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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

Video: Why people voted for Rob Ford’s transit vision

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This hilarious satire of the debate surrounding our mayor-elect’s transit plans was posted to YouTube by longtime Spacing Toronto commenter iSkyscraper. Nobody does deadpan better than a computer, n’est-ce pas?

Best part:

“So you think that, despite everything I’ve just pointed out, a modern city should have a vision of removing streetcars? I guess Rob Ford is not only smarter than transit experts in Toronto, but in every city in North America?”

“Yes. Rob Ford does not like trains. He will stop them. He will stop the gravy trains.”

“I am not talking about gravy trains. I am talking about real trains.”

“He will stop the gravy train. And sell it for parts. To replace it with a bus. And new subways.”

UPDATE: iSkyscraper has created a follow-up video that provides a nice counterpoint to the original. Check it out:



  1. That video is awesome. Thanks for posting!

  2. Where is ny? Is that in etobicoke? hahahahah

  3. Didn’t iSkyscraper do this video?

  4. If this had come out earlier in the year, would
    it have affected Ford’s prospects for victory?

  5. The message is essentially propaganda in how one dimensional it sets up the debate to be. It seems to almost declare that no subway lines will be built in Toronto. The fact is that at least the Downtown Relief Line is clearly needed probably more than any Transit City line, and where subway lines already exist, they should probably be extended for the functionality of the system instead of forcing people to transfer often.

  6. It’S funny, it a parody that works both ways. The excerpt above is hilarious, but the LRT advocate listing cities that have chosen LRT is also a great (if unintentional) parody.
    “LRT is popular among mollusks, aardvarks, and red-footed boobys. Asiatic camels and Japanese monkeys hhave recently built light-rail lines. Subways have been rejected by the vast majority of the animal kingdom. Do you think you’re smarter than an animal?”

  7. Street cars in traffic are different than LRT!!!  Toronto street cars do not currently carry more people than a bus!  Buses can change lanes, street cars are stuck on rails!  The financial penalty to cancel transit city is minuscule.

  8. Sorry Toronto. Streetcars do carry more than buses. usually about 20 people more. The ALRV streetcars on Queen carry about twice as much as a bus. 

    As for Transit City, the penalties would start in the $500-million range. To put that in persepective that’s about 300 buses, 100 LRTs, or extending any of the subway lines one more stop. hardly miniscule.

    And it’s not the streetcars that slow traffic, it’s the parked cars. You can clearly see the difference in traffic flow on the streetcar routes once parking is removed. It improves my 4km/20 minute non-rush hour trip by about 6 minutes easily, sometimes even more. When you target a stretcar as the problem you totally ignore that a road’s capacity is reduced by almost 50% by non-moving cars. Or imagine if those 80 people in the streetcar were in cars on that route; how much more traffic stoppage would you have? Well, we know since it’s what we see on Steeles, Finch, Lawrence, Eglinton all across the city each day where the TTC service is sparse. 

  9. @”Toronto” – you said:
    “Street cars in traffic are different than LRT!!! Toronto street cars do not currently carry more people than a bus! Buses can change lanes, street cars are stuck on rails! The financial penalty to cancel transit city is minuscule.”

    Statements one and three are correct.

    Two is wrong, since the 504 King is the highest ridership surface route by the TTC’s usual measure: 50,000 passengers/day. There might be an argument for others if you use passenger-km but like many (most?) transit systems TTC measures boardings not origin-destination.

    Four – that’s interesting, have you seen the signed contract? Somehow I doubt it…

  10. I didn’t really intend for the video to come off as anti-subway, which is the way the comments on YouTube and here seem to be headed. After all, I live in New York and I heart subways big time. (I probably need to go buy an anorak now). I would have loved nothing more than to have seen in the last two decades:

    1) DRL
    2) Eglinton subway (to the !$#!@! airport)
    3) Sheppard from Downsview to STC

    Or failing all of these, at least Sheppard as a spur of Y-U-S rather than a weird separate stubway. (Many cities have spurs. Few have stubways.)

    Unfortunately, none of the above happened. Toronto did not become more like New York or Chicago or DC or even Montreal with a nice “web” of subway lines. Instead, the subway continues to function more as a commuter train rather than a network. It may have unsurpassed integration with surface lines but the subway is increasingly priced and optimized for getting home to Vaughan, not taking a short trip to see a friend.

    Meanwhile, LRT and modern streetcars took off around the continent while the city that helped invent them (CLRV, SRT were before their time) sat on the sidelines, tinkering with Harbourfront and Spadina and St. Clair but really missing the boat in terms of how to get the most out of rails on the ground.

    Transit City was a way to get a network of LRT lines built that would at least bring some benefits of an urban rail web at a cost that, while expensive, could be afforded. It was by no means complete but would provide a way to eventually build a full network that could fill the gap between buses and subways. When funds became available (as they would be in any city outside purse-snatching Canada), the Shepard line could be completed, DRL added, etc. as the city continued to grow and transit numbers rose.

    There is no need to be single-mode — there is a role for many kinds of transit in a large city like Toronto, and the full dream list probably includes improved taxis, buses, BRT, mixed-traffic streetcar, LRT, subway, electric commuter rail and ferry. Look at how London and Paris built new trams to feed into the subway, look at how DC is now building streetcars to fill the non-commuter transit gap, see how the old streetcar systems in Boston and SF and Philly have been modernized… these are big cities with heavy rail who still want and need light rail and streetcars.

