The Dig In Weblog

DIG IN initiates inclusive community and cultural plans and actions that will contribute to sustaining a neighbourhood that is GREEN • CLEAN • SAFE • CIVIL by fostering improvements in the areas of its social, environment, cultural, economic and physical make up. Please join our Mailing List / Yahoo Group.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Street Safety Initiave ~

The Street Safety Initiative was developed by a coalition of west-end Cycle Toronto ward groups (13, 14, and 18) and DIGIN.

This project was sparked by a conversation between a cyclist and an e-bike rider about the need for more respect and courtesy among different road users on the streets of Toronto. Growing congestion has resulted in more aggression and carelessness on the part of drivers, cyclists, pedestrians and other road users.

The consequences are serious: Toronto’s traffic fatalities reached 63  in 2013—a ten-year high, and higher than the number of homicides in the same year (56).

These collisions are not inevitable. Safer streets can be created. In the last few decades, for instance, Sweden’s Vision Zero initiative drastically reduced traffic deaths even as the number of cars on the road increased. New York City launched a Vision Zero initiative in 2014 and other cities are starting to sign up. The City of Toronto is developing a Road Safety Plan for Toronto.

A large part of these safety campaigns have to do with urban planning, such as reduced speed limits and infrastructure changes, but there is also a role for public education to support a change in our traffic culture. This is an area in which we can all play a role.


The Street Safety Initiative brings community groups together to deliver a public education and outreach campaign. We aim to promote the key message of Vision Zero, that traffic collisions are not inevitable, and if individuals make minor changes to their habits, they could save a life. Starting with a neighbourhood project, we hope this initiative will have ripple effects in the greater Toronto area and beyond.

Our initiative is a modest education campaign built around a website and in-person outreach to the general public and new drivers in particular. The website includes key messages as well as public awareness tools and resources that call attention in a light-hearted but pointed way to dangerous and disrespectful street behaviours, like aggressive and distracted driving, cyclists or anyone else running red lights, or crossing the street while texting.

The key messages are organized by audience as follows:
Courteous cyclists…
ü  stop at stop signs and red lights!
ü  don’t wear headphones!
ü  ride on the street, not the sidewalk!
ü  use lights after dark!

Courteous drivers…
ü  leave a metre when passing cyclists/e-scooters!
ü  go easy on the horn!
ü  stop at the stop line, not in the cross walk!
ü  don’t park in bike lanes!
Courteous pedestrians…
ü  don’t text and walk!
ü  stay alert when crossing the street!
ü  wait for the pedestrian signal before entering the intersection!
ü  make eye contact!
Courteous road users (drivers, cyclists, and e-scooters):
ü  shoulder-check before turning/changing lanes!
ü  keep right except to pass/turn & pass only on the left!
ü  signal their turns and lane changes!
ü  make eye contact!

The general website content is organized using the following categories:

·         Behaviour
·         Community
·         Design
·         Humour
·         Policy

Design elements of the website were inspired by Thumbs Up Waterloo Region and Share the Road Nova Scotia.

The website will launch in late spring 2015. Once it is live, we will drive people to the site by handing out stickers and pamphlets at streetside stops, music festivals, etc. In fall 2015, teams will visit local high schools to reach students as new drivers. Just as Mothers Against Drunk Driving made drinking and driving more socially unacceptable in the 1980s and 1990s, this initiative aims to support broader efforts to do the same for the distraction, aggression, and the lack of courtesy we currently see in our traffic culture.

If there is interest in taking the initiative city-wide or further, we will gladly partner with other groups and police units. Please contact for more information.

Check it out at!


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Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Davenport Community Rail Overpass

Davenport Community Rail Overpass

I was invited to make a short presentation to the 36 member Davenport Residents’ Reference Panel that Metrolinx has formed. The Residents’ Reference Panel will work on behalf of their community to ensure that the Davenport Community Rail Overpass benefits the neighbourhood.

Following is the ‘script’ for my presentation. Many thanks to local resident Robert Haskett for his wealth of knowledge and will credit him as a co-author of my presentation.

As well, in an attempt to highlight the Davenport-Japan comparison in the next blog post I have provided an edited version of the back-up provided to me by Robert for you to review.

Community Benefits for Metrolinx Rail lines

I found an old email the other day.
It was the first email I’ve ever received on the railway projects. The date. March of 2009.
2009!  For over 6 years our community has been thinking about, toiling with, fighting for and stressing over these Metrolinx rail projects.
So now finally in 2015 we are about to talk about “Community Benefits”.  Okay. Here we go.
Let’s talk about real benefits for our community. Substantial Benefits!

