March 01, 2016

Public Works Politicking

Today, I used my day off work to make a deputation at the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee (PWIC), which is responsible for Toronto's cycling infrastructure. For those working nine to five jobs (like me), taking time off is the only way to make a live deputation; leaving most people to resort to written submissions. The motion in question requested the City's Cycling Unit to study higher funding levels for the new bike plan ($20 million & $25 million) in order to fulfill Cycle Toronto's call for a Minimum Grid of 100 km of cycle tracks & 100 km of bicycle boulevards by 2018.
Cycle Toronto used these ribbons to spread the
word on the Minimum Grid campaign in 2014

Before getting to that motion, the following were also covered at today's meeting. (link to agenda)
  • Three designs for the Gardiner East hybrid option
  • Waste management strategies (two motions debated together due to forecasted storm)
  • Highland Creek waste treatment plant
  • Streamlining Metrolinx closures due to Eglinton Crosstown LRT construction
  • Closing a gap in the Waterfront Trail

Motions regarding the triathlon festival, water and sewer contracts, and crossing guards did not have any speakers and were quickly passed. A new motion from Councillor Ana Bailao was introduced, but was referred for further study.
Large crowd gathered at today's PWIC meeting

On the Gardiner East file (link to presentation), city council approved the so-called “hybrid” option in June 2015, which Councillor Perruzza dismissed as a new highway instead of a hybrid at today's meeting. To refine the concept and address concerns such as Waterfront revitalization and opening up development land, three sub-options were presented. The first is the closest to the status quo except for moving the on-ramps from Logan Street to Cherry Street (as do the other sub-options). Both the second and third options open up more land to development and contribute to Waterfront revitalization, but the third was recommended by staff due to it having the lowest impact on the Don River and requiring fewer road closures. Options such as a Green Gardiner and a Viaduct option were also mentioned, but not considered due to costs and complexity. In the end, PWIC unanimously approved the staff recommended 3rd option and goes to city council. Cyclists can take comfort in which all three sub-options include a new cycle path, which is currently in rough shape.
Gardiner East presentation slide showing cycling facilities

Since I was absent for the waste management strategy debate, that item will be skipped over, though it was adopted. The Highland Creek wastewater treatment plant item was a divisive one, given it was one which involved incinerators. Councillor Perks raised concerns about the Highland Creek facility’s environmental assessment focusing more on immediate noise and odour concerns while ignoring pollutants which bio-accumulate. Perks also brought up the “think globally act locally” motto to highlight his opposition to incinerators, though the motion ultimately passed. The Metrolinx item involving the streamlining of closures up to 365 days instead of having to renew every 30 days heard some concern from businesses, though the two speakers understood the need for improved transit on Eglinton. Perruzza wanted to defer the motion indefinitely – citing experiences from the Spadina subway extension in his ward – but the rest of the committee disagreed and the original motion passed.
Jared Kolb deputing at PWIC

Due to the forecasted storm, the two cycling items related to closing the gap in the Waterfront Trail (link to previous post) and allowing the study of higher funding levels for the new bike plan got debated together. Each of those two items saw over 100 written submissions sent to PWIC! Jared Kolb - Cycle Toronto's Executive Director - highlighted the Eglinton Connects plan and the 2012 Trails Plan as justification why more funding is needed, while invoking a fallen cyclist (Sue Trainor) for the Waterfront item. Anthony Humphries expressed frustration over the slow pace of bike lane installation while citing the safety of children as why both motions should be supported. Hamish Wilson – a regular deputant at PWIC – used the usual collision statistics and expressed concerns about the cost of separation. For my deputation, I invoked PWIC Chair Jaye Robinson's work on Vision Zero, existing budget funding explaining why the 2001 plan fell short, and various reasons provided by fellow Ward 14 members. A video of the deputations can be viewed here. (starts at 3:25:45)

While Councillors Holyday and Moeser tried to derail the Minimum Grid motion over fiscal concerns and wanting quality or quantity, Robinson and Perruzza reminded everyone this was a request to study higher funding, not a commitment. Since there were no concerns raised over the bi-directional cycle track on Lake Shore, that motion passed unanimously. The Minimum Grid one passed 4-2 with Holyday and Moeser opposed, both of whom tend to be less cycling friendly per previous PWIC votes.

With today’s meeting out of the way, it is clear we cycling advocates have some convincing to do in order to seal the deal on higher funding.

Fight on! 
Rob Z (e-mail)

1 comment:

  1. Although good political theatre at times,I am dismayed at the poor bench strength of this committee.