Considering the environment never receives much discussion around election time, it should come as no surprise that the topic of urban tree cover is buried deep in the forest of political discourse, under a layer of heavy brush. However, I believe a big part of our national identity is tied to the environment, and our leaders should strive to improve the health of our communities and the Canadians who live in them.
If we disconnect from the natural world, we become disconnected from who we are -- to the detriment of our health and the health of the ecosystems on which our well-being and survival depend. Understanding that we're part of nature and acting on that understanding makes us healthier and happier, and encourages us to care for the natural systems around us.
Gentrification can crowd out, or displace, communities (typically ethnic) and social networks whilst newcomers transform the very character of our vibrant communities. It is a blow to low-income residents who often move out or stay behind only to pay higher rents. Our hidden agenda is not so hidden: Sustainable gentrification triggered by planned urban development -- not a brazen force blindly driven by dollars--that protects the most vulnerable in our communities long after the Pan Am athletes pack their bags.
On June 10, the Toronto City Council will vote on the future of the eastern section of the Gardiner Expressway. Many councillors are still undecided. If the council were to rely on evidence and facts, it would vote for the Hybrid option because it serves the welfare of millions more Torontonians than the Remove (8-lane Boulevard) option.
When you buy a house the first thing your eye goes to is the sticker price. But buying a home comes with a major hidden cost that doesn't show up in the MLS report: Transportation costs could more than eat up the savings of a lower-priced home in the suburbs. The concept is called location efficiency and it's the amount of time, energy and greenhouse gas emissions you spend getting from where you live to the workplace as well as your other frequent trips. And location efficiency may be the secret sauce to saving money and getting that house in the neighborhood you never thought you could afford.
The GO Transit network has sufficient capacity in the non-peak direction of travel during peak periods, and in both directions during off-peak periods. The government should offer free GO service in off-peak periods and in the non-peak direction during the peak period. The Pan Am Games should bring the City together in a mass celebration of the human spirit. The current plans require people to stay away or at home, which is against the very spirit of the Games. Let's plan better to have fun at the Games.
Several articles have recently argued against smart growth planning on the grounds that it is the cause of our current housing affordability problems. The underlying assumption is that smart growth places artificial limits on land supply and therefore contributes to an increase in the cost of housing. This argument does not take into consideration the full range of factors that are responsible for the current escalation in the price of housing.
While the City's traffic department sounds confident in its assertions, its recommended guidelines on lane widths are in stark contradiction to what we know from traffic engineering and safety studies. Narrower lane widths by default have higher accident rates. Even more disconcerting is the City's backgrounder on lane width guidelines, which states that traffic "throughput is independent of speed." Nothing could be more wrong about traffic flow than this statement.
Unlike the past, when professionals led transport planning in Toronto, transport planning today has become the exclusive purview of poorly informed politicians. To have any chance of addressing gridlock, transit planning has to start with professionals who actually understand real needs and alternative solutions before political choices are made.
There are many other policy implications that come with the spread of slower, safer city bikes -- here in B.C., a big one is around mandatory helmet laws. Many such laws were passed at a time when fast, forward-leaning cycling was the norm, and safe bike infrastructure was virtually non-existent. When drifting along at a walking pace, in an upright position, on a dedicated cycle track, the notion of legally requiring head protection certainly changes.
Some transit experts argue that commute times by high-speed rail transit are shorter. It is true for individual trips, but not for the entire communities. Commuters in transit-dependent communities, with ready access to subways, can take faster transit to their destinations, however shorter duration trips are enjoyed only by those whose trip lengths are shorter. With $29 billion in transport infrastructure spending already earmarked for Ontario, Steven Del Duca and Kathleen Wynne, will receive tons of unsolicited advice. They should, however, base their investment decisions on sound analysis rather than conjecture.
You don't hate your commute, it's your job. A Statistics Canada survey revealed that workers who disliked their jobs were much more likely to hate their commutes than those who liked their jobs. Our hatred of the morning commute may be driven by our unsatisfactory jobs. Extensive surveys of workers in Canada have revealed that our love-hate relationship with daily commutes is much more nuanced than what we had believed it to be.
The perceived broken window theory is that poorly maintained areas lead to vandalism and increasingly more serious crimes. Creating well-lit, walkable communities that encourage pedestrian traffic and neighbourly interaction, as well as cycle path safety are critical in building a civic pride culture that will reduce crime.
Today, close to 70 per cent of all Canadians live in suburbs. Most bought homes early in their adult life. Most raised families. And many are now living alone or with an aging spouse in houses designed for four to six people. The kids have grown and left, so nearby schools are unsupportable, too. Even the strip malls are failing as old neighbourhoods hollow out -- as young buyers head to ever-more distant points in search of the latest "cheap" development.