London Transportation – My Public Response to Paul Berton

by

Hold onto your hats… this is a long post…

Mr. Berton,

To begin with, a note of appreciation for today’s “Back transit plan before it’s too late” editorial. Public transit is hugely important towards safe and healthy cities, and as I’ve written to you before and despite all of City Hall’s posturing, sadly ignored (as evidenced by per-capita mode share stats). Had it not been for significant transfer payments from the province and the feds in recent years, I hate to think what sad shape public transit in London would now be in.

LTC ridership was 18,761,000 in 1988. But thanks to the political pressure of the 0%-tax increase coalition, Council’s attitude toward increased support of public transit and other necessary services became very negative. The result was that LTC made a decision to increase user rates, the results were predictable. Ridership decreased year after year for the next 8 years! From a ridership level of only 11,905,000 in 1996, we are only now in 2006 finally getting back to that 1988 level.

But even that stat is deceiving, because the city has grown considerably since then. Whereas the 18,761,000 riders in 1988 represented a very modest mode share of 10%, the 18,276,000 riders which the service attracted in 2005 only represent a mode share of 7%. In order to match projected population growth and simply recapture the 10% share, the TDM estimates that ridership has to grow an average 600,000 additional rides per year, every year, until 2024.

Along with community centres (which I also strongly support), let’s not forget the importance that public transit plays in the lives of marginalized citizens (OW, ODSP, minimum-wage earners, disabled, etc), the increasing disparity between rich/poor in our society, and the resultant societal problems and huge health/policing costs that go along with those.

Perhaps if this initiative succeeds, more citizens will have access to Fanshawe Pioneer Village (as one example of a less accessible but important community resource) and it’s consequent improved finances will in turn reduce pressure on City Council at budget time.

To borrow a phrase from Arlene Kennedy, “Our city must become the centre for innovative and creative thinking.” Contrary to statements from the developer-backed naysayers on City Council, increased municipal investment in public transit would move us in that direction.

Might I suggest a follow-up article which examines the true cost of private automobile usage, not only including such things as purchase price, insurance, maintenance, license… but also things like municipal road widening, road extensions, public parking, police enforcement, bylaw enforcement, collisions, environmental degradation (pollution, loss of farmland, etc), increased infrastructure and emergency service costs resulting from urban sprawl … ?

If you haven’t already done so, I encourage you to read Ryan McGreal’s “The High Cost of Free Parking.

I must admit though, that I’m somewhat at a loss to understand the failure of the LFP to address London’s record-setting year with respect to vehicle/pedestrian incidents, in any of your year-end recaps that I’ve read. Did I miss something?

On another transportation-related note. Many months ago, when I notified you about the proposal that I had put to City Council with respect to a Pedestrian Subcommittee for London, you replied that you had a special interest in pedestrian/bicyclist safety and that you wished to be kept informed. That being the case, you may be interested in the correspondence which is attached (below). In addition to the highly questionable manner in which the proposal was handled by City Council and “city administration”, I note that I haven’t had a single contact from any elected member about this.

Continuing with the same theme, and my efforts to extract a copy of the Commissioners/Pond Mills safety study from London Police Services. I’ve now succeeded in doing so but only with the assistance of the Ontario Privacy Commissioner.

The unsafe intersection of Commissioners and Pond Mills has been the sight of several horrific vehicle/pedestrian incidents and is one that I have focused on as part of my political action towards improved pedestrian safety in the city of London. It employs pedestrian islands and channelization (dangerously rounded corners so that drivers don’t have to stop or even slow down).

Excerpt from Constable Riley’s 2006/05/29 “Police Witness Statement” which I only obtained 2007/01/04 under FOI:
“I have met with FOWLER and monitored this intersection both with him present and on my own…The following are things that I have noted:
– very high traffic intersection both pedestrian and vehicle
– right hand turn, merge lanes for all directions of travel
– vehicles turning right generally come at a quicker rate of speed but are not speeding
– vehicles turning right, if they stop do so in such a place that they are generally in the crosswalk
– there are no indicators for vehicles making right turns that pedestrians are present or about to cross
– for pedestrians wanting to cross any of the intersections, they must first make it to the island on the opposite side of all the right hand turn lanes in order to push the button to cross the major part of the intersection
– once pedestrians are on the islands they are pretty much blind to vehicles and there is a safety risk that vehicle may not see them”

Excerpt from Constable Riley’s 2006/08/10 “Case Summary” which I only obtained 2007/01/04 under FOI:
“FOWLER was contacted…and a request was made to meet with him and go over this complaint in detail at the intersection in question. Intersection was monitored for a couple of days. Very high traffic both pedestrian and vehicles. Crosswalks are not very safe as pedestrians are forced to cross the path of the turning lane to enter on to an island in order to depress the pedestrian walk button.”

