Cities see battles over drive-thrus

The battle between merchants with drive-thrus and environmentalists wanting to curb or eliminate these lanes was on full display in London, Ont., this week, where city council was one of many across the country that have debated whether to limit or even ban new drive-thru restaurants.

Arguing against strict new rules was a team that consisted of fast food and coffee purveyors as well as Ontario’s largest restaurant association; a lawyer and an engineering consultant representing them argued that a study commissioned by Tim Hortons showed that each of three drive-thru locations produced less emissions and pollution than one parking-only store.

The study, authored by Mike Lepage of RWDI, a Guelph, Ont.-based consulting firm, concluded that emissions from vehicles shut off for a few minutes were more harmful than ones from idling cars in the drive-through lanes.

Similar debates have occurred in city planning meetings in Edmonton, Vancouver, Toronto and Ottawa, following tighter restrictions implemented by the cities of Mississauga, Hamilton and Winnipeg, although no city has yet mandated a ban of the lucrative and convenient sales generator, citing a serious cut in service to customers who are elderly, disabled or with young children.

There’s also the little issue of hybrid sales coming on strong, which emit nothing when slowly coasting along in drive-thrus, as well as start-stop technology that may be coming to conventionally powered cars as well.


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