Special Report: Peak Oil

100 Friend Diet, Redux

In the end, this experiment has been just what we hoped it would be: An exercise in eating great food and building closer ties to where that food comes from.

By Jason Allen
Published October 13, 2010

So Thanksgiving has come and gone, as has our experiment with only putting food on the table for that meal from producers we know personally.

The results? About 60% successful.

The grain proved to be the biggest challenge, or maybe our lack of knowledge of local farming practices made it more complex than it needed to be. The closest we thought we were able to come was Oak Manor Farms of Tavistock, Ontario, from which we were able to buy spelt flour in Fortino's.

We never actually met them, but they are relatively local, so only half marks for that one.

Vegetables

As for the produce on the table, that one we knocked out of the park. All of the root vegetables on our table were either from Russ Ohrt at Backyard Harvest, or from Earl and Sharon Clugston of Shearlea Acres fame.

They've been growing really tasty produce out in Lyndon for as long as anybody I can find can remember, and even have a market store out near their farm on Governors road.

We have been getting our produce from the Clugston's since we moved to Hamilton five years ago, and they were an invaluable source of info on our quest to meet a Turkey Producer. More on that later.

Fruit, Nuts and Grains

The fruit came, as it always does for us, courtesy of Jim from Country Winds farm who sells all of his own fruit, as well as that of T. Warner Fruit Grower across the road. Both are in Beamsville, and Jim (and the Clugstons) can both be found at the Ottawa Street Farmer's Market.

Jim also sold us locally grown walnuts and chestnuts that we 'roasted on an open fire' that night. Jim, by the way, is completely nuts, but his knowledge of the food he grows and sells, and his obvious enthusiasm for what he does, makes his stall an irresistible first stop for us every Saturday morning.

Finally, on Ottawa Street our big breakthrough came when we met Mary Robinson of Robinson Farms. Not only has she been keeping us well stocked with eggs all year (the giant double yolkers are to die for), but she let us in on a little known secret on the grain front.

As she describes it, she and many of the farmers in her area (Freeelton) have patches of grain they grow, but none of them sell it at retail, because they lack the ability to process it themselves. So it all goes to a grain elevator, and the local flour buyer is none the wiser.

She said if we ask her in time next year we can get wheat kernels, oat kernels and barley from her. Our challenge will be in figuring out how to mill that at home, but we were going down that road anyway.

Central Processing

Mary's explanation of how everybody sends their 'raw produce' off to local processors would bite us hard later in the day. We were incredibly proud of how we'd found a local turkey producer out at Brantwood Farm. We confirmed that they grew turkeys, and ordered one a week in advance.

However, when we got there, we looked at the bird we had ordered, and there on the wrapper was the name of a producer in Thorold, not Brantford.

The young lady at the counter was very patient with us and took a moment to explain that all of the turkey producers in the area all send their birds off to one processor. Then they can specify (i.e. order) what size birds they get back to sell at their retail establishments should they wish.

At Brantwood, she explained, they tend to grow birds in the 40lb to 50lb range, which have a limited market, so most of the birds they sell come from other small (she adamantly assured us) producers around Southern Ontario. While we were technically buying a local bird, we felt this was a big strike-out for us, but chalked it up to a learning experience.

Next year, the hunt will be on for a truly local producer who sells only the turkeys they raise, and we will have to make the trek to meet them.

More Than a Smiling Face

Practical upshots of this experiment:

  1. We had an incredible meal. It was probably 30-50% more expensive than had we bought commercially produced ingredients (more on that in the next post), but the flavour and textures were amazing. Everything food should be.

  2. We got to know some outstanding local farmers who, up until now, had just been smiling faces on the other end of retail transactions.

To that end, I would pose the question: How many of you shop at farmers' markets regularly, but treat the transaction no differently than you would shopping at a grocery store? In our consumer culture, the retail transaction has become such a commodity that it has become sterile and anonymous.

The most important lesson for me in all of this is that local farmers are not just people who grow food and smile at you every week at the market, they are amazing people with fascinating stories, who probably grow much more than they have at their table, and often have a huge network of other producers who can get you anything you need.

