still support the benefits of a transfer at Greenwood, my idea for a stop at Greenwood and Cosburn was shaken a little when I biked past that intersection and found it to be amongst a scattering of bungalows, with nowhere near what is necessary to support a station. A potential solution to this: from Greenwood/Danforth, continue southwest like my original idea. But the line would then curve northwest, maybe to Donlands and Cosburn, which is a busier area and closer to apartments on Cosburn, and still fairly central in the East York area. The subway line could go underneath Greenwood station, and curving northwest might actually help connect it to the Greenwood subway yard (which is west of Greenwood Ave… remember that Greenwood station is actually a block east of there).

Okay, the west end! We left off at Niagara Station (King at Bathurst). Like I mentioned earlier, King is better than Queen, because it passes through high-density neighbourhoods. West of Bathurst, then, I would place a stop at Shaw St (2nd exit: Crawford St), to get the middle of a cluster of buildings, and also to connect to the Ossington bus.

West of there, there is some debate over the best choice. If it is possible to continue along the rail corridor, then it would save a lot of money to do so, and not serve much less than if the line had stops at King and Dufferin, and King and Jameson.
The rail corridor plan is better not just because it would be cheaper to build, but having fewer stops would be more economically efficient, and also provide a faster trip.
Continuing along King would better serve the area (after stops at Dufferin and Jameson, others might be at Roncesvalles and King, and Roncesvalles and Howard Park) but would be slower and more expensive.

I would advocate the rail corridor if possible. After stopping at Queen and Dufferin, there might be a possibility for one more stop before Dundas West Station. The rail corridor is a good continuation north of Bloor. Stops at St. Clair and Eglinton are obvious for their east-west connections, even if they don’t have supporting density. To fill in the holes (if worthwhile), Dupont/Annette would be a good midpoint between Bloor and St. Clair, and Rogers Road between St. Clair and Eglinton. Both these streets have bus connections.

It is probably less worthwhile to have these extra stops than it would be in the Thorncliffe and Flemingdon neighbourhoods, because a bus connection seems less important than providing excellent transit service to high-density areas. They haven’t even built stations between major avenues on Yonge Street, so how could an Annette or Rogers station be justified?

Stations in the west end, continuing from the east:
Shaw (at King)
Parkdale (Queen/Dufferin)
Dundas West
Earlscourt (St. Clair)
Mount Dennis (Eglinton)

Affordable Housing

I read a couple of recent articles in the newspaper that reported on a possible plan to include affordable housing in most/all new developments. Sounds like a great idea, since integrating different economic statuses has been proven effective; see St. Lawrence Market (and the opposite idea ineffective; see Regent Park).

Okay, but then developers say that’s not fair, whine whine, etc. It might not be fair to them, but it’s my understanding that development is a fairly lucrative business. Especially when you’re building condos that are sold before construction even begins. Hell, I could theoretically afford to build a condo if I make $35M in revenue before actually building anything.

So the developers say that the revenue lost by having some cheaper units will be passed on to the rest of the buyers. And I think they say the same thing when regulations force them to build green roofs or any other “inconvenient” extra expense.

To me, on one hand, fine. Either the buyers pay a bit more, or the government has to subsidize the affordable housing / green roofs / other, which comes from taxpayers anyway. You can’t really force the developers to lose some profit because of our equity agenda.

On another hand, this seems underhanded of the developers. Even if governments say, for instance, ‘1 of every 3 buildings you do must be affordable housing, and it must represent 20% of all units’, then they will sell units from the other 2 for more money to compensate. So if we make developers contribute to affordable housing, the costs are just passed on to others anyway.

So the government almost might as well build it themselves. But why should they be responsible for building housing that probably generates a net loss, and not be in the lucrative part of the business? Seriously, can’t the City of Toronto develop its own land, with mixed income housing, and actually generate itself some profit? There must be some reason… I’m guessing there’s a law on conflict of interest, except that it would allow the city to provide more social services, which seems too beneficial to ignore as a possibility. Seriously, whose interests are at risk, other than developers? The city would just be competition.

Maybe the city gets a tax from development, and that’s why they’re ok with the status quo.

…hmm, maybe those taxes are ALSO being passed on to the other buyers. Now I think that the tax developers pay is effectively 0%. I might be cynical, but perhaps with good cause!

Facebook Shouldn’t Have A Dislike Button

For at least a few months now, people on Facebook have been clamouring for a “Dislike” button to match the “Like” feature that’s been rather popular among users. I think this idea is stupid.

Reason #1: It’s been done. Reddit, Digg, and other social bookmarking sites, and probably many more such things, have points assigned to posts. I’m talking posts of all kinds: links, photos, notes, just like in facebook (and this website, even). The points are given by users, who vote up or down. The most popular posts rise to the top of the lists and get more views. It works well in filtering out less interesting and less funny material, and helps a browser (you know, a person who browses) find the best stuff quickly.

