Failed State of America

It is February 15th 2018 and the United States has had 30 mass shootings since January 1st. The usual battle lines are being drawn on why it happens despite ignoring data such as this in the New York Times last year. As an outsider it appears that the right to life and security of the person have been completely abandoned in the United States. Is gun violence a symptom of America’s failure?

The first set of factors to determine a failed state are:

  • loss of monopoly on the legitimate use of force
  • erosion of authority to make collective decesions
  • inability to provide reasonable public services
  • inability to interact internationally

The first of the above factors I’m taking as a given in the United States. The second is also evident in the hyper partisan, winner take all politics. Flint Michigan is a prime example of a nation not being able to provide basic public services. There are various reports a US diplomatic service in chaos and shortages of key diplomatic staff. Also, the contradictions coming from the current administration of foreign and trade policy make relations difficult.

More comprehensive checklists are available in the above article. The US hasn’t many of the social indicators until the economic inequality factors. The US has one of the highest infant mortality rates in advanced economies, poor education results, and certain groups suffer more deprivation than others based on ethnicity, orientation, or gender. The recent shutdowns of the US government is an example a state failure to fulfill obligations.

The first political indicator is criminalization and/or delegitimization of the state. This has been happening for decades in the US. Corruption disguised as campaign contributions, diversion of public resources to private companies, and defunding regulators all contribute to this. Much American media adds to the attack on government legitimacy with anti-government heroes promoted as pundits or in fiction. Holding government to account is difficult because of gerrymandering and the vast amounts of money required to run in politics.

The US public service is deteriorating, I mentioned Flint and the 30 mass shootings this year. There are many more examples where essential services for Americans are suffering a lack of services or terribly funded services. The wealthier an American is the more services are made available for them. When school teachers in poorer areas have to pay for supplies out of pocket it is a sign of failure.

Every country has a human rights problem at some level and the US is no exception. In my life we’ve gone from having to remind people Black is Beautiful back to Black Lives Matter. The militarisation of US law enforcement, the under siege mentality of US law enforcement, and the prison industrial complex are other factors pointing to America’s failure. Political violence against the state isn’t as common but does take place such as the Oklahoma City bombing.

The state within a state indicator is also met by the United States. Private security and intelligence services have been given access to state resources without the same stringent oversight. The weaponization of US politics hasn’t begun quite yet but threats of violence and radicalization of violent people has. There are plenty of armed groups eager for the next civil war to break out.

The American Revolution replaced a distant aristocracy with one down the dirt road. American bipolar, partisan politics still has elites and aristocrats controlling politics. Democrats fund one institution and Republicans are obligated to destroy that institution once back in power and vice versa. Both populi and optimi hide behind national symbols and patriotic rhetoric. Such extremism denies debate, progress, compromise and America’s existence.

There is currently an investigation into Russian involvement in the last presidential election. Any foreign government to pay for access to US policy makers. There alleged Russian connections to the National Rifle Association, which controls much of Congress. The above article mentions military/paramilitary not mere financial influence peddling but the money is destabilizing Americans ability to control their representatives.

Both KGB by Christopher Andrew and Oleg Gordievsky, and The Mitrokhin Archive by Christopher Andrew and Vasili Mitrokhin mentions KGB plots to destabilize the United States from within. Conspiracy theories, false information, financing armed groups, and feuling paranoia were tactics to weaken the Western Democracies. America may wish to look deeper into ties of extreme right wing groups and their Russian counterparts, it may lead to Russian security services involvement.

The United States is not a failed state, but it is not a stable and functional state either. Maybe fragile state is the best description right now. Blaming Russia, Mexico, the other faction, or whatever for America’s situation as every American is to blame and responsible for reversing these trends. Maybe Americans are happy living in a state that fails so many and are comfortable watching neighbours die for lack of care or security. Maybe Americans are waiting for United Nations intervention.


Boeing’s Hypocrisy #Cdnpoli

Boeing has succeeded in adding another 79.82% duties on C-Series aircraft from Bombardier claiming they’re being dumped into the United States and subsidised by Canada and Quebec. Boeing does not have a product that competes with the Bombardier C-Series, but has convinced US regulators that a much smaller Canadian company is going to destroy the US giant.