Self-Serving

In a way, all of this was totally self-serving. When oil prices start to spike (Jeff Rubin gives it 10-15 months), shopping locally is going to start to make financial sense on top of all the other good reasons for doing so.

At that point, it's going to be largely a question of the relationships you have built that keep a steady supply of fresh fruits and veggies coming across your table as the numbers of people shopping at local markets explodes.

The days of buying food in an anonymous exchange of money for product may be quickly coming to an end.

But in another way, I feel much safer, and so much more grounded in the community we have chosen when I know I can trundle down on Saturday morning and buy food from people whom I have met face to face - people I can look right in the eye and ask, "Did you use any hormones/antiboitics/noxious chemicals of any kind?" and know that I can trust their answers.

Blessing and Curse

As for the farmers themselves, the sudden boom in farmers' markets has been a bit of a blessing and a curse, from all reports. There are many more opportunities to sell their wares, but now difficult choices need to be made: on where to concentrate, and which locations to let go.

Jim had always sold at both the Ottawa Street market and a market in Ottawa. Last year, after a fire on his property, he had to make a choice. We're glad he chose Hamilton. This year he's back at both locations, but it's a whole lot of driving, and one has to question how long he can keep it up.

In the end, this experiment has been just what we hoped it would be: An exercise in eating great food and building closer ties to where that food comes from.

So even if the numbers tell of only 50-60% of the food on the table coming from producers we have met, I'd have to say it was a resounding success.

This was first posted on Jason's website.

Jason Allen is a chronic hive whacker in the Kirkendall Neighbourhood.

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By Tom Wattle (anonymous) | Posted October 13, 2010 at 09:41:52

I was under the impression that Fenwood Farms (Carluke & Sawmill, Ancaster) had a sideline in free range organic turkey.

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/shop-here-for-a-farm-fresh-turkey-for-your-holiday-feast/article123709
http://www.fenwoodfarm.com

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By James (registered) | Posted October 13, 2010 at 10:59:47

As someone who grew up and went to school there I feel I should tell you it's 'Lynden' and not 'Lyndon'.

Aside from that, neat article, but I do wonder just how much gas you used to get out there. The idea that in order to eat local you have to drive for 40 minutes is kind of.....well....not good. I'd much rather see local produce in grocery stores where those of us without cars can easily get the same food.

Of course, the best local food is that which you grow in your own back yard :) Victory Gardens, anyone?

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By allantaylor97 (registered) | Posted October 13, 2010 at 13:33:44

Agree with the previous writer. Any effort that requires hours of extra travel per month defeats the purpose of saving fuel costs and associated environmental problems. Since I live in the city the local farmers have to find a way to get their product to me in an efficient manner so I don't have to waste time and fuel negating any benefits of eating local. Right now we have the Hamilton Farmers Market and nothing much else. Since the Market is no longer accessible by car (thanks a lot anti car zealots) and I can't go every other day to keep my purchases to limit that I can carry on the bus its really not an option

Comment edited by turbo on 2010-10-13 12:34:28

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By nobrainer (registered) | Posted October 13, 2010 at 13:43:32

Right now we have the Hamilton Farmers Market and nothing much else.

There are 7 (count 'em 7) farmers markets in Hamilton.

Since the Market is no longer accessible by car (thanks a lot anti car zealots)

WTF? There's a giant parking lot right underneath the damn thing.

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By jasonaallen (registered) - website | Posted October 13, 2010 at 14:01:32

@Turbo. Not sure where you live, but the Downtown market is by no means the only option. Ottawa street is open three or four days a week, there's a weeknight market at the Sky Dragon, and a Thursday night market on Locke. I also heard a rumour about a Concession Street Market, but I'm not sure how that went. They seem to be popping up everywhere.

This is a good link to help locate markets that may be closer http://www.environmenthamilton.org/eatlo... If there isn't one near you, maybe there's some way you could gather some neighbors and ask Hamilton Eat Local to partner with your local community association to bring one there (which I'm pretty sure is what happened on Locke st...correct me if I'm wrong).

I'm not sure if I agree with James about the ideal situation being for local food to be in supermarkets. At that point the farmers get so little of the money, and the shortcuts they have to take in order to meet the price points mean that what ends up there qualifies only marginally as food. I'd say the ideal would be for there to be a farmer's market within a short bus ride/reasonable walk of enough people in Hamilton that there would be a real choice as to how (well) we eat.

