c9: (streetcar)
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.
c9: (streetcar)
Demands for removal of streetcars from Toronto, usually accompanied by anecdotes and/or falsehoods rather than facts, seem to originate slightly more often on the right. So I thought I'd investigate whether that made sense. Spoiler alert: no.

I wrote the following as an op-ed submission for the National Post, but since they passed on it (which I'm fine with, it's pretty wonky) I'm publishing it here.

Russell Kirk’s principles of conservatism argue for retaining Toronto’s streetcars, rather than the radical option of removal often found in some newspapers.

First, the conservative believes that there exists an enduring moral order.”

Morals hold no relevance to transit mode, however a strong sense of right and wrong should encourage efficient public services. Streetcars carry as many as three or more buses.

“Second, the conservative adheres to custom, convention, and continuity.”

Radical change brings with it larger risk, and inefficient learning curves. Streetcars have been in Toronto (and around the world) for generations, and we have learned much about what works and what does not. We have not yet put it all into practice, due to our veneration of the car and on-street parking.

“Third, conservatives believe in what may be called the principle of prescription.”

Edmund Burke said the individual is foolish, but the species is wise. Over 250 cities worldwide currently use streetcar or tram systems (in mixed traffic, as opposed to modern LRT in exclusive rights-of-way), and nearly 50 of those streetcar lines began operation in the 21st century. I submit that these cities are neither outliers nor populated exclusively by fools.

“Fourth, conservatives are guided by their principle of prudence.”

Popularity should give way to probable long-term consequences. Removing streetcars would mean adding more, smaller vehicles to the road; hiring more high-cost drivers and maintenance workers; removing more on-street parking for buses to access the curb lane; but do nothing to improve capacity or speed for the nearly 300,000 daily riders of TTC’s streetcar system.

“Fifth, conservatives pay attention to the principle of variety.”

Reducing options and forcing square pegs into round holes is seen in conservatism as limiting. Not every purpose can be served by a small-capacity bus or a large-capacity subway, especially given the dramatic budgetary implications. We’ve seen in Toronto the time and cost risks inherent to depending on subway-building alone.

“Sixth, conservatives are chastened by their principle of imperfectability.”

There is no such thing as utopia. Arguments that streetcars bring only negatives, and removal would bring only positives, are unworthy of consideration. Every transit mode has challenges: anywhere from the TTC’s multi-year early-shutdown projects to replace subway tunnel liners and rails, Vancouver’s recent SkyTrain evacuations, and the hundreds of bus accidents each year involving fixed objects such as streetlights and hydro poles.

“Seventh, conservatives are persuaded that freedom and property are closely linked.”

Public transit, much like other public infrastructure, costs rather than lines the public purse, in all but the densest cities. Inefficiency through lower-capacity vehicles should be avoided to reduce required taxation and required property for storage of larger fleets.

“Eighth, conservatives uphold voluntary community, quite as they oppose involuntary collectivism.”

A group should not needlessly or excessively restrain an individual. Since public transit provides freedom of movement, efficient transit rather than no transit is our goal. Subways to every door are neither affordable nor possible, and buses for all would increase our collective costs through labour, capital, and travel time. Those increased costs constitute involuntary collectivism.

“Ninth, the conservative perceives the need for prudent restraints upon power and upon human passions.”

Decisions should be made on data, evidence, and learning from mistakes, not due to angry repetition of magic words such as “subways,” “gridlock,” or “folks.”

“Tenth, the thinking conservative understands that permanence and change must be recognized and reconciled in a vigorous society.”

A conservative should see value in both heritage and in new ideas. Requiring only old, or only new, robs us of potential benefits from the other, and therefore radical change is to be avoided, and overall benefits should be considered. Which is to say, that streetcar in front of you is helping scores or even hundreds of your neighbours, even when it annoys a smaller number of people in personal vehicles nearby.

Cameron MacLeod co-founded CodeRedTO, which advocates for all transit modes in appropriate locations.
c9: (Contrails)
Yesterday, a complete stranger offered me some coffee.

I was in an apartment building half-filled with people who don't speak the same language as me, half-filled with non-citizens, and about 98%-filled with people who care way more about the World Cup than why some downtown white boy is knocking on their door.

This complete stranger doesn't speak English. She was pretty old, and I'm betting she's not a Canadian citizen (yet?), and so when I knocked on her door she couldn't help with electing my friend to council, and she couldn't even understand why my friend would make a good councillor. So I said thank you and moved to the next door.

But she stayed in her doorway, and asked if we wanted a drink. When's the last time you offered a drink to someone who knocked on your front door?


My friend Idil Burale is running for City Council in Toronto. She's super awesome, well-informed, rational, friendly, smart, and would be a wonderful asset to her neighbours and the city as a whole. If I had to pick just one new person to make a councillor, it would totally be her. (sorry Luke, Peter, Keegan, Lekan, JP, Alejandra, Saeed, Alex, Dan... just if I had to pick only one!)

I went canvassing with Idil and some other volunteers yesterday. It was amazing.


Matt Elliott keeps track of council votes, and calculates who votes with Rob Ford most. That used to be a thing we worried about, even though today our Mayor is more of a media celebrity than a vote winner. But here's the thing: even recently, some important votes have been close.

Here is a list of significant items that passed by just one vote:
2011.CD1.9	Don't condemn fed govt cuts to immigration agencies
2011.EX3.4	Cut $75,000 from the Tenant Defence Fund
2011.MM8.6	Kill the Fort York Pedestrian/Cycling Bridge
2011.MM10.9	Reject two provincially-funded public health nurses
2011.EX10.1	Consider eliminating the Hardship Fund
2011.EX13.2	Start charging charities & churches for waste collection
2013.ST11.1	Keep Adam Vaughan off the Executive Committee
2013.EX36.18	Don't exempt charities from paying waste collection fees
2013.EX37.3	Don't allow council vote separately on a general property tax increase 
		and a Scarborough subway extension levy

I list these because the current councillor for ward 1 supported every item listed above. And those decisions affected residents across the whole city.


I've never canvassed before. I've never done anything for a candidate. Other than vote, and ranting online about bad candidates, I haven't done much else. I've never joined a political party, because I disagree with too many things in every party I encounter (and truth be told I'm not good at toeing a line unless I really believe it already). I was drawn to municipal politics because of the lack of political parties, which meant I could focus on one issue but not have to consider everything else a specific councillor might support. One inch at a time seems to make sense for me.

I always assumed volunteering for a political candidate would be really hard to do. Or maybe boring. Or maybe too political, when I value being (in my mind) independent and non-partisan. Plus I've never known any personally until this year.

I've had a really busy year (sold our house, bought a new house, started the adoption process with my husband, got promoted at work, traveled to Thailand, plus other things I've forgotten already). So it's been easy to be too busy to help out. Oh, I'll retweet things that seem important, but that's not a way to effect change, it's just a way to participate in a very small circle of more-affluent, more-privileged, more-downtown friends. Slacktivism is the term some people use - pretending to have an impact because it makes us feel better.

