An editorial in today’s Gazette shows a fundamental misunderstanding of how cities work, particularly how cities can influence transportation patterns, which affect building patterns and economic patterns.

The editorial states “Ridiculously, some who came before the BAPE – including the city of Montreal – cheerfully suggested reducing or freezing highway capacity, to force more people onto public transit…. Even if the commuter trains were any good and if there were a métro, the idea of imposing traffic misery on a main east-west highway is simply nuts.”

Wrong.

Paradoxically, congestion is good. Ask any transportation planner who is workign on “modal shift” (getting people to leave their car at home and take mass transit), and they will smile knowingly and say: “ahh yes! Congestion is good.”

Think about it a bit. Commuters must see clearly that it is easier faster and ideally cheaper to take mass transit to get to work. The carrot is: better quality…even downright SEXY…mass transit. The stick is: congestion.

(…and rising fuel costs (a short digression here).

All evidence points to dramatically rising fuel costs. A recent article in the Manchester Guardian suggests the world fuel shortage is much more severe than previously thought. Gas prices will rise, and people will make economic choices.

Quebec must get ahead of the curve and start to build the city of the 21st Century, and do it now.

In 5 years, when we are nearing completion of the Turcot and we find that fuel costs have gone up to 3$ or 5$ a litre, we will have missed a major opportunity to affect a real shift in the East-West corridor.We will be stuck with a pattern that is fundamentally unfriendly to the city and its residents (more cars, more accidents, more pollution, more urban sprawl, more noise…).)

But, no, anonymous editorialist at the Gazette! Congestion is exactly what we need on our highways. And the fast, frequent commuter trains must ride alongside the automobiles, so that the happy smiling commuters who are checking their emails on their laptops and flirting and drinking expresso on their Bombardier-built Light Rail train, coasting into the City, can wave to those stuck in traffic, cranky and stiff.

Editorialists at the Gazette, you ought to think this one through.

Oh, and by the way, I will take you up on your bet that LOTS of West Islanders would LOVE to take mass-transit every day, if it was fast, comfortable, and a reasonably cost.

Remember: mass-transit is self-financed by users, while highways are 100% subsidized. So if we do the math, we will find that a mass-transit option for the East West corridor is cheaper in the long run.

 

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