As for the comment about cars, I couldn't agree more. James, I'd encourage you to click on the link under "Backyard Harvest" and see the amazing work Russ is doing. All grown locally in not only his backyard, but those of other neighbors close by. We just picked up our last farm share from him last night, and are really going to miss the amazing quality and diversity of food he provided us all summer.

Just to clarify, the only farm we actually visited was Brantwood, all of the rest of the food came from the Ottawa Street Farmers' Market which while we chose to drive there, could have been accessed by transit. (Sorry about the mispelling of Lynden!). In fact, we could have gotten a locally produced turkey from the meat vendor at Ottawa Street, we were just hell bent on meeting the farmer.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted October 13, 2010 at 14:27:13

This just popped into my inbox: Rural Routes World Food Day Farm Tour.

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By allantaylor97 (registered) | Posted October 13, 2010 at 15:16:50

I live within walking distance of Ottawa Street. Its really not very good.Loved the 100 mile challange show that was on last year. Saw the link thats posted here about eating local and went to the Barton Market. To be frank the hours are terrible the variety is severely limited and it too is impossible to use on a regular basis without a car because its too far to walk with bags and I can't even get a bus there other than the Cannon bus that runs sparcely and is a hike from my house which still means 3 or 4 trips a week which is not possible. As for parking downtown, you can't get to the lot. Used it for years. Love the market. IMO the only viable market for my location is downtown and since the holy hell they've made it into its not worth the effort.Its a shame its no longer a viable option

Comment edited by turbo on 2010-10-13 14:27:24

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By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted October 13, 2010 at 16:25:07

Concession Street does have a farmer's market every Saturday morning during the summer. It's held in the parking lot of Sacred Heart Church/School.

Their focus is on farmers who are not simply resellers, similar to what the Ottawa Street Farmer's Market has done.

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By HamiltonBrian (registered) | Posted October 13, 2010 at 16:38:05

We quite enjoyed the Concession Market when we lived up on the mountain.

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By thewhiteelephant (anonymous) | Posted October 13, 2010 at 18:11:27

Spelt flour in Brantford!
http://homemadecrackers.blogspot.com/2010/06/field-tripbrant-flour-mills.html

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By jason (registered) | Posted October 13, 2010 at 21:29:37

I'm a little confused about the 'anti-car' comments directed at the downtown Market? Did I miss something, or is it just a complaint about the roadwork being done?

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By allantaylor97 (registered) | Posted October 13, 2010 at 21:36:31

Its about the entire 2 way conversion project. Right now its completely unusable. When its done I'll choose to stay away because of it. I used to stop in at the shops on King. Haven't been there since they installed the gates of hell

Comment edited by turbo on 2010-10-13 20:38:51

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By jason (registered) | Posted October 13, 2010 at 21:39:34

well, I'm sorry to hear that.
You're going to be missing out on a marvelous success story in Hamilton where we take an unlivable 5-lane truck freeway and turn it into a street with access for everyone - better car access via 2 way conversion, bilke lanes, wider sidewalks for pedestrians and outdoor market stalls and a beautifully renovated market/library.

Am I to assume that you do 100% of your shopping and living on Main, Cannon, Wilson, Queen, Bay, Wellington and Victoria?? No trips to the Mountain or East End ever??

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By allantaylor97 (registered) | Posted October 13, 2010 at 22:15:04

I live just off Main near Sherman. Never go to the mountain. Burlington is easier to get to. I drive or bus east to Eastgate Mall walk to Stadium Mall, Ottawa Street. Drive exclusively to the Centre on Barton. Used to go downtown regularly. I haven't much since the James 2 way conversion except to go to hockey games and occasionally to restaurants after 6 pm. I've never grocery shopped by bus, never will. If there is no auto access or parking I won't be grocery shopping there. I use the bus a lot but not for that. Frankly there isn't much left downtown besides the market and some really good restaurants for me. Even if there was I can get what I need easier elsewhere even if I am using the bus. I live on the King Main corridor and I dread 2 way traffic. It'll make it far more dangerous for me as a driver and as a pedestrian to be quite honest with you