But finally I realized that if Idil didn't win, and all I did was sit in East York posting encouragement on Twitter, I would be really unimpressed at myself. I can't spend way too much time at work and at home complaining about bad decisions by city council, but really do nothing beyond complain - that's a Rob Ford tactic! He rants and moans and complains but doesn't offer any solutions. I can't let myself do essentially the same thing. I'm lucky in that I have a pretty progressive and rational councillor, but council votes affect everyone.

So yesterday I hopped on the TTC for 90 minutes to get to the top-left-corner of Toronto. I met up with Idil and five other volunteers, and we set off into a few apartment buildings to talk about Idil and her ideas.

It was a revelation, because it was fun!

It was really nice people who care about their community, talking to other really nice residents who never get asked their opinion and love their community too! In just 30 seconds I would mention a few things Idil wants to improve in that area like transit, housing, child care, community centres, fixing potholes, and residents would not slam the door. Not yell. Not ignore. They would smile. They would engage. They would frequently agree to VOTE for her.


It was like being on a different planet.

Canvassing was fun, interesting, and it was a tangible way to have an impact on my community. I can't wait to get back to Etobicoke North to do it again, and you should come with me. The more people the less time it takes (or the greater impact we have!), and the more cool people we all get to meet.


In 2000, the current ward 1 councillor lost by 97 votes.

In 2003, the current ward 1 councillor lost by 882 votes.

In 2006, the current ward 1 councillor did not run.

In 2010, the current ward 1 councillor won by 509 votes.

Yesterday, I personally knocked on 90 doors.

What I'm saying is you can make a difference.

So come on, let's go.

Seriously, message me - I'll take you along and you'll have a buddy!
c9: (Default)
A letter I sent today to Councillors Lindsay Luby, Lee, Pasternak, and Robinson of Toronto City Council.


I am a homeowner and resident of Ward 29, and I walk, bike, drive, and take transit at various times depending on where I'm going.

I bike the Jarvis bike lanes regularly (more than twice a week), and they have made the street safer for me. Not just opinion: actual stats show this. http://cycleto.ca/news/2012/09/17/fate-jarvis-street-bike-lanes-hands-city-council

I also drive Jarvis regularly (more than once a month), and I find it behaves better with four standard-size lanes rather than five unsafe lanes that suddenly end and cause congestion partway down the street.

Finally, I am concerned about wasteful spending. As you are likely aware, removing the Jarvis bike lanes and restoring the unsafe middle lane will cost over $250,000. There is no need to spend that money on making the street more dangerous.

If you are asked to reconsider the issue of Jarvis bike lanes, I'd ask that you please do so. You're on Council to make Toronto better. Removing bike lanes, making a road more dangerous, and spending a quarter-million dollars unnecessarily... these are not making our city better.

If you disagree, I would appreciate a response as to why. I have reviewed the facts and history, and to me it is clear that the council made a mistake, and should reconsider.

Cameron MacLeod
c9: (Toronto)
Yesterday, several media outlets received an email regarding the goals and activities of #CodeRedTO and the abilities of Light Rail Transit (LRT) systems. This email was misleading in some places, flat out incorrect in others. If you missed it, read the original message here. (What's CodeRedTO?)

The official #CodeRedTO response, sent this morning:

Dear all:

On Tuesday morning, you may have received an email that provides an alternate viewpoint to transit policy in the City of Toronto. CodeRedTO welcomes this debate and would like to present the following as a rebuttal to the arguments posed by Mr. Gutierrez.

CodeRedTO's motivations

"There is an ongoing attempt to revive the former Transit City plan as an alternative to building subways in Toronto, with its proponents getting attention to their cause in a series of articles and interviews by the Toronto media."

CodeRedTO's goal is not to revive Transit City but to ensure Toronto moves forward on an achievable, evidence-based rapid transit strategy. We are not advocating against subways: we're questioning the appropriateness of directing all committed funding and resources to needlessly bury the planned on Eglinton Avenue, ignoring the transit needs of northwest Etobicoke by cancelling a funded and approved LRT line, and halting construction of a LRT line on Sheppard Avenue East to spend over a year on studies that show a subway line is not affordable by the private sector, let alone the through public funding.

LRT plans and road space

"Contrary to what they say, Transit City is the wrong approach to solve Toronto's gridlock problem, since it is about taking existing, and scarce, road space in exchange for short trains going on their own right-of-ways, quite similar to current Toronto streetcars on St. Clair, or Spadina."

Approved LRT plans on Eglinton, Finch, and Sheppard, largely minimized the reduction of road space for cars. On each line, the number of general traffic lanes are maintained. This is possible because the surface sections of these LRT lines are in road right-of-ways that are 30 metres, or more, in width. As noted in yesterday's Toronto Star (http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/politics/article/1120102--cohn-mcguinty-ford-lrt-deal-destined-to-collapse-under-its-own-weight), the Province is said to have offered expropriation on Eglinton Avenue East to actuallywiden the roadway to accommodate an extra general traffic lane, but Mayor Ford reportedly declined.

More importantly, transit lanes are arguably a more efficient use of road space than a general traffic lane. The throughput of people is much greater, given a two-LRT train could carry as many as 400 people. With auto occupancy rates in Toronto averaging around 1.1 persons per vehicle, that's over 350 fewer vehicles on the road, which would occupy much, much, more road space.

Congestion and travel speeds

"People use their cars mostly because they are able to travel in much shorter time compared to transit, and this happens everywhere in the city, except for downtown during rush hour."

First of all, we have to be clear that vehicular congestion is not just a "downtown" problem. Much of the congestion downtown can be traced back to inadequate transit and other travel options in automobile-dominated suburban neighbourhoods. We should also note that some of the worst congestion areas in the Toronto region are in the the most car-friendly places. If building wider roads and more highways is the solution, then Highway 401 would never be congested, with sixteen lanes of constantly free-flowing traffic.

"If a proposed LRT is expected to save 5 minutes compared to an existing bus route, that will still remain uncompetitive to the car. And that is "if", because streetcars on separated right-of-ways do not seem to go faster than buses in mixed traffic. Let me explain with the 5 cases below:

  • Taking the Queens Quay-Spadina streetcar LRT between Queens Quay/Bay and Spadina/Harbord (on its own right-of-way) takes 21 minutes and 15 stops, on a 4.3 km stretch.
  • Taking the St. Clair streetcar LRT between Yonge Street and Dufferin Street (on its own right-of-way) takes 19 minutes and 17 stops, on a 4.1 km stretch.
  • Taking the Eglinton West bus between Yonge Street and Dufferin Street takes also 19 minutes, but 19 stops, on a 4.4 km stretch.
  • Taking the Finch West bus between Yonge Street and Dufferin Street takes 12 minutes and 18 stops, on a 4.5 km stretch.
  • And last, taking the Bloor subway between Yonge Street and Dufferin Street takes only 8 minutes and 7 stops, on a 4.1 km stretch."

The comparison of LRT plans on Eglinton/Sheppard/Finch to streetcars downtown is common, but wrong. With all transit technologies, travel time is largely determined by design. It is also inappropriate to compare downtown operating speeds with suburban operating speeds. For example, the Spadina Streetcar is "slow" by suburban standards, at an average speed of approximately 15km/h, but it is "fast" by downtown standards, when the comparative Bay bus (similar traffic conditions and activity) travels at an average of just 10 km/h.

