Developer Opposes Drive-thru Pollution

Man fuming over drive-through pollution


Developer Dave De Sylva poses at a Markham Tim Hortons, June 13, 2008.

Speak Out: Drive-through pollution


The average idling time observed:

3.43 minutes at Tim Hortons

2.61 minutes at McDonald’s

5.61 minutes at Wendy’s

Projected over a year at all 29 drive-throughs in Markham, this adds up to 21,759,152 minutes of estimated total idling time, using 435,185 litres of fuel and releasing 118 tonnes of carbon dioxide. To offset that emission, 5,844 trees would have to be planted.


Its analysis of carbon dioxide emissions, conducted by RWDI Air Inc., shows:

26.5 kilograms per hour
of carbon dioxide emissions at a drive-through location in the morning rush hour.

35.1 kilograms per hour
at a non-drive-through with a small, congested parking lot.

30.5 kilograms per hour
at a non-drive-through with a larger parking lot.

Test slams bad air outside coffee shops, fast-food joints; but Tim’s sees it through different window

Jun 18, 2008 04:30 AM

John Spears
city hall bureau

Dave de Sylva has nothing against coffee and burger restaurants: “I sign all kinds of real estate deals at Tim Hortons,” says the Markham developer.

It’s the drive-through service he can’t stand.

De Sylva hates drive-through queues so much that he decided to calculate the gas burned and tonnes of carbon dioxide spewed at Markham’s drive-through establishments.

His campaign against them started a few years ago, when he noticed that many coffee shops paid more attention to car driver customers at the window than customers who walked through the door.

It annoyed him, and he decided to do some analysis, starting with plotting the location of all of Markham’s drive-ins: Burger and doughnut restaurants, banks, drug stores – anything with a drive-through window. He found 29.

Then in April and May he dispatched employee Alison Christou to do the painstaking work of counting cars at sample drive-through lines and measuring their progress with a stop-watch.

“I was amazed at what I found,” says de Sylva.

By his calculation, which was based on a formula used by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the cars lined up at Markham’s 29 drive-through establishments uselessly burn 435,185 litres of gasoline a year. That’s enough to let an average car circle the globe 85 times.

As for greenhouse gas emissions, de Sylva calculates the damage at 118 tonnes of carbon dioxide and other pollutants.

“It’s my atmosphere as much as anybody else’s,” says de Sylva.

His objective on drive-throughs is simple: “I think they should stop them.”

De Sylva acknowledges that for many of his three-plus decades as a property developer, he built low-density suburban subdivisions, the kind that spawned the car culture that led to drive-through service.

He has now turned to developing higher density, multiple-unit buildings with features like geothermal heating, rooftop solar arrays and wind-powered water heaters.

Nick Javor, a spokesperson for Tim Hortons, says de Sylva’s analysis is flawed.

Tim Hortons hired its own consulting firm, RWDI AIR Inc., to calculate emissions for cars in the drive-through lane and the parking lot at its own stores.

That study – which compared the emissions caused by drive-through idling compared with those produced when a car crawls through a parking lot, manoeuvres into a space, stops, restarts and crawls back out – concluded there is “no air quality benefit to the public from eliminating drive-throughs.”

It found that hourly emissions for locations with drive-throughs were lower than for those with only parking lots; it was the same result with small congested lots and larger free-flowing ones.

In any case, Javor says, customers want drive-throughs. Tim Hortons outlets with drive-through service do 40 to 50 per cent of their business through the window, he adds.

De Sylva says he’s sent his analysis to Markham and several other Greater Toronto municipalities, but hasn’t had any response.

Markham Councillor Erin Shapero says she’s aware of de Sylva’s report and sympathetic to his concerns.

“We have enough” drive-throughs, she agreed. “We don’t need any more.”

Markham staff have been asked to draft a policy on drive-throughs, which Shapero expects to be brought forward this fall.

Toronto already has a policy: Drive-throughs aren’t banned, but they must comply with rules on pedestrian access, screening, noise barriers and lane configurations that can be prohibitive in many neighbourhoods.

Mississauga also approved new guidelines earlier this year.

Councillor George Carlson, who heads Mississauga’s environment committee, says the city took an “unenthusiastic view of drive-ins” in setting the rules.

Restrictions were needed to prevent them from blossoming everywhere, Carlson said:

“Out where I live on the edge of town, some people would use their cars to drive through a funeral home if they could.”

His concerns are social as well as environmental: “I think drive-throughs tend to make suburban life even more isolated and less interactive with your neighbours.”

Carlson says it’s important not to focus too single-mindedly on drive-throughs as fuel wasters.

“If you added up all the unnecessary stop signs and delayed red lights that we have throughout the system, you’d probably be burning up a hundred times more fuel than drive-throughs.”


Leave a comment

No comments yet.

Comments RSS TrackBack Identifier URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s