Boeing has claimed they’re preventing another Airbus rising up to destroy what was once a monopoly, and is now a duopoly. Maybe it was wrong for Canada to help Bombardier, maybe it was wrong for countless Canadian governments to allow our other aerospace companies to be destroyed. This is the Avro Arrow situation all over again, we cave in to Boeing’s pressure we become little more than a colony. We become the lesser partner in the Mercantile system, giving away resources and a nice captive market for inefficient industry.

Canada should cancel all contracts currently held by Boeing, ban all US manufacturers from bidding on the CF-188 Hornet replacement, and make the US put all its subsidies on the table in NAFTA talks. Boeing should be afraid of Bombardier, the Chinese, and the others coming for market share. Because Boeing is likely uncompetitive without the direct and indirect subsidies it receives in the United States. Add to the subsidies that Boeing is the second largest contractor to the US government, mainly because they’ve destroyed the competition.

Many of Boeing’s contracts don’t pass the smell test, as a search at the Project on Government Oversight finds. One example is in 2016 Boeing paid $18 million to settle claims it overcharged the US government. My search found ten pages of Boeing overcharging, receiving questionable contracts, and being paid for research the US government conducted. Boeing isn’t upset about subsidies to Bombardier, its upset they didn’t get any too.

The World Trade Organisation has ruled that some of Boeing’s subsidies are illegal. Maybe Canada should join those challenging America to play by the rules it helped create. There another ten pages of search results on the WTO site mentioning the Boeing Airbus dispute, both companies receive tax dollars so why shouldn’t Bombardier? The European Union arguments make Canadians look like amateurs when it comes to corporate welfare.

Boeing has a history of consuming competitors, the tariffs could be part of a strategy to buy Bombardier cheap. Boeing doesn’t have any products in that market, buy Bombardier and all that Canadian subsidised research is Boeings to exploit. Maybe if we provide tax rebates, grants, guaranteed purchases, interest free loans, and government employees to help with sales, Canada could keep one of the parts plants.

Show No Weakness

I am a straight, white, somewhat middle class male and I’m having trouble coming to grips with what happened in the United States on the weekend. The fact Heather Heyer could be killed by Nazi in Twenty First Century North America is disgusting, troubling, and a warning. I know Nazis, and their fellow travellers have never gone away, but they have come out of the shadows, the dark places they’ve been lurking and are now in the open.

The “all sides”, “both sides” statements from Donald Trump and the chorus of trolls saying Black Lives Matter, and AntiFa are the same as Nazis, KKK, et cetera is false. If there is a radicalized left forming violent groups it is a response of the lack of response to the Nazis. How many have been shot or lynched because of Black Lives Matters? How many AntiFa types have called for genocide of a group?

The current outrage because statues are being pulled down, statues that in many cases were put up during the era of Jim Crow, the rise of the KKK and Nazis, the era of blaming Jews or others, and seeing Democracy as weakness. These groups thrive with the help of apologists, deflection to other groups, and wishes to not have any trouble. They see calls for understanding and dialogue as weakness to exploit and proof they’re superior.

Canada is not immune to this evil, never has been. The King government in the Thirties were as appeasement minded and believed Nazis would deal with the Communist threat. Two recent articles from Vice and the CBC show how these groups are getting bolder, bigger and more dangerous. The fact the Canadian government and Canadians see this as minor threat is proof Canada is soft on Nazis, weak, and quite possibly infiltrated by them.

Looking at the websites and social media of Canada’s three I could see no condemnation of what happened in Virginia or of Trump’s statements blaming the victims. A tweet from the Premiere of Ontario and another from the Prime Minister were awhile coming and didn’t condemn Trump’s seeming support for the Nazis. Are the NAFTA renegotiations so important we’d shit on the graves of the service people killed fighting Nazis in World War II?

Remember the lesson from the children’s book Give A Mouse A Cookie, these Nazi groups just want to normalize their views, be part of the debate, have their fears taken seriously. There were people that thought Hitler would be more manageable and less violent if he had a seat in the cabinet, many of those people ended up dead.

Canada needs to spend money on intelligence and law enforcement to target these groups and disrupt them. The education systems in Canada need to teach the dangers of Nazism, and children of these people need to be taken by child services. These people see mercy as weakness, and we can not let them see any weakness, no crack in our resolve to exterminate these groups once and for eternity.

