Dissecting Mayor Ford’s Jarvis letter

Hundreds of cyclists, concerned about their personal safety, have been  e-mailing their Councillors and the Mayor about the looming removal of bike lanes on Jarvis Street.  The Mayor’s office is responding to each message, with a form letter explaining his position. While the Mayor deserves credit for being responsive, most of the information in the letter is questionable and perhaps misleading. Let’s take a look:

Thank you for your email regarding the bike lanes on Jarvis Street. I appreciate hearing from you. Toronto’s economy loses billions of dollars every year from gridlock and traffic congestion. We need to make the situation better – not worse.

Yes, that is true.  But traffic engineers have known for decades that the ONLY way to reduce congestion is to provide alternatives such as cycling and public transit.  Widening streets, or adding car lanes, serves to INCREASE congestion in the long run by bringing more cars into the downtown area.  The goal is “modal shift”, and that’s exactly what the Jarvis lanes were designed to do.  By making the street safer, bicycle usage went up 300%.  Meanwhile, car usage remained the same.  Mission accomplished.

The Jarvis Street bike lanes experiment has been a failure. Ninety-four percent of commuters now face longer commutes on Jarvis Street. Over 15,000 commuters each day are suffering from longer travel times, for the sake of 600 additional cyclists.

First of all, the Jarvis lanes were not an experiment.  They were approved by City Council, and are part of our City’s bike network – a network that thousands of cyclists depend on.  Second, the lanes have not been a failure.  City staff consider them to be a success. Fact: The “longer commute” is negligible, and city staff already have a plan to reduce the wait time by adding an advance green during rush hour.

As for the “600 additional cyclists”, this is a very misleading number.  That statistic is based on an eight hour count, which means only one rush hour was included (either morning afternoon).  Based on city data, it’s safe to say that close to 2,000 bike trips occur on Jarvis each weekday.  Those numbers have increased greatly since the installation of the bike lanes.  That means 300% more cyclists, traveling safely, to  work or to school at Jarvis Collegiate each day.  That is called a “success”.

The City should remove the bike lanes as soon as possible and improve travel times for thousands of daily commuters. City staff have been directed to develop a low-cost plan to do so.

There is no “low cost” plan that will improve traffic times.  It doesn’t exist.  That’s why this administration is moving so quickly with removal:  because the proposal makes no sense and they are trying to minimise both debate and scrutiny.  There is no plan to re-install the signals on the middle lane, so we may even see an INCREASE in congestion because without bikelanes we’ll  have hundreds of cyclists trying to share the curb lane!  The lane is too narrow for cars to pass bikes, so they will all be forced into the passing lane. This will SLOW DOWN traffic, create enormous levels of tension – and someone is going to get  hurt badly.

Bike lanes were never intended to be installed on Jarvis Street. The original Environmental Assessment recommended against installing bike lanes – but City Council amended the report to approve bike lanes anyway.

But the Environmental Assessment DID recommend removing the middle lane.  So how does this relate to the ‘congestion’ discussion? There is nothing in this proposal to remove bike lanes  that will help drivers, unless you want to ban bikes completely, re-install the middle lane with signals (huge $$$), ignore all of staff’s recommendations, crack open a 1960’s urban planning textbook, and turn Jarvis into a highway.  (Problem is, where will all those cars go, when they hit the bottom of Jarvis?)

As promised during the mayoral election, I am dedicated to delivering customer service excellence, creating a transparent and accountable government, reducing the size and cost of government and building a transportation city.

“Transparent and accountable?”  Nothing could be further from the truth.  This process has been carefully choreographed in order to ensure that there was no public consultation. The motion was deliberately moved at the last minute (after public deputations) to stifle debate and delay opposition voices. And the local Councillor, Kristyn Wong-Tam, was completely left out of the process – along with every single resident in her ward who depend on her to represent their needs at City Hall.

The process was not ‘transparent’ – it was secretive.  And it was not ‘accountable’ – it was deceptive and intentionally circumvented the proper mechanisms of accountability: Standing Committee and Public Consultation.  ‘Accountability’, without consultation, is a meaningless word.  Accountable to whom?  To what?

Thank you again for taking the time to share your thoughts. Please feel free to contact my office again at any time. Yours truly, Mayor Rob Ford City of Toronto

Have YOU contacted the Mayor’s office and your Councillor?  There is still time to be heard.  Click here to join the campaign for safe streets and fair process.  And click here to join us at City Council on July 12/13.

Democracy belongs to those who stand up and participate.

photo credit: Toronto Star.