Stop spacing is a major design consideration when it comes to speed. Mr. Gutierrez's comparisons largely prove this point: the more stops you have the slower a service runs. Spadina/St. Clair has stop spacing of about 200 metres. The LRT plans provide much wider stop spacing (approximately 500 metres) to increase travel speed and will have signal priority to reduce long stops at intersections.

The LRT lines on Eglinton, Finch, and Sheppard were all designed to achieve an average design speed of at least 25 km/h.

The average speed of the Bloor-Danforth Subway today is 30 km/h.
The average speed of buses on Eglinton and Finch during rush hour is 20 km/h.
The average speed of a car on the Gardiner Expressway during rush hour is 22 km/h.

There are ways to further increase the design speed of the LRT lines. Further increasing stop spacing, grade separating the LRT line at congested intersections (as was planned at Eglinton and Don Mills), and different approaches to signal priority are all approaches that can be investigated.

Debating the costs of rapid transit

"Therefore, it is very hard to justify Transit City's $167 million per kilometre expense (figure taken from Transit City proponent's website:www.savetransitcity.com). On the other hand, the inflated estimate of $348 million per kilometre for building subways, seems to be taken from the current construction of the 8.6 km long Spadina subway extension (at $2.63 billion, or $305 million per km). However, this line includes 6 expensive subway stations that, by themselves, will cost about $1 billion dollars. If they had designed real estate opportunities (commercial or residential) above these new subway stations, TTC would've had these stations paid with private funds, therefore reducing the public cost for this subway extension to $1.6 billion, or $186 million per km."

To assemble enough land to create a development parcel to finance a subway station is virtually impossible. Given expropriation requires "fair value" to be paid to the landowner and that any subway plan would dramatically increase the value of the land, the cost-benefit of this type of land assembly would be a tough sell. There's also the argument against the legitimacy of expropriating land by a municipality primarily for the purpose of developing the land for profit themselves.

A good point is made here: subway stations are expensive; even the most spartan and value-engineered station would cost at least $75-million, whereas the most elaborate surface LRT station would be a fraction of that cost, under $10-million. It's easy to see why: no need for elevators, escalators, extensive digging, or disruption to the surrounding community.

"Alternatively, we can build elevated mass transit systems like the city of Vancouver does, where we would keep our scarce road space unaffected. We can even do this at a lower cost compared to Transit City's LRTs, since Vancouver's 19.2 km long Canada Line, including its 16 stations, cost about $2 billion, or $104 million per km. This is less than 2/3 of Transit City's cost."

Elevated lines are an option and it should be investigated further as a potential design solution. However, Mayor Ford also refused this option on Eglinton Avenue East when it was proposed. Most definitely, lessons from the Canada Line should be considered, such as public-private partnership options, and extensive value-engineering. Do note that station costs for Canada Line are significantly lower because they're much smaller stations (50 metre length compared to 150 metres for a subway station, and 100 metres for an Eglinton LRT station).

Is the motivation misguided?

"To our advantage, Toronto has a series of corridors where we can put additional road capacity; and without having to destroy neighbourhoods, as it was done half a century ago in many cities in North America."

Additional road capacity is not a solution to Toronto's transportation woes, if we even have room for it. The motivation of providing enhanced rapid transit should not be to free up space for road widening and expansion. Why? Read about induced demand (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Induced_demand), which is an important concept. In short, increasing road capacity will only add more cars to our roads. Providing more transportation and mobility choice is the key to reduce our reliance on driving to get around the region. Driving when necessary, but not out of necessity.

Agreeing on a balance

"Toronto doesn't need a Transit City plan. Instead, we need a Transportation City plan that would improve transportation for all commuters. A balanced plan that serves transit riders, car drivers, walkers and bicycle riders, alike."

We finally agree here. We need a balanced plan. A subway-only plan is not balanced. Nor is a LRT-only plan.

A balanced plan means:
  • We can build subways where they make sense: providing York University with a much needed subway connection, extending the Sheppard Subway to the employment centre at Consumers Road or a downtown relief line where more transit capacity is needed to support the transit-dependent development in the core.
  • We should build LRTs where its flexibility is an advantage and capacity is appropriate.
  • We should ensure our local bus network remains well-funded and provides reliable, frequent service.
  • We should make it safe and convenient to walk, bike, and carpool to transit and other destinations.

Those are the makings of a balanced plan. Instead, we face the danger of following a random, untested collection of ideas that claims to be balanced, but is deliberately unachievable as to stall transit progress in a city starved for travel options.

We must move forward on solutions.

Laurence Lui
for CodeRedTO

c9: (Default)
"Every $1 invested in fluoridation saves approximately $38 in dental treatment costs, according to the C.D.C. The cost of a single filling averages $140, and that’s only the beginning. Through the years, a filled tooth is likely to require further repairs and maybe even extraction and replacement with a bridge or implant costing thousands of dollars.

None of this, however, has quelled the controversy over the safety of fluoridation, which dates back to the first studies in the 1940s. In addition to being labeled a Communist plot and an unconstitutional form of mass medication, fluoridation has been accused of causing a host of medical horrors: heart disease, cancer, Down syndrome, AIDS, allergies, Alzheimer’s disease, mental retardation, osteoporosis and fractures, among others.

None of these supposed risks has ever been established in scientifically valid studies. The only proven risk, a condition called fluorosis, which results in white and sometimes brownish markings on the teeth from too much fluoride, rarely results from a normal intake of fluoridated water."

Read the full article here: http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/01/23/dental-exam-went-well-thank-fluoride/

(and city Councillors in Toronto and Calgary and elsewhere who like to cut costs by scaremongering about fluoride? I'd like you to shut it, please.)

Update: Learn more about fluoride history and controversy here: http://www.anzhealthpolicy.com/content/4/1/25 
c9: (Toronto)
A note from your host, @c_9: This email was sent to CodeRedTO.com, SaveTransitCity.com, 11 reporters from the National Post, 10 reporters from the Toronto Star, 4 reporters from the CBC, 2 at the Sun, 1 Global, 1 CTV, plus others.

I personally found it misleading in many cases and factually wrong in others. I have not responded to it yet. This is included only for discussion purposes, not for trashing the author. Personal attacks will be deleted.

If I personally respond, or if CodeRedTO sends an official response, I will post it to this blog as well.

Yes I still have a LiveJournal. Shush.

