Suburban Bureau

Banning Drive Thrus 2.0

Sooner or later, cities will ban drive thrus. Hamilton can choose to lead or lag in this initiative.

By Trey Shaughnessy
Published November 27, 2007

The day will come when drive thrus are banned. At one time, no one would have guessed smoking would be banned in public places either.

The Council of Canadians - London Chapter recently petitioned their City Council to consider banning or initiating a moratorium on drive thrus in their city.

At a public meeting on November 12, 2007, Cory Morningstar of London presented the environmental and health hazards of a convenience that is not worth the cost to the environment and our cities' health.

The City of London decided to delay any recommendations for five months after hearing from concerned citizens against drive thrus and from pro-drive thru stakeholders such as Tim Hortons.

Tim Hortons corporate representatives presented 'facts' that showed drive thrus cause less automobile emissions than parking and walking into the restaurant. Tim Hortons also tried to show that it was an 'environmentally concerned' corporation.

I suggest they start by using disposable coffee cups that can be recycled and perhaps looking into fair trade coffee bean distributors. Until then, I find it difficult to believe Tim Horton's cares about anything other than profit.

Stuck in the Past

Toronto and London passed idling bylaws 11 and nine years, respectively, before Hamilton. Today, Hamilton can choose to lead or lag. If our record with idling and pesticides are any indication, we'll be banning drive thrus in about 15 years.

Hamilton's leaders seem to be stuck in the past and out of touch with the future. If they are so concerned about fixing Hamilton's image, why don't they position Hamilton at the forefront of environmental, quality-of-life issues with simple solutions? Issues such as idling, drive thrus, population density, and mixed-use zoning are easy places to start re-branding Hamilton.

I have been reading and hearing comments about how the RHVP was saving people eight, 15, and 20 minutes off their commutes. If I can make a couple of suggestions to save people 20 minutes from their commutes, how about making your own coffee at home?

People can program their coffee makers the night before, wake up with a fresh pot of home-brewed coffee and skip the Tim Hortons drive thru.

Another suggestion is to live closer to your work. I would like to live on Peelee Island too, but I would not hold the government and environment responsible for a highway that would conveniently take me to my place of employment.

I would also comment that when the DVP opened in east Toronto over 40 years ago, similar comments were made. Eventually the DVP became known as the Don Valley Parking Lot.

Building more roads has never been the solution to traffic congestion. If it was, then Los Angeles would be not be known for its massive traffic-jams.

So commuters: enjoy your minor time-saving while it lasts.

The following are some comments from the petition:

Because I am blessed with the ability to actually WALK, why would I ever use these atrocities? (Elaine Hughes, Canada)

drive thrus are not a right, they are a convenience that have become a blight on our society. I regularly see lines of 20 cars or more idling at Tim Horton's in the morning. I am able to park, walk-in get my coffee and be on my way in the time the line has moved one or two cars. In a society where the majority of people are overweight, this is no brainer - win/win, save the environment while burning off a little fat. On another note, I worked in fast food for many years and HATED being in the drive thru. Customers were invariably more rude and hostile. Getting rid of drive thrus might also bring back a little civility to our interactions with each other. (Shawn Lewis, Canada)

There will come a day why people will not believe that we ever permitted drive thru's in the first place. Lets get the moratorium now. (Kevin Lomack, Canada)

They are ridiculous. How lazy do we have to get! Let's get real and stop the pollution, the congestion and the lard-butts. (Joe Wilson, Canada)

I thought there was an idling bylaw! (Carol Lewis, Canada)

For the sake our planet people have to get off their backsides and walk from their car to their donut shop. The planet is at risk we need a fundamental shift in societal thinking now. Ban drive-throughs or save the planet. The really is no choice. Please sign this petition now! (Jim Mahon, Canada)

I am continually shocked and infuriated daily as I notice more and more cars lined up at Tim Hortons drive thrus. It is mind-blowing to me that given the crisis we are in environmentally, and with awareness for it at an all time high, people continue to feel they have a right to sit there, one person per vehicle, lined up 20 SUV's deep, blocking traffic and polluting our air. What is going on? Most of the time it is quicker to park, get out and walk in to the store, grab your coffee and go. Where is the government? There is already idling by-laws in place that are being ignored. Who is in bed with Tim Horton's I wonder? Come on Canada, we can do better than this. (Susan Meehan, Canada)

Trey lives in Williamsville NY via Hamilton. He is a Marketing Manager for Tourism and Destination Marketing in the Buffalo-Niagara Metro.

His essays have appeared in The Energy Bulletin, Post Carbon Institute, Peak Oil Survival, and Tree Hugger.

And can't wait for the day he stops hearing "on facebook".


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By Capitalist (anonymous) | Posted November 29, 2007 at 10:07:52

Okay let's ban drive thurs. So now I will just leave my car running while I run in for a coffee and my friend waits in the car or have to start the engine again (resulting in more pollution). Or, we will now need more parking space, so we can tear down more trees and use more ashphalt.

There are more important things to worry about in this city.

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By jason (registered) | Posted November 29, 2007 at 11:14:02

Trevor forgot to mention this in his piece, but believe it not, there are more people living in Hamilton than you. YOU may choose to do that...many others won't. Just like some parents may choose to idle in front of their school, but many others don't want their kids breathing in the toxins. Not to be morbid, but perhaps you've never heard of the method of suicide where one closes the garage door and turns the car on. Hmmm, I wonder how they die breathing in all that fresh air??

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By gruven (registered) | Posted December 17, 2007 at 12:55:33

As much as I think the environmental movement is totally misguided at the moment with their emphasis on apocalyptic global warming, etc. I do think this is a good idea, for a variety of reasons. For one, I'm sick and tired of driving by Tim Hortons locations and have their patrons in drive throughs obstructing traffic when I'm trying to get by. Also, locations where drive through Tim Hortons locations are shared with gas stations are especially bad, Cars lined up on to the street and in the lot to get Tim Hortons coffee, preventing me from doing what gas stations were originally designed for. That aside, Even though I don't believe in Apocalyptic global warming, I do believe Smog is a problem. And without a doubt this is a contributor.

I wouldn't miss it.

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By Me (anonymous) | Posted January 31, 2008 at 15:36:30

Drive thru focused restaurants are much smaller then their walk in peers. That is a saving to the environment. THey are also much more efficient serving approx 4 cars to every one in person client. Efficiency means less energy use. Then you have to look at parking and searching for parking.

Things are not as black and white as one might think.

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By Trey (registered) | Posted February 01, 2008 at 10:41:05

False. This is picked up from the Tim Hortons' commissioned study by RWDI presented to London City Council for fear that this will impact their business model.

They are not smaller. Pre-existing non-drive thru restaurants were retro-fitted with a drive-thru window. OR the building may be smaller but the footprint is the same. They need extra space to accommodate the drive-thru lanes and windows. In fact a drive thru restaurant needs to be a pad-site so that all four sides of the building can be wrapped with idling vehicles. A drive-thru can't be put on a resataurant in an existing streetwall or urban area, so the reastaurants are not more efficient. Also it is the drivers choice to drive around waiting for a close spot. I take the parking spaces at the back and walk and extra 20 steps, those parking spaces are ALWAYS available. If they're too lazy to walk 20 steps and choose to idle/waiting for one of the spots right in front of the store that is moronic behaviour and can't be considered an arguement in favour of drive-thrus.

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