Tuesday, December 02, 2008

The York Strike - an opportunity

I feel for the students at York University - the vast majority of whom have been kept out of classes by trough-grazing CUPE members intent on blackmailing the University and taxpayers. The strike is apparently a precursor to a larger 'action' (Orwell would be proud) on the part of CUPE planned for 2010, to shut down all of Ontario's universities.

Now a real university doesn't have so many non-tenure track teachers. At my university, all courses - expect for small freshman writing seminars - are taught by tenured, or tenure-track professors. Graduate students conduct study sessions outside of formal lectures.

However, the idea to shut down the university - unwittingly on the part of CUPE knuckle-draggers - may have some merit. Let's face it, York - and York is not alone - shouldn't be a university. It might be a university if 80-90% of its so-called university programs were dropped.

Look at YU's website. There are new programs listed as follows:

- BA in Race, Ethnicity, and Indigineity
- MS in Social Work (with no BSW required as a prerequisite! - you don't say)
- MA in Disaster and Emergency Management (not even a BS!)

Im scared to look much further.

Let's face it, York consists 90% of students who shouldn't be in university, in programs that have no business being taught anywhere, taught 90% by people who either are not or should not be professors.

Let's close 90% of this 'University' and get the students into some societally-useful course of study - like basket-weaving. We could use some of the buildings to train these CUPE members skills such as pipe-fitting and welding.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Sheppard LRT wrap-up - updated

OK - as usual the TTC is giving us a project that will deliver less than promised and cost more. I've updated this post based on the fact that the proposed line has now been shortened. I didn't realize this until I went through the material a bit more carefully:

The original proposal calls for the Sheppard East line to be 13.6 km long. The maps now provided (at the EA consultation and online) have the line going from the Don Mills terminus to Morningside. This is only 12 km long.

I've adjusted the stop spacing listed in the text below - all three posts. Obviously, this will reduce the speed on this s-LRT (slow LRT) even further.

As we wait to find out if there will be a TTC strike tomorrow, I'd thought I'd wrap up some last thoughts on the Sheppard LRT.

Here are my conclusions:


This line will end up with a cost of about $1.1 billion for the 12 km - from the Eastern end of teh Sheppard subway to Morningside. I expect the option to be recommended for the Don Mills interchange will be LRT under the 404. Additional cost items include:

- a service/storage depot for the streetcars - say $100 million
- grade crossing elimination at the GO line - say $150 million
- the 404 tunnel (as above) - say $150 million
- street-scaping (which is or isn't included in the $550 million - $40 million
- 10% for underestimation on the general line construction costs - $50 million

(I'd note that if there are indeed multiple rapid transit projects ongoing, particular engineering and skilled trades will be in short supply. This is going to add to the price.)

Add this up, we get: $1.045 billion


- negigibly faster transit service (most of the benefit is washed by the longer stop spacing and service). [Note - if the Don Mills interchange forces people to trudge down to subway level - most people will actually have longer trips overall.]
- new street-scaping - which could be done without the streetcar line


- four year construction period (2009 - 2013).


- potential traffic impacts. If the TTC sticks with the 5-minute headway, there should be minimal disruption to the N-S arteries that cross the route
- any option for the Don Mills interchange will help with the 404/Sheppard congestion.
- trucks might have a problem with the U-turns


A chunk of the route is a city designated 'avenue'. In the 'avenue' concept, the city provides 'high order transit' - and this will turn the streets into a lush, tree-lined, walkable avenues.

I don't really buy this for Sheppard - and in general. The staff at last Tuesday's consultation were unable to tell me where this concept had worked. There are many cities with trams - but the trams go in and out of already built-up areas.

No doubt there are some lots on Sheppard E. that can be redeveloped. However, it's not true that there are vast sections.

My take is that the growth projections were picked to justify the LRT - i.e. "buses can't handle it and it's not enough to do a subway or RT". My A++!


