The Toronto Star's excellent Commuter Series concludes today (if you haven't been following it, read it here.)
Fittingly, it's Urban Affairs Columnist Christopher Hume who signs off, and he does so in true Hume cut-to-the-chase style:
Whatever the appeal of the car may be, mobility has little to do with it. The truth of this lies not just in the extreme congestion and epic commutes documented this week by Star correspondents, but also in our mind-boggling capacity to put up with it.
If nothing else, the Star's Commuter series - during which we rode along with nine to fivers (and six to fourers, and five to three-ers) from all over the globe - has confirmed one thing to those commuters among us: We are not alone.
Whether it be James Darley's two hour trek from Radnage to London or Liu Ya'ou's 75 minute car, train and bike triathlon in Beijing, it seems that the dual pressures of urban sprawl and overpopulation are taking their toll all over the globe.
In the GTA, commuting by the numbers goes like this:
In the 1960s a typical suburban household would make 20 per cent of its trips by transit. By 2007 that had dropped to 10 per cent.
Kilometres of carpool lanes on provincial roads in the Toronto region this year: 39
Kilometres of carpool lanes projected for 2031: 400
Number of car occupants on average in Toronto in the 1970s: 1.25
Number of car occupants in Toronto now: 1.1
Percentage of trips taken on transit in Toronto: 35 percent
Percentage of trips taken on transit in York Region: 9 percent
Percentage of Toronto-area residents who say traffic congestion is a severe problem: 41 percent
Average Toronto-area round trip commute time in 2005: 79 minutes, up from 68 minutes in 1992
Proportion of Toronto-area workers with a round trip commute of an hour or more: 66 percent
To Hume's point, that we have a "mind-boggling capacity to put up with" commuting, I would have to agree. I myself wasted three hours of my day for six years of my life before I finally moved out of Hamilton. As to what to do about it, well, Hume suggests there is really only one solution: make it harder still:
What will be required [to fix the commuting problem] is something even more punishing than gridlock, no matter how bad it grows. The answer will include a program of road tolls, vehicular taxes, registration fees, parking restrictions and higher fuel prices.
Once thing's for sure: whether we impose penalties on commuters or not, one way or another it's just going to get harder.
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