Category Archives: Sustainability

TTC Gets A Wake Up Call

I want to personally thank George Robitaille, the now infamous TTC employee who napped his way onto the front page of local newspapers and became an unlikely Twittersphere sensation.

Until very recently, any time I criticized the TTC, I was sternly rebuffed: accused of being an anti-environmentalist or a self-loathing Torontonian. Or even both.  We had a “world class system” I was told. My criticism upset people.  However, ever since photos of our guy sleeping in a ticket booth gained viral status, TTC bashing is coming from all corners imaginable and fixing the TTC has become the biggest talking point in Toronto’s mayoral race.

Let me add my voice to the mix.

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A Tale of Two Cities

If Toronto’s decision to transform one lane of Jarvis Street into two bike lanes is “a war on cars” (© opponents of the scheme), what would they call New York’s action to completely close Times Square and Herald Square to cars? A pre-emptive nuclear strike? Armageddon? The End of Days?

Oh, and the New York move has actually happened (without any discernible blip on seismic monitors, and with some unexpected consequences). The Toronto changes won’t take effect immediately – there has to be an environmental study first, and there’s no firm timeline beyond that.

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Building (and Protecting) the Core From the Outside

Suburban sprawl has been undermining core urban health across North America for decades, and the Greater Toronto Area has been no exception. This has been relatively accepted in the mainstream. What has not received equal attention, or the concern it deserves, is the idea of ‘peak oil.’ Peak oil, as described on Wikipedia, “is the point in time when the maximum rate of global petroleum extraction is reached, after which the rate of production enters terminal decline.”

Sprawl exacts a heavy toll on our society. It means significantly higher infrastructure costs, longer commutes, higher health costs and the stretching, if not tearing, of our social fabric. These are only some of the ways in which suburban development wastes resources and drains wealth from our urban core. These are also clear present day costs without the context of ‘peak oil.’

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On Thinking Big

TED talks recently featured an inspiring presentation by Shai Agassi titled “A bold plan for the mass adoption of electric cars.” He argues that to succeed, electric cars need to be better, more convenient and more cost-effective than any gasoline-powered car on the market today.

This in itself is hardly revolutionary. What sets his plan aside is the fact that he’s developed a straightforward, actionable plan to turn this vision into a reality and have over ten million electric cars on the world’s roads by 2016. Australia, Denmark, Israel, Hawaii, and the San Francisco bay area have already signed up with many more sure to follow suit.

Sometimes you need to think big.

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