Friday, February 19, 2010

Toronto's streetlights

I posted an article this morning on google reader from the Toronto Star about how Toronto is to pay $420 million in rental fees for streetlights they just sold for $60 million. After I commented with distaste, Chris pointed out that maintenance fees weren't included in those numbers and weren't mentioned in the article at all. Basically, the numbers may just look a lot worse than they actually are. I did think about that initially, but a hot head reaction and post was later brought in by Chris' comment. SO, can we get closer to the real numbers here?

For the life of me, I can't find how much Toronto spends/spent on streetlight maintenance each year prior to their sale. I'm not surprised, but, that is going to be a problem. So, I'll try to work around that a bit. Below is a very rough numbers calculation based on old facts and unreliable figures.

Hamilton, who debated roughly the same topic in 2003, actually posted their discussions online without any attempted lawyer cover-up (how about that!), had about 35,000 streetlights in 2003 (link is a pdf).

By Toronto Hydro numbers, Toronto currently has about 150,000 streetlights.

So, roughly 5 times the population, and roughly 5 times the number of streetlights (by the numbers I saw.. ). Makes sense, downtown density aside.

Hamilton, in 2003 spent just under $500,000 for streetlight maintenance (in that pdf above). So, let's say there's an increased of about 20% from those numbers to 2010, and I'll concede an additional $100,000, just guesstimating. (For comparison, Toronto Hydro is just adjusting their 30 year fee with inflation.) That means that if I had to guess, Hamilton is spending about $600,000 a year on streetlight sustenance. Converting these numbers to Toronto (x5), streetlight upkeep should currently cost us about 3 million dollars a year.

That means that over the 30 year rental agreement with Toronto Hydro (estimated at about $14 million a year), we're in the hole about $11 million a year. For 30 years that's $330 million which we could have saved. Subtract from that the initial $60 million received, and we're in the hole $270 million over the length of the contract, give or take. Or, to put it another way, what would be costing us $90-100 million, is now costing us $420 million.

Now, maintenance doesn't include administration (turning lights on/off/handling complaints, etc...). I have no idea what the costs are, and I assume it's fairly automated, but seeing as it's Toronto, let's say another $2 million a year? That saves us another $60 million.

So, you're right; the hole isn't as bad as it was made out to be. And my numbers are really just coming from anywhere 15 minutes will allow. But, it does still seem ridiculous, significant, and inexcusable. Moreover, ownership does have its privileges, and incentives.

Given that Toronto is still paying for the hydro it uses for these streetlamps (I assume that's not in the deal - otherwise it would be pretty sweet), there is little incentive for Toronto Hydro to replace bulbs with high efficiency ones. Further, I doubt Toronto Hydro will put forth the initiative to proactively replace street lamps with something that Toronto citizens may want 10 years down the road. What I'm (poorly) trying to say is that it's just another example where Toronto is selling off its public assets and image for short term gain, and those numbers aren't yet included in the sell-off monetary shortfall.

As an aside, here's a slideshow of what San Francisco may be considering in their streetlight efforts (pdf again).


As another aside, didn't Toronto Hydro have some massive wi-fi plan it was supposed to implement on these streelamps? Is that what One Zone is? Well, that seems to have worked out pretty well for them...

Brother's Grimm in theatre

in association with



Factory Studio Theatre
125 Bathurst Street

"In days gone by there was a land where the nights were always dark...
for there the moon never rose, and no star shone in the obscurity.”
- The Brother’s Grimm

Co-creators Michele Smith and Dean Gilmour,
along with actors Adam Paolozza, Dan Watson and Pragna Desai,
take audiences through a stormy world where lessons are learned the hard way.

Runs to March 21
Tuesday – Saturday 8:00 PM
Sundays 2:30 PM

Tuesday – Thursday $20
Friday $25
Saturday $28
Sundays $10 advance or PWYC at door
$5 Student/Senior discount on all tickets
Previews $12

I'm thinking of going this Sunday. Anyone else in?

(via BlogTO and here.)

No pattern seen in pedestrian deaths?

A rash of pedestrian deaths in Toronto over a two-week period in January was not caused by anything specific, police have told a citizen group.

The victims were from every age group over 25, the collisions occurred at all times of day, all over the city and during varying weather conditions.

"That's why you cannot put a lot of weight into that two-week period," Sgt. Tim Burrows told the Toronto Pedestrian Committee on Tuesday.

He went on to say:

"In this case (seniors), it was only 20 per cent," he said. "It was against the norms for everything, which basically says it was a spike."

Similar blips are seen every few years, he said.


Soooo, there is some sort of pattern then, right? It's just maybe not the one you're looking for? Could this be a systematic issue that comes up at certain times of the year due to 'perfect storm' scenarios? And if so, what are the contributing factors to such a scenario? Do these 'blips' always happen in January? Do they always during snowless winters when more people are walking unexpectedly?

I don't know, but I'd sure love to get my hands on the statistics. Required with these statistics would be population density, traffic (pedestrian and motor), infrastructure, rules and enforcement at strike areas, types of collisions, etc. I'm pretty sure this analytical study wouldn't take more than 2-3 weeks for someone with the information and motivation. Such a study could also significantly impact the way we think about analyzing and organizing our city. Pattern recognition is something the brain does best. Sure, stats can lie, but only if you want them to.