Denialism | Tim Hortons

Proposed drive-thru ban irks Timmy’s owner

By Elaine Mitropoulos, Comox Valley EchoMay 5, 2009

John Brocklehurst says he would think twice about opening another business in the Town of Comox should its council outlaw future drive-thrus.

“Even though it may not impact us at the moment, it could if we ever decide to go and open another store,” said the owner of three Valley Tim Hortons.

“I’m convinced this will get turned over at some point but would it impact my decision-making if they outlawed them? Yeah, of course it would.”

Brocklehurst admitted he had a vested interest in drive-thrus, saying 55 per cent of his customers accessed them.

“A lot of people use them for whatever reason, whether it’s for their own convenience or because they have to,” he said.

And while he understood the council wanted to be at the forefront of environmental change, he said he couldn’t understand why it was targeting drive-thrus as a source of pollution among “more obvious” culprits.

“I guess I’m not sure the purpose of it quite frankly,” Brocklehurst said.

“All the information we gathered up says that banning drive-thrus to prevent idling would have no real significant impact.”

Brocklehurst said he had yet to hear feedback from customers, but he was expecting them to come forward as the debate continued.

“I know most people tend not to speak – the silent majority,” he said. “But if they’re being impacted to that extent I’m sure there’s going to be a lot of feedback.”

Comox Mayor Paul Ives said realistically about four to six parcels around Guthrie Road could make way for future drive-thrus, but he didn’t want to deter new or old business from making the town its home.

“Everyone acknowledges that the current situation with the Tim Hortons is not ideal,” he said of the Anderton Road drive-thru that has seen cars line up onto the street.

“I think if they were wanting to move out of there because of the congestion that’s caused there hopefully they could move to another site in Comox.”

Even so, Ives has been pushing for the council to consider a more comprehensive approach to curbing idling in Comox, like a bylaw aimed at education and awareness.

“Other communities have had some success in passing those bylaws,” he said.

He too hoped the public would weigh in on the issue that has split the council.

If the council moves ahead with a rezoning bylaw, he said the issue would go to a public hearing.

“I would like to hear what people would have to say in the meantime,” he added.


NEWS: Drive-thru bans and idling laws across the country

June 23rd, 2008

Several CanWest papers are reporting today about the various drive-thru and idling bylaws being considered by municipal governments across the country. You can read the article here: While this is not directly linked to the Council’s main campaigns, it is clearly an issue with momentum that chapters have taken a big lead on. A reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and moving away from a car-based culture should also be part of any future energy strategy aimed at securing our energy security.

Stuart Trew

Regional Organizer (Ontario-Québec)

Council of Canadians

Tel: 613.233.4487, ext. 228

Toll Free: 800.387.7177

Fax: 613.233.6776

Here’s the breakdown of local actions, according to the CanWest article (note decisions in Sarnia, ON next week and a meeting tonight in Kentville, N.S.):

SARNIA, ON: “Sarnia, Ont. city councillors will likely put the brakes on further talk of a ban on drive-thrus next week after a staff report recommended the city create new guidelines rather than a moratorium… [T]he staff report, to be tabled at a council meeting today, suggests amendments to clarify where new drive-thru businesses should be located.”

NORTH VANCOUVER, B.C.: “A ban on new drive-thrus was debated in the city of North Vancouver but was rejected in March by city councillors.”

KENTVILLE, N.S.: “Tonight, town officials in Kentville, N.S., — about 90 kilometres west of Halifax — will debate establishing an anti-idling bylaw…. But Coun. Eric Bolland, chairman of the town’s environmental advisory committee, would like to see his colleagues consider a prohibition on future drive-thru development. ‘Drive-thrus encourage the idling of vehicles, discourage parking, turning off cars and saving gas,’ he said.”

LONDON, ON: “Proponents of a new bylaw in London argue it is one step towards reducing car emissions, but the association representing restaurants in Ontario dismisses the argument as misleading and has launched its own petition and website.”

VICTORIA, B.C.: Dr. Richard Stanwick, Vancouver Island’s chief medical health officer, says that once a proposed anti-idling bylaw is given a test drive in the Victoria region, it could be expanded to include all of Vancouver Island.

There are also many other municipalities who have idling bylaws that are not mentioned in the article.

