Which Way London? #Ldnont

In a recent opinion piece on the London Free Press site mentioned London is halfway between Toronto and Detroit. I think the person was trying to sell that as London’s selling point as justification for better rail service at the expense of local rapid transit. I disagree about delaying rapid transit but agree London needs better travel to areas beyond the city’s bubble.

London is halfway between Detroit and Toronto, and I don’t mean geographically but halfway between decay and success. Detroit used to have a world leading trolley focused transit system which was profitable. The rolling stock would still be running today if it hadn’t been destroyed in the 1985 Mexico City earthquake. Detroit nationalized the profitable private system then converted it to buses as part of a car focused transportation system. Toronto about the same time built a subway line and extended streetcar/trolley service with abandoned rolling stock from Cleveland or Cincinnati. Which is the more successful city today, Detroit or Toronto?

Toronto loves cars as much as Detroit or London yet recognizes that it can no longer afford to focus solely on cars for transportation. It is estimated the Greater Toronto Area, Canada’s main economic engine, loses $11 billion annually in lost productivity due to cars being congested. Toronto alone loses $3.3 billion in productivity because of its inadequate transportation networks. As younger generations reject the car for more efficient and cost effective transportation methods it will be the GTA and Hamilton that will attract people and not cities building wider roads or second class alternatives.

London’s current choice is bus rapid transit focusing on the centre of the city only. It is a flawed plan, an incomplete plan, a plan with many problems. Having seens some of the city and LTC’s supporting documents it is the information that is missing that sticks out. Metreolinx has some in depth studies showing how expensive the status quo or further automotive infrastructure could cost billions more. London makes vague statements about progress and attracting investment but I’ve yet to see anything with the opportunity costs of doing nothing or the justification for the plan as is. Even the two websites show how far behind London is, if you can get to LTC’s website.

London lives in its own little world, it is unable to learn from other cities mistakes or successes. The danger is London, or as I’m beginning to call it Ditherville, will not survive without bold transportation reforms and an end to the automotive monopoly in transportation. The disconnected walking paths, cycle routes, poor transit to anywhere not the downtown all leave London rather unlivable outside a few downtown areas. These disconnects are costing London, most likely far more than the cost of fixing them.

How much is the car costing London in lost productivity, as a barrier to employment participation, in increased policing costs, in health care costs, environmental damage, and lost investment opportunities? As the rapid transits argue London residents are paying for better transit, just not their own. Many other communities are looking to take the money if London doesn’t spend it. I agree with the “Not Yet” person in the opinion piece that London does need to connect beyond city limits. Which would be pointless if most people can’t get to where those connections are made.

London needs a grid transit system, with two rapid transit corridors north/south, and another two east/west. It needs to spread the transit system to all areas of the city and plan for future integration with a regional system like Metreolinx and the possibility of high speed rail, which won’t stop for buses. It needs to work with the rest of the province to have a single smart card paying system that works on any Ontario, and possibly any Canadian, transit system. It needs cycle and walking network that extends beyond city limits and is accessible from any point in the city. It needs to slow investments in auto infrastructure until the other systems catch up in funding.

How does London compete in a world where economics is shifting back to Asia? Can London survive using the status quo? Nothing says London has to be anything but farm fields and ruins in a century. Working against the rest of the region, province or country will certainly make London like Detroit or cities that require trowels to see. While we’re waiting for lights to change or travelling at 60km/h in our horseless buggies the rest of the world is getting places at 200-500km/h. We still haven’t separated bulk, fast freight, and passenger service to dedicated tracks, slowing all of them down. But at least we have a six lane highway to Detroit and Toronto, that’ll compete with China’s 20,000+km of high speed rail.

Targeted Sanctions #Cdnpoli #sanctiontrump

With the announcement today that Ivanka Trump is to receive security clearance, office space, and unprecedented access in the White House I feel it is time to revisit my idea on Twitter that the Trump administration warrants Canadian sanctions. Not being a lawyer I might be wrong but my understanding is international law gives Donald J Trump himself immunity. That immunity does not extend to his family nor any of his business interests, nor to his cabinet and their business interests. Canada already has the Special Economic Measures Act to lay sanctions.

