It was a minor issue in the bigger scheme of things, the removal of a pedestrian scramble at a Toronto intersection. Even though more pedestrians use the intersection than cars, it was slowing down those cars and as Councillor McMahon says about Toronto, among the different modes of transport "The driver of the car the person on the bike and the person who walks... the driver of the car everything is determined by them first." People weren't falling off the sidewalks at this particular intersection, but it was a rare example of putting pedestrians first. Nonetheless they voted to remove the scramble, at a cost of $26,000.
Now I am not saying that this particular intersection absolutely needed a scramble or that it was that effective; you can read the report here and might concede the point. But it's funny. Even though the Mayor has to plead for charity to keep its ice rinks open, the city somehow can always find money to paint out pedestrian infrastructure. It can find billions to build a three stop subway when a 7 stop LRT would serve them better and be better for the urban redevelopment of Scarborough in Toronto's east end. It's all about the war on the car and the power of the automobile in our culture. In the Toronto Star, Chris Hume nails the issue right in the title of his article: Real issue isn’t best transit; it’s who owns the street. Discussing the merits of bus lanes vs car lanes, he writes:
Enrique Penalosa, former mayor of Bogota, Colombia, sees the bus not just as a way to move large numbers of people, but as nothing less than an instrument of democracy. His argument is simple: a bus with, say, 30 passengers is entitled to 30 times as much road space as a car with a single occupant. Hard to disagree with that. In Toronto, however, the subtext to the transit debate is more a sense of entitlement than the desire for mobility. It’s one thing to assert that we have a right to accessibility, another to insist we “deserve” a subway.
This is a direct result of Rob Ford's insistence that “People want subways, folks… subways, subways. They don't want these damn streetcars blocking up our city!" Hume notes that cheaper options like LRT or god forbid, dedicated bus lanes are off the table in Toronto.
But these options have not been available to Torontonians so far. That’s why we chose subways; only they provide the city the public transit it needs while keeping the streets free for the private transit it wants. Too bad there isn’t enough space for both.
In fact there is lots of room, but Rob Ford convinced everyone otherwise. He haunts us still.