Comment 35006

By schmadrian (registered) | Posted October 28, 2009 at 13:17:41

"Once a proper 'Big City System' is implemented, and it also takes 20-30 minutes to get Downtown using a Connected, Efficient & Rapid Transit System, people will begin to choose Public Transit over Personal Vehicles."

I'm sorry, but although I admire the strength of your longings, this view is naïve. And because so much is at stake, also a little dangerous.

On the weekend, the Toronto Star ran an article asking the question 'Why are Toronto roads constantly gridlocked?' (I'm paraphrasing.) And it was fascinating to read the comments. Because...and this is where the aforementioned 'truths' come into play...they revealed where peoples' priorities lie. What they were willing to consider...and what they rejected out-of-hand.

Building more roads creates more congestion. (Ask Robert Moses, the builder of the mess in NYC that helped construct the modern value system most of us wrap our arms around) So it's not a matter of building more highways if we want less congestion. It means getting cars off the road. And the alternative? Mass/public transit? Maybe. But there's a problem:

We live in a car-centric culture. The automobile is at the core of our value system. (Not mine, and not everyone's, admittedly. But it's still there.) Until we have a shift in our value system, nothing will change.

Let me rephrase that: people want their cars. They demand their cars. Proof of this can be found on tv, in print, online. And it's bizarre, because cars have become the Number One Means of Proving Your Worth; strange, when they're merely an evolved form of the horse.

I'd be willing to bet that most of the people I see on the buses I'm on every day, were they able to afford it, would be driving. They wouldn't be taking the bus. (I'm not talking about Hamilton-Toronto commuters. Different animal entirely...although very much related.)

I know, I know; I can hear the yells and screams from those who want public transit as the paradigm within which our culture thrives...but that fervor doesn't change anything. No matter what kind of system you construct, no matter how good it is, no matter how well it works, until this mindset is changed, the Great Movement To A Better Way will be encumbered. Until a sixteen year old no longer wants their driver's license more than anything else in the universe, the kind of world we all would love to see is going to be slow in coming...if it in fact ever arrives.

So to me, this isn't just a question of funding. It's not just a question of politics, of management, or any of the associated elements. Never has been. It's a question of changing a value system. And that's a much, much harder task than any that could possibly be presented as 'what needs to be accomplished'.

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