Monday, September 12, 2011

Transit Solutions in the GTA - Election Day minus 24

During the course of the Ontario election campaign, I will attempt to post alternative solutions to issues that are important to the campaign. So, below is a posting from Gene Balfour, Libertarian candidate in Thornhill Riding just north of Toronto. The topic is transit, does the government have the only solution, indeed, should the government be involved?

The GTA has recently been declared as the area with the longest commute to work in Canada and it is a top concern for residents, including those in the Thornhill riding .

I have first hand experience with commuting issues and can relate to the concerns of my fellow commuters.

I have lived in Thornhill this past 20 years and in North York the previous 25 years. Since 1978, I have been a regular TTC subway rider. While public transit has been “the better way” for me than commuting by car, I have also run to work, rode my motorcycle to work, taken the bus, and I occasionally drove my car to the office.

Today, people have many options for commuting. These include: walking, running, cycling, using a scooter or motorcycle, car and car-pooling using public roads as well as toll roads (407ETR), bus, street car, subway, commuter train.

What does this tell you? It tells me that people will use the commuting option that best suits their needs and circumstances at any given point in time, and that the commuting issue will be resolved by there becoming available as many viable options as possible - 'viable' being the key word.

There will never be one "silver bullet" that government will find that will satisfy all commuters. Gridlock and long commutes have been top citizen issues for as long as I can remember - if our governments were able to provide the answers, then our commuting issues would have long ago been solved.

It is time for a new approach - one that involves the dismantling of the government monopoly in transportation services that exists today, and opening the flood gates to profit-motivated private sector ideas and solutions.

In simple terms, I would approach this transportation strategy in two ways:

Step 1: Identify the government-imposed deterrents to private sector investment in transportation services, and remove them to create a vibrant and competitive "commuting services sector" in the GTA . This must include the elimination of the many unnecessary transportation regulations that discourage and curtail the creative thinking and capital investments that are needed to address our complex and chronic transportation issues.

Step 2: Notify and engage the business enterprises who possess the know-how and resources to address our transportation issues, and proclaim boldly the Ontario GTA area is enthusiastically seeking businesses who can finally "put to bed" our commuting complaints. It will be very important that allow competition in this new "commuting services sector" to follow its natural course without government meddling so that the forces of competitive options and pricing will keep the costs low. In addition, unionized labour should not be allowed to operate in this sector so as to maintain competitive pricing and service levels.

Free-enterprise entrepreneurial businesses will always trump government monopolies in pricing, service, convenience and quality. Since the industrial revolution, almost all of our most significant technological achievements have come from entrepreneurs whose profit motive has driven them to seek and keep happy customers. Government has had its chance – now its time to let capitalism come to the rescue.

To compliment Gene's message above, I have appended an excellent related video brought to my attention by Andrew Phillips from the Ottawa area. Randal O'Toole, a Senior Fellow at CATO discusses the privatization of transit in US cities. Well worth your time.

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