Presto cards to get into the washrooms or use an elevator ? James Smith might be on to something here.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  March 20, 2012  Jonathan Swift published all of his satire under pseudonyms – James Smith chose to be right out front and direct with his comments before a Council meeting that was getting ready to pass the Current Budget for 2012.  Council was not pleased.

One of the bigger issues at Council was what to do with transit.  Many feel that if a bus route runs empty half the time then the sensible business thing to do is shut it down and social responsibility be damned.

Smith, an architectural design director who specializes in landscapes and small environments who is also part of the team that is struggling to save the Freeman station from demolition went before Council to commend them for the Imagination, Courage and Leadership.  That doesn’t happen very often so the media listened very carefully.

Smith said it took imagination to shave half a million dollars from the gas tax money that gets transferred to the city each year and plowing it into paving cul de sacs, which as he pointed out is a French word for a road that doesn’t go anywhere.

Is there space on these library shelves that is empty? If so - the funds to pay for that space gets transferred to the shave and pave program.

Smith was just getting wound up when he added,  rather deliberately, that the gas tax, “despite what some may think, is not a Latte sipping, bike riding, transit loving, pink leftie tax” and it should be used for things that use gas.  Council had previously taken a chunk of gas tax money and moved it out of transit over to their newest money saving tool, the shaving and paving of our roads.

Smith pointed out that he felt it took a great deal of imagination to present (with a straight face) a rationale for the use of funds designed to mitigate climate change to paving cul de sacs. He felt Council should be applauded for their courage in moving $500,000 out of transit to road improvements while the transit review is underway.

Leadership was given special treatment. Smith explained that it takes true leadership to make a commitment to public transit while insisting transit is run more like a business and requiring greater cost recovery and at the same time reducing investment.  In the retail world, Smith added, “this is known as bait and switch”.  Ouch!

James Smith just might have come up with a way to use the technologically "swift"but financially expensive Presto Card to much wider use.

Given these examples of Imagination, Courage and Leadership Smith took a page from Jonathan Swift to make what he called a couple of modest proposals.  Shave and Pave the libraries he suggested.  They are empty of people from time to time – shave and pave a few dollars from that service, it isn’t always used.

He went on to suggest there were other opportunities for a real display of courage.  The washrooms and the elevators are not always used – but rather than close a few of them down, after all like buses they aren’t always used, require people to use their Presto card to get on an elevator or use a washroom.

James Smith just might be on to something here.




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