But on Facebook, the only posts you see are from friends and pages/groups that you choose to add. And sometimes also 500 other people who you met once but just had to add to Facebook so you can stalk them or appear more popular (omigod you have 879 friends well actually i have 933 i guess i’m just cool like that). But anyway: the whole concept of Facebook is to connect to things you already like. It’s its OWN quality filter. And you probably know what friends are more likely to post stuff you’re interested in.

Reason #2: Online bullying. When they stopped only accepting university and college students on the site, high school students flocked to it like pararazzi to Britney Spears. Just think of the ways to be cruel with this button. Think of your recent status updates or posts, and imagine your feelings if you received even one “dislike”.

And high school students can be mean as fuck. So can adults, of course, but we’re less likely to click “dislike” on everything the unpopular kid does. I can even picture innocuous “dislike”s creating firestorms of rage and broken friendships, due to simple misunderstandings. Yes, I’m being extreme, but a dislike button would have the potential to devastate. And yes, there is already the option to comment, negatively, but the dislike button is a quick-and-easy weapon that requires no thought. That is yet another part of its power.

The dislike button is sought-after in part for quick-and-easy responses to posts like “Ross has to work until 8pm tonight :(” or other things that merit sympathy. But the disadvantages of implementing this feature far outweigh any benefit. Facebook, if you’re reading this, I am available to work in your development department. From home.

Downtown Relief Line (part 3)

This Thought will discuss routes in the east end of the line.

The goals for this part of the line are:
– to alleviate congestion on the Danforth by transferring passengers south
– to provide a faster route downtown
– to service high-density areas

The DRL Subway Line will cross the Don River as far north as Queen Street, or more likely go through the Athletes’ Village area (West Don Lands) and cross at the old King Street bridge.

Eastern Avenue doesn’t seem like a good candidate street for a subway. It could use a public transit line, but a low-density industrial street doesn’t merit a subway line. Big box stores don’t deserve a subway line. So running the line east on Eastern doesn’t make much sense.

In fact, Queen is the only east-west avenue that would make sense, if any at all. None of the thoroughfares in Riverdale or Leslieville have much density, but Queen has its advantages. Three streetcar routes travel along Queen from Broadview to Kingston Road, and the 504 joins there to cross the river. It’s a serious bottleneck, so any worthwhile subway line will make some impact alleviating this congestion.

But don’t forget: the subway line might go along King! A King subway line would make obselete the 503 or 504, or both, and even using Wellington, one line could be eliminated. Even the Queen streetcars might need less service, if longer-distance travel can be handled by the subway line.

So a station at Queen and Broadview is not 100% necessary, but it seems likely, with few good reasons to put stations on Eastern.

Before we think about stations in that area, it’s important to think about north-south configurations. The original plan for the line went up Pape Avenue. Pape is a good choice for a few reasons. The current plan for the Don Mills LRT has the line’s terminus at Pape station. Pape has little density itself, but it passes through the middle of a string of apartments along Cosburn Avenue. Finally, there is a clear path toward the Thorncliffe Park area that would be quite a detour if the line were to follow Coxwell Avenue. Coxwell doesn’t have much density either, so it’s not great. Broadview is too far west. Although it has density, it doesn’t service as large an area, and is already well-served by streetcars. Donlands is too close to Pape to be a better option.

I think the only decent alternative to Pape is Greenwood. It has less density than Pape, but it does have a clear route to the large Thorncliffe Park area. It makes available the Greenwood subway yard, and possibly most importantly, it would better alleviate congestion on the Danforth line by taking passengers off at an earlier point. These two points make Greenwood at least a decent candidate.  Remember, this is all hypothetical, and 25 years away at least, so it’s possible by then that Greenwood would be a better choice.

I’m throwing my support behind Greenwood, but there is a potential snag: the Don River. Depending on environmental assessments and construction requirements, it may not be feasible to cross the river anywhere near there. If that were the case, Pape, if possible, would be the choice. It’s also annoying that Greenwood station is actually a block east, at Linsmore Crescent, but that can be worked around.

Greenwood! All right, but taking the line down Greenwood to Queen wouldn’t be ideal. A diagonal direction would be best here, because you can take a quicker path to save time on the commute. Only a couple of stations would be needed, possibly Queen/Broadview, Dundas/Carlaw, and Gerrard/Jones.

Finally, north of Danforth: only one station south of the river is needed, and it should be at Cosburn, because it’s central in the area. Cross the river to Thorncliffe, and then curve north east to Don Mills Road, where the line will continue north, until at least Eglinton, if not Sheppard. Don Mills is an obvious choice. It’s already slated for an LRT, but as long as I’m dreaming, I may as well make it a subway.  If the Don Mills LRT does get built, it would be silly to stretch the DRL to Greenwood, so Pape Station would be the terminus.

Stations in the east end, continuing from the west:
Queen East (at Broadview)
Carlaw (at Dundas)
Gerrard (at Jones)
Greenwood
Cosburn (at Greenwood)
Thorncliffe Park (or “East York Centre”)
Overlea (at Don Mills)
Flemingdon Park (Don Mills at Eglinton)

The 503 streetcar line could be eliminated, and a lot of East York apartments would have excellent transit service, and hopefully could choose transit over driving.