To some it may seem a bit rich for someone with my level of privilege to be filled with dread for humanity after what happened in Charlottesville. You might think I’m the last person they’d come after, wrong they’ve already come for me. A couple of times they’ve attempted to recruit me with their rhetoric of “whites under siege” and “restoring the natural order of things”. I passively resisted, I wish I could’ve said or done more but when faced with thugs and check all the Social Anxiety Disorder boxes it is difficult to do more. I take pride in being called “race traitor” or “Jew” (which is a compliment, right?).

Growing up in Southern Ontario I’ve heard the racist and hate language my entire life, some hidden behind “God’s Will” or some other acceptable sounding phrase. Today they target Muslims and claim Christianity is under threat, but they don’t mean the Black Baptist Church they torched do they. If you know enough history you see why they hate Muslims, tens of thousands from around the world of which fought the Nazis in World War II.

Dividing us from moderate Islam is as much a strategy as taking over the governance of the United States or weakening Canada with fears of losing out on NAFTA negotiations. As a recent CFL t-shirt says: “Diversity is Strength“, so instead of trying to understand hate mongers build alliances with various targeted communities. Need inspiration, look at the list of peoples/countries engaging Nazis in Italy during World War II, everyone from Algerians to New Zealanders and a Persian Bear named Wojtek the Soldier Bear.

To end this incoherent rant I’d ask or better yet demand everyone write their MP or Representative and call for emergency sessions to debate the return of over Nazism and develop a strategy to defeat it before a country falls to it. Please order your political servants to take the threat seriously enough to recall Parliament or Congress to deal with it.

With Nazis any sign of what they perceive to be weakness will be exploited to turn us all into slaves. Also, please help keep cisgendered white folk from being radicalized by them, report all attempts to CSIS, RCMP, or which ever agency is appropriate in your area.

Will it be Pink Triangles Next?

First they came for the came for the communists, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist

Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out because I wasn’t a socialist

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist

Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew

Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Catholic

Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak for me

~Martin Neimöller


I check off many of the privileged boxes and honestly alternate between wondering what good is privilege and feeling guilty for being born. I don’t feel threatened by others achieving similar rights and privileges that I have, equality only threatens those who exploit people. The only privilege I’m not willing to give up for greater equality is coming of age in the most media saturated place pre-web browser. Thanks to the internet most of humanity has that privilege through access to the entire world online but are seemingly even more parochial.

The internet should be something that brings us together yet it is being highjacked by those who wish to divide and rule. The internet and social media are being used to suggest people aren’t (insert social, religious, ethnic, political, etc group) enough. The latest, most progressive media and communications technologies are being used to connect regressives and promote their agendas. The example that triggered this rant being a tweet that bans Transgendered people from serving the Arsenal of Democracy.

The Arsenal of Democracy is something future tyrants need to neutralize before the next bid for world domination. Overpriced weapon systems, over deployed personnel/equipment, internal divisions based on gender, race, or orientation are all means to weaken the United States military. The argument for banning Transgendered people says they could disrupt unit cohesion. Honestly, who wants a Transgendered person covering them during combat? They might save your life and that would be terrible. Another argument is cost for healthcare, yeah USD$8 million a year is obscene, I mean that’s the same as 8 four star retired admirals/generals.

Maybe instead of a ban there should be separate units, like the 809th Transgendered Infantry Regiment, or the 5599th Transgendered Air Maintenance Squadron. As we’re going back in time maybe the 92nd Buffalo Division (Colored) could be reactivated along with the 442nd Infantry Regiment (Nisei) returning to Japanese Americans only. We mustn’t forget to reestablish the United States Marines Women’s Reserve, complete with MARPAT skirts, and matching handbags with heels. Of course these units themselves would have to be segregated so Transgendered Black people who like show tunes get their own sub-unit so they don’t serve with Hispanics who prefer Baroque Chamber music.

I served very briefly in the Canadian Army Reserves at a time when white supremacists and religious fanatics were trying to infiltrate in numbers. The era was clouded by the Somalia Affair, it was the racist that destroyed the Airborne Regiment, and they still lurk in every western military. It was listening to the white supremacist drivel in high school, along with what I watched/read, that made hate white supremacists and wish them all dead. It is racists of all variety, misogynists, homophobes, religious zealots and other hate mongers that destroy unit cohesion. You can never trust someone who believes in racial “purity” or stereotypes. In my unit a sergeant offered to take racists outback while their discharge papers were drawn up, not sure if any took the offer.