    What I really wanted to make people aware of is that there is a world outside of Toronto and to not make rash decisions like phasing out streetcars without first examining that world. You can laugh at Tempe and Oklahoma City all you want for their streetcar dreams, but the fact they are choosing rail over bus is still significant as these are very much Rob Ford kind of towns.

    I’m not anti-subway but I am pro-streetcar and pro-LRT. Toronto will lose its Melbourne-like lead, and identity, if it continues to sit around and waste away the legacy network. TC and the new streetcar order was a way to move forward. I hope the city still finds a way to do so.

  11. iSkyscraper,

    Your cartoon was amusing and it did succeed in showing how irrational Ford supporters are when it comes to transit planning. However, I think that at times you loaded your video with pro-rail values that are heavily biased and somewhat ill-informed. Granted, a lot of the things you say are indisputable facts (eg. streetcars carry more passengers than buses – that’s a fact), but when you question whether Toronto is falling behind certain American cities because it isn’t getting on the “streetcar rennaisance” bandwagon, you are wandering into somewhat uncomfortable territory – especially if you want to take the moral high ground.

    Those cities (I lived in Tempe for years) don’t support buses for a myriad of hidden reasons, and none of them is a terribly progressive one: buses attract riders of a certain colour and income; building the rails and wiring for a streetcar would allow the very influential construction industry in Arizona to line their pockets with federal cash, while none of that would be happening with a bus strategy; there is a push to remove low income people from certain corridors and redevelop those areas with more affluent residents who would pay higher property taxes, generate more sales taxes and lower social spending, and a transport mode that appeals to a certain demographic is just the ingredient. A lot of very corporate and gentrification-driven streetcar support can be masked in the rhetoric of “progressiveness” and a lot of progressive people are buying that hook, line and sinker.

    The good news is that Toronto doesn’t need to maintain or build a streetcar system for the “reasons” that many American cities do, because it’s not plagued (to the same degree) with a history of racism or corporate welfare. Therefore you should probably stay away from advocating for streetcar development on the basis that American cities are doing it, because that’s an emotionally charged, controversial topic. I think streetcars can be supported in Toronto on their own merits.

    In closing, I will say that a transportation mode’s effectiveness has nothing to do with the technology and a lot to do with how it’s managed. The TTC has shown that it cannot manage a streetcar system, otherwise the Queen car (which is ridiculously mismanaged – see Steve Munro’s terrific analysis) would not have seen its ridership cut in half from 80,000 to 40,000 in less than a generation. A lot of people are frustrated with streetcars and take it out on the mode, rather than on the management.

  12. Well, you could take the political conspiracy tack, and of course there are hidden positives and negative inherent in any choice.  However, arguing that buses attract “riders of a certain color and income” is the reason why streetcars were chosen in Tempe is a bit bizarre.  I’ve never seen anyone of “a certain income” that chose (do what?) rather than take the available method of transit, streetcar, bus or subway, to get around. Nor can I imagine, were there to be an option between streetcars and buses, those same riders would choose to take the bus because it is “their” type of transit.  I think that YOU have walked yourself into rather uncomfortable territory.
    Rather, I suspect that some “riders of other incomes” have mental baggage about a perceived ridership demographic they have heaped on buses. From that point of view, streetcars are sometimes seen as an upscale mode of transportation by politicians and upscale/trendy types who equate streetcars with big cities and big city class.  In any case, this is all VERY misguided when talking about the positive and negatives associated with a certain transit type, its application, its management and it impact on urban form.
    Regardless of all else, society needs to begin to move away from an urban form based on the automobile.  It isn’t good for anyone, from a health standpoint, a environmental standpoint, or an urban form standpoint. It is hard to imagine it any other way, but it would be a good idea for everyone to start thinking big and long-term again.  Automotive Vehicle Kilometers Travelled and the resulting carbon emissions are sky-high and trending higher for the forseeable future.  Buses reinforce the need for automotive infrastructure, are not as cost-effective or passenger-load efficient in the long run as streetcars are.  
    Streetcars were doing an bang-up job at creating an amazingly egalitarian and economically-vital human-scale urban form all across North America until the car came along just 100 years ago.  In 10-15 years after the mass-produced automobile, the wave of the future, became available to the masses (that could afford it), the street car was being tossed out as outdated and an obstruction in the face of “needed” automotive infrastructure.  The twin dreams of the middle-class, the automobile and the suburban home-and-yard-of-my-own, coupled with the economic prosperity post-war, have ingrained in the collective consciousness the thinking that cars, highways and parking lots HAVE TO be the backbone of society and governmental policies.  This has led us to the kind of Suburbs vs. Urbs fires that Rob Ford is stoking right now.
    Imagine what could be done with a fraction of the money spent on roads and highways.  Imagine what could be done with a fraction of the space dedicated to parking in cities and suburbs.   Smart transit, utilizing ALL the options, opens up a lot of possibilities and it can do a lot of good.  The argument for streetcars is an argument for something different and that scares a lot of people, but we really need to try to see the big, big picture before we decide to ditch to options and stick to the status quo.  Which is really all this pretty funny little video seems to be trying to get at.