Making transit dollars go a long way

There is a lot of noise being made today about the Pembina Institute’s comparison of the Metrolinx and Mayor Rob Ford’s transit expansion plans.  The Toronto Star reported on it and the Toronto Environmental Alliance has been alerting its members to it as well.  Whether you prefer subways or light rail, you still have to conclude that Mayor Ford’s plan is inconsistent with his stand on reducing waste.  If you want subways to deliver anywhere close to the kind of service you can get from surface transit, you better be prepared for substantially higher taxes.

Meanwhile, George Monbiot in the United Kingdom is facing the identical nonsensical rhetoric of “ending the war against the car”, and writes as only he can:

Where is this famous war on the motorist? Can anyone point me to the battlefields, the graves of the war dead, the statues commemorating the unknown driver? Who has been waging it and when was it fought?

What I see is that driving has become cheaper over the past three decades, while other forms of transport have become more expensive. That the space dedicated to cars – both on the roads and for parking – has expanded, often at the expense of other kinds of public space. That there is precious little enforcement of either the speed limit or of other rules – such as parking on the pavement in residential areas. That when someone is killed or injured as a result of careless driving, the penalties are tiny, if there is any punishment at all. As a result, motorists are able to take space – and even life – away from people pursuing other activities.

The only places in which you can see what looks like the outcome of a war are hospital wards which treat people with terrible injuries inflicted by poorly regulated drivers. But in this case the “war” is being waged by motorists against pedestrians and cyclists…

This is about private interests trumping the public interest, about allowing people to pursue their desires, regardless of the cost to society. It’s about championing the freedom to act, while ignoring the other kind of freedom: freedom from other people’s actions. If “the war on the motorist” means the puny and half-hearted measures designed to ensure that drivers couldn’t push everyone else out of the way, the government announcement that it has come to an end means that we will lose any hope of ensuring that transport is built around the needs of society. Instead, all other human life will have to make way for the car.

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