Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Why I don't take Transit Part 2

A few more answers:

"The bus does not go where most of my work is... much of my work is in mostly rural areas."
"It would require 3 buses ($9/day) [including a transfer stopover] lasting about 2 1/2 hours"
"in my field of work, you need your own truck. Can you imagine getting on a bus with toolboxes, construction gear, a few ladders, etc etc?? "

"Simply put, public transportation is inconvenient ...if I work past 6, I have to wait almost an hour before I can leave...I have to wait 20 minutes then it will take another 45-50 minutes to get there providing that traffic is light and there are no delays with other riders...Once I...woke up late...the next [bus] arrives 40 minutes later."

One of the more interesting I’ve found while asking people I know is that many of them need their car for work. For example, my boss’ wife does. My boss’ boss needs a car for work too. Others need a car because while they might live and work in areas served by public transport, they don’t work in the same place all the time, and they may live far from their workplace on that particular day.

One of the favoruite arguments for transit is that it’s more efficient. I thought about this as I sat in a cab trailing a streetcar on dundas this morning. Sure, there’s 1 passenger in the cab, and perhaps 50 on the streetcar, but is it really more efficient? Well that depends on in what regard. Lets take this example

100 people need to get from Spadina and Dundas to Dufferin and Lawrence. 50 of them take taxicabs and 50 take transit. The 50 that pile into taxicabs use 50 cars. This, if my math is correct, uses 800 feet of roadspace. The other 50 pile into one streetcar and use 54 feet of roadspace. At Dundas and Dufferin the taxicabs turn, while the transit riders transfer into one bus, and now use 40 feet of roadspace! Wow amazing, that’s quite a bit more efficient right? Imagine the petroleum saved too! Of course, none of that takes into account that the cab ride will take you 15 minutes, and the transit ride could take as long as 45. In fact your average transit ride VS your average car ride, within city limits, could take you two to three times as long.

Taking the subway in rush can lower that and at times can be competitive even, which is great if your working at king and bay from 9-5, but what if you work at Warden and Ellesmere from 9-5, or at King and Bay overnight? I’ve done both and trust me, transit is not convenient in these cases. Even during winter storms, I can get home faster by calling a taxicab (including the time it takes for the cab to arrive after placing the call) from my current workplace near Yonge and Finch to my house at Christie and Dupont. If I take a cab I get to sit there and, if I want to, start a conversation. If I don’t, just relax. If I take the subway I get the pleasure of standing for 30 minutes after already working all day, or if I wish to sacrifice 10-15 minutes, get to North York Centre and head north. Of course that is all dependant on the train not going out of service. Even if I do manage to get a seat, people older then me or with children love to single me out (due to my youth) and ask me to get the hell out of my seat so they can sit down. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve offered my seat to many a person, but after a hard days work I just want to be left alone. To be honest, the transit trip home is killing me mentally to the point that I am going to either quit or move because I cannot stand it anymore.

It takes me two hours to get to and from work, whereas driving would do the same for me in one hour. It’s $100 for a metropass, but I’m sure that gas and insurance would run me quite a bit more, even upward of $500 a month. Remember though, that each month I get to spend an extra 20 hours in transit, either riding on crowded morning trains, or on late night trains where teenagers literally jump off the seats and the operators do nothing because they fear for their safety just as much as I’m fearing for mine. This leads us back to a math. I’d need to spend $20 each day to eliminate that extra hour in transit (by driving) For me, that’s not worth it, however there are those for whom it is worth it. Transit is, for them, not efficient because of the time it takes up. Transit might be more efficient in many ways, but when it comes to time, it is not, and for those for whom time is important, the argument that a streetcar can fit more people then a Toyota is not going to go far in convincing them.

Expressways and Traffic

To answer the question presented earlier, I present a question of my own – What is “Traffic”? Depending on how you define traffic, you may or may not find an answer. If Traffic is the number of vehicles, then expressways wont do a thing about that unless they have portholes to another universe at the end of them. If traffic is slow-moving vehicles, then expressways will do much to solve this. The reality is that traffic is somewhere in between the two, and that brings me to my point.

Expressways will not eliminate ‘Traffic’, but rather, they will move it around better. Building a highway from the burbs to the downtown core will not eliminate traffic in the burbs or the core, but will eliminate traffic between the two. This is the main objective of expressways, and in that it succeeds. This question comes in response to the proposals by the Toronto Party to expand our existing highway grid. Current proposals are to extend the Allen to Bathurst, however I personally think that, if done right, it can be extended to Davenport and Dupont. Doing either of those will not eliminate traffic in the core, but will reduce it between Eglinton West subway station and wherever the end point is. Take a bus ride on the 63 Ossington bus route and tell me that the traffic on Eglinton West and Oakwood is normal. No, it’s not, because the Allen as it stands is unnatural.

One of the problems with supporting highways in the modern era is that people assume you are talking about highways of the past. They assume that you want to demolish random rows of houses. The Allen could be extended from Eglinton to the park just to the south with a short tunnel. Sure the highway will have to run though the park, but we can find ways to mitigate those effects. People assume any extension of the Allen would destroy Spadina, but the current proposals by the Toronto Party would NOT see the Allen end at Spadina. I personally support a one-lane each direction exit onto Spadina, this is far from the huge neighbourhood destroying freeway that was proposed in the 1970’s.

One of the problems with NIMBY comes to light with highways like the Allen. More well-off residents, such as those in Forrest Hill, have chosen to live between where most residents live, and where most residents work. This means that they either have to go through forest hill, or around it. Currently most people go around, and hence the traffic. Extending the Allen, if done in a smart way, using Tolls even, is the right way to go.

Bringing us back to the original question, the answer is the same as in the first sentence. Either all highways reduce traffic or none do depending on your definition. This extension will not eliminate traffic in the core, but it will reduce traffic on the way.

Sorry for the absence.

Sorry for my recent absence, major troubles at work have kept me more then occupied for a few weeks. I’m back to full force, however, and you should expect at least two major posts tonight.