Industry backlash and greenwash

The line being used by the restaurant associations is that idling creates less damaging emissions than turning off and then on your car engine. The Canadian Restaurant and Food Services Association has set up a web link to downplay the environmental impacts of idling and drive-thrus:

Industry groups have also set up a peudo-grassroots campaign to fight to save the drive-thru: In one particularly ridiculous argument, the industry says that: “Many people need drive-thrus. Drive-thrus are a vital access point for the disabled, seniors, and parents with small children. In bad weather they are especially helpful. They also enhance personal safety in unfamiliar areas late at night.”

The London chapter, which is leading the push in that city for a moratorium on drive-thrus, has posted an op-ed countering this counter-campaign that can be drawn from in letters to the editor on the issue of idling and drive-thru bans. The article concludes:

“London already has 160 drive-thrus. Whether in blissful ignorance or conscious disregard, to continue to act like we are simply entitled to more – and by implication more urban sprawl, more cars, more oil, and more greenhouse emissions – constitutes a planetary arrogance of frightening proportions… The City of London has the opportunity to take a very important first step in overcoming this outmoded approach, and beginning to envision the future of our cities in a way that is denser, less resource intensive, and ultimately more in step with our responsibilities as global citizens.”

You can find this op-ed here:

According to Cory with the London chapter, the industry-backed pro-drive-thru campaign has children handing out flyers and asking people in drive-thru lanes to support the petition, which has over 32,000 signatures on it. These children are sucking in exhaust fumes for the sake of allowing corporations like Tim Hortons and McDonald’s to sell junkfood to people in their cards, says Cory.

More studies backing the drive-thru ban

As reported by the Canadian Press ( on December 8, 2007: “Students at the University of Alberta monitored a popular Tim Hortons outlet in Edmonton last year for 54 hours and counted 3,756 vehicles idling for an average of more than five minutes each. The longest idle was more than 12 minutes.”

Additionally, the Edmonton Sun reported that, “A 2006 University of Alberta study found that vehicles idling in fast-food drive-thrus across Edmonton contribute about 8,600 tonnes of emissions per year into the atmosphere.” A study conducted by the Ontario Medical Association in 2005 estimated that there are 5,829 premature deaths and 16,807 hospital admissions due to air pollution each year.

The Toronto Star has also recently reported ( about a developer by the name of Dave de Sylva who did his own study.

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

Dave Zweifel’s Plain Talk: Drive-through

Dave Zweifel —  7/08/2008 5:20 am

It’s getting so that folks can’t even toss out an idea these days without being vilified by cranks and blowhards and their enabling radio talk show hosts.

Madison Plan Commission member Eric Sundquist found that out recently when he suggested the time may have come for the city to take a serious look at whether it should be approving more restaurant drive-throughs. Idling cars aren’t healthy for the environment, after all, plus we ought to be encouraging energy conservation in an era of $4 a gallon gas, he suggested.

Mike Ivey’s column reporting Sundquist’s idea detailed the context in which it was made. A proposal for a drive-through at a new Starbucks in front of the Crowne Plaza Hotel on East Washington Avenue generated some opposition from area businesses that feared it would create traffic backups at the already congested East Washington-Continental Lane intersection. Sundquist never proposed doing away with any existing drive-throughs, but suggested that maybe future ones ought to get careful scrutiny.

In the end Sundquist supported the Starbucks drive-through, but such minor details don’t penetrate the brains of the shoot-from-the-lipsters.

The infamous Drudge Report, the Web site that regularly turns molehills into mountains for the country’s right-wingers, picked up on the notion of banning drive-throughs and the frenzy was unleashed. Rush Limbaugh and the usual Fox News yappers got into the act and, of course, so did our local radio talkers.

Not only was Sundquist painted as some looney left-winger (as if the pros and cons of drive-throughs have anything to do with political leanings), but, on cue, Madison was held up as this far-out place that “real” people avoid at all costs.

I was particularly amused by the callers to Mitch Henck’s show on WIBA who piously pontificated they had moved out of Madison precisely because of these nutty people and claimed hundreds more are doing so too.

“I had to get away from all this crap,” proclaimed another with menacing disgust.

Henck, who likes to spread the notion that the city is indeed run by a bunch of airheads — it does stir up the restless natives, after all — threw Ald. Robbie Webber into the mix because she supports most anything that decreases reliance on the automobile. Oh, the shame on our city!

It’s not hard to imagine what the afternoon was like on the show hosted by Vicki McKenna, the queen of vilification.