Dear all,

There is an ongoing attempt to revive the former Transit City plan as an alternative to building subways in Toronto, with its proponents getting attention to their cause in a series of articles and interviews by the Toronto media. Contrary to what they say, Transit City is the wrong approach to solve Toronto's gridlock problem, since it is about taking existing, and scarce, road space in exchange for short trains going on their own right-of-ways, quite similar to current Toronto streetcars on St. Clair, or Spadina. Transit City proponents argue that this plan would take hundreds or thousands of cars off the roads, by assuming that car trips are linear, when in reality they are not. People use their cars mostly because they are able to travel in much shorter time compared to transit, and this happens everywhere in the city, except for downtown during rush hour. If a proposed LRT is expected to save 5 minutes compared to an existing bus route, that will still remain uncompetitive to the car. And that is "if", because streetcars on separated right-of-ways do not seem to go faster than buses in mixed traffic. Let me explain with the 5 cases below:

- Taking the Queens Quay-Spadina streetcar LRT between Queens Quay/Bay and Spadina/Harbord (on its own right-of-way) takes 21 minutes and 15 stops, on a 4.3 km stretch.
- Taking the St. Clair streetcar LRT between Yonge Street and Dufferin Street (on its own right-of-way) takes 19 minutes and 17 stops, on a 4.1 km stretch.
- Taking the Eglinton West bus between Yonge Street and Dufferin Street takes also 19 minutes, but 19 stops, on a 4.4 km stretch.
- Taking the Finch West bus between Yonge Street and Dufferin Street takes 12 minutes and 18 stops, on a 4.5 km stretch.
- And last, taking the Bloor subway between Yonge Street and Dufferin Street takes only 8 minutes and 7 stops, on a 4.1 km stretch.

From the experiences above, we observe that LRTs on separated right-of-ways in Toronto do not move faster than buses in mixed traffic. Therefore, it is very hard to justify Transit City's $167 million per kilometre expense (figure taken from Transit City proponent's website: www.savetransitcity.com). On the other hand, the inflated estimate of $348 million per kilometre for building subways, seems to be taken from the current construction of the 8.6 km long Spadina subway extension (at $2.63 billion, or $305 million per km). However, this line includes 6 expensive subway stations that, by themselves, will cost about $1 billion dollars. If they had designed real estate opportunities (commercial or residential) above these new subway stations, TTC would've had these stations paid with private funds, therefore reducing the public cost for this subway extension to $1.6 billion, or $186 million per km. Also, if Toronto begins a large subway construction program, economies of scale would apply, which would further reduce the cost per km for building subways. Alternatively, we can build elevated mass transit systems like the city of Vancouver does, where we would keep our scarce road space unaffected. We can even do this at a lower cost compared to Transit City's LRTs, since Vancouver's 19.2 km long Canada Line, including its 16 stations, cost about $2 billion, or $104 million per km. This is less than 2/3 of Transit City's cost.

Having said all the above, Toronto commuters still remain without a plan to improve the road conditions in this city. And this is for the majority of Torontonians, who commute on private cars. Even if we execute Metrolinx's entire "The Big Move" plan, we would still have over 50% of commuters in Toronto travelling on private cars. Without increasing road capacity, but with the population increasing 43% in Toronto and its surroundings, in the next 20 years (as forecasted by Metrolinx), traffic gridlock will only get much worse. To our advantage, Toronto has a series of corridors where we can put additional road capacity; and without having to destroy neighbourhoods, as it was done half a century ago in many cities in North America.

Toronto doesn't need a Transit City plan. Instead, we need a Transportation City plan that would improve transportation for all commuters. A balanced plan that serves transit riders, car drivers, walkers and bicycle riders, alike.

Yours sincerely,

Jose Ramon Gutierrez

P.S.:  Links to recent articles about reviving Transit City, as referred above:
c9: (Money)
In economics and politics, there's a school of thought that (simplified) says that if the government spends a big pile of money, it can help lessen the effects of a recession, and may in fact have a larger impact than some other options (like just cutting taxes). This theory has been around a long time, but I don't know it well, and I also don't know how true it is. See, some people think it's true, and others don't. Learn more here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keynesian_revolution

Needless to say, since it's in politics it makes everyone stupid and insane when discussing the topic. Fair warning for your future inquiries and research.

Former Ontario Premier Bob Rae tried to spend his way out of a recession in 1990, with what I understand to be poor results. (I was only 15 and didn't pay attention at the time). Prime Minister Stephen Harper spent a bundle after the 2008 recession hit -- the "Economic Action Plan" had signs up in every neighbourhood for two years -- and US President Barack Obama spent 3/4 of a trillion dollars (I think) in the US at the same time.

Currently, Canada (which started from a better place) has pretty good economic indicators and unemployment rates, and the US (which weathered most of the financial collapse that was a bit part of the recession) is in the doldrums. I've heard clear, cogent arguments that say it's all Obama's fault -- why didn't he just leave it alone, or cut taxes further, or use a magic wand or whatever -- and I've heard clear, cogent arguments that this would be worse if the spending hadn't happened, and that in fact the spending was too low. (Obama wanted higher spending originally, but apparently to appease the right wing in the US he included far more tax cuts and reduced spending than the left wing suggested was appropriate)

Anyway. All of that as background to say this: WTF? Is Keynesian economics a fraud (as I've heard) or useful (as I've heard and to be honest seems to make more sense to my non-economist brain so far) ?  Since anti-Keynesians often also claim tax cuts solve all problems (which I know to be false*), I've tended to put less stock in their opinions on this topic**.

Last night (after I went to bed, so this is my morning rant on it) Andrew Coyne of Maclean's Magazine linked to an article in the (known-to-be) right-wing op-ed page of the Wall Street Journal. It irked me because it made claims (and had a few "Obama is evil"-style claims with no supporting evidence. I thought I'd write up my concerns since Twitter isn't really built for complex concepts and debates. I tweeted:
  • @c_9: Frustrating piece: overly partisan, makes claims without evidence. 4 Reasons Keynesians Keep Getting It Wrong bit.ly/vP43eB
  • @c_9@acoyne can you recommend any less-partisan reading that shows evidence instead of just claiming things to be true? Both sides of Keynesian debate claim they are right in every paragraph - how does one learn the truth? Would love to learn some facts on this.
He replied:
  • @acoyne:  He's Allan Meltzer! He don't need no steenkin' evidence!
  • @acoyne:  It is a frustrating debate. I'll see if I I've saved any particularly compelling articles, but it's generally bits & pieces here &there
  • @acoyne:  Problem is the debate went dormant for about 20 years. Keynes was pretty thoroughly out of odour when I was in grad school...Then fin'l crisis hits, and suddenly everyone's a Keynesian, without a lot of thought, in my view.
  • @acoyne:  Rather, a mix of a) Keynesians seizing the moment, b) others shrugging "we have to try something, c) opponents grown rusty.
A few more helpful exchanges expanded my understanding a bit.
  • @c_9: Thanks for anything you find. I find your writing & Krugman's both compelling, hard to reconcile. Meltzer I found a partisan crank.
  • @c_9: I don't claim expertise at ALL in this, but isn't this something Krugman has spent career thinking about?
  • @acoyne: Not exactly: his Nobel was for trade theory. And lots of others, who've spent their lives thinking about it on opposite side... Including Nobel prize winners. Bob Barro, Tom Sargent, Bob Lucas, Tyler Cowen, Gary Becker, John Cochraine, John Taylor, etc etc
  • @jm_mcgrath: One note: Krugman came to his neo-Keynesianism *by way of* his work on trade, thanks to 97 Asian Crisis. Not mutually exclusive
  • @c_9: Thx for other names to watch for. Are they also tax-cuts-only? Using "Obamacare" & misleading about tax cuts disqualified AHM for me.
  • @acoyne: They'd be skeptical that deficits had any effect, more inclined to rely on monetary policy for stabiilzation. Actually Lucas is famously skeptical that even monetary stimulus has any effect: see "rational expectations," "Lucas critique" etc. Barro is probably the most cited economist alive. I mean in academic journals.
  • @phillipblancher: Unfortunately!
  • @MikePMoffatt: 2nd, after Andrei Shleifer. http://ideas.repec.org/top/top.person.nbcites.html
  • @c_9: My (again, limited) understanding is that monetary policy not good enough with rates already at 0 in US. What would they do now?
  • @acoyne: Monetary policy has many more tools than just interest rates: see "quantitative easing." Another thing forgotten in recent years.