24 responses to “Dissecting Mayor Ford’s Jarvis letter

  1. Dave, I know how this is going to sound, but what does this say about the effort to engage the Ford Administration cordially and collaboratively? Finding common ground is a little difficult when the other side has no interest in reaching out …

    • Who isnt reaching out? I see plenty of reaching out from the “other side” Just no response from the Ford Twins. The “other side” as you put it has been plenty productive coming up suggestions, requesting for opportunities to be consulted. There can be no reaching out if the other had isnt extended. I think of all the people Dave Meslin gave Ford a chance and the benefit of doubt.

  2. Speak truth to power I say. Ford brothers are bullys and bullys only respond to a strong and courageous efforts.

  3. “Yes, that is true. But traffic engineers have known for decades that the ONLY way to reduce congestion is to provide alternatives such as cycling and public transit.”

    “As promised during the mayoral election, I am dedicated to delivering customer service excellence, creating a transparent and accountable government, reducing the size and cost of government and building a transportation city.”

    Both these statements are based in complete nonsense, and should not have been included in either the letter or the reply. We are not going to solve Toronto’s traffic problems by taking positions. There are probably a dozen or more BETTER ways of reducing congestion than changing the predominance of transportation modes; and Ford has been neither transparent nor accountable, and certainly not excellent in too many instances since he took office.

  4. I emailed the Mayor’s office with quotes from his pro-traffic form letter and some of the points you mention (including a link back to this post.) I’m curious to see if I’ll get the same form letter I quoted in response.

  5. Engaging the Ford Administration cordially and collaboratively has been the problem from the moment he was elected (well, before too, but anyway…) — he has ZERO INTEREST in collaboration or compromise and I’m sad to see more and more people learning this the hard way. Massive public response is the only thing that will shift him so we’ve got a lot of work to do :(

  6. “Finding common ground . . .” is not a synonym for “appeasement,” particularly when those with whom you are seeking “common ground” have made it quite plain that to them “finding common ground” is a synonym for “nice doggy” while they go looking for a bigger stick.

    The meek will inherit the Earth – because Heaven is reserved for those who did something about attaining it.

  7. All excellent points, and I’ll throw in one more: The City report says Jarvis sees about 13,000 vehicles. So where does Ford’s 15,000 come from?

  8. Pingback: Dissecting Mayor Ford’s Jarvis letter (via Mez Dispenser) « Chris Drew Consulting

  9. I drive in Toronto with a car on “Jarvis” and like what FORD is doing. 356,000 voters put Ford in office. The highest in history

    • 365,000 suburban voters….who will not be affected by these policies.

    • Just to be clear –
      You’d rather have motorists and cyclists share the same lanes on Jarvis, than continue to have them separated into their own lanes?

    • I also drive with a car on Jarvis and my experience is that it is much better now. Commute times are not really any different and it seems like there are fewer aggressive motorists. Taking the bike lanes out is a waste of money just as Ford said himself during the election. Putting the fifth lane back is just stupid.

      Let’s see how many people vote for him next time around.

  10. I found this post via a friend on facebook and I LOVE what you’ve got to say.

  11. The reason to seek out common ground is not necessarily to reach mutually-agreeable compromises with Ford or other councillors. As we now know, the current administration is not interested in compromise.

    In fact, it is not even interested in its own purported values, since removing the Jarvis bike lanes will be, as the mayor said during the election campaign, “a waste of money.” The only thing that has changed between then and now is that we now have data that proves removing the lanes will be a waste of money. The bike lanes have not significantly affected motorized traffic, while bike traffic has tripled.

    Dave says “There is no plan to re-install the signals on the middle lane.” In fact, that may indeed be the plan, or it may not. It certainly seems to be the mayor’s goal. We simply don’t know what it means to “rescind” the Jarvis bike lanes, and any principled conservative should be very worried that we don’t know.

    In any case, it is important to still demonstrate reasonableness and respect for different viewpoints. We still need to reach out, not necessarily to Ford and his council cronies, but to the folks who put them in office. I firmly believe that Ford was elected by sensible people who saw him as a regular guy who was on their side. Smitherman was an obvious opportunist, Pantalone a has-been, and everyone else was either out of their minds or delusional about some policy or another. In some ways, the election was a back-handed compliment to Dave Meslin, because every candidate was a fringe candidate.

    Anyway, Ford’s honeymoon will soon be over, and I strongly suspect he will turn toxic to many of his former supporters, especially lower-income people who honestly thought Ford was going to help them. In fact, I believe we are experiencing a tipping point right now, with Ford’s odious Pride stance. I have talked to many suburban Ford supporters who are very disappointed and just can’t understand why Ford would allow himself to appear as a homophobe. The lights are coming on.

