It’s not like our politicians haven’t thought of ways to wean us from our car addiction. But when it comes to building a fluid, earth-saving transport network, they’ve been slower than the Queen 501 in rush hour. Time to get off this train. Here’s our wish list for a greener grid. We must be dreaming.
Ideally, we could all travel across town effortlessly in zero-emission high-speed trains, but sometimes you make the best of the hand you’re dealt. In this case, that means helping out Toronto’s 1,500-plus buses by creating bus-only lanes. The key word is “creating,” not putting up inconsistent and confusing High Occupancy Vehicle lane signs and calling it a day.
The city began talking up bus-only lanes when the Olympic spirit was alive. Lanes along major highways would give us something for all that wasted Olympic effort. Let’s put them along the DVP, too. Hell, if Seattle can ban all vehicles but buses in part of its downtown, why can’t we?
We’re lucky the TTC adopted a better position than “fetal” on light rail. Current transit plans foresee billions spent on Euro-style corridors along Don Mills, Eglinton, Finch, Jane and the waterfront. Considering that LRT vehicles produce 92 per cent less CO2 than cars, we’ll all breathe easier.
To make it happen, though, the TTC can’t screw up.
That means setting up driver-controlled lights, GPS-tracked arrival-time signs, and no left turns for cars.
Don’t forget the underutilized CP and CN rail lines. Why can’t the TTC run light rail on them?
Photo By Velo-City.ca
We’re not condoning a theft of the London Underground, although it would be nice to have here. We’re talking about the visionary Velo-city project. You might remember the bicycle-centric Velo-city proposal from a while back.
Architect Chris Hardwicke suggests building a network of elevated bike-only lanes. Cyclists would theoretically be able to commute year-round and not worry about getting door prizes from distracted drivers. Cyclists travelling in the tube would create a tailwind that would help propel others. Eventually “crazy” becomes “crazy-smart.”
Photo By Mark Coatsworth
Time to tax the entire airline industry correctly for a luxury that’s seen CO2 emissions increase 83 per cent since 1990 thanks to weak regulations. A single Porter Airlines flight from Toronto to Ottawa, for examples, creates over 2,000 kilos of CO2.
There are people out there who simply have to fly for work. So it’s the industry’s responsibility to develop more efficient planes. That means lighter materials, better engines and innovative retrofits like winglets, which could save over 70,000 litres of jet fuel on a 757 each month.
Council has considered forcing trucks to do their deliveries off-peak, but that’s still a pipe dream. Sigh. Banning polluting delivery trucks downtown is nuts, you say? The Germans are doing it, shutting out the heaviest diesel-polluting trucks from city centres in Berlin, Cologne, Hanover, Stuttgart and eight other cities. The worst polluters will certainly have to consider getting greener fleets. London's $16 core entrance fee, which has cut traffic by 26 per cent since it was implemented, is also a great idea.
Putting a foot down
Occasionally, Toronto allows a street closure in Kensington on a Sunday or for a festival in, say, Bloor West. People flock to these liberated spaces, but they’re hardly full-time car-free areas. Toronto’s Car-free Day is downright sad.
We need fully foot-friendly zones.
The most obvious possibilities: Yonge between Bloor and Queen, Kensington, Yorkville, even parts of Queen West or Front, which are barely navigable in a car as it is.
The city’s conducting research on the subject – yeah, we’ve heard that before – considering Barnes Dance intersections (where people cross in all directions and all cars must stop). The city’s developed clear criteria for car-free zones. What are we waiting for?