Drive-Through Drive By

bradhBy Brad Hodge
Published: March 22, 2014


Council recently announced its intention to amend the Official Community Plan to ban future drive-thru commercial developments. 

Personally I am agnostic about drive-thrus.  But below I have collected a few of the common arguments against them for the purposes of offering an opposing viewpoint for balance.  Here we go:

Drive-Thrus Rob the Community of Tourist Dollars – Ban them, and people will stop (and shop).

But we’re only proposing to ban future drive-thrus, not current ones.  So the option to grab a burger and run will still be there on Day 1 that this policy takes effect.  Nothing solved here.  Worse, we are entrenching the incumbent purveyors of fast food and locking out potentially healthier competitors. 

Drive-Thrus are Environmentally Unfriendly

Nope.  There have been studies that debunk this pretty quickly.  A 2008 study by engineering firm RWDI concluded that, assuming same traffic, a non-drive-thru equipped restaurant will generate 20% more smog causing compounds and 60% more greenhouse gases.  This is due to the idling and startup emissions involved in parking cars.  In fact, the study found that a drive-thru handling 150 cars an hour is equivalent to 2 conventional woodstoves burning for an hour, or a single motorcyle operating for 1 hour at 50 km/h!  Are we going to ban woodstoves and motorcycles too?

Drive-Thrus are a Poor Land Use

But are they?  If you want people to park, you need parking stalls.  That means acres upon acres of asphalt.  Those vehicles have to be put somewhere while the owner eats and (maybe) browses for trinkets.

Banning Drive-Thrus Will Force People to Make Healthier Choices

Right.  Because banning stuff always stops people from accessing it, right?  Remind me to tell Al Capone that one.  

Only Lazy People Use Drive-Thrus

If you have a physical disability, it is much easier to pass through a drive-thru for what you need rather than disembarking.  Ditto for seniors in winter months when the risk of injury from slippery ice is at its zenith.  Remember, drive-thrus aren’t strictly for food, they are also used for banking and so on.

There is No Defence for Allowing Drive-Thrus

Okay I’ll bite.  Notwithstanding the above, we have essential liberty at question here.  Do we really want to empower local Councillors to be our parents?  That kind of subjective moral crusading is an open door to abuse.  Second, sound policy dictates that an actual problem be identified and tackled with a carefully thought out, fact-based solution.  But this policy, like so many in our blinkered 21st century, is more about making ourselves feel good than results.  It defines the problem too simplistically and offers a solution that really isn’t; and may in fact be worse than the original problem.  This is no way to make policy.  In 2011 our Council candidates pledged to stay focused on infrastructure and economy, not engage in social engineering.   I urge them, with November just months away, to remember those pledges and not lose focus, or worse, their seats.


  1. Dave says:

    Good article Brad. I really agree.
    There are too many who have blinkered, tunnel vision in this town, tainted by too much green masking of the balanced picture that you have presented. I want my choice and everyone else should have it too in the light of the real situation.
    I rarely stop at Drive-Thrus but when I need them, I hope that they will be there, even if it is just for a quick coffee or a healthy chicken fajita. Let us not descend into the “Nanny” syndrome that we see in some other parts of the world.

  2. Adam says:

    Brad’s comments about social engineering were particularly eye opening. Our politicians should focus only on infrastructure and the economy – not social engineering? The reality Brad is that in this day and age, there is a unbreakable bond between all of these things. After growing up in this area, we were attracted back by the clean air, healthy lifestyle and the growing number of residents with an interest in green living etc. Mine shut down and Woodfibre gone were the start of this for many.

    As demographics have shifted, so too have attitudes. This is a direct result of social engineering – planned or unplanned. Large scale or small. There is a growing group of residents here that don’t want the status quo. Just because some want drive thru convenience, doesn’t mean the rest of us should be subject to such short sighted planning. There are plenty of places to move if you want to do everything from your car. Squamish could be different and there are certainly sufficient drive thru options for those who can’t exit their cars easily – though I’d propose if you called any business in this town, they’d be pleased to offer curb side service.