In the next chapter, I’ll similarly analyze the west end of the line.

Downtown Relief Line (part 2)

For this part of my DRL Thought, I’m going to explain possible east-west alignments for the downtown section of the line.

The line was originally planned to use the rail corridor south of Front Street, so that it could be above ground in order to save money on construction (and maintenance?). The line would cross the Don River at or south of Eastern Avenue, and follow the GO/Via rail path to a connection at Union Station, and continue west from there.

I don’t think the system would do best to have the DRL run through Union Station, for several reasons:

As Yonge/Bloor shows us every day, single connection points can quickly become overloaded. TTC’s Union Station, currently with the smallest platform in the subway system, would struggle to accommodate yet another connection, on top of its surface rail routes, and streetcar and bus lines. There are plans to build a second platform for Union, making one for each northbound direction, but there is already a lot being squeezed into one node.

What about the rail corridor in general? There are plans to build a large development in the west Don lands (south of Eastern Ave and east of Parliament St), so a subway serving that area would improve the accessibility in that area. In fact, the development is going to be the Athletes’ Village for the recently-awarded Pan-Am Games.

Other high-density or high-importance spots near the rail corridor: the Skydome and ACC, the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, the CN Tower, and the St. Lawrence and CityPlace neighbourhoods.

But many of those things are already well-served by transit. Union itself is a short walk from all but one of those six locations. And since Union might not be the best choice for a connection node, we should consider other options.

Look up Lower Queen station. There was a plan to build another east-west route across Queen Street. Downtown, Queen seems ideal for a subway line. There is a lot of high-density development and places of interest, and the Queen streetcar is known for being a nightmare. Two connections to the YUS line, at Yonge and University, mean there would be less pressure on one single station. However, outside the downtown area, Queen has an excellent shopping strip that is well-served by streetcar. Being able to see the stores you pass is an excellent reason to have a streetcar line. Older Torontonians have told me that parts of Yonge and Danforth suffered when shoppers were moved underground.  Also, outside the downtown area, Queen has far less density than other east-west routes.

Which brings me to King Street. Downtown, King goes through the centre of the financial district, with the tallest office buildings. To me this means more commuters who could be served by subway. It also covers a greater scope of the Entertainment District. East of downtown, King is nearer to higher-density neighbourhoods, George Brown College, and even the west Don lands. West of downtown, King has a much higher density than Queen; the difference is notable just west of Spadina.

I had also considered Wellington Street for a section of downtown (possibly King west of Spadina, down to Wellington, and then continue when Wellington becomes Front Street), but though this places the line closer to some extremely important downtown spots, it also may create problems when creating transfer points at King and St. Andrew stations, simply for distance reasons. I consider this option to be nearly equivalent to King, the deciding factors being connecting to the YUS line, and where skyscrapers prevent tunnels from being built.

Stations in the downtown area, west to east:
Niagara (King at Bathurst)
Spadina South (at King)
St. Andrew (possible 2nd entrance on Simcoe Street)
King
Jarvis (at King, 2nd entrance on George Street)
Parliament (at King)
Athletes Village (around Eastern at St. Lawrence)

In future parts, I’ll talk about my thoughts of the east and west ends of the line.

Thought 3: The Hamilton Coyotes

I would love for the Phoenix Coyotes to move to Hamilton. It seems clear to me at this point that Gary Bettman has a personal vendetta against Jim Balsillie. I wonder if it’s just Bettman who has the dream of southern hockey, or if many other NHL executives share this vision. It really doesn’t seem like it’ll work…

One of the main reasons the newspapers touted at first for this resistance was that if the NHL expands, the new team has to pay a few dozen million dollars directly to the other owners. If the Phoenix franchise were to fold, rather than relocate, the league would have an open spot for expansion, and create that revenue for owners.

Another reason suggested was the territorial claims of the Leafs (and maybe to a lesser extent, the Sabres). If the teams have veto power, then the anti-trust argument should stand up in court. The Leafs even admitted believing they have such a power. I wonder how the NHL will get around that.

Something the media hasn’t mentioned is the salary cap rules. Many teams are already struggling to meet the minimum salary range, which is tied to overall league revenue. If granted, a Hamilton franchise would probably find itself in the top 25% of revenues, up from the bottom 25%. This would mean a significant increase in both the salary cap and the floor, and the already-struggling teams (in the south, of course) would be pressed even harder. It’s possible as much as one-third of the owners would veto a move to Hamilton, based solely on their own teams’ finances.

Interestingly enough, the Toronto Maple Leafs might in fact benefit from a Hamilton team, because of the competition it would create. The front office has been able to sit back on a low-talent team for years, because they have no shortage of die-hard fans. They sell out every single game at extortionate prices. But this means the desire to assemble a winning team is secondary. However, with a Hamilton franchise, the threat of Leafs fans embracing (and paying for) the new team would make the Leafs front office work much harder for a Stanley Cup. The Air Canada Centre would almost certainly remain packed night after night. And it would be a blessing for Leafs fans and Leaf haters alike in this hockey-starved market.