    So progressive types need to show the general public that we’re not a bunch of rabid pinkos, but sensible people willing to work through our differences. And we need to hold accountable the council cowards who are empowering Ford by making it clear that if they blindly support Ford, we will make sure they wear Ford for the rest of their term. And when Ford goes down, they will too.

    You can start by asking Mark Grimes why he just voted to reinstall the middle Jarvis lane he voted to remove just two years ago. We can ask whether Councillors Di Giorgio, Kelly, Mammoliti, Milczyn, Moeser, Nunziata and Palacio will join Grimes in this flip-flopping wastefulness. And we can ask purported fiscal conservative John Parker why he would choose to divert hundreds of thousands of dollars from other priorities to reinstall the middle Jarvis lane, when the City’s own data show that its removal has not significantly affected traffic?

    And we can ask Mayor Ford why he would break his election promise not to waste taxpayer money by removing the Jarvis bike lanes.

  12. Clide Rockwell

    I wonder if the increase in cycling along Jarvis with no net decrease in vehicular traffic while utilizing existing road resources is consistent with the principles of Six Sigma that Doug Ford thinks the City should incorporate into it’s practices. Time to get a few of those “Black Belts” to advise us.

  13. Kathryn Siegel

    The link to the facebook page appears to be broken.

  14. Murray Lumley

    Dear Mayor Ford, City Councillors and MPP’s:

    Below are links to one technical research paper written by two University of Toronto researchers and two related articles for your enlightenment, all shedding light on the continuing debate about bike lanes and transit in general in Toronto.

    1. The Fundamental Law of Road Congestion: Evidence from US cities, By GILLES DURANTON AND MATTHEW A. TURNER

    2. Why Building Roads Creates Traffic, Posted on Monday June 6, 2011, by Eric Jaffe for The Infrastructurist – Ameica Under Construction

    3. Across Europe, Irking Drivers Is Urban Policy, By ELISABETH ROSENTHAL, Published: June 26, 2011, New York Times

    The exhaustive data of the research paper leads to the inescapable conclusion that increasing transit options and bike lanes make no contribution to alleviating road congestion. The authors conclude that when a road space is freed up by public transit, a new car driver fills that space – and that car and driver did not come from another congested road – it is just a new car and driver. (The paper has nothing to say about the safety provided to bike riders by separated bike lanes, so I still agree with providing separate bike lanes.) The authors also say that their research is of interest for three reasons: 1. excessive person time wasted by congestion, 2. the excessive costs to society of congestion, 3. transportation represents a third of carbon emissions that contribute to global warming and congestion just aggravates this problem.

    The authors, in the last two lines of their conclusion on page 35 say:
    “These findings suggest that both road capacity expansions and extensions to public transit are not appropriate policies with which to combat traffic congestion. This leaves congestion pricing as the main candidate tool to curb traffic congestion.”

    Therefore the paper’s conclusion says that transit, whether surface or subway (and bike lanes), do not create congestion – only cars and trucks do that.

    This is why I find it odd that there are proposals to be voted on at the next City Council meeting to remove newly installed bike lanes from Jarvis Street (as well as from Pharmacy and Birchmount) which city published data indicates have increased bike traffic from 300 cycle trips to 900 cycle trip per day – an increase of 300%. This also means that there are 900 fewer car trips on Jarvis.

    Replies from Mayor Ford’s office to citizens who have written to him about this matter, say in part:

    “Thank you for your email regarding the bike lanes on Jarvis Street. I appreciate hearing from you. Toronto’s economy loses billions of dollars every year from gridlock and traffic congestion. We need to make the situation better – not worse.
    The Jarvis Street bike lanes experiment has been a failure. Ninety-four percent of commuters now face longer commutes on Jarvis Street. Over 15,000 commuters each day are suffering from longer travel times, for the sake of 600 additional cyclists.
    The City should remove the bike lanes as soon as possible and improve travel times for thousands of daily commuters. City staff have been directed to develop a low-cost plan to do so.”

    In light of the research paper conclusions – the solution offered by Mayor Ford’s letter is absurd. It is not the bikes that are causing the congestion – it is the cars and trucks themselves because if more road space is provided for cars those spaces will just fill up with new drivers and according to article #2 this is really old news. The authors say that the only solution to car and truck congestion is ‘congestion pricing’.

    A few weeks ago, Gordon Chong, head of Toronto Transit Commission’s consulting subsidiary, suggested just such a solution for Toronto’s congestion and both Mayor Ford and Doug Ford said they would never implement a congestion fee on Toronto’s roads.

