Primp My Ride

Smart2

 

Back in February I approached council with a presentation during the budget process, one that conformed to their preference of presenatations as per their website.  I wrote a post on it and included the presentation here:
http://christopherwatts.posterous.com/anyone-notice-how-the-word-discretionary-prec

 

This past Monday I decided to attend the 2012 budget sessions and bring forward a single issue during the public input session.

 

And that had to do with a specific vehicle in the town’s fleet.

 

Currently Bylaw Services has one pick up truck and one SMART car?

 

WTF is Bylaw services going to do with this dinky toy?

 

Sure the car looks quirky, even cute but who thought this would be a practical vehicle?

 

Not only does Bylaw services not want it, they don’t understand why they have it, and neither do I.

 

This was an item of some debate over on the AuroraCitizen blog (you know the one the town sued) here: auroracitizen.ca/2009/02/14/should-aurora-buy-canadian/

 

There are some familiar names in the thread. including:

Elizabeth Bishenden – February 26, 2009 at 10:03 pm

I think what you’re really asking is “Does Aurora know what its priorities are about its purchases?” Whether Aurora wants to buy Canadian, support its own tax base, help developing countries, or save money, it should clearly define its priorities.  Aurora spends a lot of money. Do we take advantage of having a professional purchaser? If it did have a purchaser, the town could then purchase according to its ideals, whatever they may be.
 

In my opinion, choosing Canadian is a good idea, second only to choosing an item that is suitable for the job. In Toronto, ultra-low emission vehicles are a good idea because they have many employees who need to move through heavy traffic. In Aurora, where vehicles need to have multiple jobs and we don’t have a lot of heavy traffic, ultra-low emission vehicles might not be such a good idea.


Evelyn Buck – February 15, 2009 at 5:50 pm

 

 

Bylaw Officers do collect signs from public property. A ladder and tools need to be carried to do the job. The Smart Car is not a smart idea for the function.
I believe The TTC has invested millions in hybrid street cars only to learn they spend as much time in the repair shop as on the streets providing public transportation. They will not be doing that again.

and even

 

Geoffrey Dawe – February 16, 2009 at 3:42 pm

Now, I know this may be a radical idea, but perhaps we should have the facts behind
the Town’s acquisition of a Smart Car before jump all over the decision.
 

Then we can make a reasoned assesment as to the rationality of this decision.

Fair enough Mayor Dawe.

 

Over 2 years have passed and I still see the dinky car in the town’s parking lot.

 

So I gathered some facts which led me to bringing the matter before council.

 

Fast-forward to 2011 and we see $35,000 being requested as a replacement for the
“SMART” car.

 

Reasons cited:

 

Smart Car is not suitable as a Bylaw Services vehicle.
It handles poorly in winter conditions making it at times unsafe for our officers to be on the road.  Ergonomically it is not suitable for 8 to 10 hour shifts.

And extrapolated on under “Performance/Activity Impacts”

 

The smart car is not appropriate as a bylaw services vehicle.
Bylaw officers are scheduled for 8 to 10 hour shifts and should be in the vehicle for
90% of their assigned shift.  Their duties require they use the vehicle as an office as well as store material such as signs they may have removed.  The smart car is an ineffective winter vehicle and handles poorly in snow.  The Smart Car only 18 months
old is unreliable and requires special knowledge to do mechanical repairs.  The smart
car is continuously in the dealership for repairs and out of comission.  Bylaw services performance will increase with a proper reliable vehicle that will endure winter weather conditions, require less and faster maintenance and be ergonomically suitablle for long shifts.

 

On Saturday, February 5, and Monday, February 7, 2011 Project 24008 : 1/2 Tonne
Hybrid Pick-up Truck was deferred.

 

General Committee recommends:
THAT Project 24008 – 1/2 Tonne Hybrid Pick-up Truck be deferred pending a report back to Council from the Director of Building and By-law services regarding the history and number of vehicles in the By-lawServices fleet.

On Feb 14th the following was presented, where the manager of Bylaw services gives a
5 page damming report of the vehicle.  It’s a hysterical read see attatchment # 9, on pages 17 through 21 here: http://www.town.aurora.on.ca/app/wa/mediaEntry?mediaEntryId=58268

 

For those not interested in reading it in entirety I will summarize several of the issues:

 

The car requires expensive service and parts (snow tires), is often in for maintenance and repairs making it unavailable (for over two weeks!).

 

What are the environmental cost savings of a car that needs to be continously serviced, no doubt in resulting other vehicles to be used in place?

 

The reliability of the car is a huge issue, one that has impacted SMART sales:
http://www.chromjuwelen.com/de/network/291-ridelust/118403-smartcar-sales-plummet-
as-us-consumers-realize-they-suck.html

The car is small cramped and does not provide ample space or storage.

 

It’s no suprise that the replacement being saught is a truck.  Here’s a good visual comparison:

 

Smart1

 

The car is difficult to handle in snowy conditions and poses unecessary safety risks. I particularly like the following description:

 

“…even with the limited use this vehicle gets during snow conditions it has been stuck in the middle of a road and commonly does not habe enough traction to start from a parked position without forward and backward tactics to finally gain enough forward momentum to enter the road.

Not even close to the traction of a conventional car.”

And if that wasn’t enough to peak one’s safety concerns I urge you to watch this

 

frontal crash test performed with a SMART car vs. a Mercedes C class sedan @ under 65 km/h:

 

 

The SMART Car leaves the ground for almost the entire duration of the collision.  It spins around 450 degrees like a tornado spewing debris everywhere.

