Friday, January 02, 2009

Toronto, Transition, Traffic & Transit.

This post was inspired by Grannymar's post on traffic in Ireland.

It isn’t easy getting into city mode again. The traffic. Mein Gott, the traffic.

I got locked into some kind of maelstrom outside Yorkdale Mall today.

A place where ramps run off other ramps until you’re left with nothing but a gigantic snarl.

In every sense of the word. Snarling drivers, snarling SUVs, humping Hummers, me in the middle in my little Echo. Stopped. Slight claustrophobia. Darted off down a side street and took my breath and mourned my little village in Newfoundland. I was returning from dropping the grandgirl off at her house in Toronto from Markham where I’m living for the next few montha.

Public transit sucks the bag, big time, when it comes to the outlying suburban areas of Toronto. While it is superb in the city core itself.

Here is what a web request for transit information looks like for a 30km drive that takes me 30 minutes to my daughter’s house in Toronto:

We could not find any connections between the origin of your trip and the destination (ending point) of your trip at the requested time.
This may be due to one of the following:
· Your request is for times during the day when service is not available.. .
· Your start and/or end points are not within 0.8 km of the closest transit stop.
· Your ride will require an unreasonable number of transfers or a duration of longer than three hours.

Longer than three hours. Transit involving bus, train, subway and bus. A good runner could manage it in less. Hell, a good horse could probably halve the time.

I’ve been bleating about the lack of efficient public transit, 24 hour public transit, for more years than I’d care to count.

Why can’t it be managed? Yes, the public will have to subsidize it, like it does education, healthcare, police and fire services et al. But the benefits would far outweigh the costs, both on the environment and less traffic on the roads which often involve 16-24 lanes across in Toronto. Also serious vehicular carnage might be reduced or eliminated.

Here is info from CBC (2004, I could find no recent stats.):

With nearly 20 million cars and trucks on our roads, automobiles have become a fact of life for Canadians. But our reliance on them comes at a cost. Over the past 50 years nearly 200,000 Canadians have died in traffic accidents — more than were killed in both world wars combined. In addition, despite vastly improved safety measures automobile accidents continue to be a major cause of death of younger Canadians.

My inner cynic, always active, follows the money to the foundering Big 5 of the auto industry, the massive construction and maintenance of highways, the complete over-usage of trucks and our old friend Big Oil and its powerful lobby.

But with the days of cheap, accessible oil just about history, perhaps Gaia will once again assert herself and the days of Happy Motoring to and from Mammoth Malls and MacMansions will be replaced by solar powered trams. Now that’s a project worth throwing a couple of billion at, surely? Let's call it a Bail-in.


  1. Solar-powered trams? What a great idea. Melbourne has a fabulous tram network (the biggest in the world, apparently). Yes, I'm always as amazed as you by the hopelessness of public transport compared with the convenience of a car. Northern Ireland is pretty bad, with a miniscule rail system and a Belfast bus system that basically only takes you from the city centre to destination X or vice versa.

    Obviously cheap, comprehensive public transport has huge personal and economic benefits but too many people and governments are addicted to motor vehicles.

  2. There has to be a majority of the people in favor of better public transport, in every city in the western world. It begs the question: why don't we have it? Or, maybe we're not as democratic as the politicians tell us?

  3. Public transport? It's totally unknown in this neck of the woods.
    This part of the world was much better served a century ago, when the rail network thrived. We don't even get a Greyhound bus passing through.

    I don't envy you those horrendous 24 lanes of traffic (YIKES!) but I envy the public transport you do have there, WWW. :-)

  4. Nick:
    I've often thought transit modelled after the spokes of a wheel would work rather well. It is enormously frustrating for people who want to leave a smaller environmental footprint.

  5. RJA:
    The myriad of powerful lobbies, construction, freight transport trucks et al are very powerful.

  6. T:
    And what will happen to people like your good selves when oil is scarce or unavailable?
    We are very poorly served by our greedy politicians.

  7. on our one visit to toronto a few years back we took the metro everywhere.

    clearly, now, i see--not everywhere. i am disillusioned. i had thought they had great mass transit but apparently only to certain neighborhoods.

    too bad.

    but minneapolis and st paul are much much much worse.

  8. Trams are being installed in Edinburgh city centre at great expense. I wonder if they will make transportation easier or harder.

  9. @Laurie:
    At times I wonder why those in charge of us little people are so short-sighted.
    that sounds like a marvellous plan in the face of such oil shortages!!


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