It is easy in this era to suggest the slippery slope, downfall of civilization, and other chicken little cliches. The fact is LGBQT people are some of the most vulnerable in society, the canaries in the coal mine to use another cliche. The “perverts” are always easy targets for groups using thought control disguised as “morality”. Who are these people appointing themselves as judges of morality? From what I see some are jealous of people who find themselves, find love, or find consenting adults to have fun with.

Being Transgender, or any of the other identifying attributes being used to persecute, is/are ridiculous as persecuting people who dislike bacon, like Belgian dessert beers, wear socks inside out, spell the Canadian way, prefer transit to cars, doesn’t know the difference between baseball and watching paint dry, or accountants. There are countless ways we could divide people, which reminds me of The Sneetches by Dr Suess.


So my title question: Will pink Triangles be Next? Today the pink triangle is a symbol of pride, co opted from the original use as an identifier of some one “perverted”or sub-human. When those wearing the pink triangle, or rainbow, or Star of David, or hijab, or socks turned inside out are being rounded up and sent to “re-education” centres are we going to shrug and say I’m not one of them? Right now it is Muslims, Transgender people, and a few other easy targets. Right now it is the tip of the salami being sliced, but how long before those who hate equality and human rights fabricate an excuse to come for you?

The Khadr payout #Cdnpoli

I’m outraged at the Omar Khadr payout, not that he has received the money but that we had to compensate a fellow citizen for being wronged. Going back over the events of this case shows how much injustice there has been. At one point the case was dismissed because US courts had no jurisdiction, Mr Khadr was denied adequate legal counsel on several occasions, his own government denied him counselor services and failed to demand repatriation, and testimony and evidence that could clear Mr Khadr was ignored.

Evidence obtained by torture should never be admitted in court as committing an injustice can not lead to justice. If I tortured you I could get you to admit to stabbing Julius Caesar and starting the Great Toronto Fire, you’ll say anything to get the torture to stop. The evidence and testimony of the United States soldier who was there is a key fact many are glossing over. Combine that with the fact the rest of the team involved has come forward publicly for or against Mr Khadr is also, to me, suspicious. With so many firefights going on in Afghanistan why was Omar Khadr singled out for killing someone?

Another question I have but haven’t seen asked in the media is: was the medic actively engaged in the assault? It is rare for US military personnel to wear visible medical symbols and I doubt the Medic killed was wearing anything to distinguish him from his colleagues. The Geneva Conventions make it clear that a medic engaged in activities harmful to the enemy and outside of their humanitarian duties loses protected status. It is suspicious to me that a medic not engaged in hostilities would be close enough to be hit by a grenade, but I might be wrong. The Medic may have been trying to get closer to deal with the wounded, which Mr Khadr was counted amongst.

Members of the Khadr family were terrorists, Jihadists, and sympathisers with terrorists. However to say that everyone with the name Khadr is guilty is more likely founded in racism than fact. This case, combined with the global climate of hate, has brought out some very uncivilized attitudes and prejudices. They use citizens in the Canadian Forces as shields to hide behind when they invoke “think of the troops” or similar sentiments used to cover their base hate. The biggest threat I see to Canada is white supremacy in all of its guises and other extreme right groups. Canada needs to focus on a eliminating these groups rapidly. Start by purging the military and security agencies.

Another thread I’ve seen the last few days is around a fifteen year old should know better. Really? A Jihadist father willing to send teenagers to war or have his own flesh and blood trained as a suicide bomber would no doubt thoroughly beat a son who resisted the Jihadist doctrine. When the father was out of the equation there were superiors over Mr Khadr who would have killed him if he failed to act as demanded. Add to that the peer pressure all adolescents face but in an extreme and violent environment. Then add being attacked by US Soldiers hell bent on revenge for September 11th, in the chaos of a firefight there is little opportunity for reflection on right or wrong.

My fear in all of this is we have learnt nothing, especially in Canada’s security services. This will not be used as a lesson and a warning, it has happened before in Canada and it will happen again. There are plenty of Canadians who will encourage another Omar Khadr be consistently violated by the Canadian government. We are at risk of becoming a nation of bullies when we pick and choose who the Charter of Rights applies to and who it can ignore.