In an email to me dated 2006/08/11, Sgt. Thomas O’Brien wrote:
“Constable Riley’s report acknowledges that Commissioners and Pond Mills is a busy intersection for both vehicles and pedestrians. He doesn’t like the configuration of the merge turns and how it impacts pedestrians. He indicates that local MPP were notified of the concerns… I had conversation with Mr. Shane Maguire of the City Traffic. We discussed this intersection and the unusual requirements for pedestrians to cross merge lanes to get to an “island” to further cross. He is fully aware of the concerns. I asked him to look at other similar intersection configurations within the city to see if they’re experiencing similar problems.”

Correspondence re: Proposal for a London Pedestrian Subcommittee

—————————————————————————————————

Date: Wed, 14 Jun 2006 12:36:26 -0400 (EDT)
From: “Gregory Fowler”
Subject: Update – Pedestrian Safety
To: SMaguire@london.ca
CC: “Sandy White”

Mr. Maguire,

In appreciation of your past demonstrated willingness to meet with me and discuss these issues, please be advised,

In response to several complaints by me, Sgt. Tom O’Brien has assigned Const. Riley (661-5545) to investigate the issue of pedestrian safety at the intersection of Commissioners Road East and Pond Mills Road.

I met with Const. Riley at said intersection this morning and discussed the situation with him at length. My impression following the meeting is a good one.

Const. Riley appeared to be very receptive to the perception which I expressed with respect to multiple pedestrian safety issues, and seems to appreciate the dangers imposed by the physical configuration of this particular intersection.

I’ve been promised by Contst. Riley that he will continue to monitor this situation, and that he will endeavour to have Sgt. O’Brien visit the location with him in order to explain/discuss the problems further. He also suggested the possibility of involving MPP Ramal, and he indicated to me that there will be a report available following his investigation.

Also,

As a result of my efforts toward the establishment of a Pedestrian Charter and a Pedestrian Subcommittee for the City of London, I have been informed by the Secretary of the Environment and Transportion Committee that the matter has been referred to the Board of Control for it’s consideration and reply.

I encourage you to follow these developments, and invite you to contact me at any time should you wish to discuss them further.

Respectfully,

Greg Fowler, Candidate Ward One
962 Eagle Crescent
London, Ontario; N5Z 3H7
(519) 649-0500

Date: Wed, 3 Jan 2007 22:20:59 -0500 (EST)
From: Gregory Fowler
Subject: Fwd: RE: Your Letter
To: kbain@london.ca
CC: rcaranci@london.ca, hlysynsk@london.ca

Mr. Bain,

Thank you for your letter dated 2006/12/19 which summarizes how my proposal for a Pedestrian Subcommittee and a Pedestrian Charter was “handled”.

According to the material which you provided, civic administration’s “review” and “report” simply consisted of the single simple sentence that “Pedestrian safety would be a logical fit with the CSCP mandate and it is therefore recommended that … the CSCP’s duties be amended by adding thereto after the words ‘injury prevention’ the words ‘pedestrian safety’ in order to incorporate the area of pedestrian safety within the mandate of the CSCP.”

Was there any background study? Any consultation with other municipalities? Any consultation with London Police Services or members of the public? Why didn’t “civic administration” contact me? Is this what Mr. Fielding means when he talks about “accessibility”?

Why was the “report” submitted to the Striking Committee meeting? Given the fact that my proposal was referred by ETC to Board of Control, shouldn’t any “report” have gone back to Board of Control and even perhaps ETC, for public review and discussion?

Date: Mon, 18 Dec 2006 14:41:31 -0500 (EST)
From: Gregory Fowler
Subject: RE: Your Letter
To: “Stein, Brett”
CC: hlysynsk@london.ca, kbain@london.ca, rcaranci@london.ca
In-Reply-To:

Mr. Stein,

My apology. The letter originated from Mr. Bain, and I apparently did not exercise sufficient care in responding. Thank you for forwarding it to Ms Lysynski.

Greg Fowler

“Stein, Brett” wrote:

Mr. Fowler
I am unaware of any letter regarding pedestrian safety sent to CSCP in my name on December 5, 2006. I have taken the liberty of forwarding your email to Heather Lysynski, who after reading all the attached emails, seems to be your contact on this subject.

