Wednesday, February 22, 2012

North American Public Transit still sucks

In Toronto, the "transit wars" are ongoing.
Once upon a time ago, the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC), was the envy of North America, clean, efficient, and accident free by comparison with American cities. That was back in the 1970's, American cities were rotting, from racial strife, urban flight, and other things. The rot had not yet reached Canada. That kind of rot still has not affected Canadian cities, the rot in Canada, is caused by other things, almost all of them to do with government at some level.

Most urban dwellers in Canada see public transit as strictly a government responsibility. Of course it should not be so, I have written about this before, for example here. The issue of public transit has become wrapped up in environmental issues like, urban sprawl, greenhouse gas emissions etc. Both politicians and the voters they pander to, believe that there are too many cars, or rather too many people using cars. So they go out of there way to make it more and more difficult to use cars and therefore encourage the use of public transit. Unfortunately most people, myself included, would rather avoid the deteriorating transit system. I have no need to be treated like a herd animal in a subway car, thats a common view. If transit were better, I and others might change that view, but for now the car is my preferred choice.

Add all that together in Toronto, and the result is a city with one of the worst commute times in the world. A recently elected Mayor in Toronto believes that the answer is subways, lots of them. To put it bluntly this Mayor suffers from tunnel vision. Unfortunately subways are very costly in a time of austerity everywhere, and in Toronto the population densities do not warrant the expense. it's a bad idea all-round, and additional government debt or yet more taxes will not make things better.

So what to do? Here is an American look at the same problem, and something we should think about:

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