I hope Omar Khadr has a long life, becomes a brilliant nurse, pays taxes, finds love, and lives happily ever after. I also hope Canada evolves to the point where we can actually live up to our own hype on human rights.

A city isn’t built in a day

The recent bus rapid transit debate in London Ontario has me playing SimCity 4 again. In Simcity, as in the real world, the fastest way to bankrupt a city is sprawl with large amounts of traffic friendly roads, highways and low density development zones. However, if you assume the car is a person’s last choice for transit and develop the city around any transit mode but the car the city doesn’t struggle with the burden of road maintenance and other services being sprawled inefficiently.

In the current city I’m building I have left space for the subway system to expand. A city of 17,000 people with a subway line, a rail line connecting to the region, a bus grid, and a commuter airport. Mass transit requires a dense population to be efficient, which is why I never use low density development zones, at least for residential. Before any new zones are added to my cities i wait until the demand has made the previous zones use their full density potential, then I put the transit system in before adding the new zones. I also ensure everyone is meters from a park or some other green space, even when at work.

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Using a grid system to develop a city is thousands of years old. When geography gets in the way the grid dead ends but the rest wraps around or flows where geography suits. Simcity being a game is easier to have a focused plan to build a grid, no competing interests can highjack the player’s city. The messy world we live in has NIMBY groups, speculative developers, warring ideological tribes, and short sighted leaders looking to the next election victory.

Cities have evolved for security and cooperation, walls were built to keep flood waters and attackers out, and to bring the wealth of the hinterland in. Very few cities evolved without having transportation to the surrounding region or the wider world. Cities were founded on rivers, harbours, crossroads, canals, rail junctions, and stops for resupplying the travelers. A city that allows itself to become isolated or resistant to change is only visited by archaeologists. A city must work within and regionally to plan for survival.

For a century North American cities planned for automobile transportation with anything else as an afterthought. Cities were pulled apart like stewed meat to force the network of wider roads and highways in. Low density zones sprawled across valuable farm land and nature areas to serve the car, despite city services being stretched thin and costing more. Some of the services, such as public transit, were sacrificed to keep taxes down. Most urban mass transit was kept, but as an afterthought or limited to pre-1940s growth zones.

The current aim for many cities is to densify core areas and use rapid transit as the main mode of transit through and between the densified areas. Having looked at a few plans for this I’ve noticed some are reactionary rush jobs to catch up to the cities that have been planning the city around transit and densification for a decade or two. Some have completely redone their old network to serve the new network, while others are just dropping the new technology on existing networks. The more successful ones will be the ones that have planned long term and redone their existing networks.

A long term plan for a city needs to be integrated with all services available when a new area is zoned or opened to redevelopment. I recently noticed the City of London might expand the growth zone without expanding the transit system to the existing edge of the growth zone. London is also building low cost or subsidised housing in an area that is one or two buses away from the main transit zone. This is either poor planning or a plan to keep poor people in cars. In the city pictured above you might notice a subway stop next to a bus stop in the middle of nowhere. When i do expand that city the transportation is already there for construction workers.

I recently read the article Sexism and the City which offers me some new ideas for Simcity and shows how hostile cities can be for vulnerable people. I’ve already realized keeping residential and commercial close together cuts the need for transit and parks are in every block. The Mr. Peas can’t touch Ms Potatoes approach of urban planning the last century has failed to benefit many members in society. When there isn’t a bus waiting when a train/plane unloads or any convenient connection between transit options it only benefits more car sales. Cities should stop assuming the connections aren’t needed and permit more flexible combinations of residential and commercial zones with integrated city services.

Short direct trips are better, even with a transfer or two, than long convoluted trips, this is the benefit of planning a grid system of transportation. Another benefit of public transit going to a grid or grid/hub hybrid is ridership can increase as in Houston.  Houston is one of those cities that wasn’t exactly planned to a grid originally yet they have created one for the transit system. Many US cities are further ahead in correcting the transit systems than Canada. The Canadian cities that are working to improve transit are the ones growing beyond the capacity cars can carry and are attracting the investment from higher governments and individuals.

