Gridlock, Urban Sprawl, Car Dependency, Smog

Opinion / Articles
Transportation - Public Transit - Gridlock, Urban Sprawl, Car Dependency, Smog

These are words repeatedly used in most reports on transportation, economic impact of increased car use on society, medical surveys on health problems as a result of air pollution, infrastructure degradation, ecology and agriculture.

Forums, summits, conferences and political promises have provided the public, in many Canadian cities, interesting and stimulating discussions. But that is where it ends. Strategies to improve our infrastructure and promote public transportation to alleviate gridlock etc., have never been implemented. Nothing significant has been done after identifying the problems. By the time short or long-term targeted goals are reached the problems are worsened and the standards on which these goals were based on become obsolete.

 

PICT2-KM PICT5
Congested Toronto Streets-2004

Air pollutants resulting from auto/truck transportation and the ensuing effects of traffic congestion have become an increasing concern to cities for their effects on health, farm land, ecology and economy. We have consistently subsidized the automobile, which has been called the classic externality problem and has created the unequal competition between automobile and an under funded and underdeveloped public transportation system. Both direct and indirect costs of car subsidy, which have been estimated to be in the billions of dollars per year, gradually impoverish the economy of the city, creating social, health and ecological degradation. A report on the Indicators of Transport Efficiency in 37 Global Cities published for The World Bank, February, 1997 confirms that the per capita wealth in developed cities diminish with car use growth, and cities that address sustainability by controlling their growth in car use, can look forward to improved city economies. “Within the broad category of transportation spending, the evidence indicates that public transit spending carries more potential to stimulate long run economic growth than does highway spending” (Aschauer and Campbell, 1991). Yet, transit is not oriented toward the low income population as it is commonly thought. Specifically, the mode of transportation by commuter railroads increases with rising income. Diverting auto transport to public transit, especially rail commuting, would substantially recover costs in the long run.

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