If all of the subsides that we currently offer up to the auto sector and petroleum companies were shifted to support a national public transit system, would could that look like?
By Darren Kaulback
Published April 29, 2009
This year my family and I decided to spend March break in beautiful Old Montreal. My wife found us one of those "older" grand hotels. You know, the ones which still attempt to cling onto their former glory days, but which have long ago been dumped for the sexier, newer hotels with sleek new hot tubs and real WIFI access. Yet these old dames, they hang on, masquerading as upscale luxury ... but at Motel 6 prices.
So the plan was set. The "Hotel 6" sat directly over Montreal's RESO - French for "network", an underground cavern of tunnels and passages that connect the city's businesses, shopping centres and condos to the subway and each other.
It's reminiscent of the '70s movie "Logan's Run" where the protagonists attempt escape from their domed world through an endless underground labyrinth. A perfect setup for a family longing for an urban adventure.
And to complete this picture, the VIA rail station was directly across the street from our hotel.
But I as soon discovered, our green family adventure was not to be. When I enquired about booking train tickets from Toronto to Montreal, I discovered a return trip would cost $700+ for a family of four.
My heart sank. The plan was so perfect. We didn't want to have a car in Montreal. There was clearly no need. Yet, this time we couldn't afford to take the higher track; finances did not allow it. In the end, we took our Corolla to Montreal and saved more than $500, after gas and parking.
The point I'm trying to make is that there is clearly something wrong with our national transit systems when people, like myself, who want to take public transit, cannot. People who are willing to endure the long cues, train transfers and the lugging of suitcases in order to take the greener path. As long as the easier way is the cheaper way, can I blame people for not always putting the environment first?
One could argue that a five-speed Corolla loaded up with two adults, two kids and a lotta luggage isn't so bad for the environment. And you could also say that a higher principled person could have opted for an alternative plan.
But to what degree do we limit our activity? The Amish live light on the earth, as they buggy down Main Street, in a milieu of methane. But do you want to be Amish? (No offense to any Amish currently reading this.)
The truth is that we need to move on as a society, "move" being the operative word. An analogy I heard in Montreal, from the "Solar House Guy" at the Biosphere, was this: If you live in the USA and you want to get to Canada, heading south towards Mexico will not get you there. Even if you slow down to half speed or a quarter, you still will not get to Canada.
Could this be true? Could our new and improved environmental policies and initiatives just be taking us on a slower trip to our eventual annihilation? (Melodrama intended)
Perhaps, as a society, we need to consider heading in a radically new direction. If all of the subsides that we currently offer up to the auto sector and petroleum companies were shifted to support a national public transit system, would could that look like?
This was originally published on Darren's blog, Raise a Little Green.
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