Internal transportation for a city is useless without connections beyond city limits. Cities that are distant from their neighbours and major population centres need to show they are ready for more expensive transit options such as high speed rail. As mentioned above if existing intercity transit methods are disconnected or poorly connected it shows the city is unready or unwilling to have the new connections. Ontario has a plan to connect Toronto to cities to the west by GO Train and high speed rail. Other versions of the Ontario plan has high speed rail going directly to Windsor or even Detroit.

Cities that wish to be included in larger transit systems, such as high speed rail, should work with surrounding communities to develop a local transit system to increase potential usership and show potential visitors local travel is equally convenient to the high speed rail network. Cities that continue to focus on cars or fail to fight for inclusion in wider transit networks have only themselves to blame when population drops below the minimum required to fund current services without massive tax or user fee increases.

Cities need long term planning for connecting within and beyond themselves. It takes many election cycles to get a city ready for transformation, especially if special interest groups seek to block any or all changes. Transportation is a form of communication and if it is to succeed communication is required. Communication doesn’t mean talking a lot to people about how the new system benefits but listening to what is lacking and what needs to be improved. Pushing new transit or growth areas while neglecting current transit and areas is a good way to get animosity and push back.

As I read in the Houston case, and the Ontario Transit Guidelines, there needs to be a constant dialogue with the riders, the drivers, and the public at large. Houston found a local community came up with a better route proposal than the was offered, that proposed route was immediately tested. City planners or transit system planners do not have a monopoly on all the facts or expertise. Riders, employers, and drivers have far more information about frustrations caused by existing systems and ignoring these stakeholders leads to bad transit decisions. Even asking nonusers why they don’t use a system may show the flaws in the existing orthodoxy.

If a city wants improved public transit, cycle networks, or better pedestrian paths tomorrow then the city should have started planning twenty years ago. A plan that should have a city wide network and that doesn’t leave areas out. One last thing I’ve learnt from Simcity, if a road is congested don’t widen it to reduce congestion, stick a toll booth on it. I’ve had cities where the tolls and transit fares subsidise health and education.

Buses & London’s petty civil war #Ldnont

I wasn’t going to post more on London’s bus rapid transit but the debate going on right now has me seeing red flags from both sides and I’m coming up with plenty of questions. The now entrenched camps have signs and funds making any form of compromise implausible. Where both sides are coming from is the past, the anti-BRT side wants to remain with cars, parking, and the status of being able to afford a car, while the pro-BRT side is stuck using a London transit map from c.1914.

Both sides in this debate are triggering my bull shit alarm. The down shifters are anonymous behind signs and tactics straight from the tobacco lobbyists of the late 20th Century. The pro side aren’t anonymous but they still haven’t shown how this will function, who is benefiting from it, nor how to protect BRT from future councils stacked with anti-BRT members. We’re in a Sergio Leone movie’s cemetery having a standoff, problem is both factions think they’re Clint Eastwood when they’re not even Eli Wallach.

Both sides of this polarized debate are focused on the transportation aspects and not the social justice. Some of the poorest people in London rely on a very inadequate LTC, BRT in the current plan will make little improvement and may make some people worse off. Already London has enforced car usage for those who work in the suburbs or industrial areas of the city. Reliance on the LTC is a guaranteed way to be denied employment, just check indeed postings. The anti-BRT people have offered nothing to change this, and the pro-BRT people have shown little evidence they even care.

My problem is not that we are trying to adopt BRT, its that BRT is stuck in the old mindset of bus routes have always gone through downtown, so must always go through downtown. Doctors who are taking new patients do not have offices within the main transit zone, nor do any of London’s blue collar employers, and most of the subsidized housing will be one or two buses beyond the BRT lines. All the research I’ve seen shows these big transit projects are for the convenience of affluent people.

I’ll give BRT advocates the benefit of the doubt that they’ve studied these questions, now please show us the findings:

