Monday, March 29, 2010

Keep Bike Lanes off Busy Streets - Toronto Star

As part of the Toronto Star's "Your City, My City" series, there's an article that takes a stance against placing bike lanes on busy arteries. While the author appears to capture many of the arguments that have been made against bike lanes, here's why I disagree with nearly everything he says:
  1. The author begins with the argument that installing bike lanes are too expensive. It's very easy to make this argument about anything, which is why I consider it a red herring. Every piece of infrastructure, from a state-of-the-art nuclear power plant to a small parkette is expensive. Running a city costs money, and we can't be afraid to spend money to get the services we desire. Besides, the social benefit in building bike lanes far outweigh their costs.
  2. The ravine system is great, and it does offer a car-free way of getting across the city, but it is an indirect route. The Humber River Recreational Trail, for example, takes about 40km to get from Humber College to Union Station. Using Finch, Albion, Weston Road, St. Clair and Yonge, the trip is about 25 kilometres. We wouldn't ask drivers or transit riders to go 15 kilometres out of their way to reach their destinations, so why should we ask cyclists to do the same?
  3. Whereas it appears that very few people ride from Scarborough to downtown Toronto, is this because there is little demand or is it because there are no safe routes? Being very familiar with the Humber River and Don River trail systems, I can personally debunk the myth that people do not cycle in the suburbs. Scarborough doesn't have an extensive north-south ravine system like Etobicoke and North York do, so I believe that it's a lack of safe routes. If the Taylor Creek, Highland Creek trail systems offered continuous north-south routes (they are discontinuous at many points) then one would see more east-end cyclists.
From my perspective, there are two main reasons why we should support bike lanes on major arterials:
  1. Because most of the "destinations" in this city are located along major arteries, we need bike lanes on arteries to allow cyclists to complete the last mile of their trips safely. Consider an office park in Markham, for example. The walk from the parking lot to the front door is short and safe, and no one has a second thought about it. But, lets move that parking lot to the other side of Highway 7, and let's remove the crosswalk or traffic light. Without safe access to the site, who would want to travel there? Bike lanes on major roads follow the same principle - they provide safe access to the places that people want to travel to.
  2. Bike lanes on minor roads are not an effective alternative to placing bike lanes on arteries. First of all, most minor roads do not require bike lanes because light traffic does not pose a danger to cyclists. Suggesting that bike lanes belong on quiet neighbourhood streets is, in my opinion, a clever way to disguise efforts to kill the bike plan. Secondly many of the smaller streets are discontinuous from block to block and many do not have crosswalks at major arteries. The result of placing bike routes on minor streets could be, as I Bike TO shows us:

Good planning calls for us to study carefully the effects of putting bike lanes of streets, but an outright ban is not good planning either. Whatever we do, the end result has to be a bike network that takes cyclists close to their destinations via the most direct route.


Friday, March 12, 2010

Visions for the GTTA: Local Transit

The signature of any transit or transportation vision is, in the mind of the general public, the rapid transit lines. They may have the most visible impact on the commute, but in order to build a rapid transit network we must accept two truths:

First, we must accept that the facilities necessary to build rapid transit lines are expensive. We can save money but shifting or paradigm towards light rail and bus rapid transit instead of subways and by re-organizing the rail corridors into "Overground" lines instead of building subways, but we must realize that the pool of money available for transit investment is limited. As such, we may never be able to deliver "true" rapid transit to every corridor.

Second, we must accept that decreasing travel times will require stops to be placed further apart. While we should strive for a balance between speed and walkability to the nearest stop, some addresses will be too far from the nearest rapid transit station to reasonably walk to.

These two truths show that, after the full build-out of the a rapid transit plan, we will still need a strong local transit system to serve the areas between rapid transit stations and to deliver us to the front doors of our destinations in safety and comfort. In order to do this, we have to strengthen the system we have now.

[More after the jump...]

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Monday, March 08, 2010

Service change statistics

The TTC's next round of service changes come March 29, and you can read all about them at their website. But, here are some interesting (or not) statistics I've pulled out of the data:

  • There are 23 instances where service will increase
    • The highest increase sees your wait drop by 15 minutes
    • The lowest increase sees your wait drop by 15 seconds 
    • On average the wait for a bus will decrease by 4 minutes, 32 seconds
  • There are 68 instances where service will decrease
    • The highest decrease sees your wait increase by 10 minutes
    • The lowest decrease sees your wait increase by 11 seconds
    • On average, the wait for a bus will increase by 1 minute, 36 seconds
  • Overall, waits for a bus will increase by 3.5 seconds on average
An instance is defined as a change made to service during a particular time of the day (AM peak, for example). If service is changing during the AM Peak and late evenings, for example, this would be two instances. 

While service decreases are never good, I wonder if the average rider will even notice. Even so, here's hoping that the fall brings better service to all transit agencies across the region.

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Thursday, March 04, 2010

All things private and public

The issue of privatising the TTC has come back into the news in the last few days, and I would like to take this opportunity to announce my opinion on the subject:

I don't care.

Some background, after the jump:

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