Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Looking beyond gridlock

with one comment

The Toronto Star, December 14 2007
Christopher Hume
Urban Issues Columnist

Whatever the appeal of the car may be, mobility has little to do with it.The truth of this lies not just in the extreme congestion and epic commutes documented this week by Star correspondents, but as they also made clear, in our mind-boggling capacity to put up with it.

He does not say very much that is either new, nor apparently backed up by anything other than his own opinions.

I am also very wary of using the “punish the drivers” line. As his own commute record adjacent to the story shows, transit is not “the better way” even for someone with a short commute. Until we commit ourselves to making the other ways of getting around better than they are now – not just transit, but walking, cycling and other shared ride systems – cars will still be the first choice of many even as gas prices increase.

Congestion tolling in Central London simply removed through traffic that did not need to be there. Those people diverted to the ring roads and found that although they were less direct they were, in fact, quicker. The amount of parking in London did not change so the number of people driving into the centre and stopping there was probably not a lot different, although some of the drivers were – those with money to spend replacing those with time to waste.

The other thing Ken did was make sure that buses got a lot better – since building more railways takes too long! (Although they are doing that too.) So he increased the size of the bus fleet and got really serious about bus priority. People have responded – and ridership on buses has grown significantly. So much for all those who say that only rail can win people to transit!

I am indebted to reader Paul Holden for bringing this piece to my attention. He writes

It’s the kind of article that if it was written by someone flogging the twinning of the Port Mann Bridge, I would dismiss it as being without substance. It is interesting that he’s writing in support of transit, given the nuisance he endures daily. The interesting thing to me is that you don’t often see this kind of article in the mainstream press. Usually the assumptions rest in favour of the car, and the author feels free to offer opinions without basis. Yet in this instance, the assumption is in favour of transit, even though his own evidence kind of speaks against him. I guess it makes me wonder if this is a sign of some shift in thinking. Or maybe it just happens to be a pro-transit and eco-minded reporter.

It comes at the end of a week of articles about commuting in Toronto in the Star and significant announcements of increased spending on transit there, based on new federal funding being matched by the province.

Written by Stephen Rees

December 15, 2007 at 11:24 am

Posted in Traffic, transit

One Response

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  1. Unfortunately, Christopher Hume is “just” a pro-transit and eco-minded reporter. He is urban affairs columnist for the Star, and this column doesn’t veer from his usual writing. Toronto has had recent polls done which show big support for transit as a way to reduce congestion. This does not mean at all that the supporters would switch to transit from automobiles.


    December 15, 2007 at 12:04 pm

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