Frustrating and confusing. If I find (or I am sent) any useful and non-partisan articles on this, I'll add them here.

Late addition thanks to @iglikalvanova:

* I say "know to be false" so I really should have evidence to support this. Here you go! http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1692027,00.html

** People whose opinions I discount in this area include Andrew Coyne, guest star of this post. He often takes potshots at Krugman but this was the first time I managed to find content in his complaints. On other topics I still find him very insightful and helpful to read.
c9: (Tartan)

2011-10-17 Addition: Great Google Doc curated by @jkozuch can be found here with councillors, trustees, and more: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0Ai9CUethT7KjdEZWYlBRZ1puYmlHcG05bThuTDBEMVE&hl=en_US#gid=0

(originally posted at my old www.fordwatch.ca site (now defunct) but I wanted to save this for future reference)

Who can you find on Twitter? (updates welcome!) Last update to list below was 2013-06-14.

Mayor, Rob Ford: @TOMayorFord

1 Etobicoke North, Vincent Crisanti: @VCrisanti
2 Etobicoke North, Doug Ford: not found on Twitter.
3 Etobicoke Centre, Doug Holyday: not found on Twitter.
4 Etobicoke-Centre, Gloria Lindsay Luby: not found on Twitter.
5 Etobicoke-Lakeshore, Peter Milczyn: @PeterMilczyn
6 Etobicoke-Lakeshore, Mark Grimes: @Mark_Grimes
7 York West, Giorgio Mammoliti: not found on Twitter.
8 York West, Anthony Perruzza: @PerruzzaTO
9 York Centre, Maria Augimeri: @MariaAugimeri
10 York Centre, James Pasternak: @JamesPasternak
11 York South-Weston, Frances Nunziata: @Nunziata2010
12 York South-Weston, Frank Di Giorgio: not found on Twitter.
13 Parkdale-High Park, Sarah Doucette: @Doucetteward13
14 Parkdale-High Park, Gord Perks: @GordPerks
15 Eglinton-Lawrence, Josh Colle: @JoshColle
16 Eglinton-Lawrence, Karen Stintz: @KarenStintz
17 Davenport, Cesar Palacio: @CllrPalacio
18 Davenport, Ana Bailão: @Ward18AnaBailao
19 Trinity-Spadina, Mike Layton: @M_Layton
20 Trinity-Spadina, Adam Vaughan: not found on Twitter.
21 St. Paul’s, Joe Mihevc: @JoeMihevc
22 St. Paul’s, Josh Matlow: @JoshMatlow
23 Willowdale, John Filion: @JohnFilion23
24 Willowdale, David Shiner: not found on Twitter.
25 Don Valley West, Jaye Robinson: @JayeRobinson
26 Don Valley West, John Parker: @JohnParker26
27 Toronto Centre-Rosedale, Kristyn Wong-Tam: @KristynWongTam
28 Toronto Centre-Rosedale, Pam McConnell: not found on Twitter.
29 Toronto-Danforth, Mary Fragedakis: @MFragedakis
30 Toronto-Danforth, Paula Fletcher: @Paulafletcher30
31 Beaches-East York, Janet Davis: @Janet_Davis
32 Beaches-East York, Mary-Margaret McMahon: @mary_margaret32
33 Don Valley East, Shelley Carroll: @ShelleyCarroll
34 Don Valley East, Denzil Minnan-Wong: @DenzilMW
35 Scarborough Southwest, Michelle Berardinetti: @CouncillorMB
36 Scarborough Southwest, Gary Crawford: @CllrCrawford
37 Scarborough Centre, Michael Thompson: @ward37
38 Scarborough Centre, Glenn de Baeremaeker: not found on Twitter.
39 Scarborough-Agincourt, Mike Del Grande: @ward39
40 Scarborough Agincourt, Norm Kelly: @CouncillorKelly
41 Scarborough-Rouge River, Chin Lee: not found on Twitter.
42 Scarborough-Rouge River, Raymond Cho: @rcho42
43 Scarborough East, Paul Ainslie: @CllrAinslie
44 Scarborough East, Ron Moeser: not found on Twitter.

Bonus: Toronto City Clerk: @TorontoCouncil
c9: (Gay)
"At the funeral, Naseer’s friends and family spoke of his troubled adolescence and privately, his girlfriend assured me that Naseer loved being gay. Whatever drove him to kill himself was deeper than Muslim homophobia.

But while I was assured that nothing I’d ever said could’ve harmed Naseer, I knew that nothing I’d ever said helped him either. Thinking of the timely phrase SILENCE = DEATH, I began to speak up. At a formal later that year, one of the guys told me how much he admired me for my bravery. I mumbled a thanks and shuffled away. Coming out wasn’t brave, it’s what I should’ve done much, much earlier. I began to talk about being gay and haven’t shut up since."

"At the end of the rainbow," by Scott Dagostino
c9: (Gay)

It's a graphic subject line, but suck it up: you probably have people and resources around you that many queer youth don't have.

I was raised Catholic, and attended Catholic schools in BC and Ontario from Kindergarten to Grade 13. I figured out that I'm gay partway through high school, came out to friends, then family, and honestly had a really easy time of it. I even took a boy to my prom. But I had friends who were kicked out of their homes by their parents - at age 14! - and never spoke to their families again. I had friends who attempted suicide, and a friend who succeeded at suicide.

Things were so easy for me (thanks Mom and Dad!) that I genuinely wanted to take on some of the pain and shit that my friends were going through just to help them get through it. When I watch the "It Gets Better" project videos I tear up over and over again thinking about how little care some of us have for one another. Studies are inconsistent on this point, but it's commonly stated that up to a third of teen suicides are due to fears over sexual orientation. I can't prove that from looking at the studies, but I can say this: I know people who have attempted and who have killed themselves, and that learning to love yourself including your sexual orientation and/or gender identity is not easy, and is very stressful. Kids need support from those around them.

But some of the people we trust with supporting our kids are Not. Doing. Their. Job.

In Ontario, Catholic schools are not allowed to have "gay-straight alliances", or GSAs, which is a student group where kids can get together and support each other without having to come out or say that they are gay - it's a place that's considered safe for all. Many many high schools across North America have GSAs, but even some of the largest high schools in Ontario can't, because the school board, or the bishops, or the Vatican, or somebody has said no. Repeatedly. Quietly. Loudly. In secret memos. Behind closed doors. Even when over 30 students at one high school in Mississauga want to form a GSA, they are told no.