Sheppard could easily handle 3000 peak passengers (current is 1900) with a few adjustments:

1. Add 'scoot' transit priority - in Montreal, buses get a 10% speed improvement (and hence capacity) - $8 million
2. Add articulated buses for 50% of the schedule - gives a 25% capacity increase - $18 million

This pushes capacity to 2740 per hour - without any dedicated bus lanes. With a dedicated bus lane over the 404 (which would cost $$) , we'd be at 3000/hr peak direction easily - and speed would improve without taking away local services.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Sheppard LRT (Transit City) Consultation - Part II

Yesterday I penned some notes and observations on the TTC's initial public consultation on the Sheppard East LRT proposal. Here is more:

4. Connection to subway at Don Mills

The proposed LRT will connect to the Sheppard Subway. The TTC gives three options:

1. Surface connection at Don Mills - This would require expansion of the bridge over Hwy 404.

This is likely the least expensive option - but it stinks as a connection strategy because of the configuration of the Don Mills terminus.

2. Underground connection at Don Mills - This requires a tunnel under Hwy 404.

3. Extend Sheppard subway to Consumers Rd and build LRT connection there.

As the printed material provides suggests, this is likely the most expensive option - but the best for riders.

Note - in the original proposal, the connection at Don Mills would be underground:

Light rail service would operate from the underground transfer terminal at Don Mills Station, rising to the surface to operate the rest of the way in a dedicated right-of-way.

In option #1 above, the connection is not underground - but via stairs/elevators. This means that the TTC determined that it was not feasible to cross the 404 at surface AND have the streetcar line connect level with the subway.

As the TTC's printed material admits, going under Hwy 404 - with the subway or streetcars - is going to add even more to the project cost. (Transit City is already at $8.4 billion - on its way to $11 billion I'm going to guess.)

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Sheppard LRT public consultation - updated

I've updated this for the corrected stop spacing.

Yours truly attended the TTC's initial public consultation on the proposed Sheppard East LRT.

Here's a rundown of the details - good, the bad and the we're not sure yet - with my two cents worth:

(Information is from the display boards, Gary Carr of the TTC and Praveeen John from URS consulting.)

The details:

1. Stops and spacing

The TTC presented a board showing:

Red - existing stops
Green - agreed upon stops
Yellow - To be determined

Counting the Green + Yellow, it seems to work out 550 metres between stops. The TTC guy explained that the stops are closer together (i.e. proposed) in the retail intensive stretch between Victoria Park and McGowan - and thus spaced wider along the residential stretches.

The stop spacing issue is the Achilles' heel of this streetcar plan. The stop spacing the TTC is floating here is slightly longer than I've read in other spaces. This is comparable to the Strasbourg tram - which has average speeds of about 21 km/hr. This is negligibly faster than the Sheppard buses today.

The drawback is longer (roughly double) walking distance to and from stops - especially in the residential sections. With the walk to Sheppard plus walking along, many people will be looking at walks to and from getting up to 1 km each way.

If you live on Sheppard, and are at a stop you'd be in luck. If not - the extra walking means that you lose the time you've gained due to vehicle speed. The improvement in speed (20 km / hr ==> 21 km / hr) gains the average rider (based on 7 km) 0.9 minutes each direction each day. However, the rider loses 1.8 of those minutes by having to walk another 150 meters at 5 km / hr.

My two cents - the 21 km / hr is an insufficient improvement to attract riders. The increased spacing actually make using the service less attractive for quick trips - because of the added time walking (and distance carrying groceries.)

My guess is that public pressure will result in more stops and lower speed. I'd guess that speed will end up about only 1 km/hr faster than today's bus service.

2. Street layout

The streetcars would run in a semi-private right-of-way - similar to those on Spadina and under (interminable) construction on St. Clair W.

The cross section diagrams presented showed three of the typical proposed cross sections:

1. Mid block - no station

Here there is no sidewalk cut. There are two traffic lanes. The traffic lanes are reduced by 20 cm from the current standard (now 3.5 m - proposed 3.3 m). There is space for bike lanes (1.5 m) on each side - and some street-scaping (shown as little trees on the schematic.)

2. Mid block - with streetcar station

The station locations will require 2.5 m of sidewalk cut on each side.

The stations themselves will have platforms 3 meters wide and 60 meters in length.

3. Intersections

The signalized intersections will provide for a U-turn phase for vehicles to access locations on the far side. There will be two traffic lanes in each direction (widths as described above) and a left-turning lane of 3.0 meters in width.

