A thought experiment:
What if Ottawa treated speed limits like development applications?
Recently, our City’s Planning Committee has been happily rubber-stamping rezoning applications from large developers for skyscraper condo buildings – even though they are double, triple, or even quadruple Official Plan and Community Design Plan guidelines. So I wondered: what if we treated other urban regulations the same way? After all, they all get in the way of growth, don’t they?BY DAVID RAVELY, THE O-TOWN CITY-ZEN, JULY 11, 2012
In the quiet urban neighbourhood of Placid Park, more than 750 giant cement trucks a day will now be able to drive at up to 130 km/h through small residential streets. “Maximum 40km/h” signs will remain in place for residents and all other vehicles, but Devco Cement trucks will now be allowed to travel at more than three times the posted speed.
That’s because earlier today, the City’s Transportation Committee unanimously approved a proposal from Devco to allow their cement trucks and other heavy vehicles to travel through the neighbourhood of Placid Park at an “optimized speed”.
“They’re just being all “NOM-C”, saying ‘Not Over My Child’. But oh, wait till they see how lovely this proposal really is for everybody!”
~ Councilor Catherine Hobby
According to Devco president Lance De Boil: “The goal is to help the city meet its “rapidification” goals, and ease traffic congestion on main arteries.” To do this, Devco will now be able to use Placid Park as a high-speed bypass – whisking their trucks from Highway 466 to a new Devco cement plant on the other side of the small neighbourhood.
“It’s a win-win!” Says Transportation committee chair, Councilor Peter Hummer: “Our Diesel 20/20 Plan calls for rapidification of 20-40% in this area, and this decision allows us to take one big step towards getting those trucks moving much more quickly to their destination.”
The City, for its part, will pay for repaving and widening the road – and removing all speed bumps, stop signs, cross-walks, bike lanes, and the school crossing zone next to Placid Park Elementary School’s playground.
“Fast is good. It’s really a step up from the clunky, down-speed proposals of the past!” said De Boil in his presentation, before handing off to his Transportation Architect, Roddy Heehee.
According to Hayhee, the old speed limits were about preventing dirty, ugly, old trucks, not today’s “low-profile conveyances, pulsing with power, energy, and grace”. Heehee’s PowerPoint presentation showed artists’ renderings of pastel-coloured trucks on wide, leafy streets, moving past happily waving mothers and children. His presentation drew applause from the dozen lobbyists, consultants, and transportation architects on hand.
And area Councilor Catherine Hobby says she is enthusiastic that the community will eventually change their minds on the issue: “They’re just being all “NOM-C”, saying ‘Not Over My Child’. But oh, wait till they see how lovely this proposal really is for everybody! Devco has hired an expensive Toronto truck-decorating firm. And gosh, but won’t all those slim new trucks make Placid Park sparkle with urban energy!“
But community representatives aren’t convinced: “I don’t care how pretty the truck is. If it runs over my dog, it’s going too damned fast!” said one grumpy man, who asked that his name (Fred Smith) not be used. “I thought the word “limit” meant, well, a “limit”. I guess not for everybody. If I asked for permission to drive that fast, I’d get arrested!”
“I don’t understand,” said Placid Park Community Association chair Les Pertinent. “The city’s official plan says one thing, and we spent years working with the city to develop a long Community Transportation Plan (CTP) – all of which were approved by Council. Then we put in countless hours and community dollars hiring experts to show how ludicrously dangerous this proposal is, and twenty-five of us took unpaid days off work to come downtown and say our piece. How can they just overturn all that with one, unanimous vote?”
Hummer rolls his eyes: “Sure, we all support CTPs in principle. But this one only covers the middle of the street Devco is proposing to use, not the new wider street! And the wording says “greater speeds than 40 km per hour should be discouraged. Discouraged? How can we possibly know what that means? That would get thrown right out at the Ontario Motor Board (OMB)!”
Hummer angrily denied that this decision was simply a way for Devco to increase profits at the expense of safety for local residents. He also denied any connections between campaign funding and the pattern of voting on the committee – which routinely approves major speed limit rezoning applications by large companies against community objections.
“Besides,” adds Hobby,who has herself also reacted angrily in the past to questions of campaign funding: “You can’t say it wasn’t democratic. We did hold consultations. Well, one public meeting anyway. The company presented the idea to the community, while I hid… er, um, took notes at the back of the room. And even though there were hours of objections, Devco staff very patiently explained how wrong and narrow-minded everyone in the room was.”
Then Hobby smiles beatifically and gestures to the huddle of angry citizens outside the Committee Room: “And gosh. These people did elect me. So they must approve of what I’m doing!”
When asked what the next steps are for the Community Association are, Les Pertinent shrugs. “We’re a small community, so we can’t afford a legal challenge. I guess we’ll just have to keep our kids off the streets.’
“And I guess, since Devco originally asked for 160 km per hour, it could be worse….”