Some students in Mississauga decided to form an unofficial support group - they meet in the mall, of all places, because the school you and I pay for to support them and help them become responsible and intelligent adults isn't willing to host a group of students trying to help each other not fucking commit suicide.

These kids went ahead and helped each other anyway. They decided to have a bake sale to raise money to donate to a worthy cause. How about the LGBT Youth Line? They were told they couldn't donate the money to any gay, lesbian or trans organization. The school suggested a Catholic homeless shelter.

It gets worse: the kids wanted to advertise the bake sale, but they were told no signs with rainbows. "Rainbows are associated with Pride," was the school board's complaint. Let me say that again: the school board banned rainbows.

So what did the kids do? They iced the cupcakes in rainbow colours! Inventive, and hard (not impossible) for the school board to ban. The board still banned almost all the documents and materials brought to hand out, including one written by the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation!

So what's next?  Well unless we can get the Ontario government to make changes and force the publicly-funded Catholic school boards to support GLBT youth equally, we're kinda sunk. The Catholic church is not exactly a fast mover on supporting those who are different, as you might already be aware. But these kids need our help. They need to know that they have support, even though the officials we trust to help raise our kids and teach them about the world are STILL pretending there's no such thing as gay.

So here's what I need you to do. It only takes a couple minutes, and unless you're in school and haven't finished your homework yet you've got the time.

1. Email Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty, and tell him you think his government needs to fix this problem. Also tell him that it's not going to change the vast majority of votes this fall, and if his team loses government that these kids will be getting LESS support from Queen's Park. Sometimes it's OK for him to be Premier Dad and support ALL the kids. https://correspondence.premier.gov.on.ca/en/feedback/default.aspx

2. Email Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak and tell HIM about this problem. He doesn't know, and his advisers don't think it's important for him to even consider. But you know it is, and he needs to hear that. http://www.ontariopc.com/contact-us/

3. Help the GSA at St Joseph's raise money for some buttons! They're taking their fight out of the school to us during Pride, and you know how much people's attention depends on getting something for it. Let's give them buttons! Every dollar helps - please give! http://caseyoraa.chipin.com/catholic-students-for-gsas


* Links:

It Gets Better video from Pixar: watch until the very very end. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BeZiF_BJ3ss

Rainbows banned at Mississauga Catholic school: http://www.xtra.ca/public/Toronto/Rainbows_banned_at_Mississauga_Catholic_school-10262.aspx

c9: (streetcar)

Major public infrastructure projects require years to plan, engineer and finance. Abandoning them just as they are about to be constructed triggers immense direct and indirect costs. I don't believe most of Ottawa realizes to this day just how absolutely disastrous the cancellation of that project was for the entire city. Politically, it rendered the council impotent.

Giving in to the new mayor's 11th-hour campaign promise to re-write 58 separate votes by two councils over eight years; then disconnecting from hundreds of millions of federal/provincial funding dollars without any alternative but some to-be-determined recommendations of a volunteer committee, gave the council no choices but what the mayor and staff presented. If Ottawa City Council could cancel a procurement process which had won a national award, send German engineers home and then start making decisions by the seat of its pants -- then say goodbye to coherent, due diligence decision making on anything.

I predict a similar scenario will play out in Toronto. If the council caves in to the new mayor, it will run from one ad-hoc decision to another.

Read more: http://www.ottawacitizen.com/news/Clive+Doucet+Toronto+heed+Ottawa+rail+experience/3949414/story.html#ixzz17iqH7gwN

Toronto's new mayor has big ideas, but they can mostly be classified as "impossible without spending huge amounts of money" or "stupid". *sigh*

Plan B

Dec. 4th, 2010 09:04 am
c9: (streetcar)
A possible response to Ford from the "elites"...

Is it wrong for me to want to fully embrace my “downtown elitist” status (conferred by those comment-mongers trolling the various media websites) and say that for all I care, Ford can shut down Transit City, run up against a brick wall for his subway plan once the deficit hawks have their say at Queen’s Park and Ottawa, and the suburbanites who support him can enjoy idling on the DVP and shivering in bus shelters for the next umpteen years?

As it stands, I have access to four surface routes within a ten minute walk from home, which can get me to the subway fairly quickly. Even when the axe comes down on TTC subsidies under the new regime, I should still be fine. Of course, Ford has said nothing so far about what he will do with fares, so that might be a problem. But honestly, if this is what Ford voters want, then I say let’s give it to them, high and hard.

(from a comment at http://stevemunro.ca/?p=4644)

(Rob Ford is Toronto's new mayor, and he hates everything except subways when it comes to transit. Has no grasp of the benefits of surface streetcars or separated LRVs, and refuses to involve himself with facts in the discussion.)
c9: (Banging my Head)
Sadly, it has basically left the news, but the federal government's destruction of the census has not been reversed. Not only that, but after spending months deriding the census as invasive and unnecessary, it is easy to believe that the voluntary longer survey will be ignored by many recipients, and the short census (which is still mandatory) will also be ignored and the legal requirement for it unenforced. Depressing.

A wonderful analogy appeared in the comments of this Maclean's blog posting by Aaron Wherry. Referencing the plight of Statistics Canada's many thousands of employees, the comment by a former StatsCan employee reads:

"It's like working all your life at Volvo being focused on car safety and then learning that the next model will have no seatbelts because people in focus groups find them uncomfortable."
c9: (Politics)
A lovely description of the spectrum of politics - written about the US, but valid for everywhere - from a reader of Andrew Sullivan's blog:

"Is it possible that, at this level – the principled, humane, calm, smart, broad-minded, pragmatic, courteous, inclusive, reality-based level – there really is no difference between conservative and liberal? That once having ascended the peak to actual, functional intellectual, emotional and spiritual adulthood -- to human maturity -- the paths of liberal and conservative meet, as they say all spiritual paths do.

Maybe we are all both conservative and liberal all along. Ask yourself: if you won a new car on some game show, but could only have one of the following two options, which would you choose – brakes, or an accelerator? The answer, of course, is every car needs both, just as every person, and every polity, needs both brakes (conservatism) and accelerator (liberalism) – and hopefully, both in good working order.

So the seemingly endless fight between conservative and liberal in this country is endless because it’s a false choice, a fake war, ginned up by those who profit by that war. The real issue is not left or right. The real issue is maturity versus immaturity, selflessness versus selfishness, country versus party, disinterested truth versus power at any price. These are not left or right issues. These are developmental issues, issues of up or down, maturity or immaturity..."

c9: (House on Fire)
Note: This list is no longer being maintained. This is because the list of opponents to the census change is growing rapidly, and the opposition to this change can accurately be described as near-universal among groups who use the data. For more detailed and updated lists, please see http://eaves.ca/save-the-census-coalition/ and http://datalibre.ca/census-watch/

List of opponents to government's census change
List of supporters
Newspaper Editorial Boards:
Saskatoon Star-Phoenix
Calgary Herald
Winnipeg Free Press
Globe and Mail
Toronto Star
Montreal Gazette
Edmonton Journal
Victoria Times-Colonist
Ottawa Citizen
National Post
Halifax Chronicle-Herald

Members of Parliament / Political Parties:
New Democratic Party of Canada
Liberal Party of Canada
Green Party of Canada (although they don't support penalties, making their position incoherent)
Le Bloc Québécois
Conservative MP James Rajotte

