transportation part 5

Finally, suggesting our car-based system is "convenient" is like calculating only the time savings from speeding through red lights. Yes, cars are "convenient" — even make us "independent" — but are we including time sacrificed working for our cars, cost of accidents, depletion of finite resources, foreign oil dependence (most of eastern Canada's supply comes from abroad), diversion of public funds, high fatality rates for school children, smog and global warming?

Supporters of the status quo suggest public transit needs too much in public subsidies. Nice try. Private car-makers have received immeasurably greater subsidies through public investment for road infrastructure and maintenance necessary to accommodate their delicate products (even a small snow storm causes turmoil, and requires tens of thousands of tonnes of toxic salt). Other burdens like poisoned air and global warming are simply socialized, or exported. Road tolls and carbon taxes would begin to put more of the real cost of our car-based system on the motorists who use it.

Some political leaders are beginning to understand the problem.

Toronto, for instance, has an ambitious plan to expand its streetcar network, potentially setting in motion an Ontario revival of clean electric rail networks. The City of Windsor had the province's first electric streetcar system in the 1880s. (There was a similar, successful system across the river in Detroit.) Other Ontario cities like Niagara Falls, Kitchener, and Ottawa followed suit until the 1930s and 1940s when private automobiles took over. The irony is that Toronto's current plan may be delayed by the federal government, which is being slow to commit needed funding.

Now might be the time to apply collective solutions like mass transit to communal problems — instead of trying to improve cars that serve individuals. Once we seriously consider where we are going and how we get there — and the high cost of the status quo — we might decide there is a better road to be travelled.(koehl)


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