Thursday, September 30, 2004

IOL's departure - update

Per a report in The Star, Mayor Miller has chimed in on the departure of Imperial Oil's head-office to Calgary:

We can't offer subsidies but we would have liked to meet with Imperial Oil so see what their issues were and see what the city could have done to accommodate them...

Apparenty, IOL didn't take advantage of the Mayor's open door policy - but then again, this is understandable given the city administration's long history of indifference, neglect, and antagonism towards the business community. Despite the mayor's protestations about the City being proud of its head offices, the property tax structure in this city has helped push a succession of head offices out Toronto over the last few decades. Most of these have migrated to more nearby locations: Mississauga, Brampton, Markham and the like.

The Conservative government under Mike Harris helped stem the tide of jobs out of the city by capping Toronto's punitive taxes on commercial property. The McGuinty regime, however, caved in and allowed a one-time increase of 1.5% to commercial rates. Toronto council took but a blink-of-an-eye to exact this new pound of flesh from the business community. Imperial no doubt read the political tea leaves and decided that this was the start of a trend.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Miller fiddles while Toronto burns

Is IOL's departure the first casualty of St.Clair ROW?

Today's headlines underline the true nature of Toronto's problems. Imperial Oil has just announced that it will move its head office from Toronto to Calgary.

Meanwhile, our dear mayor David Miller is taking time to discuss defending the city against a lawsuit over the 'bridge to the airport island affair'. Our council will in all likelihood vote to keep streetcars running on St. Clair Avenue. The cost of this 'venture' is rising each time I read a news release - and the figures do not even include the needed rebuilding or potential replacement of the CLRV streetcar fleet. (The CLRV are the small streetcars.) The TTC's impending capital budget bubble specifies that these will need to be rebuilt in 2008. Rebuilding these dinosaurs will cost over $1,000,000 a pop. In the event that they cannot be rebuilt, replacements will cost $3,000,000 each - per TTC estimate.

This will push the cost - assuming 25 vehicles are needed to serve the St. Clair line - to between $90 million and $150 million. That's not all- however. The maintenance expenses on each of these vehicles is about $150,000 each year - compared with $50,000 for a bus. Over the 30 year planning horizon, this adds $75 million to the incremental costs - pushing the cost of this decision to between $165 million and $225 million over the 30 year life-span.

The TTC touts streetcars as providing greater capacity. Yet the TTC's own figures (as published in a study by the IBI group that the Commission undertook last year) show that the boardings per service hour on TTC streetcars are only about 7 percent higher than for its far less expensive buses (In 2002: Streetcars 81 boardings/hour - Buses 76 boardings/hour.) The streetcar figure includes the larger articulated vehicles (ALRV in TTC-speak) - so the CLRVs that the TTC operates on St. Clair offer very marginal, if any, capacity advantage over buses.

To be clear, St. Clair Avenue needs to be repaired - and bus service would require additional buses. However, even with a generous $12 million to rebuild the 6.5 km of road - and $36 million for a fleet of 30 buses for 30 years (30 buses at $600K replaced after 15 years) - the savings by using buses could be as large as $177 million over the 30 year lifespan.

Well - in Calgary, one needs to drive out to Drumheller to see the dinosaurs. In Toronto, one is stuck riding on one. Small wonder Imperial Oil is moving! Is it just a coincidence that Imperial's current HQ on St. Clair West is slap-dab in the middle of the proposed right-of-way?

Another head office departs - and our Mayor and Council fiddle with streetcars.

Saturday, September 25, 2004

Montreal transit 6 - TTC 0

Please see the following link from today's Toronto Star explaining how Montreal's transit system is 'wupping' (how exactly is that spelled anyway?) the TTC in terms of efficiency.

TTC Attitude change needed

Friday, September 24, 2004

Who is smarter?

Legislators on both side of the border (i.e. the US- Canada border) are busy legislating to keep 'stuff' from the other side from seeping across. Down in Washington, elected representatives are working to keep Canadian garbage out of the States. Meanwhile, the McGuinty regime is working on emergency legislation to keep US medical services from being offered to residents in this province. Just who do you think is smarter?

DeBaeremaeker's folly

As reported in today's Toronto Star, Toronto Councillor Glenn DeBaeremaeker is quoted as complaining about potential development adjacent to the Rouge river reserve:

We have established the largest urban park in North America in the Rouge and developers are surrounding it

opines DeBaeremaeker. If memory serves correctly, this is the same Glenn DeBaeremaeker who voted against a Habitat for Humanity project in Scarborough. He apparently believes that not only should all land be reserved for parks, but that building housing should not even be allowed adjacent to these parks. Perhaps he thinks we should all live on the infield of Pearson Airport, or in boats floating on Lake Ontario.