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.