The length of the turning lane is not specified.

There was no information on the turning radii support for commercial vehicles - the issue that the TTC and city swept under the rug on St. Clair.

My two cents - I didn't have a chance to explore the section of Sheppard under study. It's hard to tell how much the sidewalk cuts will reduce the attractiveness of the street for pedestrians. The intersections on Sheppard have a bit more space than on St. Clair W - so perhaps the stuck trucks problem wont be as bad at is in St. Clair.

3. Trains

The TTC is proposing to run two car trains at 5 minute or so intervals.

My 2 cents - I actually agree with this approach. The non-train-based Spadina service is impossible to keep 'on track'. A 5 minute service interval allows signal systems to give the LRVs priority without completely stopping traffic in the other directions.

I would note that extrapolates out to about 32o LRVs for the overall proposed Transit City Network with 20 % spare factor. Add some cars for the Eglinton line - which might be three LRVs per train - and we're close to the 386 I calculated back last year. (See: http://hogtown.blogspot.com/2007_03_01_archive.html)

Of course, riders will lose about 1 minute for each wait - since the headway on Sheppard E is currently about 3 minutes. (Average wait will increase from 1.5 minutes to 2.5 minutes.)


Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Hume on height

Here's The Star's Christopher Hume ranting about retailers. hmm - make them build up and insult them at the same time.

Christopher Hume's idea to require retailers to build may have merit. However, he seems not to have noticed that retailers are already building up. All Ikea stores are two stories. The new Canadian Tire at Leslie and Lakeshore is two stories. In addition, warehouse stores such as Home Depot use the space above the retail floor to store goods - which eliminates the need for a separate footprint for warehouse space.

Hume closing rhetoric is uncalled for. Most cities grew out of market places. In Ancient Greek cities, the agora- the trading and meeting place - was foundational to what became cities and city states. The agorai were open air - in essence a zero-story buildings!

Urbanity is based on the trading of goods and services. Instead of ranting against retailers, Hume should head back to school for a refresher course on architectural history.

Can you tell who is running Ontario

Today, Ontario Health Minister George Smitherman announced there would be no bailout of a number of hospitals in the East end of the GTA. The Rouge Valley Health System has announced it is cutting 72 nurses and 36 beds in order to balance its budget.

Smitherman is quoted in The Star:

"The hospitals have been poorly run and now must live within their budgets"


“It wouldn’t be fair to bail out Rouge Valley for activity that other hospitals are not involved in..”

Now, this is exactly what the Harris government said about the Toronto District School Board after it has seen the board squander $900 million in transitional funding. Of course, it did end up forking over more money to the cry babies - and McGuinty continues to treat this spoiled brat of an agency with kid gloves.

The teachers own McGuinty lock, stock and barrel. The sad thing is that we have no shortage of schools. The TDSB is practically drowning in surplus real estate. There is a glut of teachers on the market. In contrast, there is a severe shortage of hospital beds and nurses.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Movie review - The Lives of Others

I saw this film in the theatre last year some time. This evening, I watched it again on DVD on my computer.

There are only a few pieces of film or TV that I've found engrossing enough to merit a repeat viewing. This is the only one one where I depend on the sub-titles to follow.

The Live of Others is a German film ("Das Leben der Anderen") set mainly before the fall of the Berlin Wall. The protagonist is a Stasi agent (the Stasi were East Germany's secret police) who is assigned to spy on a prominent playwright. I shall not recount the plot here. Sufficeth to say that this is gripping tale - more than deserving of the 2007 Academy Award for best foreign film. It's one of the best films I've ever seen.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Wynne flip-flops at light speed

Ontario education minister Kathleen Wynne was quoted earlier in the day that Ontario teachers might have to work a little longer to earn their pensions. Per The Star:

“There are a lot of healthy, retired teachers, and it’s the baby boom issue, you know, there are pension plans all over the world dealing with these concerns,” Kathleen Wynne told reporters before a Liberal cabinet meeting. ..“It’s one of the things that the partners at the table have to talk about.”

Later in the day - but not much - Wynne clarified that:

“I just want to be clear: our government has no intention of putting forward a position that the 85-factor should be pulled.”