Provinces, Municipalities & Related:
The Federation of Canadian Municipalities
City planners in Calgary and Red Deer
The Association of Municipalities of Ontario
Provincial officials in Quebec, BC and PEI
and Ontario

Associations, Boards, Groups, Charities, Think-tanks & Related:
The Statistical Society of Canada
The Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami
The Canadian Marketing Association
The Canadian Federation of Francophone and Acadian Communities
The Executive Council of the Canadian Economics Association
The director of the Prentice Institute at the University of Lethbridge
The senior economist at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
The Canadian Institute of Planners
The Canadian Association for Business Economics
The co-chairman of the Canada Census Committee
The Canadian Association of University Teachers
The Marketing Research and Intelligence Association
The Quebec Community Groups Network
The president of the CD Howe Institute
The Canadian Council on Social Development
The United Way in Toronto
Canadian Jewish Congress
The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada

Canadian Medical Association Journal
Director, Toronto Public Health
The French Language Services Commissioner of Ontario
The executive director of the Société franco-manitobaine
Toronto Board of Trade
Ontario Human Rights Commission (plus a letter to the Globe and Mail)

Private Sector Companies:
The former head of Statistics Canada
Don Drummond, TD Bank

Former clerk of the Privy Council Alex Himelfarb
Frank Graves
The chief economist of the Greater Halifax Partnership
JJ McCullough
Kevin Milligan
Tasha Kheiridden
Mike Moffatt
York University Prof. Valerie Preston, director of the CERIS research centre on immigration and settlement issues
Newspaper Editorial Boards:
Toronto Sun

Members of Parliament / Political Parties:
Conservative Party of Canada (implied)
Prime Minister Harper, and his Cabinet (implied)
Maxime Bernier
Dean del Mastro
Twitter fan and Industry Minister @TonyClement_MP

Initially anonymous supporters mentioned by the Minister:
Leo Fleming
Adam Adamou (@grazen)


Provinces, Munipalities & Related:

Associations, Boards, Groups, Charities, Think-tanks & Related:
Fraser Institute

Warren Kinsella
Matt Bufton
PM Jaworski
Walter Block
Terrence Watson
Martin Masse
Hugh MacIntyre
Paul McKeever

Updated 2010-07-21 16:05 EDT

c9: (Banging my Head)
The federal government has announced that the census - run every five years in Canada - is being changed in 2011. The change which they seem to think is minor, is to spend $30 million more to send it out to more people, but to make most of the questions optional. They say the long form on the census is too intrusive, and the government threatening jail time is inappropriate.

In Canada, 80% of the population receives a short census form, with only five questions. 20% of the population receives a long form, with many more, very detailed questions - how many bedrooms in your home, how much money do you make, how far do you commute to work, etc. The census is required - everyone must complete it. If you don't, Statistics Canada will call you, visit you, remind you, pester you, and finally if nothing else works they will actually discuss the fines and potential for jail time. Like jury duty and paying taxes, a census is something required of residents.

The questions are very detailed, but Statistics Canada is very obsessive about privacy, to the point of not releasing census data from 100 years ago! In the past decade, the Privacy Commissioner has received only three complaints about the census in total.

The census is actually very important. Everything you do, every day, involves that data. The roads you travel on, the transit system - even where the bus routes go in your neighbourhood, the schools your kids attend, the community centres you swim at, the number of Members of Parliament supporting your city... the list goes on and on. Almost all large businesses use the census data as well.

The reason it's so important is that the census is a picture of the actual population. It's not estimated, extrapolated, or guessed-at. If the long form becomes voluntary, then the most vulnerable in your community - who are known to self-report less - will be at greater risk and have fewer resources available to them. The upper middle-class and rich will end up over-represented, and this is the group which many of us fall into -- you've got a computer and high speed internet, and a job? you're probably richer than you like to think.

Anyway. This is a big problem. This affects you. If this change stands, it will actually hurt our ability to effectively and efficiently provide government services, care for our less fortunate, and even just understand where everybody lives.

"Clement’s statistical illiteracy is so profound it gives one vertigo. The notion that simply making the sample bigger can’t fix a skewed sample is something undergraduates learn in first-year classes, yet is somehow beyond the mental grasp of a senior minister of a G8 country. And the comedic benefit of watching Clement fail first-year economics is undermined by the cold realization that he fundamentally does not understand the intellectual foundations of the files that he controls. When he is cornered by his intellectual betters, moreover, Clement’s instinct is to reach for the debating-hall comforts of cheap populism."
- http://www2.macleans.ca/2010/07/16/sometimes-a-gaffe-is-more-than-a-gaffe/

Learn more:

See the actual questions from 2006: http://www12.statcan.ca/IRC/english/ccr03_005_e.htm
c9: (Default)
The truth is this: China wrecked the talks, intentionally humiliated Barack Obama, and insisted on an awful "deal" so western leaders would walk away carrying the blame. How do I know this? Because I was in the room and saw it happen.

China's strategy was simple: block the open negotiations for two weeks, and then ensure that the closed-door deal made it look as if the west had failed the world's poor once again. And sure enough, the aid agencies, civil society movements and environmental groups all took the bait.
c9: (Running)
I posted a bland complaint about software patents being a bit nutty this afternoon, and found myself trading ideas with a patent lawyer in Texas. Thought I'd post it here for comment and/or posterity. As always, my enthusiasm for a short and snappy opinion on something outside my expertise led me into a bit of a hole I wasn't prepared for, and I had to do a bunch of research to substantiate my position. (My posts in blue, his in red)

Software patents insane. RT @aylab: Microsoft loses Word patent appeal http://tinyurl.com/yd4y7uz -- They are no longer allowed to sell it.

i4i prevails against Microsoft. Its check-writing time for MS, or injunction on Word sales http://bit.ly/7Uiegc

@c_9 Actually, Microsoft just has to pay the inventors a royalty. Its no big deal.

@Jugglenaut In this case yes there is a solution, but software patents in general R insane in my view. See Caldera/SCO for examples.

@c_9 Caldera/SCO was a copyright issue. Very different fact/issues were involved. I4i v. Microsoft predominately revolves around #patent.

@c_9 Incidentally, if software patents are all bad, how do U account for increasing employment? http://bit.ly/8OjyTd

@Jugglenaut agreed, SCO example not correct, wasn't thinking. Will find better examples. #patent

@Jugglenaut employment as a programmer & the existence of software patents are not necessarily correlated; also, Wolfram has boom yrs only.

@c_9 Yes, perhaps a boom, but computer implemented methods were alive and well during those years. & likely contributed to the demand.

@c_9 Look at it this way, how do you get more golden eggs? A: Raise more geese and keep 'em happy.

@c_9 How 'bout this? USA has strongest protection of SW IP of all nations .: we have the most talent focussed making SW products. #swpatent

@Jugglenaut re employment boom - I agree they probably contributed, but we have no evidence for this.

@Jugglenaut please see next several tweets for perfect example of why twitter is useless for debate. :-) #swpatent

@jugglenaut I'm not certain that all software #patent are bad, but they are not all automatically good either.

