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The CAA's Version of Sanity

In yesterday's Toronto Star, Michael Beauchesne, the director of public and government affairs for CAA Central Ontario, writes an advocacy piece for the CAA's "Mobility Express" plan.

Just to review, the plan (link pdf) calls for Toronto to build projects such as:

  • The Offshore Extension -- A new highway, extending from the eastern end of the Gardiner Expressway, across the Port Lands, and out into Lake Ontario past The Beaches. It will continue through the lake to the far end of Scarborough, where it turns inland to connect to the 401. The CAA describes it as "positioned at least one kilometre from shore and visible only as a graceful, curved white line on the horizon."
  • The Humber Bayway -- The other major beach in Toronto is Sunnyside, in the west end, and the CAA has a plan for that one, too. Because the Gardiner can't be widened, they want to build an 8-10 lane bridge called the "Humber Bayway". It would connect the QEW from Park Lawn to the Gardiner at Exhibition Place, the purpose being increased capacity.
  • The Scarborough Highlands Expressway -- A new highway, connecting the DVP south of Eglinton to the 401 near Morningside, moving diagonally through a hydro right-of-way.
  • The Richview Expressway -- A new highway, extending from where the 401 meets 427, east along Eglinton Avenue, to Jane.
  • Allen Road Expansions -- Widening the Allen Road to 6 lines; Extending it south to Bathurst (the CAA says "under homes and parkland", but that can't be entirely true given the fact that Bathurst crosses high above the Cedarvale Ravine); Two more lanes extending from there to St. Clair (presumably under Loblaws?); Also, extending it northeast to Keele.
  • Black Creek Drive Upgrades -- Widened to 6 lanes and uprgraded to full expressway status; Extended north to Wilson.

The plan includes several suggestions for links and improvements to our arterial roads. For "balance" the plan also includes TTC extensions and separate paths to get bicycles out of the cars' way.

Mr. Beauchesne seems blind to irony, because he has titled his article, "Bring some sanity to transportation".

The plan is actually so insane, there is no need to criticize it. What is interesting to note is what the Toronto Star article reveals about the CAA's lobbying strategy. The approach appears to have five major talking points:

  • Capitalize on the talk of gridlock in Toronto to suggest that it has been caused by the popular blockage of some highway projects and a plot to force people into transit
  • Announce that statistics prove Torontonians suffer from commutes that are worse than notorious cities such as LA, NYC, and London, and again imply that this has been caused by our lack of highway building.
  • Criticize pavement critics as misguided elitists... a minority anti-car lobby that holds us back and blocks projects that would serve the many.
  • Demand "balance" -- and announce that this means we should pay as much attention to new roads as we spend talking about transit.
  • Continue to propogate the idea that fuel taxes ought to be dedicated to roads... and therefore there is plenty of money available to build any kind of highway project.

Most of these same points are found in a short letter that Michael Beauchesne wrote to the Globe and Mail to complain about John Barber's take on Mobility Express. (I happen to like the response of reader Michael Guglietti.)

What I don't understand is why the CAA is wasting its time and money on this venture. They can spin all they want, and even convince some people, but there is a reality out there. That reality would be hit suddenly if Torontonians were ever to see people seriously considering paving in front of our beaches to help a few people from Pickering or Oakville get downtown. We would find there are an awful lot of "elitists" in Toronto.

The reality would also be hit suddenly when taxpayers get a glimpse of what the cost would be -- $1.2-billion per year just in the City of Toronto. If we assume, generously, that we could get $200-million per year from Queen's Park and Ottawa, what about the other billion per year? That would require (approximately) a 90% increase in residential property taxes.



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