Categories
Infrastructure Intercity Rail Transit

Filling the gap in Southwestern Ontario

9119948871_f1716baa80_oWhile there’s GO train service between Toronto, Guelph, and Kitchener, it’s inadequate for the regions’s transportation demands 

Earlier this year, I took a ride on Wroute, a new service connecting Guelph, Kitchener, and Burlington that has some characteristics of a bus service, a taxi company, and ride-hailing app. With a fleet of Tesla Model X electric SUVs, Wroute tries fill a gap left by GO Transit and other intercity transportation operators in the Guelph-Kitchener/Waterloo-Hamilton Triangle. It’s an interesting concept, but it is not enough to move commuters quickly, reliably, frequently and, most important, affordably.

I spoke with two Kitchener residents — James Bow, author and webmaster of Transit Toronto, and Brian Doucet, Canada Research Chair in cities planning at the University of Waterloo — to find out what the region really needs.

You can read the full article at the TVO website here.

IMG_8407-001.JPGTesla operated by Wroute at Guelph Central Station

Categories
Infrastructure Toronto Walking

A year later, progress on Canongate Trail

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Canongate Trail, February 2019

In February 2018, Duncan Xu, an 11-year old boy, was struck and killed crossing a residential street in North Scarborough on his way home from school. He was one of forty-two pedestrians unintentionally struck and killed by motorists in Toronto last year.

Not long after Duncan’s death, I visited the neighbourhood and wrote about the tragedy.  Canongate Trail, where Duncan was struck, is a two-lane residential street. At the time, there were no traffic calming measures in place to slow down motorists, many of whom used Canongate as a shortcut around the busy intersection of Kennedy Road and Steeles Avenue. The local councillor, Jim Karygiannis, decided to unilaterally close a walkway linking the rear schoolyard with Canongate Trail, close to where Duncan was killed. Duncan used the walkway before he tried to cross the street.

Since then, more permanent fixes were made. At the request of Karygiannis and local residents, city staff studied both reducing speed limit and installing traffic calming measures. While staff recommended reducing the speed limit to 30 kilometres an hour, they concluded that traffic calming measures such as speed humps were unwarranted.

The speed humps were added anyway, along with other measures. A new all-way stop was added at Ockwell Manor Drive, near where the walkway meets the Canongate Trail sidewalk. Beyond the point where the walkway meets the sidewalk, fencing was installed to discourage children from running into the street. These are significant improvements.

IMG_8530-001The walkway to the school and a nearby park is reopened, with a metal barrier between the sidewalk and the roadway

Still, more can always be done. Curb extensions or bulb-outs at intersections would be another effective traffic calming measure, narrowing the roadway, slowing down turning vehicles, and increasing pedestrian visibility while reducing pedestrian crossing distances.

What’s most disheartening though is that it took a young child’s death for these measures to happen. All residential streets should have a 30 km/h limit and streets designed to slow motorists down, including measures such as curb extensions and speed humps. As with the “Slow Down – Kids at Play” lawn sign campaign, action only comes after a high-profile tragedy. Even then, it’s not enough.

It’s good to see progress on Canongate Trail. But this should be the standard everywhere. We can and should do better in Toronto if we are all serious about implementing a true Vision Zero policy.

IMG_8535-001New 30 km/h speed limit and a new stop sign on Canongate Trail, February 2019

IMG_6027-001What Canongate Trail looked like in March 2018

Categories
Brampton Politics

Why Brampton’s property taxes are high — and what it can do about it

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To effectively reduce its residential property tax rate, Brampton must diversify its tax base

It’s budget time for most municipalities in Ontario. Unlike cities elsewhere in the world — where municipalities can levy income, sales, and payroll taxes — places like Toronto, Ottawa, and Brampton rely on property taxes for most of their operating revenue, and they are complicated.

Toronto homeowners enjoy the cheapest property tax rates in the Greater Toronto Area, too low in fact to properly support city services like transit, housing, or adequate snow clearance.

Meanwhile, Brampton has some of the highest property tax rates in the city. A typical house in Brampton whose assessed value is $800,000 would be levied $8,284.73 in property taxes in Brampton. A similar house in suburban Scarborough or Etobicoke might be worth more, but the taxes on a house accessed at $1 million would be just $6,355.10.

While freezing property taxes might be popular, it isn’t a sustainable solution to high property taxes. A property tax freeze means that the city will not collect any additional tax revenue, regardless of new development or higher property assessments; unlike income and sales taxes, property tax revenue does not grow with the economy. Commercial and industrial property tax rates are higher, but Brampton doesn’t have enough of either land use compared to housing.

Brampton’s property tax issues are structural; tax cuts or freezes will not help. Having a diverse tax base, like Toronto’s, is a better solution, but it won’t be easy. I explain more in Bramptonist.