The suburbs’ fair share

TTC expansion mapThe Citizen‘s Randall Denley points out in a column today that public transit, poorly done, can be a yawning money-pit that makes urban sprawl worse. It’s behind the pay wall, but here’s a key paragraph, talking about the $2.4-billion light-rail wishlist the Toronto Transit Commission just unveiled:

The trouble with the hugely expensive public transit proposal is that it assumes the pattern of North American development we’ve seen in the past 50 years will remain the same. People will live far from their place of work and face a daily commute, their housing will be relatively low density and there will be no walkable destinations in their neighbourhood. Even a task as simple as buying a bag of milk will require using a car.

In other words, instead of sending streetcars to Vaughan and Brampton, maybe somebody should stop building things like Vaughan and Brampton.

I’m a fan of mass transit, as a necessary addition to a healthy city once it reaches certain density and size, and in practice, anything more ambitious than a taxi or charter bus system probably has to be publicly run, especially since cities are the way they are because of government-mandated development restrictions and publicly owned roads. Like Denley, though, I think both transit and the road system would be immensely more efficient and effective if we made the people who use them pay a lot more for the privilege. Transit, I bet, would suddenly become a much more popular option, second only to not living so damned far from everything in the first place.


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