  • How many poor households will need cars because of BRT?
  • How many poor households will be gentrified from the transit zone?
  • Will low cost housing be built in the transit zone exclusively?
  • How long will people’s commute be going from one suburb to another?
  • What is the city budgeting for increased policing costs of transit deserts, and how is the city going to prevent transit deserts from becoming ghettos?
  • Why can’t London adopt point to point transit? How many people would be diverted from the congested routes if alternative routes were available?
  • Why adopt a route system that is crippling/failing other cities and costing billions to correct? Will there be money put aside to correct these mistakes when hubs and spokes are overwhelmed by people being diverted to them?
  • What prevents bus lanes being turned to HOV lanes by future councils?
  • Why is a single point of failure built into the system? What is the diversion plan?
  • When BRT costs go up where are the guarantees the other routes won’t be sacrificed or the system be allowed to collapse from neglect?
  • Why is the city still spending money attracting industry to areas outside the transit zone?
  • Why is the airport left out?
  • How does this system integrate with the rest of the region/province/nation/global economy?
  • How much are the fines for driving in a bus lane? Will drivers lose their vehicle/licence?
  • How much will the city spend making roads durable enough for BRT?
  • If the goal is densification, why wasn’t it planned for 20 years ago?
  • Will a downtown congestion tax and car free zones make this easier to fund?
  • Were work locations, start times, and the actual drivers who are the public face of LTC consulted?
  • Are the thousands of people beyond the transit zone second class?

I make certain conclusions based on my research in the questions above, such as hub and spoke transit systems cannot work in cities sprawled like of London, the lack of service in the suburbs can have deadly consequences as in Paris and Chicago. My growing suspicion is that BRT, as currently planned, is nothing but a vanity project and a futile attempt at placating special interests. Now questions for the down shifters:

  • Where are your detailed, costed alternatives?
  • Why are you not more transparent with your members and funders?
  • Why are using tactics of the tobacco industry thirty years ago?
  • How will you prepare London for the cultural/demographical shift away from the automobile?
  • How will road widening in London not create more congestion as it has in every other jurisdiction that has tried it?
  • Are empty parking spots an efficient use of Space?
  • How will you keep the automobile from consuming the budgets of poor London residents? Would you support a city funded subsidy for these people to drive?
  • What happens if infrastructure money for roads, underpasses, and bridges becomes tied to public transit projects?
  • How will London fit into the global trend to abandon the internal combustion engine?
  • How much investment has London lost/losing because this system is now in jeopardy?
  • Is being one of the last cities in North America to have such mass transit attracting investments/talents?
  • Are people forced to spend a high percentage of income on their car spending the rest in downtown businesses?
  • How much are businesses outside the transit zone spending on employee/customer shuttles because of current poor LTC service?
  • Is “wait for future tech” code for “I like my Edsel”?
  • When was the last time you took the bus? Was it cheaper or more expensive than parking? Was Richard Nixon President of the United States?
  • Have you factored in the increased health care costs of continued use internal combustion engines?
  • If BRT isn’t built, and businesses still fail, who’s getting the blame? Amazon?

Both sides fail the smell test, and neither side has the high ground, in fact both would need to climb up to reach the sewers. The documents I’ve read on the proposed BRT system feel incomplete and lack evidence, while the opponents produce nothing but opinion pieces and fear mongering. Both sides are using the poorest, most vulnerable people in the city as pawns. If the BRT debate was really about social justice why not connect to where the poorest are and are most likely to find work? Or most likely to end up when the transit zone prices the poor out. Something neither side has explained as far as I can tell.

BRT is not a panacea nor the apocalypse, but the bitter debate could fracture London and destroy opportunities it needs to survive. This city needs to evolve, and primitive automobile technology, whether private car or bus, is not going to help London evolve. Both sides need to remove the blinders and see what is going on in the rest of the world, or at least beyond their bubble. It is frustrating and shameful that London can’t even connect cycle routes, walking routes, and plan a few bus routes without reenacting the Hatfield and McCoys.

If anyone outside London is watching this debate then they’re watching it as a poorly written farce. To be honest the farce over Hamilton’s LRT is more entertaining, and involves London tax dollars to connect Hamilton to Toronto’s boom. If London dithers to long or looks like its unambitious there is a line up of transit projects willing to spend our share of the money. London isn’t in competition with those cities, they beat London twenty years ago, now we’re just waiting for their scraps. A half billion dollar BRT system for the downtown isn’t enough to catch up, and doing nothing puts London further behind.

All those things London now claims as benefits will go where the people, money, and efficient transit are. Bitter debate over a bus system that should’ve been completed in 1989 will not keep it all here, nor attract new benefits. London has already been thrown under the bus, its called BRT, now some are trying to throw us under the car. London should have built a LRT/street car grid that serviced more than the downtown and went beyond city limits. But then people from St Thomas, Strathroy, Ingersoll, and Woodstock could conveniently travel into London to spend money.