(The 85 factor is a formula that combines of age and years of service to qualify for full pension.)

Wynne was probably feeling the first few wisps of the gale-force wind of teacher union indignation that was headed her way.

What does this say? Given the very tight leash with which the teachers unions control McGuinty and Co with, it's likely that the taxpayers are going to be on the hook for mega$$$ to close the $12.5 billion or so gap in the Teachers' pension fund. (Yes the one that owns all the sports teams and soon Bell Canada too!)

Wynne's rapidity in clarifying her position is clear evidence of the taxpayer pain to come.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Did you catch that?

Earlier this afternoon, The Toronto Star (online that is) posted the following article:

Ottawa flunks green audit

However, the article was initially posted as:

Tories flunk green audit

Check the Google search quick and you'll see what I mean.

For those you don't think The Star is full of hard-line partisans, this is your proof otherwise. The Star's editors just weren't quick enough this time to completely cover their tracks.

Of course, it is the Liberals who mismanaged the environment file - and helped block new environmental legislation last fall.

The Conservative government is putting together legislated fuel efficiency levels for car makers. Watch for the Liberals to try and block these.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Bob Rae loses it

It seems that membership in the Liberal Party can turn seemingly polite people into raving rude ones. First we have my MP - Maria Minna - who stooped so far as to call the PM a "Neanderthal". Now we have a rant on Bob Rae's blog complaining that Stephen Harper is personally sabotaging Mr. Obama's campaign for the US WHite House.

Well Bob. I've really lost all respect for you. I'm not sure I'll be able to stomach going to the TSO anymore. I'll be looking at pulling my subscription.

Anyone in the Chicago consultate could have picked up an errant copy of the NAFTA-gate memo - and I'd venture that there are some interested American's working at the consulate. Likely someone pocketed this of the fax machine and the rest is history.

However, Obama has only himself to blame. First - for being two-faced. Second for having young, eager advisers giddy at the thought of power and all-so willing to run at the mouth. As much as Goolsbee protests, it's clear that the memo was based on a taped conversation - if you read the PDF on the web, you'll see at least one anotation that makes this apparent.

Rae and the lib-lefters are just upset because one of their own has been caught being a blatant demagogue. Then such is the nature of their cause. As H.L. Mencken once wrote:

"One who preaches a doctrine he knows to be untrue to men he knows to be idiots."

The idiots are the Rae's, Minna's and the rest of the nasty lib-left cloud.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Has Jane left Transity City?

hmm - the TTC may have chopped some routes from its Transit City plan. Reports the National Post's Peter Kuitenbrower:

From In a rush? Get off and walk - Feb 28 2008

Longer term, the TTC has its Transit City light-rail plan - outlined in some detail at yesterday's meeting. It plans longer streetcars in dedicated lanes on Eglinton, Sheppard East, Finch West, Don Mills and the Waterfront West.

Mr. Stambler went through a slideshow of sexy streetcars in Barcelona, Paris and San Francisco, "to remind us of what Toronto will look like at some point in the future."
But not only is that future at least five years and $7-billion away, it does nothing to solve the problems of streetcars that fight mixed traffic on east-west routes downtown.

There is now no mention of the Jane or Malvern lines - and the price has been 'chopped' from $8.3 billion to $7 billion. Maybe the TTC will get smart and use the money to build heavier lines with the needed cuts under intersections to make the scheme slightly more viable.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Climate scientist disgraced

One of my business-school classmates stated in jest:

"Give me Lotus 1-2-3, and 2 hours and I can make any company look profitable."

I think this was at least partly in jest.

Now it seems that the same is true in climate science. It looks as if one of the "foremost" scientists behind the global warming (or is it climate change) parade has been found fudging the data.

Dr. Michael Mann - the academic behind the now infamous 'hockey-stick' of rising temperatures - has been caught playing with the data. Researchers looking to reconstruct Mann's calculation came across archived data that was labelled 'censored'. It seems that Mann had tried to cover his tracks - but wasn't smart enough to fully clean up the archive.