Broad sanctions will hurt Canada and vulnerable Americans and not really be noticed by the Trump administration. Targeting the Trump family, Trump business empire, and those of the Trump administration who are poised to use their position for personal gain would be far more effective. Current Sanctions by Canada are for questionable election results, oligarchical seizure of public assets, denial of Human Rights, and destruction of essential services.

Donald Trump’s recent actions against democratic governance, Human Rights, public assets, denial of service, and fostering fear in minority groups should worry us. If they were committed by a leader in the developing world we would not hesitate to call on international sanctions. When African leaders are elected under suspicion or blatant fraud we slap sanctions on within days or weeks. With the suspicion of Russian involvement of in November’s results it would be hypocrisy of Canada not to sanction the United States regime as we would any African, South American, or Asian regime.

When North Korea or Iran sabre rattles and threatens to use weapons of mass destruction we don’t try to foster friendship and engagement we tighten the sanctions. When Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe pitted “veterans” against farmers and farm labourers to steal land we didn’t open trade negotiations to secure our market we sanctioned. How is Trump’s forcing through pipelines on Native lands, targeting of minorities, and threats of war with North Korea any different?

With the disturbing ties between the Trump administration and the Russian Federation’s government and ruling oligarchy we could call targeted sanctions as an extension of our current Russian sanctions. Those sanctions are in part due to the Russian annexation of Crimea and the proxy war in Ukraine. The call for NATO nations to spend more money while stating that the alliance is no longer relevant and that the United States wouldn’t come to members’ aid threatens security and may foster an international crises. The calls to end sanctions on Russia without Russia changing its support for its proxy wars or returning Crimea will embolden the expansion of Vladimir Putin’s empire.

It is Canada’s interests to sanction the Trump administration, as it will embolden resistance to Trump and roll back of some terrible policies. Millions of Americans have lost healthcare access and we Canadians can expect greater fraud in our systems as a result. Refugee bans have a greater number of people risking their lives to come to Canada and American minority groups might end up joining them. The removal of restrictions on small arms may foster more violence on American streets that spills into Canada. Already the unchecked hate and threats against minorities has spread north and cost Canadian lives. Tariffs on Mexico will hurt Canadian jobs dependant on supplying or being supplied by Mexican industry.

It is ultimately up to Americans to decide Trump’s fate, and by extension their own. Do they wait until America is a battleground or do they move quickly for a peaceful transition? Sanctions on the Trump regime can starve that regime of resources and distance support from people and organizations that are vulnerable to sanctions being imposed. Targeted sanctions may cost a few Canadian jobs, but doing nothing may cost many Canadian lives. Which is easier to replace, a lost job or a lost life?

The announcement today that Ivanka Trump is to be her father’s chief and most trusted advisor reminds me of Stalin and his daughter. By the end even Stalin’s favourite daughter wasn’t trusted by a paranoid dictator that had seized unchecked power. The Trump administration is working to removes checks on executive power and turn the United States into the Trump family’s personal property. Maybe sanctions on Ms Trump will convince her to reign her father in before she to is cut out of the decisions.

My Shift epiphany #Ldnont

Laying in bed Saturday morning it dawned on me, the London bus rapid transit plan has nothing to do with growing a vibrant 21st Century city. Shift, like all major political decisions in the past seven decades is about BabyBoomers. Once I realized that I learnt to accept the very flawed plan as it currently is.

No generation in history has or will have the automotive usage patterns of the BabyBoomer. The bulk of Canada’s wealth is held in the hands of BabyBoomers, as is the bulk of the private automobiles. We still build automotive infrastructure thinking the average BabyBoomer just turned 16 and has the Dad’s car keys. The reality is within ten years BabyBoomers start turning 80 and must start having driving tests every two years. Even before 80 doctors can revoke licences if the patient is deemed a driving danger.