For those who are delighted to have escaped Madison, they need to know there are many more who are just as delighted to have moved in. Despite its looniness — its 77 square miles surrounded by reality — it continues to be one of the fastest growing cities in the Midwest, jumping from 190,000 in 1990 to an estimated 223,000 today. Funny, all those nutcakes in city hall don’t seem to be chasing people away, nor have they been able to reduce the No. 1 ratings that Madison continually receives nationwide.

If you could look closely, you’d see those “we hate Madison” talkers sneaking into the city to take advantage of the arts and entertainment, the shopping and the parks and the rest of the vibrant city that its taxpayers and, yes, enlightened government have built through the years.

I’m not in favor of banning drive-throughs either. They make too much sense in a place that has six months of winter. Plus, I think that if the city took a look at some of its outmoded stoplights and did something to time them better, we could save a lot more gas than the idlers burn in the drive-through lanes.

But we should all be in favor of exploring new ideas and at least giving them consideration. That’s what distinguishes cities like Madison from some of the rest. How many seemingly ridiculous ideas have turned out to be pretty darn good in the end?

At the very least, one would think people would be able to make proposals without being personally attacked and ridiculed.

Whatever happened to an open mind?

Dave Zweifel is editor emeritus of The Capital Times.

Toronto Ponders Drive-Thru Ban To Help Environment

Monday December 17, 2007 Staff

To some people, drive-thrus are right up there with the wheel and the iPod as one of the great inventions.  They’re without doubt an easy way to get your quick fix of fast food, but they also serve up something else. With long lineups come idling cars that harm the environment, and traffic disruptions are common in busy urban areas.

That has the city of London considering banning them and now the city of Toronto is talking about similar plans.

Two years ago, a Toronto bylaw came into effect prohibiting new drive-thrus within 100 feet of any residential property. But some councillors think it’s time to toughen up that law.

“Many, many American municipalities have gone in the direction of just absolutely banning drive-thrus, and it’s time for the city of Toronto to consider the same,” maintains Coun. Joe Mihevc.

Others have similar concerns but don’t think it’s time yet to put plans for new drive-thrus in park.

“I think the complete ban is probably impossible,” adds Scarborough Southwest Coun. Brian Ashton.  “They’re already there. The question is, ‘Is there something else we can do to make them a little bit safer in how they operate today?”

Mayor David Miller admits he’s considering changes. “I think there are some places, suburban areas where they’re more appropriate but the more urban areas they are not appropriate, you should be allowing people to walk on a sidewalk without having fear of being run over,” he notes.

Here are some other Canadian cities that are also considering slamming the window on drive-thrus:

Hamilton: Considering stopping any new drive-thrus from being built in the city.

London, Ontario: Restrictions may include moratorium on all new drive-thrus.

Kings County, Nova Scotia: Pondering whether drive-thrus should be restricted solely to those with mobility issues.

Winnipeg: Has turned down several proposals from Tim Horton’s for drive-thrus after residents complained about traffic issues and how they might block existing businesses.

Philip McLeod: The idling battle over city’s drive-thrus

Posted By Philip McLeod

Posted 9 hours ago

Two months ago a report prepared by a pair of City of London officials made this point: “If you balance both air quality and climate change concerns and give them equal importance, a drive-thru queue of longer than one minute would start to have negative impacts on the environment as a whole.”

Last month, in a presentation to a city council committee, officials of the Tim Hortons restaurant chain argued: “Over the past year those who have claimed drive-thrus as a detriment to the environment have failed to present any evidence to support their claims. They have provided commentary regarding climate change and general vehicle use, but no evidence whatsoever related to drive-thrus.”

What do these conflicting claims have to do with the argument – to be made again at a public meeting this coming Tuesday, July 15 – that there should be restrictions on where future drive-thru services should be located in London?

Nothing – and everything.

Tuesday’s meeting, the resumption of a gathering originally slated for June 17 that over-flowed the cramped public facilities of the City Hall council chambers, is expected to draw a big crowd.

By some it’s being billed as a David vs. Goliath battle, with the role of the giant being played by the more than 150 drive-thru operations in the city, especially the many Tim Hortons coffee and doughnut locations, and their legions. At a city council meeting in June, more than 40,000 signatures on petitions and post cards gathered by Tim Hortons protesting a proposed ban on drive-thrus were tabled.

The role of David may be more modest, but it has growing support too from a coalition of environmentalists, nationalists and socialists who favour banning all drive-thrus.

And so the battle begins.

So, what is Tuesday’s meeting about?

Good question. It is very decidedly not about banning drive-thrus, either in the present or the future.