Brett Stein
Manager of Licensing and Elections
City of London
(519) 661-2500 x 5884
bstein@london.ca

From: Gregory Fowler [mailto:fowgre@yahoo.ca]
Sent: Monday, December 11, 2006 1:29 PM
To: Stein, Brett
Cc: Caranci, Roger
Subject: Your Letter

Mr. Stein,

Thank you for copying me your 2006/12/05 letter to CSCP which indicates that the issue of pedestrian safety has been incorporated within the mandate of that committee.

It strikes me as being highly inappropriate to have taken this action, given the fact that I’ve been awaiting a response to my proposal for a Pedestrian Committee since last May.

Has staff reported back to Board of Control? Has a decision been made with respect to my proposal?

Greg Fowler

Subject: RE: Follow-up re Pedestrian Committee
Date: Tue, 5 Sep 2006 13:59:17 -0400
From: “Lysynski, Heather”
To: “Gregory Fowler”

My apologies, just what has been happening until this point.

Heather Lysynski
Committee Secretary
City Clerk’s Office
519-661-2500 x 4856

From: Gregory Fowler [mailto:fowgre@yahoo.ca]
Sent: Tuesday, September 05, 2006 1:40 PM
To: Lysynski, Heather
Subject: RE: Follow-up re Pedestrian Committee

Ms Lysynski,

> Pedestrian safety issues continue to be addressed by the
> Community Safety and Crime Prevention Advisory Committee.

Is this the response to my proposal for a Pedestrian Committee that I’ve been waiting for, or simply an explanation of how things have been done up until now?

Greg Fowler, Candidate Ward One

Subject: RE: Follow-up re Pedestrian Committee
Date: Tue, 5 Sep 2006 12:25:40 -0400
From: “Lysynski, Heather”
To: “Gregory Fowler”

Mr. Fowler,

In response to your inquiry, the Bicycle Advisory Committee was established with the mandate of assisting with the finalization of the Bicycle Master Plan, after which it would be integrated with the Transportation Advisory Committee. The Bicycle Master Plan has been completed, the Bicycle Advisory Committee has been disbanded and the terms of reference for the Transportation Advisory Committee have been amended to include representation from the cycling community. Pedestrian safety issues continue to be addressed by the Community Safety and Crime Prevention Advisory Committee.

Thank you,

Heather Lysynski
Committee Secretary
City Clerk’s Office
519-661-2500 x 4856

Date: Sun, 27 Aug 2006 00:20:10 -0400 (EDT)
From: “Gregory Fowler”
Subject: ETC Comments
To: “W. J. Bud Polhill”

Bud,

With respect to your remarks during the last ETC that “maybe if it was safer more people would ride a bike” and “I can understand a bicycle on the road but they have to have their own space.”

Perhaps, if you’re as concerned about the safety of alternate modes of transportation as your comments would suggest, you’ll explain to me why my proposal for a Pedestrian Committe was sloughed off to BoC and from there
to staff? And why my inquiry about the Bicycle Committee was simply ignored?

Greg Fowler, Candidate Ward One.

Date: Sat, 26 Aug 2006 23:25:26 -0400 (EDT)
From: “Gregory Fowler”
Subject: RE: Follow-up re Pedestrian Committee
To: “Lysynski, Heather”

Ms Lysynski,

I’m aware of the fact that BoC tossed my proposal for a Pedestrian Committee to staff like it was a hot potato, but can you explain to me why I’ve had no response to my inquiry about the disbandment of the Bicycle Committee?

Greg Fowler, Candidate Ward One.

Subject: RE: Follow-up re Pedestrian Committee
Date: Thu, 8 Jun 2006 13:29:18 -0400
From: “Lysynski, Heather”
To: “Gregory Fowler”

Mr. Fowler:

Your communication was referred to the Board of Control for its consideration. The ETC report will be going to the Municipal Council meeting on Monday (June 12th).

Hope this helps.

Heather

Heather Lysynski
Committee Secretary
City Clerk’s Office
661-2500 x 4856

From: Gregory Fowler [mailto:fowgre@yahoo.ca]
Sent: Thursday, June 08, 2006 1:23 PM
To: Lysynski, Heather
Subject: Follow-up re Pedestrian Committee

Ms Hlysynski,

Since I’ve had no response from anyone, and since the minutes of the 2006/05/29 ETC meeting are not yet online, perhaps you’d be kind enough to tell me how my communication (Agenda #9) was dealt with?