So why would a scientist - especially one involved in such a controversial field:

1. Delete the active data
2. Label data as 'censored'
3. Be so cagey about his methods.

The obvious answer is that Mann was the bagman for solving the IPCC's (the UN commission investigating climate change) big problem - the fact that the Earth's climate changes due to natural factors. A great deal of research money was at stake if they couldn't blame human activity for a few warm years.

Enter climate bagman Michael Mann. His assignment - to rig a model that would 'eliminate' the Little Ice Age (LIA) and the Medieval Warm Period (MWP). It looks like Mann did this by over weighting a few data points from tree ring measurements.

Mann is like my B-school classmate - give him a computer and a few hours and he can make any planet look warm!

Based on the 'hockey-stick' graph, the LIA and MWP have been deemed by the IPCC to be localized to Europe. Tell this to all the researchers looking at the climactic change in the North American Southwest during that period!

Here is a quote from one abstract:

Recent tree-ring reconstructions of summer drought over most of North America have
revealed unprecedented periods of elevated aridity and megadroughts, particularly in the western United States (the “West”) prior to A.D. 1600, with three particularly intense periods of drought occurring between A.D. 1021-1051, 1130-1170, and 1240-1265. These megadroughts fall within the time period variously described as the Medieval Warm Period or the Medieval Climate Anomaly (MCA). The MCA is also a period of overall increased aridity that lasted roughly 400 years (A.D. 900-1300) in the West.

EDWARD R. COOK Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory Palisades, New York 10964 drdendro@ldeo.columbia.edu

Aw shucks - what does an Ivy League professor know anyway? Let's all bow to Mann's fraud and the Kyoto sham. Science is passe.

(Will Dr. "Fruit Fly" David Suzuki want to put me in jail for writing this?)

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

More white stuff

After a number of false starts, today's promised allotment of snow is finally arriving. I find watching a gentle snowfall grace my street in the evening to be the best part of winter.

Of course, we still have a great deal of snow from the earlier storms. The city was supposed to be biting-the-financial-bullet to remove the banks of snow encumbering traffic on our narrow side streets.

I was away for almost a week - and I expected to see the snow removed when I returned late last night. However, I saw no evidence of this. Neither my own street (which has parking on both sides), nor even the main thoroughfare, have seen snow removal. The East-side curb lane of Woodbine between Queen and Kingston Rd. is still a series of ice humps.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Dutoit gets an A - TTC streetcar a big fat F

Saturday evening I attended the Toronto Symphony Orchestra will guest conductor Charles Dutoit deliver Brahms Double Concerto (for cello and violin) and Berlioz' Symphonie Fantastique.

Mr. Dutoit was the long time music director for the Montreal Symphony Orchestra (MSO). He put his stamp on the MSO, and put the MSO on the world's musical map. A couple of years back, the MSO musicians union got stupid (ok more stupid than the usual union c++p) and Dutoit bid the morons adieu.

It was a pleasure watching Dutoit conduct the TSO. The Symphonie Fantastique is one of the most exciting pieces to see and hear delivered live - and Dutoit is obviously one of its masters.

I also enjoyed the Brahms concerto - which by remarkable coincidence is a key part of the score of the movie "There Will be Blood" that I attended Sunday night!

Anyway, Dutoit and the TSO get a grade of A from me - even if the tuba sounded a bit off. (I'll blame the acoustics on RTH - which must have been playing tricks.)

My GF was away, so I TTCed it to the RTH (she WILL NOT take the TTC period, full stop). The journey downtown was great - 37 minutes by bus and subway from my front door to being seated in the mezzanine - 29 of these minutes being from me getting to the stop to getting off the subway at St. Andrews.)

On the way home, I decided to give the TTC streetcar a try. Per reports I've been reading while lurking on http://www.stevemunro.ca/, the TTC has been taking measures to try and make the service work. "Why not give it a try?" I thought.

All went well for the 1st 15 minutes. Within three minutes, I was boarding the 504 King in front of RTH. There were no people getting on - i.e. other than me. Twenty people were waiting for taxis. As I walked towards the streetcar, someone said "that's mine". She thought I was taking her cab. It didn't occur to her that someone would get on the streetcar.

I got off the 504 when it got onto Queen and took my spot (alone) in the shelter to await the 501. 20 minutes passed - nothing.