    Squamish is a gem with all of the potential in the world but also a town at risk of being derailed by the old school thinking of those who think the future is based on the past or by doing what everyone else has done.

    So social engineering matters and there’s a big contingent in this town that would be happy to cap drive thru growth because it would be indicative of a community looking to do things differently and different is good.

  3. JK says:


    Imagine you have a you’ve built and spent years maintaining. Then one day an uninvited guest moves in and starts making demands. Change the siding! Change the carpet! Mine is the only opinion that matters! That’s kind of how you are coming across right now. I know this may seem incredible to you, but Squamish was not created for the exclusive enjoyment of progressive leaning cyclists and outdoor enthusiasts. There were 15,000 of us here long before you guys encamped, and we all have our own ideas on what the community should look like. I don’t recall begging you to move here nor did I surrender my will to yours. Your suggestion that I should move is particularly ignorant.. there are places closer to your liking, why don’t you move?

    I don’t mean to suggest you guys are unwelcome, nor am I against cycling or recreation. Far from it. But you guys need to be respectful and recognize that you are not the only ones whos opinions matter. If the drive thrus survive and expand that’s because they have support. You have no business dictating to the rest of us what our choices can be. I cannot wait until November to give our open and closet progressives on Council that message.

    • Adam says:

      Hi JK,

      Perhaps you missed the “After growing up in this area” portion of my comment. I was raised here. I left for school and returned when done, so with respect I’m pretty damn local. I for one don’t miss the stench of Woodfibre and don’t believe the path to an economically viable Squamish is to be attained by doing the same stuff that put Squamish in the hole in the first place. That said, the joy of a democracy is you can forward your vision for an industrialized, LNG shipping, fast food, strip mall & mine haven with bill boards and an associated do whatever the hell you want to make money plan. So with that, I wish you much success but I’m not too certain that message resonates with the majority of Squamish anymore. As we’ve transitioned out of 70’s era thinking, we’re all (new and old Squamish) starting to accept a new and better path forward.

      To the topic of Drive Thru’s. Please tell me what benefit there is to Squamish by adding additional fast food restaurants (that is what we’re really talking about) with Drive Thru’s? There are currently plenty of fast food joints with drive thru’s for a town this size and I can’t imagine anyone who wants to buy a fast food breakfast is really going to be put out if we don’t add more to the mix.

      Perhaps you could enlighten me about why you feel so strongly that we need to protect the right of Fast Food restaurants to add drive thru’s? How does it help the residents of Squamish? What real benefit is there to the economy? It certainly isn’t counted in living wages or financial benefit beyond basic tax base. Perhaps I’m missing something so I’d be curious to hear the rationale.

      • JK says:


        I apologize that I did indeed miss the part about you being raised here, however as the majority of the people ive heard bellyaching about LNG and the like appear to be from elsewhere, the essential comment still stands.

        Seeking a broad economic base is mot ’70s thinking’. If anyones views are outdated here it is yours with the throwback to 1960s era soft marxism and its attendant hatred of big business, now cloaked in the self righteousnes of environmentalism. For an educated person you seem distinctly uneducated in how an economy actually works and how industry enables the life that you live and why some industry is essential as part of a mix of business. Railing against the evil fast food empires belies the fact that most of these businesses are franchises owned by local entrepreneurs. They provide jobs to people who otherwise lack qualifications and experience. They survive, along with strip malls, because people use them. Demand is the ultimate expression of democracy, is it not? That they are increasingly staffed by better educated people is likely due to the lack of opportunities here as the have your cake and eat it too mentality of radical environmentalism and anti capitalist policy scares away investment.

        As for your assertion of majority status for people of your views, that was not in evidence at the council meetinh where proponents of drive thru limits were quite clearly told to shove it by a factor of about 10 to 1. How about you guys start respecting that, and if you can’t, follow the advice you so aptly offered in the post before.