    So please stop blaming cyclists for congestion – that accusation is misplaced. Also, since there is no solution to congestion except congestion pricing, it does not matter what kind of transit is built. Why not build Transit City surface transit since it is cheaper, will serve more people and will get built quicker.

    While I was reading this paper and the articles, it occurred to me that what I was reading represented reality. If a person encounters reality but for some reason fails to recognize it, we usually conclude that the person is out of touch with reality and is therefore mentally ill. Are many of us mentally ill or just ill-informed or mis-informed? It is up to political leaders to tell the citizenry the truth and then lead toward that truth. This is not what is happening now.

  15. I was very favourably impressed by Mr. Lumley’s refreshing approach of using reality to discuss this topic. He opened up the debate to a new perspective of applying research and data to it in place of the opinion and emotional energy that has been driving it.

    However, the latter conclusion in his entry, “Also, since there is no solution to congestion except congestion pricing, it does not matter what kind of transit is built. Why not build Transit City surface transit since it is cheaper, will serve more people and will get built quicker.” depends upon yet another opinion that there is only one solution to traffic congestion. This might be the case in someone’s personal theoretical construct; but not in reality, as we can determine from both cities that have indeed solved traffic congestion without congestion pricing or ‘Transit City’-type congestion creation (witness Spadina and St. Clair, where not only congestion has been aggravated but where businesses on the street report a decrease in overall income of 35 to 50 per cent based upon pre-‘Transit City’ customer traffic) and the evolution of automobile traffic into an eco-sustainable form of transportation –to be completed, claim the major automobile manufacturers, within the next eight years.

    Stats Canada and empirical observation inform us that not only the creation of roads causes more traffic, but this phenomenon is aggravated by an increased number of residents –both local and commuting– who use automobiles to get around because they have made a deliberate choice of expensive convenience over readily available public transit.

    The argument for “congestion pricing” comes from a mentality of ‘force vs. money’ (in both directions of the debate), and limits solutions that otherwise actually abound in other realms of possibility to a very complex single and, unfortunately, ultimately non-viable one.

    “Unfortunately” because it really would be nice if the solution to congestion would be as simple as that suggested by a PUBLIC TRANSIT PLANNER whose livelihood depends completely on the implementation of MORE public transit (and the penalization of non-public-transit users in order to somehow magically change the minds of people who have chosen other forms of transportation over public transit) had a solution THAT SERVED US ALL instead of his own bank account and that of the public transit authority.

    In arriving at genuine solutions to what we all agree is a pressing problem, the study needs to remain open to examination of all the possible solutions. An ultimate solution will embrace all forms of transportation: creating smooth, efficient traffic flow.

  16. I had the pleasure of electorally stumping the entire St. Clair West Business district as a candidate during the past election and speaking first hand with every single business owner (fast food places excepted) at street level and many at the second storey level as well. I also stumped along Spadina Avenue, although not anywhere near as thoroughly, because the Spadina ROW was not a hot button topic at the time; and I can inform you accurately from first hand interviews that my earlier statement regarding a loss in business of 35 to 50 per cent compared to the pre-streetcar street interference is absolutely so. That there is still a customer base still is good; and we hope it will somehow build back up again over time. This does not change the facts, however. In addition, if you were paying attention, during construction as a direct result of non-access by automobile traffic, many of the operations along St. Clair West were forced to close their doors. This means that the new businesses moving in to those locations have no history to which they can compare their current income.

    In very practical terms, the ROWs were designed specifically –and the TTC literature at their neighbourhood information meetings (established to inform the public about their plans, but absolutely not to discuss their merits or seek approval for them) announced this– to impede rush-hour traffic and thus influence drivers to convert to public transit.

    During his 2006 campaign, at an all-candidates’ meeting for St. Paul’s riding (which I attended), a large bicycling contingent loudly razzed many of the business owners who came forward (some tearfully) and begged Mihevc not to follow through with his planned streetcar ROW, because they understood that the construction period would severely hurt their incomes and in some cases drive them out of business because those incomes were not large in the first place. But he had promised the cyclists it would accommodate bicycle traffic. Of course, it doesn’t. Running against Mihevc was former Mayor John Sewell, himself a bicycle enthusiast, who was adamantly opposed to its construction. Sewell was the only candidate of the four on the platform whose vision extended beyond the construction period to its possible negative environmental effects, possibly because his experience as Mayor taught him that long-term thinking is an important aspect of decision-making. (Note that the Spadina ROW also does not provide a safe environment for bicyclists…something that Mihevc’s support crowd had not taken into consideration.)

