Joe Warmington is angry

In an article published today, September 1, Joe Warmington gets worked up about a 2.5 km bus bypass lane on the Don Valley Parkway. I mean really worked up.

Normally, I don’t mind a bit when a columnist has a strong opinion. Usually they are honest, fact-driven and more often than not, help me reflect on my own opinion of the issue. However, when the column is so full of falsities, needless slander and misrepresentations of facts, I have a huge problem.

First, some background. Back in May, the City’s Public Works and Infrastructure Committee looked at the proposed GO bus bypass lane, which would run, north and south, from the Lawrence Ave. interchange to approximately 450 m north of the York Mills Rd. interchange. The lane, as proposed, would be on both sides of the road, and help make GO bus trips during rush hour a little faster.

I think it is a pretty widely accepted notion that transit systems should have priority over private automobiles where possible. Riders are decreasing the environmental cost their travel puts on the city’s air, and are also helping to decrease congestion by not using their own private automobile.

However, Mr Warmington seems to have missed this completely. Instead of a cost-effective way to decrease travel time and harmful emissions, he sees the lane as “another fishing hole” for Toronto’s police to exploit, and another battle in the fictitious “war on the car”. This is because there is an $85 fine for mis-use of the lane. What Mr Warmington ignores is the fact that previous to being a bus bypass lane, this piece of highway was a shoulder– not to be used by motorists except in emergency situations– which remains the case today. Even before the lanes were painted on, any motorist who decided to travel on the shoulder would have been subjected to a fine. Or is he suggesting that the shoulder should not exist?

Next, Mr Warmington attacks the cost of these lanes. $120 000, he infers, is just another example of council wasting your hard-earned money. He says that cost is paid by you–the Toronto taxpayer– and you should be outraged. However, he contradicts his own newspaper, which in a May article, says the cost will be “funded entirely by Metrolinx”. Now I suppose I am splitting hairs a little bit here, because Metrolinx is a provincial agency, and Torontonians pay tax to the provincial government. But the cost is ultimately borne by all of Ontario.

Mr Warmington goes on to say that “all this really does is make your life harder”. I assume when he is talking about “your life” it is about you, the motorist who so bravely and valiantly tackles the DVP every day. However, he is wrong again. This will make your life no harder. This lane didn’t exist before, so it’s not being taken away from motorists. Instead, you, the driver, won’t get stuck behind that slow, stinky GO bus. Not to mention the fact that it will make life easier for the people that take one of those buses (kudos to Mr Warmington, who actually makes this point).

Really, this article was an opportunity Mr Warmington saw to slay some of the demons that have been bothering him in recent months. First he refers to the “bicycle-socialists” that have dreamed this up “to help pay for some new environmentally-friendly bunny suits”, a reference to an incident of alleged misspending by a councillor on rabbit mascot suits. Then, he pities the poor, “ostracized motorist” that “no one seems to care about”, all the while having “20 minutes stolen from the north Toronto commuter on Jarvis St. thanks to the new bike lanes built for Councillor Kyle Rae’s 100 cycling friends”. Nevermind that those quotes are contained in one, run-on sentence, the supposed facts contained in the thought are just plain wrong. The City has not tested the traffic impact of the new bike lanes yet (because it’s summer) but they are projected to cause a maximum of 2 minutes to be added to an automobile commute. Meanwhile, bikes are not taking up an entire lane, and everyone is safer.

Is the motorist in Toronto really “ostracized”? In some parts of the city, it is more difficult to drive than it is to walk or cycle. In other parts, mostly the inner suburbs, it is downright dangerous to walk or cycle because the automobile so dominates. Sure, prices are going up for gas, for insurance, for cars themselves, and traffic is always getting worse, so I can see how Mr Warmington can get confused. But drivers are far from “ostracized”. If anything, the cyclist and transit rider are ostracized by Mr Warmington, who is suggesting that cyclists should only travel on routes that already have bike lanes, and bus passengers should have to suffer equally with single-driver automobiles stuck in traffic.

What really grinds my gears is when Mr Warmington refers to “regular people”– the mythical group of Canadian politics. The beauty of using this term is that it refers to anyone the reader wants it to– or anything the writer wants it to. In this case, “regular people” are hard-working, law-abiding, overtaxed motorists. Not hard-working, law-abiding, overtaxed transit riders. No, you see, they are being “protected and serviced by public sector service workers making close to or more than six figures”, surely another one of Mr Warmington’s City Demons.

He once again forgets that so-called “struggling families” (only those that drive cars, remember) can avoid this new $85 fine simply by not driving on the shoulder, just as they have been.

Really, there are so many generalizations, misrepresentations and undeserved slaggings in this article that I could have written three more posts about it. But Mr Warmington is right about one more thing: “The truth is there really is no war at all”. No war. No spending controversy. Just an efficient use of taxpayer dollars that will make a real difference for GO bus passengers.

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