Comment edited by turbo on 2010-10-13 21:17:25

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By allantaylor97 (registered) | Posted October 13, 2010 at 22:28:51

BTW I'm not missing out on anything. Downtown is missing out on my business. You don't attract people by making it more difficult to get there. The entire idea that making auto traffic more difficult is going to increase traffic on the transit system is wrongheaded, it'll just decrease total traffic to the downtown. If you want to get traffic off Main it has to go somewhere. Thats the shame of cancelling the perimeter road. It would have done more to make the north end attractive to residential development than any other project thats been undertaken and it would have made Bayfront Park accessible to a lot more people. As it is now I won't ever go there for a festival

Comment edited by turbo on 2010-10-13 21:30:44

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By jason (registered) | Posted October 13, 2010 at 22:40:03

I didn't realize Burlington was filled with 1-way, 5 lane streets? Nor did I realize that Eastgate had one-way streets?

With all due respect, downtown Hamilton is doing better now than it has in many, many years. You're the one missing out. We're happily growing and moving forward down here. Come back in 10 or 20 years and check us out....but don't bring your car. We really don't miss it.

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By jason (registered) | Posted October 13, 2010 at 22:41:49

Thats the shame of cancelling the perimeter road. It would have done more to make the north end attractive to residential development than any other project thats been undertaken

Hmm, that's an interesting take. A house sold recently for $750,000 just off Bay St North. Another one (2 beds) is listed at $500,000 right now on Bay St.

Seems that the residential market is doing just fine. When was the last time a house sold for 3/4 of a million in your area??

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By allantaylor97 (registered) | Posted October 13, 2010 at 23:08:30

2 houses out of thousands. If thats what you believe is a normal price for north end houses I'd suggest there are hundreds of residents that want to sell to you

Comment edited by turbo on 2010-10-13 22:12:12

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By allantaylor97 (registered) | Posted October 13, 2010 at 23:23:09

As I said Jason I'm not missing out on anything that matters. The fact is there is plenty of room for both cars and public transit to co-exist and until both sides who are entrenched in the extremism of exclusion open themselves to see both sides we'll have a problem. Car lovers (and they are never going away) have to learn to realize that a vibrant downtown requires change that will include increased bus and possibly streetcar traffic. Transit lovers will have to realize they will never eliminate the automobile and that as gas costs go up alternate cleaner power sources will take oil's place and personal vehicles are here to stay Downtown survival depends on accommodating autos while providing a public transit option that people will use as well. Its not one vs the other. Its about finding a way for both to thrive and bring as many people to the core as possible. Building a perimeter road to get thru traffic off Main would be a huge improvement for everyone involved. I can tell you on a personal note that when I can no longer drive I'll take the bus to the grocery store and cab it home. That's why I moved here. Because the transportation choices here make it possible for me to live here long after I can no longer drive. Rest assured tho buses will never be the only mode of transportation I use and downtown as it is shaping up holds no attraction to me to make the extra effort worth the bother even if I'm on the bus. Eastgate beats downtown hands down for bus convenience and the LRT won't change that but in fact make it even more in favour of Eastgate

Comment edited by turbo on 2010-10-13 22:34:53

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By allantaylor97 (registered) | Posted October 13, 2010 at 23:38:08

BTW Jason. Where on the mountain do they have 5 lane one way streets. Oh thats right they don't. So tell me how the fact that neither does makes it easier to get to the mountain than Burlington

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By jasonaallen (registered) - website | Posted October 14, 2010 at 08:41:25

Turbo, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but not only is the passenger vehicle not 'here to stay', it has a life span of maybe 10 years for anyone but the uber rich. With the military/govts of the US, UK, and Germany all saying we are going to face chronic fuel shortages in that time, it's a good opportunity to reconsider how we plan and structure our cities.

And as for the 'alternative fuels', well, they either don't exist in any usable format (i.e. Hydrogen which requires more energy to create than it produces), or require so much infrastructre that they might as well not exist. For instance, if we were going to switch the entire passenger vehicle fleet over to electric, we'd have two choices: Build the equivalent of a Darlington or Bruce Nuclear every three years for the next decade, or plunge the entire province into a series of rolling blackouts and power scarcity. Last time I looked, it takes about 20 years just to get the regulatory approval for a nuclear plant, much less build the darn thing.

