Going Mobile

January 14, 2014

Point 3.anotherthing

(Points 1 and 2 from last week in my list compiling the Non-taxpayer Taxpayer Campaign 2014 Creed in case you missed it and are chronologically minded.)

No one thing is necessary in order to make a city liveable, equitable and a desirable destination for people and businesses to set up shop in. In fact, it’s probably the exact opposite. A whole boat load of factors come together to create a web of endless opportunity.

But if we can’t easily access these opportunities, if too many minutes and hours in our day are taken up getting between them, the benefits of living in a city, those economies of scale, simply wither away. Mobility is the key to a thriving city. Call it the backbone to successful urbanism.

I think few of us would disagree with the assertion Toronto and the surrounding GTHA region have ground to a halt, transportation wise. Gridlock. Congestion. That’s what we talk about when we talk about transportation. gridlockTOBillions of dollars lost in productivity as the result of being stuck in traffic or crammed onto public transit.

It’s a fucking mess out there with no easy solution on the horizon.

You know why that is?

Because there’s no such thing as an easy solution to building major swaths of infrastructure; an infrastructure deficit created by decades of neglect and politically expedient tight-fistedness.

And that’s not even the real kicker in this debate.

It’s no longer about do we have to do this. The answer to that is obvious to anyone who has to venture outside onto the region’s streets. The question has to be how we do it.

If you’ll pardon the pun, this is where the road gets rocky, or pothole-y to use a more location specific descriptor.

We cannot car our way out of this one, folks. The private automobile is what’s driven us to this point. subwayloverIt has allowed us to spread out to an unsustainable level, and required too much of our capital spending in order to maintain.

So this campaign cannot be just about subways-versus-LRTs. If you are running for public office on a fetish for a single mode of transit (this includes War on the Car and Subways 4 1st-Class Cities), you’re frankly not qualified to be in a decision making position. Our current transportation crisis is the only logical outcome of a fixed focus on one way of getting around. The car.

I’m lifting this list from someone and cannot be bothered to track it down, so don’t consider this my idea. It isn’t. I just whole-heartedly endorse it.

For too long, our transportation hierarchy has been this:

1) Private automobile.

2) Public transit.

3) Movement of goods.

4) Pedestrians.

5) Cycling.

In short, we’ve spent our time and money emphasizing the movement of cars not people.

In 2014, a candidate for municipal office should believe in restructuring the approach as follows:

1) Pedestrians.

2) Cycling.

3) Public transit.

4) Movement of goods.

5) Private automobile.

There is no other way to truly relieve the congestion that has gripped this region except to turn our previous priorities upside down. roughroadaheadThey are what got us into this (traffic) jam in the first place.

Remember when I wrote that it won’t be easy? Well yeah, doubly so. This is not an overnight fix. We cannot expect to squeeze people out of their cars tomorrow. There’s no place for them to go right now. Especially in areas that were designed around the movement of cars. We cannot slap down a bike lane somewhere or widen the sidewalk and expect driver dependent people to suddenly take up another way to get around.

But the upside is, since we’re talking pedestrians and cyclists, we’re looking at relatively inexpensive ways to begin encouraging a change in behaviour. In the overall scheme of infrastructure, bike lanes and paths amount to peanuts when it comes to this city’s transportation budget. As for walking? The odd street closure here and there for special occasions. Experiment. The pedestrianization on Times Square initially cost New York City the price of some plastic lawn furniture and a few cement bollards.

Even in the shadow of the massive outlay of money it will take to bring this city’s public transit network (and I use that word lightly at the moment) nottellingthetruthkicking and screaming into the 21st-century, there are other measures that will take more boldness than money. Dedicating bus lanes where buses are in high demand. Restricting car use in lanes that block streetcars and delivery trucks.

Just generally re-prioritizing how we move people and goods around the city.

Boldness. Without it, a candidate in 2014 rolling out their transportation platform (failure to have a transportation platform means automatic disqualification) shouldn’t be seriously considered by voters. Boldness to stand up in the face of conventional or prevailing wisdom. Boldness to tell it like it is, not to pander to whims and regional discontent and resentment.

Boldness.

It’s a tall order but we’ve got ourselves into a quite fix demanding less for too long now. This lack of political courage and conviction has led us to this.

Enough is enough. Expect more. There is no other option available to us anymore.

boldly and mightily submitted by Cityslikr