Officially, it’s a meeting of city council’s planning committee to hear public comment on several proposed amendments to London’s official plan which would set some limits on where future drive-thru facilities – whether restaurants, financial institutions, beer stores, groceries stores or wedding chapels, to list some of the current offerings – can be located.

For example, they wouldn’t be allowed in residential neighbourhoods. They wouldn’t be allowed in ‘pedestrian-oriented downtown and business district commercial designations’.

In areas of the city where they are allowed, there would be new rules governing how far back from the street they would be and how many vehicles they could stack – that is, how long a queue they must accommodate on private property. There would also be some design standards.

But banning drive-thrus? No, that’s is not on the agenda.

“The primary reason for the growth of these facilities is their convenience to the travelling public by saving time and allowing the customer to stay in their vehicle,” says a background report from the city’s planning department prepared in advance of Tuesday’s meeting. “They also provide a level of safety at night and are easier for the physically challenged to use because customers can stay in their cars.”

Well, if it’s not about banning them, why the big fuss?

Another good question. The short answer is because, in a way, it actually is about ultimately banning them.

The fight here is over the ‘green house gas’ emissions and other dangerous pollutants from the internal combustion engines that drive our cars and trucks. Going through drive-thrus, motorists are forced to wait in line – and sit in idling cars, vans, SUVs and trucks.

Says the report by two city officials: “Idling may not be the largest component of automobile-related emissions. However, the decision to leave an automobile’s engine running is a voluntary one, and one that usually serves no useful purpose except to provide comfort and convenience.”

That report says that if every driver in London reduced their amount of idling by 20 per cent per year – or about one minute a day – “1,548,000 litres of fuel, a non-renewable resource, would be saved; 3,760 tonnes of green house gas would not be produced, the same benefit it would take 22,580 trees to duplicate.”

People on this side of the argument want those Londoners frantic for their morning coffee fix to pull up to the restaurant, turn off their vehicle, walk inside and pick it up.

Tim Hortons earlier this year financed what appears to be the first major study on drive-thru idling by RWDI Air Inc., consulting engineers and scientists from Guelph. One of their findings revolves around whether a vehicle idling in a drive-thru queue for five or six minutes pollutes more or less than a vehicle restarted after the five or six minutes it takes for the driver to get his or her coffee inside.

Based on the RWDI information, the emissions from a vehicle starting up after five minutes are equivalent to 2:43 minutes of idling for nitrogent oxides, 1:17 minutes of idling for hydrocarbons and 10 seconds of idling for carbon dioxide.

So if your anticipated wait time is around two minutes or less, you in fact may be causing less pollution if you take the drive-thru lane, especially at Timmy’s which has perfected service flows to satisfy its customers during peak periods within 20 – 25 seconds.

After examining the RWDI information, the city officials had this comment: “A drive-thru queue of five to six vehicles at a typical Tim Hortons should be processed in around two minutes, which would represent a ‘neutral’ air quality impact scenario compared to parking and walking in for service. Once the drive-thru queue is longer than six vehicles, it would start to have a negative impact on air quality. For other quick-service restaurants which longer customer service delivery time, the optimum drive-thru queue lengths would be shorter.”

But the city report makes one further observation: “For many people, climate change is just as important an issue as local air quality. Given that start up emissions only produce green house gas emissions (carbon dioxide) equvalent to 10 seconds worth of engine idling, the use of a drive-thru will, in most cases, have a greater climate change impact than parking and walking in.”

Okay, what happens next?

Once all the emotion on both sides of this question gets wrung out, much of it next Tuesday, city council will probably pass the amendments to its official plan. Drive-thrus will continue to be built, but under the new rules – and probably not in some spots where Tim Hortons and other companies have already purchased land.

Some time soon, there will be another attempt to deal with idling, probably by reducing the amount of time you are allowed to idle your vehicle while waiting for it to warm up, waiting for a train to pass, waiting for your child at school, waiting for your turn at the coffee window.

The current idling bylaw, and more onerous restrictions being contemplated, however do not deal with the major reason motorists in London idle: Waiting for red traffic lights to turn to green which can, in a 20 minute commute to work, add up to four or five minutes if you hit the lights wrong or need to make left turns.


¦ A public participation meeting to review changes to London’s official plan to regulate drive-thru facilities will be held Tuesday, July 15, 7 p.m., Centennial Hall. Free admission.