The redesign of York is a golden opportunity for you (and others who feel as strongly about car culture as you do) to get out and explore 'human scale urban planning'. Might as well start soon, because in probably less than a decade, you're not going to have a choice.

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By jason (registered) | Posted October 14, 2010 at 09:24:01

The fact is there is plenty of room for both cars and public transit to co-exist

I agree with you 100% here.
Hopefully we'll keep converting one-ways back to two, building better transit, bike lanes and sidewalks wider than one person so that we can get to that place of co-existence like other vibrant cities.
Up until now, in Hamilton, it's been 100% about the car. James, John and York don't swing the balance too much, but they are small steps towards a livable city. One step at a time we are slowly getting that balance back.

My Burlington/Mountain point was simply asking why you won't use a two-way York, yet you'll use exclusively two-way streets in those areas. Why is it acceptable for Burlington and the Mountain to have two-way streets, but but my neighbourhood??

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By jason (registered) | Posted October 14, 2010 at 09:24:59

Might as well start soon, because in probably less than a decade, you're not going to have a choice.

I'm not so sure about that. There's always Mississuaga or Milton.

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By nobrainer (registered) | Posted October 14, 2010 at 09:32:48

It's the same old same old same old crap. One side wants roads totally made for cars, the other side wants a mix of cars and other options (like walking, cycling, transit), and both sides are painted as "extremism".

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By Mr. Meister (anonymous) | Posted October 14, 2010 at 10:43:34

jasonaallen - I have some bad news for you. We are the uber rich. IF oil prices rise as drastically as you predict (which I doubt) then we are the most able to deal with it. What will a 30% or 40% or 50% increase in oil prices do to India or African or Chinese demand? I wager a lot more than in N. America and Europe.

Oil is not going to suddenly disappear. The price might increase but it is not going to go away. A couple of years ago the price shot up but I did not see a huge surge in transit usage. In Europe where gas is a lot more expensive than it is here and transit is much better, car ownership and usage is steadily increasing. How much of the average persons budget is spent on oil and gas? While we may consider it a lot it pales in comparison to what we spend on mortgages or rent. Any rise in gas prices will certainly affect us and create much complaining and griping but people will adjust and compensate. Peoples love affair with the automobile is a lot stronger than you think it is.

While nuclear generating is certainly going to prosper you have completely dismissed both wind and solar generating. I appreciate that at this point neither is a major source of power. Wing turbines are already contributing a noticeable amount of power and have the potential to generate much more especially in our country where we have so much open space. Look how far north Quebec built their big damn and power generating. How many turbines could you build in that distance?

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted October 14, 2010 at 12:12:06

A couple of years ago the price shot up but I did not see a huge surge in transit usage.

Driving in the US slowed over the first decade of the century, stalled in 2007, and went into significant decline in 2008 while transit use increased concomitantly. (You can see a month-by-month chart posted earlier this year.)

As the economy recovers and demand for oil once again approaches the production rate limit, the marginal cost to produce an additional barrel will take off again, leading to another price spike and another painful crash. Then rinse and repeat, as long as our economy remains dependent on oil.

Edit: Here's a more up-to-date chart of US oil consumption by month. As you can see, US consumption has been roughly flat this year at a level significantly below its pre-2008 level.

Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2010-10-14 12:22:10

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By allantaylor97 (registered) | Posted October 14, 2010 at 13:19:15

jason, you missed the point entirely. I said it was easier to get to Burlington than get to the mountain. One way or 2 way downtown has no bearing on that

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By allantaylor97 (registered) | Posted October 14, 2010 at 13:26:11

Ryan the point is that the car is not going to disappear. People stopped moving about when transportation costs went up in those cycles far more than they changed modes of transportation. The fact is that private transportation will always be the prefered method of travel and if the option is completely taken away in an area that area will lose business unless the local population increases. So-called destinations will slowly fade away in favour of local options. Thats why its critical to spur population growth downtown ahead of a war on cars. Even if you want to increase employment opportunities downtown you still require automobile access and parking or business will choose another location to set up shop

BTW I looked at the charts and consumption of oil appears to be pretty steady relative to the massive swings in price. Those charts don't seem to back up your theories

Comment edited by turbo on 2010-10-14 12:34:39

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted October 14, 2010 at 13:45:20

the point is that the car is not going to disappear.

