Saturday, December 04, 2010

Bye Bye Joe Mihevc

It seems that Joe Mihevc will not be on the TTC; that is he will not be appointed as a commissioner by Mayor Rob Ford.

TheStar Ford ‘loyalists’ on new TTC commission

This is hardly a surprise. After all, the following was included in an email he sent out during the election campaign:

"From my point of view, it is absolutely imperative that I/we do everything possible to stop Rob Ford from becoming mayor."

I've had some experience communicating with Mr. Mihevc. In the final analysis, he was more interested in streetcar projects - pushing for the wretched St. Clair project. Even Joe Pantalone ended up concluding St. Clair was a mistake. Mihevc seemed to see transit as just streetcars.

Time for new thinking. I don't think Mihevc could contribute constructively if the agenda wasn't slavishly transfixed on streetcars.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Christopher Hume - The Oracle of Ignorance

Someone get the rabies vaccine out - Christopher Hume is on the loose.

I don't think I've ever read such ignorant trip in a newspaper - at least since Michele Landsberg stopped writing in The Star.

TheStar Hume: Ford to Transit City: Drop dead

Hume decides that Toronto will become like Buffalo if it doesn't get LRT. Guess what Chris - Buffalo has LRT. LRT hasn't helped Buffalo - and it would not help Toronto.

Hume doesn't eben bother to check basic facts. He asserts that the boring machines for the Eglinton tunnels aren't big enough for subway. On the contrary, LRT tunnels are larger than needed for subway. This is even documented in .. The Toronto Star:

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Transit City: It’s too late to switch tracks -

The usual shallow, thoughtlessness from The Star this morning. Here is the link to its editorial. My letter in response is below.

Transit City: It’s too late to switch tracks -

Your editorial is off the rails on many points. There would certainly be some sunk costs absorbed in switching away from the "Transit City" plan. However, there is ample opportunity to recover most of the money.

The cost of the Sheppard LRT study would be sunk. However, there is already a completely approved environmental assessment and plan to complete the Sheppard Subway.

The tunnel boring machines could just as well tunnel for a subway as for an 'LRT'. In fact, the original vision for the Eglinton LRT was to convert to full subway at a later time.

As Bombardier is the supplier for subway and LRT vehicles, it would be in its interest to agree to switch the order over. Enforcing penalties could well lose the supplier its long-term cosy relationship with the TTC and Ontario.

The Transit City plan came to light only after the 2006 election. In the 2010 election, neither of its main proponents (David Miller and Adam Giambrone) deigned to run and defend the plan.

In 2012, the Spadina LRT - put in service in 1998 - will be out of commission as large sections and major intersections need rebuilding. If LRT were the right idea for Toronto, would lines need to be rebuilt in less than 15 years? Toronto voters have said no.

Monday, March 08, 2010

The new me

No this is not a spoof on the a Who song.

Since the start of February, I've been following a conditioning program. Through my employer - for a modest fee - I am enrolled in structured fitness program. While I've been a gym goer - off and on - in the back of my head I've known that my haphazard, informal approach wasn't particularly effective.

My structured program consists of a combination of exercises for improving my cardiovascular, strength and flexibility.

For cardio, I have a choice of four programs. I am to complete there of these in a week. While I have the choice of outdoor activities - e.g. cross country skiing and skating - the indoor exercises at the gym have worked better with my schedule. I have been alternating between the stationary bicycle and the stair machine. Either of these seem to provide a more strenuous workout than the elliptical machines that I generally favoured before starting the program.

The step machine reports the most use of calories. I'm not certain how accurate the numbers are - as I feel that the stationary bike is as intense, or even slightly more.

The strength exercises lean to simple, low-tech. For example, the first few weeks required a number of sets of sit-ups. Sit-ups have always been a weak point for me. Before starting this conditioning program, I would use the "ab-roller" bench and some leg lifts. In retrospect, these provided little benefit. Forcing myself to get through the sit-ups was the toughest task.

Of course, now that I'm comfortable with them, the program has switched me to the bicycle crunches. I'm just getting the hang of these. I'll be keeping the sit-ups in the program as well.

Last but not least is the stretching. I am dutifully performing a set of stretching at the end of the workout. I don't expect that I'll become particularly flexible as a result. However, if I can improve at all I'll be happy.

The structured program is one step short of hiring a personal trainer. For now, I'm happy with it. It helps to have been involved in sports back in school - as much from a confidence perspective as anything.

In six weeks, I'll be back for the follow-up metrics. In the meantime, I email the kinesiologist my workout log each week. Having someone 'watching' is certainly helpful in sticking with the program.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Pan Am games needs volunteers to succeed, summit told -

Most Canadians have enjoyed the Olympics. I enjoyed them a great deal more than I expected.