The bulk of the BabyBoomer generation are hitting retirement age in greater numbers. They are already downsizing homes and going with hassle free condos which in London will supposedly be along the BRT line, at least that is the plan. This explains to me why the routes are where they are. Two major hospitals and two major malls are within the core of the plan. Translation, convenience to medical appointments and a place to walk when the sidewalks are icy.

So now that I realize the aging Boomer is the focus of the plan my only complaint is the blatant dishonesty on what/who it is for. Selling Shift as a progressive plan to make the London of tomorrow is false, if it were then connecting Fanshawe/Western students to courses on the other campus the route would stick to Oxford and not meander through the downtown. If it were for the growing tech industry it would connect to the airport so the tech companies could connect with the world of customers. If it were for lower income London it wouldn’t focus on a few areas that gentrification will make for the affluent only.

The LTC in the last while has made progress on correcting some silly routes and making improvements on hours of service. There are still areas of London, mainly lower income, that have poor or no service. Most of the industrial areas are not serviced at all, including the areas the city is spending to attract new industry to.

The longer the commute, the lower the commuter’s productivity. Routing commuters from the suburbs through a central point of failure in a downtown intersection built for horses will lower the productivity and health of London. The focus of the city and LTC on the downtown focus appears to be coming at the expense of satellite areas of the city. Many London commuters will have to use automobiles, especially poorer people in the ignored areas or people who work in industrial areas. The long commutes or unhealthy means of commuting make London unattractive to investment, and Shift is doing nothing to correct this.

Shift is best viewed as a boon for the serviced area and the affluent seniors most likely to be able to downsize to the serviced area. Shift is itself left vulnerable to reactionary politics that will make BRT lanes into HOV lanes and then freeze funding so LTC is forced to cannibalise satellite routes to keep BRT running. If someone has seen concrete guarantees to keep this from happening please show them to me.

Some research to consider:

Canada and NATO #Cdnpoli #NATO

I know I shouldn’t have read the comments on an article about Canada’s Arctic being vulnerable to Putin’s expansion schemes. It annoys me when people say NATO’s expansion caused the current tensions with Putin’s Empire, saying it is American imperialism that is the driving force behind NATO’s recent moves. I get the sense people believe the USA are the ones making the decisions, that the eastern NATO nations are just doing as they’re told, and they are obeying to the wrong power. Even my limited historic knowledge of eastern Europe says this is wrong.

Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania have all suffered from Russian occupation, as has Poland, Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Slovak Republic and Ukraine. These nations have suffered under Russian, Austrian, Prussian, Nazi, and most recently Soviet occupations. These peoples have been play things for regional powers, “great” powers, and distant ignorant leaders drawing lines on maps for centuries. Are those opposed to NATO asking these peoples to become pawns again?

The comment that sparked this post was about having Canadian troops in Eastern Europe coming home. As if our small forces, mostly company sized groups (+/-60), are the tipping point to spark armageddon. Canadian Forces need to be able to operate with Allies, for their security as well as ours. This is what NATO was set up for, to cooperate on security and to keep the Soviets from using Salami tactics to move across Europe. Divide your enemies is a classic strategy straight from Sun Tzu and is even older.

We see throughout the world a rise in anti liberal-democracy movements, how are any liberal democracies to survive if they don’t work together? Canada can not expect NATO allies to defend us if we dismiss other nations concerns re Russia. The economic centre of gravity is shifting back to the east and away from twentieth-century manufacturing and the Atlantic. The economic upheaval this will cause will make Canada, NATO, and NATO partners even more vulnerable. Throw in the costly effects of climate change on the security environment and we should soon see that Canada abandoning allies is Canada betraying itself.

NATO, like all institutions, is in need of reform, and so are the militaries that are NATO members. More needs to be done in readying NATO forces for any eventuality, every nation could be doing more. By more I don’t mean the arbitrary 2% of GDP spending target set by iron mongers, I mean seeing diplomacy as worth investing in for something other than trade deals. Diplomats and spies are the first and second line of defence, military personnel are the last line. It is time to take the domestic politics out of diplomacy and stop letting petty interests get in the way of global security.