I don't think anyone's saying the car is going to "disappear". I've been saying that car ownership, driving, vehicle size, etc. are all going to decline steadily in tandem with the declining availability of cheap oil as long as driving is still dependent on oil.

In related news, the rate of drivers' licences and driving are in steady decline among young people. Oil prices aren't the only driver: young people are more interested in transportation modes that allow them to be network-connected, and are more interested in urban lifestyles than in their parents' utopia of a house in the suburbs.

At the same time, aging Boomers are also moving back into dense nodes. Boomers are looking for communities with accessible amenities and a reduced need to drive as their health begins to deteriorate.

That's the demographic with the most lifelong earning capacity and the most wealth, respectively, looking to move back into cities. If Hamilton positions itself to be a viable urban centre that can withstand the economic and social trend away from unrestricted motoring, it will thrive while other cities struggle.

Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2010-10-14 12:50:43

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By jason (registered) | Posted October 14, 2010 at 14:13:47

Thats why its critical to spur population growth downtown ahead of a war on cars.

LOL. do you live in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada??

The very LAST war happening here is a war on cars.

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By allantaylor97 (registered) | Posted October 14, 2010 at 14:20:47

I don't see car ownership decreasing. In my lifetime it has confounded expert opinion and risen many fold in spite of escalating costs of ownership. Fuel economy has doubled in 40 years and alternative energy sources have come on line commercially that were unthinkable a mere 20 years ago. New technologies are making electric cars look more and more viable while a simultaneous effort to develop alternate mainstream electricity generation streams make it appear more and more possible that generating electricity using fossil fuels won't always be necessary in my lifetime. While we both have the same goals of a cleaner more sustainable economy we vary drastically on what needs to be done to achieve that. I am of the opinion that the car genie is out of the bottle and it cannot be put back in nor is there a need to even try. Whats needed is to make private transportation more efficient while making public transportation more efficient at the same time to accommodate our growing population. I don't believe that reducing personal transportation options in favour of increased public transportation options is sustainable with our growing population but rather a slowing down of growth of personal vehicles while increasing the rate of growth of public transportation options is required. It seems to me you believe its better to make public transportation more efficient by discouraging private transportation. IMO one cannot come at the expense of the other. I really don't believe that getting off oil dependence means the end of the car while you seem to think that it does. This in effect is where we fundamentally will never agree. At the very least I believe that you should have far more passion about making cleaner more efficient cars and that you can do that without losing your passion for public transportation

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By allantaylor97 (registered) | Posted October 14, 2010 at 14:23:17

Jason I've already told you where I live and there most definitely is a war on cars in this city. You are starting to act like nothing but a troll. I'll respond to you from now on when you have something of merit to respond to rather than to your sarcasm which isn't worth anyones time

Comment edited by turbo on 2010-10-14 13:23:45

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By jason (registered) | Posted October 14, 2010 at 14:42:29

Hey, be thankful I'm simply resorting to a bit of sarcasm instead of letting you know how I really feel about the fact that I can't hear myself think when I walk down the highway, I mean, street due to the roaring parade of 5-lane freeway next to my elbow.
This city has more km of highway and major roadway per person than any city in Canada. The war in this city has been on everything BUT the car.

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By Mr. Meister (anonymous) | Posted October 19, 2010 at 11:59:36

The big reason driving is down among young people is that they simply cannot afford it. The big ticket is not the gas or even buying the car but insurance. If the teenagers could get insurance at an affordable level then driving rates would double. I have 2 children and one did not bother getting a license because she was convinced that there was no way she could afford to get a car. My other one has a license and drives my vehicle occasionally and often laments that he wishes he could afford his own vehicle. This refrain is often echoes by his friends. Exactly one of his friends has their own car. They see a car as a method of freedom and independence, just like my friends and I did so many years ago.

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