 

A similar crash test espouses the virtues of its “Tridian Safety cage”:

 

It’s true that the car itself may be somewhat intact, the passengers however would not be so lucky.

 

There are so many drawbacks for this car someone produced the following infographic :

 

Smartcars3

 

Most laughably the car doesn’t produce many gains when it comes to fuel economy, with reports as low as 20-30 mpg.

 

By comparison a larger, albeit newer Chevy Volt gets impressive fuel economy as reported by late night funny man Jay Leno here::
http://www.engadget.com/2011/11/19/jay-lenos-chevy-volt-still-has-original-tank-of-
gas-11-000-mil/

 

Hybrid trucks existed in 2008, so what was the rationalle given in selecting a cramped 2 seater over one of these?

 

In order to find out we need to take a ride back to a meeting of Aurora town council on Tuesday, October 14, 2008.

 

The minutes of this meeting, NO. 08-26 are available online here:
http://www.town.aurora.on.ca/aurora/index.aspx?ArticleID=2300&lang=en-CA

Skip down to Point # 3

 

CS08-039 – By-law Services Vehicle Replacement
 
Moved by Councillor Wilson                                  
Seconded by Councillor Gallo
 
THAT staff be authorized to tender and acquire a Smart Car for By-law Enforcement Services.

My guess is that some people (including Clrs Gallo and Wilson) thought a truck is not as showy as a “look-at-me-I’m-more-environmentaly-aware-than-you-are” SMART Car.

 

The car certainly was highlighted in a listing of Completed, Current and Ongoing Town of Aurora Environmental Initiatives, Activities and Actions under the heading of “Air” :

 

• Addition of Smart Car to the fleet, 2008

 

If you can stomach the garbage smell you can read the entire 2010 Corporate Environmental Action Plan here:
http://www.town.aurora.on.ca/app/wa/mediaEntry?mediaEntryId=57782

 

I entirely agree with thisposter on the AuroraCitizen thread who wrote:

Anonymous – February 15, 2009 at 12:08 am

 

Perhaps we should debate the real smart car issue. What is the purpose of the car? For By-law officers? What do by-law officers do? Issue tickets, enforce by-laws such as the sign by-law. And what happens when the sign by-law is contravened? By-law officers remove the sign…but oops, it can’t fit into the car. Now staff would have to call a department with a truck, and another staff member to drive the truck. In sum, more staff, more manhours, more vehicles, more emissions..suddenly the car isn’t very smart…is it? Instead of blonde jokes we can now start a new joke…how many Town Staff does it take to remove a sign? Looks like the jokes on Aurora…

 

What a joke indeed, and an unecessarily expensive one at that, both from a capital and operating standpoint.

 

I can only hope that this entire excercise serves as a lesson to those on current council and staff, but I have my doubts after reading that :

 

“Smart Car is being re-tasked as a coporate vehicle for lighter duties” such as CAO’s office, special events, etc.”

Why the hell would the town of Aurora “retask” a car that is unreliable, constinuously out of comission and has recognized maintenance and safety concerns?

 

Why would the town of Aurora risk the performance and safety of other departments?
Is bylaw services more important than the CAO’s office or special events?

 

Are there certain departments that welcome the inconvenience of such a vehicle in their fleet?

 

And these were the questions that made the basis of my presentation to council.

 

My suggestions two for the town were three-fold:

 

1.) recognize the obviously less-than smart decision  left over from the previous council
2.) sell the silly clown car and “re-coupe” any money it could.  If Kijiji is any indication that would amount to perhaps $10,000 – $15,000

 

(http://ontario.kijiji.ca/c-cars-vehicles-cars-trucks-2008-Smart-Fortwo-Passion-Coupe-W0QQAdIdZ318233095)

 

and

 

3.) invest in appropriate vehicles and programs, not ones for political showmanship.

 

From last year’s election campaigning Clr. Gallo seemed to show his afinity towards tiny akward vehicles, like this ridiculous thing:

 

Dsc_3103

 

Perhaps he might like first right of refusal to purchase the vehicle for his personal use given he, and co-pilot Al Wilson were so giddy about aquiring it for town use.

 

In an effort to turn such a lemon into some lemonade I ended my presentation with a suggestion the town consider adopting a eco friendly program for the purposes of greening their entire fleet of vehicles, instead of reserving it for one car that would seldom get used.

 

Apparently there is a company, local to Aurora, that sells a product that can be instaled into a vehicle’s fuel tank to optimize its combustion process thereby reducing fuel consumption and carbon emssions.  It’s called the Green Genius ( http://greengeniusfuelsaver.com/ ) oh, and they are local, they operate a global distribution center here in Aurora.

 

What’s even more sad is they are currently looking for a fleet of vehicles to participate in a trial to confirm the product’s emission reduction and fuel saving data as part of an eco-product certification process as advertised on the town’s pathetic Business website here:
http://businessaurora.ca/featurednewsc38.php?command=viewArticle&ID=50&currentFeed=1

 

After my presentation the director of Finance retained my print-out pf this announcement.

 

How is it that those responsible for the decision making at town hall could overlook such a win-win opportunity.  A win for the environment, a win for economic development.

 

It speaks volume to the communication issues that plague the town, why it buys vehicles named “SMART” instead of ones that actualy are, and how some members of council, both present and former, are more concerned with the perception of being SMART all the while all too comfortable remaining the exact opposite.

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