Another comment on my FaceBook after sharing the article was about reducing Canada’s defence policy to petty partisan jabs. No political movement in Canada has a monopoly on wanting to secure Canada’s sovereignty, nor does any party have a glowing record when it comes to supporting the Forces or its membership. The Forces have been ground down over decades and lots of new toys or ‘lipstick on a pig’ policies such as going back to old uniforms and ranks are going to fix things.

If we are going to be an effective ally we need flexible, self contained, expeditionary forces that are capable of working in the air, sea, land, and cyberspace. I’ve written before on how I’d structure the Canadian Forces differently. Since I wrote that I would add greater assets for the electronic/cyber element to both defend and attack. It will take political courage to face the institutional push back, do we have politicians with that courage?

We need a government who stands up to iron mongers, and explore the possibility of nationalizing the defence industry, then placing the plants where it makes strategic sense and not political sense. At very least explore price and wage controls to keep costs manageable, along with higher taxes in the defence industry to get our money back from shareholders profiteering from security.

NATO isn’t perfect, no human institution can be, but it is the tool we have to protect from a world leader seemingly bent on having a greater empire than Stalin or Catherine the Great. It isn’t what some of western Europe’s or the USA’s leaders want, their views are irrelevant, it is about people living with the legacy of occupation by the Soviet Union not wanting to return to the status of mere satellite or a region ignored/belittled by Kremlin elites.

Canadian Forces are in Eastern Europe because democratically elected governments want them there. NATO’s move east has been through invitation, it has not gone as far east as some have invited, Ukraine and Georgia would have NATO extend further east. NATO has not accepted those invitations but citizens of NATO nations need to know why Ukraine and Georgia feel threatened. NATO’s strategy in the Cold War was to make the Soviet Union play Hnefatafl when it wanted to play chess, there is no reason to abandon this strategy but, as Sun Tzu recommends, leave them a way to escape.

Ascent of Evil

I am a straight, white, raised in a Protestant home, male born before the Millennials. Demographically speaking I should be celebrating Trump as the second coming. Luckily I am too well educated, informed, and moral to see Trump as anything but a snake oil salesman with a toxic personality cult. I am naturally a pessimist, the election of Trump as a threat to every progress achieved since 1864.

Kristallnacht happened this day in 1938, attack the threatening minority, use them as scapegoats to divert from the real problems. Brexit has opened a wave of hate crimes across Britain. Divisive, isolationist, exceptionalist politics is rising in every corner of the world. Russian football fans yell Jew as an insult to rival fans, attacks on religious freedoms or freedom from religion is on the rise, we live in a world where praying at the wrong church/mosque/temple is a death sentence for some. Throw in peaceful protests being met with paramilitary force and the Russian Empire expanding using salami tactics, this world gets scarier by the day.

I’ve drawn the conclusion fascism didn’t lose World War II, it switched sides. A quick example, the home economic courses taught in North America in the 50s-60s are almost identical to those taught in Germany/Austria in the 30s-40s. Throw in the rise of sovereign corporations free from public scrutiny and yet capable of influencing the course of government. The fear mongering of the Cold War, the constant threat/must be ready mantras were social engineering to keep plebs in line. Yes communism is a threat, all totalitarian systems are, theocracy, militarism, fascism, corporatism, and all the other isms that put the ideology above humanity.

The “It can’t happen here” delusion is going to be common in some circles here in Canada. It is and has happened here, there is nothing special or exceptional about Canada or any other country. That is the type of arrogant ignorance the divide and rule crowd are counting on. I’ve had a taste of white supremacists and hate can do, I was in the army reserves during the 90s when hate groups were infiltrating to seize control and get training for their imagined race war. I’ve seen nationalist Serb symbols spread around my highschool.