After 25 minutes, a 501 came along. Wait though, it's not slowing down! It was a CLRV towing a disabled ALRV.

"Great" I thought. That explains it - there should be three or four 501s in 'hot pursuit'. (Ok the 501 and TTC streetcars in general are never in hot pursuit - but you know what I mean.)

Another 25 minutes later - after 50 minutes of waiting - a 3/4 full ALRV pulls up. I board, glaring at the conductor.

I can understand that a breakdown will cause service to be disrupted - and this happens very frequently. However, five or so Kings cars had gone by Eastbound and at least four Queen cars had gone by Westbound. Surely the TTC could have rerouted one of these to pick up the shivering people waiting on Queen for the Neville Park-bound service????

A big fat F for the TTC streetcars. It will be a cold day below before I try that again. Obviously all those waiting for taxis were the smart ones.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Big boxes and big boxes

Big boxes are big issues these days.

Close to my neighbourhood, the local policticians are up in arms about the possible use of some now unused land along Eastern Avenue for a 'big box' retail area. My understanding is that the owners have already tried to have the land redeveloped as residential. This was turned down. Now the politicians - specifically Councillors Sandra Bussin and the Trotskyite Paula Fletcher - have come out in opposition. Community Council apparently has voted to restrict any retail to 200 square foot shops.

I think this is just nasty. There are 200 sq ft retail spaces along Queen St in the Beaches - but even these they are empty despite the good foot traffic.

There isn't much hope for new industrial uses along Eastern - especially if the car haters on Council push through a plan to narrow the road to 2-lanes. What kind of industry will locate where its deliveries and shipments would be caught in a traffic jams?

Fletchher proposes finding a different area that 'might be suitable for retail' - such as south of Lakeshore. OK - south of Lakeshore is zoned industrial. This would still deplete industrial space no different than the site on Eastern. Furthermore, S. of Lakeshore is not handy for walking. Aren't we supposed to be encouraging walking?

There are many people in the area that would benefit from having a Walmart - i.e. people with limited income. They need a good discount retailer so they don't have to slog up to the Danforth.

hmm - funny how Fletcher et al didn't complain about Canadian Tire and Shoppers setting up on the former site of the Beer Store's distribution center. This land wasn't zoned for retail. either. Could there be a different standard for Walmart than other retailers?

The other big boxes in the news - the big recycling boxes that the city is ramming up our a++s++s.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The 501 Blues

No, this isn't about good old Levis bluejeans. It's about Toronto's 501 streetcar route.

This is the route that meanders all the way from Long Branch in the west (near Toronto's border with Mississauga) to Neville Park (at the very East end of the Beach.) This route has been in the news recently.

On the plus side, The National Geographic Magazine has named the 501 Queen one of the 10 'best' streetcar routes in the world:

Toronto Star - Toronto streetcar named among world's best

Now the bad news, the service stinks. Practically every local paper has had articles outlining the severe service problems. Here is one such article among a host:

Toronto Sun - Trolley follies Queen-sized - Rachel Sa - Jan 18 2008

Miss Sa, I notice, uses the same term that I do.

There is also a great deal of discussion about the 501 on this website:

Steve Munro's website

So, as usual, there are many fine words printed, and perhaps many a fine speech and deputation given, but where does that get us.

For now at least, the TTC has dispatched scores of supervisors onto the routes to help keep the streetcars properly spaced. How much is this helping? I'm not sure. My gym has a great view of the intersection of Queen & Kingston road. While I'm busy trying to keep the lbs off, I can still see streetcars being short turned. Is the short turning more of less frequent than before - who knows?

However what happens beyond this is more important. The TTC has an RFP out (I think it was actually tendered out officially) for even longer 'light rail vehicles'. 'Light rail vehicles' is the term for vehicles that run on the light rail systems that run in other cities - such as Calgary and St. Louis. The TTC plans to run similar vehicles as streetcars.

We'll have fewer vehicles than today - which inevitably means longer spacing between the cars - and longer waits.

After the current firestorm abates, and when the TTC gets tired of paying so many supervisors, and later still when the larger vehicles arrive and replace the current monstronsities, where will be then?

Going nowhere fast is a likely answer.