Stephen Rees's blog

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

“God created transit”

with 7 comments

Background: I am an Atheist. I hate commercials – when they interrupt tv I mute the sound, I try to ignore them when they play them before the movie in a theatre. I do not watch sports on tv, and I avoided both the Superbowl and the number of opportunities that were made available for Canadians to see the Superbowl ads that they “missed” by posting on the internet.

So when Yuri Artibise tweeted earlier today using the same title as this bog post, I was ready to riposte. Oddly enough I have been having a tweet exchange over Christy Clark’s recent publicity surge over her Anglican attachments. I was quite proud of one response – she said that people who don’t attend church miss the weekly reminder to care for others. I tweeted “If what was done to BC Public Service Pensioners is evidence of her ‘caring’ then I would rather she didn’t care for me so much”

So to gear up for another onslaught I thought I had better check out the video Yuri was linking to. I was stunned to see the following image half way through

Screen Shot 2013-02-08 at 9.51.09 AMThat just happens to be my son Jim, riding the New York Subway.

To be clear, this was not a commercial that aired during the Superbowl. The following is taken from Yuri’s blog

Yet again, the ad that won the “Superbowl Commercial Sweepstakes” paid homage to the automobile. This stuck a nerve with Diana Lind of Next City, who created a brilliant two-minute riposte highlighting what’s great about public transit. According to Lind:

And yet the ad, like the one about soldiers for Jeep, conflated the merits of people with those of cars. Which seems a bit sad for 2013, when in the past six months climate change has reared its ugly head and begged us to change our consumption economy for something a bit more sustainable. And the nostalgic imagery — as if we only believe in farmers and soldiers to represent the best of humanity, and as if buying a car is a noble act — started to offend me.

Here is the video:

For the record, Jim does not have a driver’s license, and has not ever shown any interest in learning to drive. He lives in Brooklyn and has a Metrocard for his daily commute into Manhattan and uses transit for nearly all his local travel. He walks a lot too. He doesn’t have a bike.

He grew up in the suburbs (Scarborough ON, Saanich and Richmond BC) – and like most kids of his generation spent quite a lot of time in car seats. But he always walked to school (K-12)

He was completely unaware of this video until I texted him a short while ago.


I have now actually seen the commercial to which the one above is a riposte – and I think seeing it helps understand quite why it is a presentation and not a video.

Written by Stephen Rees

February 8, 2013 at 11:06 am

Posted in transit

7 Responses

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  1. Great piece, Stephen. I watched both videos with no sound (I do not have sound on my computer right now) I can only imagine how much more powerful and affective they both are with sound.

    And that is quite a thing that you recognized your own son in the video, and that he himself did not know that he was in it. That in itself is a powerful thing, and shows us that there is serendipity in the world.

    Adam Fitch

    February 8, 2013 at 5:36 pm

  2. You can see a transcript of the Paul Harvey talk that Dodge used for their ad on the blog I posted the link to. Unfortunately there does not seem to be a transcript for the text of the transit one

    Stephen Rees

    February 8, 2013 at 5:45 pm

  3. Wow, great coincidence.


    February 8, 2013 at 6:03 pm

  4. Great commercial indeed (the one about transit)…

    To be fair to cars owners in our remote corner of Canada, transit is too impractical for most people because there is no rapid transit across the whole of Metro Vancouver.
    One of my neighbours in Coquitlam has to be at work at 6 am in an industrial area in Richmond and there is no way she can be there on time.

    In the part of the world where I was born, farmers didn’t have tractors until the late 60s. Even in the 90s quite a few managed well without them (in order to use machines that picked up grapes–along with leaves and twigs–something that appalled both farmers and consumers at first) vineyards had to be torn down and replanted with rows spaced wider. This meant no harvest, therefore no income at all, for 4-5 years.

    Few farmers had cars until the 70s or 80s. A horse and buggy for work was just fine. For shopping or ..they used a motorized bike.

    When I was a teenager I used a Velosolex (they came in black only) when I was at my parents’ home on weekends and holidays. The area was hilly so one had to pedal like mad (even with the motor on). There was one speed only so it was a great exercise for the legs.
    One had to pedal for 10 metres or so THEN push the motor over the front wheel to start it. A small can of petrol would last the best part of the week if one used it for 5-10 km a day. .
    In those innocent days one never attached bikes or motorized bikes…

    I am surprised that the NRA hasn’t made a commercial “why God created guns”!

    Red frog

    February 10, 2013 at 11:35 am

  5. If God created transit She forgot to explain the subtleties of fare gates to Compass and TransLink.

    I use SkyTrain daily and am puzzled by the relatively low number of gates in stations with a high attendance.
    Commercial, Waterfront, Lougheed for example. In these places hordes of passengers are coming from several lines and exiting the system while other hordes, coming from several buses, are trying to enter the system.

    So far there is no clear/obvious division between entrance only and exit only, as in many systems. shows some gates with a green light (entrance to system) and others with a red light (no entrance, exit from system)

    The gates open in only one direction, so if people coming in and those going out are using the same gates there will be an unavoidable delay.
    This is already happening with the narrow gates..One has to wait to let a person, closer to the gate than one is, go through, while one is being pushed from behind by passengers in a rush to go nowhere.

    To make it worse the gates only open in one direction so they will open TOWARDS some passengers that will have to tap at arm length on the validator while standing at least 1 ft 1/2 away from the gate to avoid been hit by it. .

    Some stations have too few gates. Brentwood station has only 3.

    This one instance when I hope to be wrong…

    What will happen on buses? they will have validators on all the doors so, in theory, passengers should be able to use ALL the doors, as they do on tramways that have been using transit smartcards for years. Except for the front door the other doors have 2 validators and are wide enough to allow 1 file going in, another going out..

    Red frog

    February 11, 2013 at 9:02 pm

  6. So you have now seen the Dodge Ram commercial and at least two ripostes. Here’s another, definitive, take on the same subject

    Stephen Rees

    February 20, 2013 at 7:25 pm

  7. Thanks, Stephen. I will keep this in my back pocket for future discussions about why public transit is so essential for modern, urban centers.

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