We Need To Have That Car Talk

Having arrived back in town yesterday after about 10 days away, the top 3 stories on the local news this morning were as follows: traffic accident causes a.m. traffic chaos, 2 car crash kills a cyclist (another one), 3 person HOV lanes in place for PanAm Games, grrrrrrrr.trafficjamGTA

Do we live in a city so eye-splittingly uninteresting that our headline grabbing news consists largely of traffic? Whatever your opinion may be, we do have the aforementioned PanAm Games coming up in a couple of weeks, the biggest sporting event ever on Canadian soil, or something. Toronto just finished up with another successful Pride celebration, re-integrating the mayor’s office into the proceedings after 4 years in the homophobic wilderness. A Poverty Reduction Strategy is under consideration by the Executive Committee.

And yet, here we are, talking traffic, specifically car traffic, private automobile traffic.

Yeah. This fucking city.

Nothing says ‘car obsessed’ more than always obsessing about cars, and the problems drivers face driving their cars around town.

If you’re a driver and your commute times have increased because, I don’t know, reason X, change up how you get around. roadrageYou can’t because it still takes longer than public transit would? Well, good for you. Imagine the poor bastards who don’t have the choice to drive, putting in that extra time to get where they’re going. Think about that for just a second before having a tantrum about your diminished quality of life and seeing less of your family.

Blah, blah, blah, Wah, wah, wah.

Of all the things to be outraged about around here, of all the things to be touting the merits of civil disobedience over, being inconvenienced while driving in your car is hardly a worthy cause. It’s petulantly selfish, as a matter of fact. Amazingly self-absorbed and anti-social.

We’ve been hearing recently about ‘frustrated’ drivers having to deal with lower speed limits on downtown local roads or new High Occupancy Vehicle lanes to encourage carpooling. A ‘frustrated’ driver may become a dangerous driver, is the inference. Incidents of road rage increase. Risky behaviour leads to more accidents, injuries and fatalities. Don’t make drivers angry. You won’t like drivers when they’re angry.

Rather than stare that kind of bullshit down, we indulge it. WHOVlanee operate as if deciding to get behind the wheel of a car absolves us of adhering to any sort of societal norm. Rules of the road are simply helpful suggestions. Enforcement is the first step to totalitarianism.

You can’t take a lane of highway from me! I pay my taxes! I have a right to—ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ!

I do not think it too extreme a statement to suggest that fighting to rebalance our transportation system, to rein in the terror of private automobile use inflicted on this city and region, is a fight for the soul of the GTA. We are where we are in terms of congestion, mobility, lost productivity for two simple reasons, one inevitably following the other. A lack of vigorous investment in public transit for almost a generation now and a continued over-investment in our car-centric infrastructure.

Think I’m exaggerating?

Outside of the downtown core, how many times have we heard the reason for driving is because it’s faster than public transit? As has been said many, many times by many, many people, you don’t change that by making it easier to drive. deathrace2000You don’t change anything by attempting to make it easier to drive except maybe changing it for the worse, for drivers and non-drivers alike.

Toronto and the GTA is at a crucial juncture where it is impossible to try and make it easier to drive without exacting long term and, quite possibly, irreversible damage on almost every other aspect of living and doing business here. It is not 1965. There are no more open roads to ride to freedom on. Believing that is what’s brought us to this point now. Denying that reality is willfully short-sighted, a delusional folly.

auto-immunely submitted by Cityslikr

4 thoughts on “We Need To Have That Car Talk

  1. One might also consider it “petulantly selfish” to incessantly bash people for not embracing your favourite planning and lifestyle fads or your taste in news stories.

    It’s sad that the simple act of getting in one’s car to go to work has become an act of defiance. Well, so be it. And while I’m defy, allow me to point out as well that I don’t own a bicycle.

  2. Do not confuse being a lemming with an act of defiance. Government has created a system where if you have the money to buy and insure an automobile, everyone is forced to subsidize those costs. The auto-oriented landscape government regulations create (suburbs), makes it difficult and unpleasant for people to walk or cycle. Those walking, biking and on transit are the one’s defying government (planning & financial) policy, because they clearly aren’t supposed to be there.

    • Ah, that old “subsidy” red herring. My response to that tired argument from urbanists is “present me a bill”. Let me know how much you think the subsidy is and give me the choice of whether I want to pay extra for the “privilege” of automobility and suburban living. Don’t just assume that I’m unwilling to pay what you consider my fair share.

      Yes, I realize that many urbanists assume that most people living in suburbs are only doing so for economic reasons (the relative low cost of housing), and that all things being equal, they would prefer more compact living in dense urban neighbourhoods. As hard as it is for some folks to imagine someone deliberately choosing to live in a neighbourhood where you’re not a short walk away from places that serve craft beer or sell artisanal food, there are people who make such a choice.

      I also point out that, as a citizen, I have no problem paying taxes to build bike and transit infrastructure, even though I use neither.

      That’s when the urbanist’s arguments shift from talk of subsidies and externalities to hand-waving about how my lifestyle preferences are “unsustainable”, the mot du jour for those looking for an easy out from a debate.

      And as for your claim of regulations making life difficult for bike riders, pedestrians, etc., I’d appreciate an example of one such regulation.

      • Here’s one (actually a collection of regs), and there are many, many more.
        After amalgamation Toronto adopted the ‘Roads hierarchy’ that already existed in the previous suburban municipalities. It’s now standard across the US and Canada.
        Roads are categorized and built around vehicle traffic volume and how to serve it. Classifications include local roads, collectors, minor arterials etc. Every subdivision must follow the model.
        Essentially the more traffic volume on a road, the more access to it, and across it, is limited. This is because, the more cars use a road, the faster that traffic is supposed to flow removing interruptions like crossing pedestrians. Thus traffic lights and intersection crossings are allowed at increasingly longer and longer intervals, until one reaches the highest category, the highway (freeway).
        This works fine for cars and trucks, but unfortunately for everyone else, most origins, destinations, density and transit are on the busier roads, (arterials). They tend to more direct and connect across barriers like highways, tracks, rivers and other arterials.
        This is why new main streets have not been built over the last 50 years and instead we must build traffic sewers, that are hostile to walk along and a barrier to crossing and transit use.
        When crossings and access are far between so are bus stops. The TTC, for example, often refuse to provide bus stops along these arterials where there is no access point, street or safe crossing, which makes the walk to transit very long, particular from the cup-de-sacs which are encouraged by the ‘roads hierarchy’ which seeks to minimize 4 way road crossings and all way stops.
        While cars appear to fine zooming down arterials lined by huge parking lots or fences, they don’t mind as long as they’re moving fast. Pedestrians on the other hand get the full brunt of the hostile, dangerous and/ or often dull conditions.
        These rules shape new areas (subdivisions), while transit agencies come after the area is occupied to (unsuccessfully) try to deal with the auto-oreinted sprawl that emerges. Worse, pedestrians get the charming view of an unending landscape of uniform garages which brings us to zoning, which would be nonsensical without cars.
        I am glad to hear that you would be happy to pay driving costs. However, even if we ignored property taxes, construction, maintenance and policing, studies have shown that the removal of the government provision of parking and parking subsidies alone, would motivate a substantial percentage of people to switch wherever alternatives are available.

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