I'm sincerely proud of our athletes - and the support we gave them. Whether we 'owned the podium' or not, we set a goal to stretch ourselves. Perhaps this event is the 21st century's Vimy Ridge. Obviously, there is a big difference between a massive battle where tens of thousands perished, and a sporting event. We don't need or want to be involved in large scale slaughters. Hence, thankfully, in this century, a sporting event can serve as a national reawakening.

The Olympics have helped wash away the memory of the idiocy at Copenhagen. I hesitate to bring it up. There we had Canada self-haters - David Miller among them - needlessly and unfairly trying to drag our name down.

Now we begin to look ahead to the Pan American games:

Pan Am games needs volunteers to succeed, summit told -

What will it take to make them a success? As the article points out, we will need volunteers. However, the games are more a regional event than just a Toronto event. We will need cooperation between the towns, cities and municipalities.

Well, it's a good thing Miller is going. We need, and not just for the sake of the games, a mayor who will work will leaders from around the region. Miller couldn't have done it.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Adam Giambrone's exit

The speed of Adam Giambrone's fall from grace is surprising. In retrospect, it is not a shock. Many have commented on the councillor's arrogance and ego. Arrogant politicians often think they can get away with cheating and lying. In some cases, they can.

Giambrone's undoing may well have been the comments about his 'partner' being window dressing for his political career. Such a comment reveals a young man whose external polish belies his complete lack of class. Shakespeare's line "All that glisters is not gold" is particularly fitting.

Even before the events that have unfolded over the last 36 hours, there have been calls for Giambrone to step down as TTC Chairman. Today, Steve Munro - one of Giambrone's biggest cheerleaders - is calling for him to step down as chair.

There are many reasons for Giambrone to step down.

First, his record at the TTC is terrible. It's perhaps no worse that his predecessor - but it's still awful.

- Costs are exploding. We hear that the TTC is planning for a 7% increase in operating costs each year for the foreseeable future - just to maintain the current level of service!

- the St. Clair West streetcar ROW project has been a mess

- the increasingly evident service and moral problems

- 'Transit City' has been foisted on us by the light rail lobby. Giambrone's plan has now doubled in cost since its original announcement - approaching $13 billion for marginal increases in speed and capacity on the planned network.

The Bombardier affair from the last election - where the transit equipment maker promoted a Giambrone fundraiser - should have sounded as a louder alarm. The media should have pushed on that one harder.

Monday, January 25, 2010

The pedestrian carnage

This year has started off taking an awful toll on pedestrians in the GTA. As of this evening, 14 pedestrian have died as a result of being struck by motor vehicles. The vehicles include cars, streetcars, buses and trucks.

Last week, The Toronto Star included a guest column:

which focused on the perils to pedestrians in crossing broader arterials in the suburbs.

As ill-luck would have it, the rash of fatalities has continued apace since the column appeared - and the deaths have all been on the non-suburban streets of Toronto.

The very morning the column appeared (Jan 20th) , a woman was struck and killed on Dufferin - just south of Eglinton. The woman was in the roadway south of the intersection - and obscured from oncoming traffic by the rise in the roadway.

On Friday, a man was killed at Broadview and Danforth by a turning dump truck.

Yesterday, a Woodbridge man was struck and killed by a TTC streetcar on Queen Street East.

Most recently, a woman was killed by a turning vehicle while crossing Davenport Road at Symington.

There is plenty of fault to around - and this blog is not going to ascribe any. However, let's look at why Toronto's urban - and supposedly pedestrian friendly streets - are the scene of so many deaths.

Darkness: One of the first things I noticed after moving to Toronto - now over a decade ago - is that the street-lighting is poor. On a residential street - such as where I live - even a single burned out bulb can make walking tricky. It's little better on main streets - where there is nothing to illuminate crosswalks anymore than other parts of the roadway.

Obstructions: Toronto seems to love to obscure the views of motorists and pedestrians at intersections. Garbage cans, transit shelters, and newspaper boxes often impede lines of sight.

Blase attitude: Yes, traffic is generally moving more slowly on the narrower streets. However, even at the slower speeds, a collision with a vehicle is often going to be deadly - especially if it's with a larger vehicle. It's harder to be blasé when crossing a busy arterial than say, Queen St.

The weather: It's been milder and less snowy than normal this time of year. This means more pedestrians. However, it's a dark time of year. Today, I left home in darkness, and returned in darkness.

My own pedestrian experience is mainly in the urban area. Here's what I do to stay safe:

1. When waiting to cross, I remain a few yards back from the street.

2. I'm very careful about turning traffic. If there is any doubt about a car's velocity or intentions, I stop and wait.

3. I'm careful to establish eye contact with drivers.