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[personal profile] c9
Jim Kenzie’s unhinged rant masquerading as auto journalism (“Pan Am Games’s HOV lanes are a countrywide virus”) is a stain on the Toronto Star’s reputation. It should be retracted, and all copies used to line birdcages. Since that’s unlikely, a response.

First, his comparison of basic carpooling used around the planet to the scourge of HIV/AIDS demands immediate apology from him and his editor. Have some perspective and human decency, or go back to the internet comment section from whence you crawled.

That aside, the piece is riddled with falsehoods, math errors, and misleading statements, using his pulpit to set back our evolution into a region with an effective, non-gridlocked transportation system.

Kenzie claims only 0.001% could have benefited from the HOV lanes – 65 people, in a region of 6.5 million. But there are over 6,100 athletes competing, and GM provided 1,200 vehicles for athlete, official, and volunteer transportation, so his math seems quite impossible.

He also describes the HOV lanes – just 235 km across the entire GTHA – as being “up to one third of our traffic resources”. Ignoring his comical definition of traffic resources as merely the pavement his car touches, he should be aware that in Toronto alone there are over 5,365 km of roads. Even if every inch of the HOV lanes were inside the City of Toronto, they’d represent just 4% of our road space.

Kenzie claims the HOV lanes “didn’t work,” and that they’ve “never worked anywhere,” but presents no evidence for this. A simple Google search for “carpooling research” will yield some fascinating information, should he someday wish to research his already-published article.

Another pretty basic error Kenzie and his editor missed is that the United Kingdom has had carpool lanes in Leeds for over 17 years. And of course throughout Europe the public transit options are far more advanced than in car-oriented North America, leading to different choices.

To be fair, as one should, one thing Kenzie gets right is that the HOV lanes regularly had illegal users, especially when new. Behavioural change is never instant, and explanation of carpooling facts can help. It’s unfortunate he aligned himself with the fact-free approach to policy of our former mayor, denigrating this well-understood, low-cost tool, widely-used worldwide for managing congestion.

Just because nobody wanted to carpool with him – a race car driver and automotive writer! – doesn’t mean nobody else carpooled, and he shows this in his article: some were so willing to change their behaviour they paid strangers to sit in their car! Clearly HOV lanes can modify behaviour.

“Our highway system IS our transit system,” he declares. “If people want to ride a bus or subway, let them pay for it.” Jim, TTC’s subways carry nearly double what Toronto’s expressways carry, every single day, and the transit riders are paying. Plus their taxes – and those of cyclists and pedestrians – are going toward the massively subsidized highways you adore too.

It’s farcical to imagine that an automotive journalist truly believes the highway is the transit system. Where does he think the over 1.5 million TTC riders per day should go? In the same highway lane with him? One lane of highway maxes out at the equivalent of five subway trains per hour.

“All that pavement going to waste,” he cries, misunderstanding that the entire point is for the pavement to be available when needed. HOV lanes can upgrade the experience for everyone: emergency services, special event athletes, even auto journalists – if they decide to be a grownup and live in harmony with the rest of their region, instead of throwing a tantrum in the Star.

HOV lanes aren't a virus, but rather they're a vaccine which will help our region grow and stay strong.
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