Drive-thrus not ‘viable’ for strong communities, says alderman

Drive-thrus not ‘viable’ for strong communities, says alderman

Last Updated: Wednesday, June 25, 2008 | 12:54 PM ET Comments58Recommend26

A Calgary alderman says drive-thrus hurt community-building.A Calgary alderman says drive-thrus hurt community-building. (CBC)A recent move by Calgary city council to omit drive-thrus from one redevelopment plan should happen more often, says one alderman.

Last week, city council left out drive-thrus when it approved a new area structure plan — which dictates what kinds of businesses, retail and housing are allowed — for the 10 blocks around the Chinook LRT station.

The area in south Calgary already includes drive-thrus for banks and fast-food restaurants, but the plan means no new ones are allowed. It’s part of the city’s policy to increase density around transit stations and promote those areas as pedestrian-friendly.

Ald. Brian Pincott says he’d like to see the same policy applied to the rest of the city.

“The more that we build community — and drive-thrus are part of this — that keeps people separated, segregated from each other, the less viable our community is,” he said Tuesday.

No new drive-thrus will be allowed in the area around the Chinook LRT station.No new drive-thrus will be allowed in the area around the Chinook LRT station. (CBC)The Ward 11 councillor says a bylaw banning drive-thrus is not in the works, but he’d like to see them eventually disappear, “to make sure we’re actually building community again and getting people out of their cars, forcing people to interact with each other.”

But the Canadian Federation of Independent Business says the city shouldn’t interfere in the way people want to do their business.

“To just make some blanket statement that for some reason drive-thrus are inherently unviable, that’s really not a government decision,” said Danielle Smith, the group’s Alberta director.

The drive-thru window is a big part of business at CB Drive Inn in northwest Calgary. Owner Young Lee says a drive-thru ban wouldn’t kill his burger outlet, but some of his customers hate the idea.

“I’d have to do it the old way. And I enjoy doing the drive-thru,” said Michele Walgenbach. “It’s a lot quicker. I enjoy it. It’s convenient.”

Other Canadian municipalities have considered banning drive-thrus for environmental reasons.

Should Madison ban the drive-through?

Mike Ivey: Should Madison ban the drive-through?

Mike Ivey —  6/25/2008 11:37 am

First it was a proposed ban on plastic bags.

Now, a member of the influential Madison Plan Commission wants to ban the restaurant drive-through — or at least restrict the ubiquitous symbol of America’s auto-centric lifestyle.

“Given the concern about all the carbon going into the atmosphere, I’m not sure we should be building more places for people to sit idling in their cars,” says Eric Sundquist, who was appointed to the citizen panel by Mayor Dave Cieslewicz this spring.

A former newspaper reporter in Atlanta now working as a researcher at the UW-Madison’s Center on Wisconsin Strategy, Sundquist notes that several cities in Canada have recently moved to ban the drive-through coffee shop or stand-alone fast food restaurant (

“Bans haven’t gotten as far in the U.S., although I know San Luis Obispo, Calif., has one,” he says.

The issue came up last week during discussions over a conditional use permit for a new Starbucks coffee shop along a congested frontage road across from East Towne Mall.

The site at 4302 E. Washington Ave., in front of the Crowne Plaza Hotel, formerly housed the Frame Workshop retail store but has been vacant for more than a year. Property owner Tim Neitzel now wants to lease half of the 3,300 square foot retail building for a Starbucks that will also feature indoor and outdoor seating.

To facilitate the drive-through, developers are using a portion of the Crowne Plaza parking lot. Drivers picking up their morning coffee will have to make a circle route through the property to avoid potential traffic backups.

But nearby business owners are concerned about bringing more cars through the already congested intersection of East Washington and Continental Lane. The owner of a gas station on the frontage road said it’s not uncommon for cars to wait through three traffic signal cycles to get across East Washington.

East Towne area Ald. Joe Clausius admitted the intersection is a problem and said with the Starbucks it “could get very backed up.” Still, he said the corridor is badly in need of some redevelopment.

“I’m constantly getting peppered with questions from people about what is happening there and when will it happen,” he says.

City officials have given their lukewarm support to the Starbucks, which is scheduled for a November opening. They say it could help create a more pedestrian-friendly atmosphere near the Crowne Plaza.

“While many future customers will likely be driving automobiles, hotel guests and residents to the north represent a potential walking customer,” says city planner Heather Stouder.

Sundquist is planning to bring the issue up before the city’s Long Range Transportation Planning Commission on which he also serves.

“I know a ban might be difficult so a better approach might be to restrict them,” he says, noting an ordinance in Davis, Calif., puts a number of restrictions on drive-throughs, including one relating to air pollution.