    There was, however, a fine profit to be made by construction companies, Bombardier, and rail/wire manufacturers from their construction. A construction boom was favoured by the Miller government in the form of both establishing the new TTC ROW projects and dozens of high-rise developments springing up just anywhere at all the developers could find free land space with no planning as to how Toronto will appear to its future citizenry as a result. If anyone in city hall was concerned at all about this, their concerns would be over-ridden by the additional taxation money the city would be making out of the pockets of its tax-payers by licencing the building permits and property-taxing it later in order to help fund its woefully inadequate budget.

    Aside from the fact that the streetcar system in Toronto is now approximately 120 years old and our current plans for its expansion will lengthen that to 160 years before we will perhaps examine the world for better ways to move public transit users, the new ROWs are extremely expensive to build; and our beloved city doesn’t have the money necessary to complete the TTC’s plan for more of them. We are borrowing that money now, and it is creating a deficit that requires an annual interest payment of well over 400 million dollars that could otherwise be used in our budget for infrastructure maintenance and improvement.

    I have travelled a few dozen times on the St. Clair streetcar line since the implementation of the ROWs. It is a very short line, going from Yonge station to Keele Street. It is never crowded any more than any other streetcar line; and, although I have no figures for it, seems actually to be somewhat less used. However, as I stated, this is a subjective experience for which I have no support data. I also travel extensively on the Meadowvale line to Sewells Road, especially during rush hour, and have NEVER seen overcrowding of transit users on that route, also destined for an eventual streetcar ROW.

    One of the things that continues to amaze me is the fierce continuing defence of the streetcar ROW-building by TTC administrative and planning staff, (but not, in general, by TTC operators with whom I have spoken and who are bemused by the whole thing) as though they realize what a huge mistake it is and have a need to cover it up by an aggressive defence stance. And as for Herr Hume, he writes entertainingly, but his articles reveal a propensity for over-the-top endorsement of the flavour of the day without too much in-depth examination of any given situation about which he writes. And this is exactly what he is paid to do by companies whose chief interest is selling papers.

    • Last week, I had the distinct displeasure of traveling on the Spadina streetcar ROW system during afternoon rush hour. Although I was traveling southbound into the downtown area, the first streetcar that came along was jammed to the gills with riders, so I decided to wait for the second one. It too, was jammed up, but three of us in the crowd of 10 or so managed to squeeze on the front of the car. On the way south, we passed three streetcars going northbound. I was looking out the window on the northbound streetcar side, and noted that all three were completely full, with passengers packed into them like sardines in a can.

      If the Spadina ROW was designed for more efficient movement of transit users, may I suggest that during rush hours the persons in charge of supervising the line place another half-dozen (at the very least) streetcars into service? Or, better still, additional electric buses on the line, in case the lack of streetcars was due to a jam-up of streetcars somewhere on the line.

      I got off at Queen Street, so I was not privy to more human on-board-streetcar-Spadina-rush-hour suffering.

      Interestingly, the transit-user overcrowding I have noticed during rush hours, with few exceptions (like the Dufferin bus…how much smarts does it take to realize that people could enjoy their transit ride more if they could find a seat and relax after a hard day’s work on the way home instead of getting jammed up on a far-too-infrequent bus service during rush hour?) occurs on streetcars and subway trains in a far greater quantity than on the buses.

      Yet the city has been committed by a former Mayor who nearly tripled our deficit while in office and passed new taxes on us to pay off his ‘spend before earning’ ambitions –and then had the gall to declare in a (what I seemed to notice was an uncomfortable and shifty-eyed) public speech that Toronto doesn’t have a deficit and that our roads are in great condition– to increasing the number of streetcars and ROW streetcar routes (up the centers of rush hour routes in ROWs even where transit traffic is currently minimal) and modernizing subway cars before streamlining the subway route system to include express trains and platforms or creating a one-way north/south main streets system with automated traffic controls to ease the rush hour traffic off not only the subways and buses, but the Don and Allen Roadways as well.

      And now, we are being treated to a new Mayor who is in reaction to the mounting deficit and believes tackling it includes removing jobs and services from the civil sector in order to save pennies at the cost of millions in additional penalties arising from unemployment and a cutback in citizens’ services. Unfortunately, these slash and burn techniques may well lead to the kinds of severe cutbacks now being faced by city dwellers in the USA. None of this is good, but it’s to be expected because that’s what Torontonians –who will continue to be amazed at the ideas presented by a Mayoralty thrashing around wildly while looking for a way to reduce Miller’s non-existent deficit– voted for in the last election.

  17. Pingback: Should the Jarvis bike lanes be re-installed? | dandyhorse magazine

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s