Respectfully,

Greg Fowler.

Date: Wed, 17 May 2006 15:45:20 -0400 (EDT)
From: Gregory Fowler
Subject: Inquiry
To: Hlysynski@london.ca
CC: Thomas O’Brien , lenlesser@hotmail.com,
pmcleod@thelondoner.ca, jsher@lfpress.com, garrison@cjbk.com,
newstalk1290today@cjbk.com, sewhite@london.ca, John.Wilsons@corusent.com,
jryan-lfp@rogers.com

Environment & Transportation Committee
City of London
c/o Heather Lysynski, Committee Secretary

May 17, 2006

Please be advised that I am interested in exploring the possibility of forming a pedestrian committee for the City of London , and the creation of a Pedestrian Charter, similar to those which already exist in the City of Toronto .

I understand from a recent agenda that the bicycle subcommittee has been disbanded. Might I receive some background information about what led to that decision, and whether it might negatively impact upon the creation of a pedestrian committee?

For more than a decade, I have been publicly active in advocating for things like increased police services, walkway lighting, etc. Pedestrian rights is simply the latest extension of that, and is driven by increased public environmental awareness, the city’s adoption of a Transportation Master Plan, the hiring of a TDM Co-ordinator (albeit with an insufficient budget), an aging population, and an alarming increase in the incidence of vehicle/pedestrian collisions.

I am attaching a recent communication to London Police Services which reflects that concern, and I ask that you give it your consideration and hopefully your support as well. I also note the excellent LFP May 16 column by Julie Ryan (“Give pedestrians ‘brake’ they deserve”) and I encourage you to read it if you have not already done so.

In the event that you might be receptive to the formation of a pedestrian committee, any recommendations from you would be very much appreciated.

Respectfully,

Mr. Gregory T. Fowler
962 Eagle Crescent
London , Ontario ; N5Z 3H7
(519) 649-0500

Date: Tue, 9 May 2006 14:08:59 -0400 (EDT)
From: Gregory Fowler
Subject: RE: Police Enforcement & Pedestrian Safety
To: Thomas O’Brien
CC: lenlesser@hotmail.com, pmcleod@thelondoner.ca, jsher@lfpress.com, garrison@cjbk.com, newstalk1290today@cjbk.com, sewhite@london.ca,
John.Wilsons@corusent.com

Sgt. O’Brien,

Thank you for your willingness to investigate my complaint.

I note with regret the article in today’s paper (“Cab hits senior in core”; Patrick Maloney; 2006/05/09), and I feel compelled to repeat the same warning that I’ve made many times before. London is headed too much in the same direction as Toronto and other large municipalities have gone, and vehicle/pedestrian incidents are inevitable unless we take aggressive measures to prevent it.

You are quoted as warning that “pedestrians need to be careful crossing city streets” and I have no problem with that. What bothers me is that you never seem to talk about the other side of the coin, and as a result I’m left with the impression that you have a bias against pedestrians.

Mr. Maloney attributes you as saying last month that “For the most part, pedestrians are at fault.”

I witness many incidents in which pedestrians behave in an unlawful and dangerous manner. I first started speaking out against that and other behaviours many years ago, when Chief Faulkner was still a Deputy. It’s one of the reasons that I publicly campaigned for an increased police budget so that more officers could be hired, something that even Chief Faulkner wasn’t doing.

But please. Let’s not try to pretend that drivers don’t share any responsibility for these incidents.

As I reminded you during our recent meeting at City Hall, walking is a natural right. Pedestrians don’t have to be licensed by the province, and the province can’t legislate against it.

Certainly, pedestrians are not at liberty to act with complete disregard. Hence, prohibitions such as R.S.O. 1990, c. H.8, s. 140 (4) with which I completely agree.

On the other hand, driving is not a right, it is a privilege (R.S.O. 1990, c. H.8, s. 31). And with that privilege, comes the legislated responsibility that drivers do everything possible to be in full control of their vehicles at all times, and those are so numerous that I feel it is unnecessary to cite them.

Until this city starts taking action to curb the seemingly insatiable selfish desire of people to use private automobiles to get to their destinations in the shortest possible time, and to curb our ever-increasing population, vehicle/pedestrian accidents will likely continue to increase. But London Police Services can try to keep it from becoming an epidemic.

I ask you again consider the possibility of conducting sting operations, similar to those which are employed by the Los Angeles Police Department (see: http://www.lapdonline.org/march_2002/news_view/22320).

Sincerely,

Greg Fowler, Ward One Municipal Candidate.

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