Fundamental concerns with software #patent idea:
1. Copyright protects work of programmers/biz against copying.

2. Mathematics and logic leads to algorithms, so I could review issue & invent solution that breaches #patent on software I've never seen.

3. CompSci prof Donald Knuth says #patent are trouble, wrote to USPTO to ask them to change their approach.
[link I didn't include in tweet: http://www.scribd.com/Letter-to-the-Patent-Office-From-Donald-Knuth/d/29707]

4. Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates says MS couldn't have grown as it did if patents had existed at the start of company. [link I didn't include in tweet: http://eupat.ffii.org/archiv/zitate/#bgates91]

5. USPTO has multiple examples of granting patents for non-unique, trivial, or prior-art-exists ideas. [link I didn't include in tweet: http://w2.eff.org/patent/wp.php]

@c_9 same could be said about pharmacological patents #swpatent

@c_9 Just like a sword... the good and the bad are in the one who holds it. #swpatent

So I think we need better approach. Not all software patents are bad, not all are good. @jugglenaut agreed on the sword.

@c_9 the ultimate decider in this is the #USPTO. If our patent office were adequately staffed then this debate is moot #swpatent

@Jugglenaut re pharm patents - true. And I have concerns re pharm patents due to cost/suffering in poor countries. No solution though.

@Jugglenaut agreed - the #USPTO needs knowledge/experience to judge, and clearly doesn't have it. #swpatent

@c_9 wether pharma or SW, U have to agree the carrot produces more innovation than the stick. #swpatent

@Jugglenaut LOL @ Spinal Tap! Agreed that carrot more effective than stick. But not all carrots equally effective.

@c_9 From personal experience, the #USPTO places far more limitations on patent claims than the patent ap has when starting #swpatent

@c_9 You should have seen what we wanted to have. Well, you should have seen the cover they *wanted* to do! #swpatent

@c_9 http://bit.ly/8vGzz0 ;)

Something about the patent claims U want versus what you get reminds me of Memorable quotes for This Is Spinal Tap

@c_9 Ah yes, your reward awaits in heaven . I'm not saying some SW shouldn't be passed around freely - just not all. #swpatent

Wanted: software that will give me the contents of an @-based conversation on twitter, but in chronological order, from all users. Possible?

...turns out I had to do it myself. Never again!  Maybe somebody has patented working with XML already...? </irony>
c9: (Global Warming)
(Courtesy of The Walrus -- a magazine I regularly find to be worth my time.)

First, what's Peak Oil?

Oil will not just "run out" because all oil production follows a bell curve. This is true whether we're talking about an individual field, a country, or on the planet as a whole.

Oil is increasingly plentiful on the upslope of the bell curve, increasingly scarce and expensive on the down slope. The peak of the curve coincides with the point at which the endowment of oil has been 50 percent depleted. Once the peak is passed, oil production begins to go down while cost begins to go up.

In practical and considerably oversimplified terms, this means that if 2005 was the year of global Peak Oil, worldwide oil production in the year 2030 will be the same as it was in 1980. However, the world’s population in 2030 will be both much larger (approximately twice) and much more industrialized (oil-dependent) than it was in 1980. Consequently, worldwide demand for oil will outpace worldwide production of oil by a significant margin. As a result, the price will skyrocket, oil dependant economies will crumble, and resource wars will explode.

So why do we need to worry? Well, very few people are willing to honestly discuss how much oil, gas and coal are left.

The energy industry depends on everybody believing their product is going to be around for a long time (otherwise we would switch to other products), so they have an incentive to inflate their reserve estimates. Governments depend on everybody being stable, quiet, and well-behaved taxpayers, so they have an incentive to soften bad news. Additionally, they have to win elections, so they have an incentive to focus on the short-term.

But worst of all is us. We don't like hard problems, we don't like change, and we don't like the idea of not having STUFF. And everything -- EVERYTHING -- around us is made out of or with oil/gas/coal. Plastic. Electrical power. Cars. Roads. Subways. Planes. Food. Phones.

Canada is quite bad too. We like to pretend we're pretty special, but we're not. We're the 36th-most-populated country, but we use oil like we're #9.

The next three excerpts are from the actual article I'm finally getting around to recommending, An Inconvenient Talk:

[In 2008 the International Energy Association released] the latest edition of its annual World Energy Outlook, which predicts a global oil production peak or plateau by 2030. In a video that appears online soon after, the Guardian’s George Monbiot requests a more precise figure from the IEA’s chief economist, Fatih Birol. The official estimate, he confesses, is 2020. Monbiot also inquires as to the motivation for the IEA’s sudden about-face, and Birol explains dryly that previous studies were “mainly an assumption.” That is, the 2008 version was the first in which the IEA actually examined hard data, wellhead by wellhead, from the world’s 800 largest oil fields. Monbiot asks, with understandable incredulity, how it was that such a survey hadn’t been conducted previously. Birol’s response: “In fact, nobody has done that research.”

But what about Canada's tar or oil sands? (More on the name: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tar_sands)

The historical Energy Return On Energy Invested (EROEI) for conventional oil is 100:1. This refers to the kind of crude that gushes up in the opening credits of The Beverly Hillbillies, the kind that first flowed out of the Ghawar oil field in Saudi Arabia when it was tapped in 1948. Invest a barrel’s worth of energy drilling and refining in a spot like Ghawar, then and forever the largest single crude oil deposit on the planet, and you used to get 100 barrels of energy-dense, easily transported fuel in return. These days, conventional EROEI for such places is closer to 25:1.

The EROEI on more recent “new conventional” deposits, which Dave cites mostly by their discovery and extraction methods (“deepwater oil, horizontal wells, 3-D seismic”) is also around 25:1. In Alberta’s tar sands, the surface-mined bitumen comes to market at an EROEI of 6:1. “In situ” bitumen — sludge buried too far under the boreal forest floor to excavate, which comprises the lion’s share of the most breathless estimates of Canada’s energy superpower–scale oil production — rings in at 3:1. Corn ethanol, that darling of America’s farm states, is somewhere between 1.3:1 and 0.75:1. Shale oil, another unconventional source held by its boosters to be capable of indefinitely extending the age of oil, has never been converted into fuel at a net energy profit, at least as far as Dave has been able to ascertain.

A barrel of oil is pretty cheap these days, all things considered. But what if, sort-of-hypothetically-and-sort-of-not, what if we had no way to generate energy except ourselves?

As he drives, Dave indulges in a little academic exercise. He’s comfortable with numbers, quick with calculations. A barrel of oil, he tells you, contains about six gigajoules of energy. That’s six billion joules. Put your average healthy Albertan on a treadmill and wire it to a generator, and in an hour the guy could produce about 100 watts of energy. That’s 360,000 joules. Pay the guy the provincial minimum wage, give him breaks and weekends and statutory holidays off, and it would take 8.6 years for him to produce one barrel of oil equivalent (boe, the standard unit of measure in hydrocarbon circles). And you’d owe him $138,363 in wages. That, Dave tells you, is what a barrel of oil is worth.

Worth the read. http://www.walrusmagazine.com/articles/2009.06-energy-an-inconvenient-talk/

August 2015

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