What would we like to see?
Most of the concerns residents have regarding the project are with regards to
·         Noise and vibration
·         Diesel pollution
·     Accessibility       

Metrolinx (MX) on the other hand has the challenge to:
  • deliver the Regional Express Rail Plan
  • and have the people who live in Barrie arrive on time for Little Billy’s baseball game.

How do we achieve all this?

To Improve GO Transit and Reduce Community Concerns:  Electrify the Trains

GO Transit service would be greatly enhanced and our community concerns and objections to the overpass would be greatly reduced if the GO trains were electric from the very beginning

Of course, electric trains create
·         Less Noise and Vibration – We know electric trains are lighter and quieter thus significantly reducing noise and vibration – AND would probably not require Noise Walls
·         No Diesel Emissions –Thus addressing resident’s concerns about the pollution and the affects on theirs and their children’s health.
·       As well, electrifying the rail line would make it   more suitable for Local Stations which would Better Service Our Community

Think about it….
§    If GO service became more like an above-ground subway with local access, not only would ridership (i.e. revenue) increase significantly, but local community objections to this project would be considerably reduced. 
§     As it stands now, for the Davenport community our closest access to the Barrie GO line is Union Station, which obviously is not at all convenient. 
§ Additionally, much of Davenport currently lives in a “transit desert”. 

I work downtown Toronto. It takes less time for my colleague to get downtown Toronto from Whitby on GO transit than it does for me to get downtown from here (Davenport & Weston Road) via the TTC.
It’s no wonder people want to drive to work!

We need Local Stations to improve Community Access        
·         A Station at Bloor is an absolute must. Everyone who comes from Barrie does not need to go to Union Station. A connection with the Bloor subway would improve the MX service to their long distance riders who work mid-town as well as increase the accessibility to the local residents.
·         Why not a  St. Clair Station?  With electric trains, a station could be established at St. Clair to connect with the St. Clair LRT
·         Why not Other Local Stations?  With electric trains, local stations could be established at other appropriate locations between Union and York University, thus providing convenient north-south rapid transit in western Metro Toronto.

·         With electric trains, the GO line could basically operate as both a local transit and longer-distance commuter rail service
For example,   on most commuter train lines in Japan there is a combination of local trains (stop at all stations), rapid trains (stop at about half of the stations), and express trains (stop only at major stations).
The Local trains could make multiple runs especially during morning and evening rush hours, thus actually making efficient use of the actual trains

In Japan the design and routing of rail lines and the selection of station stops is done to maximize service for the entire community through which the rail line travels. 
In Japan, commuter rail lines do not just pass through a community.  Why would they?! Why would they bypass all those potential riders?  It just doesn’t make economic sense. 
In Japan, rail lines serve the entire area through which they pass.  As a result, it makes sense that most communities generally welcome a new rail line since it provides greatly improved local transit access to other neighbourhoods and communities.
Suffice it to say that increasing the number of stations would result in a significant increase in ridership and revenue (i.e. the MX bottom line), in other words: A Win-Win for MX!

For the community specifically:
* Electrification would mean quieter, cleaner trains running over our heads and homes. 
* Local stops at Bloor and Eglinton etc etc. would mean accessibility to efficient transit to West End residents.
This in turn, would relieve some of the congestion on the over-crowded TTC.
And… would decrease the number of drivers cutting through our residential streets looking for a quick route to work.

Over the years, many of us have spent many hours not to mention lots of blood, sweat and tears working to improve our community and make this a place to be proud of. We are proud to be Davenport residents and we are proud of the work we have done.
This rail project however has the potential to undo our efforts and really can Make or Break our community.
Regional Rail is important but as it stands now Davenport bears the brunt of the negative impacts while other Ontarians reap the benefits. Let’s fix that.

Let’s make history!
Let’s make it efficient, quiet, pollution-free – and reasonably priced so that few people will choose to commute by car.
Let’s demand Design Excellence. Let’s seek proposals from the most skilled teams of designers from around the globe and make the most magnificent piece of industrial architecture. Something that we all can be proud of. 
We need to make it useful.
We need to Do it once.
And we need to Do it right.
And lastly but not least….Let’s also build a connected transit system. One that can help a single mother in North Davenport get home to her kids as quickly as a mother in Barrie.   


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