I’m afraid of what’s going on in the world right now and I’m in the last group they’ll come for. So yes I understand why many are scared to the point of fight or flight right now. I am privileged, does feel like a prison at times, but I’m privileged to have access to information, media, art, and news from around the world. I came of age in the most media saturated area on earth pre-webbrowser. That privilege gave me a perspective and eagerness to seek out new points of view and it has kept with me. Now, most of humanity has the privilege to go beyond the narrow point of view their predecessors were imprisoned by.

One of my favourite movies is Malcolm X, a cinematic treasure giving a snapshot into a complex and inspiring man. That movie is a gateway to understand the Civil Rights movement, which I recently heard a historian call the Second Civil War, and a gateway into American Islam. That movie led me to watch documentaries on the Civil Rights movement and eventually read the Koran. If you are a privileged white male you are obligated to seek understanding from the people who have never had it as good as you. Why? Because even us white males have lost something important, the connection to our own tribal history has been stolen from us.

Pre- Christianity Europe had a spiritualism and open inclusive societies similar to many of the world’s surviving Indigenous communities. It was far from perfect of fully equal but it kept people humble and connected with the environment that sustains us. The alien systems of Roman hijacked Christianity did to Celts and others what successor empires did in the rest of the world. It wasn’t so much the believe system that was destroying ways of life but the strict hierarchies, economics, militarism, and the intolerance of diversity that caused genocide and destruction. This perverse Christianity even exported the perversion to Islam. As for racial purity, if you believe in that you are in need of some science education. Global trade routes are thousands, possibly tens of thousands of years old, we’re as racially pure as the mutts in the dog pound.

It has been cathartic to vent, we all need to after the US election results. I, and I suspect many, need to revisit this: FDR 1933

Human Costs of BRT #Ldnont

So we have a smog advisory in effect today, meaning our air quality is potentially deadly, especially for children and the elderly. The focus of the rapid transit debate has been on financial costs. Yes, upfront costs may be cheaper with buses over light rail but the health and environmental effects of buses are similar to cars. From my scan of the business plan the financial data does not include prices on carbon, which the Ontario has committed to.

In March this year Health Canada released a study showing diesel fumes are significant contributor to pollutant levels. In 2015 diesel cost Canada hundreds premature deaths and billions in lost productivity. Using diesel also increases health care costs, reduced activity days, and chronic respiratory problems. Not just the Canadian government is concerned with this the UK, and the US are also moving to reduce diesel emissions and use. In fact the CDC has been concerned for nearly thirty years. With recent revelations about the auto industry falsifying emission results we will have additional costs of retesting emissions for accuracy.

Using natural gas provides higher infrastructure costs from production to consumption and the environmental impacts are not significantly better. Burning natural gas locally will be cleaner for London’s air but will lead to lower air quality along the production and supply chain. The European Commission and the Union of Concerned Scientists see little benefit in using natural gas for transportation.

Safety is another issue that is not found in the business, at least I didn’t find it. Road travel is the most dangerous ways of travel. The most recent statistics for Canada are for 2014, my rough math suggests we had almost a September 11th level of fatalities on Canadian roads two years ago. Transit has lower accident and crime rates than automobile usage as shown in this report.

LRT is more likely to attract new ridership than BRT, which reduces car usage. As analysis in this article suggests more transit use decreases the accident rate amongst other transit. With LRT’s lower operating costs service could be extended to last call, thus reducing drunk driving incidents. Having LRT track means trolleys could be used in off peak hours when bus service is more expensive.

Finally the quality of life benefits of LRT also need to be looked at. Efficient LRT service allows more money for better quality food, more encouragement to be active physically and socially, and decreases the levels of pollution exposed to. Buses to little to reduce the need to decide between filling the gas tank and filling the fridge. Faster LRT will lower people’s commute times and may increase London’s productivity.

London should remove BRT as an option because it does nothing for our role in reducing greenhouse gases, carcinogens, or the city’s overall safety. LRT is more expensive at the beginning but the financial savings of reduced health care costs and safety costs more than make up for it.

