A reader argues that banning driving on smog days is not practical without a viable alternative.
By Letter to the Editor
Published July 05, 2006
I agree with most of his statements; however, I find it difficult to imagine how I would get to work in Mississauga on the pollution days he notes.
I meet with a co-worker at the Highway Six parking lot and we proceed in together to Mississauga. Using McGreal's suggestion I might be able to get as far as Dundas then I would be done, while still not within reach of my work.
I believe that this shows something of the myopic tendencies in many persons' writing on this subject. I assume that Mr. McGreal works in Hamilton, and probably from home, no doubt?
How, may I ask, do I get to work today, not in the undefined "future"? do I take the 3 to 3.5 hours (each way) of current public transit to work, or do I wait for a "better" system to be devised?Sincerely,
Ryan McGreal responds:
Thank you for your reasoned letter. You make some valid points, and I'd like to respond to them.
1) I do work in Hamilton (not at home), but I ride a bike to work year-round. I have turned down opportunities in other cities because my *net* pay (income minus the price of a second car, wear and tear, gasoline, insurance, and time spent driving, no to mention the effect on my health of replacing daily physical activity with yet more sedentary driving in addition to my sedentary job) would be worse than what I make here.
2) I agree completely that there should be other ways to commute. Highways are publicly subsidized far in excess of commuter rail, and I believe this distorts the market for transportation by encouraging - and ultimatley forcing - everyone to own a car or two if they want to go anywhere.
3) As a corrolary to 2), I would argue that a better transport system will never be developed until the costs - in particular the direct and measurable health costs - of the present system are exposed and confronted. Today, a child in hospital on oxygen is an externality; no one has to take responsibility. Banning non-essential driving on severe smog days is a wake-up call to politicans and the public alike that the way we're doing things has to change.
With the political will, we could probably have a great rail system in place in about a year. Most of the physical plant is already laid, so it's largely a matter of putting rolling stock on the rails. Is one year of sporadic disruptions worth preventing hundreds of premature deaths every year thereafter?
Paul Dixon responds:
I also agree that it is critical to have a true "mass" transit system not the half way there system we have now. Until we have it regrettably I can earn significantly more in Mississauga rather than Hamilton, I am therefore basically your opposite. I cannot see where banning me from working makes any sense at all, who will pay my bills, perhaps Hamilton taxpayers?
There is also the issue of highways when they run smoothly, without interruption they are much less polluting, therefore we need to developed rail in conjunction with highways to ensure that we don't strangle ourselves.
In summary banning myself and the thousands of people working in the GTA from getting to work is not a solution, merely a punishment for using our cars.
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