London Bus Grid #Ldnont

The current London Transit system is not very effective unless you are getting downtown. So with a Google map of the city and some knowledge of where work is located I came up with a rough grid/point to point system that should solve congestion on the current routes. I’ve been told by LTC that London is ill suited for a grid system but I disagree. Tallahassee Florida has already made the conversion which was more effective and cheaper than using rapid transit on existing routes that leave much of the city uncovered.
The city’s shift plan has given us various versions of the status quo without telling us why the status quo must be kept. I’ve heard the downtown arguments, I’ve also experienced a mass of people on narrow sidewalks waiting to leave downtown whenever the connection bus arrives. How does it benefit downtown to have sidewalks blocked by waiting transit riders?
Notes:
  • This should put the vast majority of city within 500m of transit
  • Many connecting routes and local loops would only require a single bus during non-peak times
  • Requires more transferring but should increase overall speed of travel
  • Local loops connecting Malls, Fanshawe, University, industrial parks etc
  • Timetables should reflect shift work, rail, air arrivals, etc
  • Regional service should eventually be added to replace loss of for profit service
  • London can learn some lessons from Tallahassee and other cities to better make a transition
  • Tried to have single routes connecting airport to main hotel districts
  • Express routes adopted as needed, the grid my point to routes being needed that aren’t envisioned here or with shift
  • This would have been easier if I could find a population density map of the city “Service unavailable” at StatsCan’s GeoSurvey
Potential Express and/or LRT:
  • Gold Line: From Masonville Mall along Fanshawe Park Road to Wonderland to White Oaks Mall
  • Grey Line: From Masonville Mall along Richmond Street to Central to Wellington to White Oaks Mall
  • Green Line: From Masonville Mall or airport along Fanshawe Park Road down Highbury Avenue to Bradley Avenue to White Oaks Mall
  • Red Line: From Byron Baseline Road along Boler Road to Sanatorium Road to Oxford Street to London Airport
  • Blue Line: From Byron Baseline Road to Springbank Road to Horton Road to Richmond Street to Dundas Street to Clark Road to Oxford Street to London Airport
  • Pink Line: From Boler Road along Commissioners Road to Highbury Avenue
Main Routes:
  • Wonderland from Fanshawe Park Rd to Southdale Rd
  • Oxford St from Commissioners to London Airport
  • Richmond/ Wellington from Fanshawe Park Rd to White Oaks Mall
  • Riverside/Dundas from Sanatorium Rd to Veteran’s Parkway
  • Springbank/Hamilton starts on Byron Baseline connects main routes along Horton ends at Clarke
  • Highbury from Fanshawe Park Rd to Wilton Grove Rd
  • Commissioners main from Oxford St W to Jackson Rd
  • Commissioners alternate from Oxford St W to Warncliffe, Baseline to Thompson to Pond Mills
  • Adelaide from Fanshawe Park Rd to Commissioners and Wellington
  • Western/Warncliffe with Masonville to Lambeth and Masonville to White Oaks Mall options
Connectors:
  • Fanshawe Park Rd from Hyde Park to Highbury
  • Southdale Rd from Boler Rd to Pond Mills
  • Clarke Rd Huron St to Hamilton Rd
  • Hyde Park Rd from Fanshawe Park to Riverside
  • Sarnia Rd from Hyde Park to Western University Hospital
  • Windemere Rd from Medway Heights to Kipps Lane to Huron and Highbury
  • Regent St to Huron to Clarke Rd
  • Cheapside from Richmond to Clarke Rd
  • Veteran’s parkway from Airport to Bradley over to White Oaks Mall
  • Talbot/Rideout Oxford to Bradley, looping behind White Oaks Mall
  • York/Wavell using Florence, Egerton and Brydges to end at Argyle Mall
  • Trafalgar from Adelaide St looped to Hamilton Rd to Veteran’s Parkway
  • Colonel Talbot Dr from Byron centre to Lambeth
  • Colborne from Western University Hospital looping through downtown using York and King
  • Pond Mills from Hamilton Rd to Wilton Grove Rd
  • Whatever I’ve missed