Rob Ford’s done it.
As reported in the Toronto Star Saturday morning, car commuters have decided that they’re okay with paying for the right to drive. Royson James also wrote about it this morning, in a very interesting article here. (DISCLAIMER: He’s written some of my thoughts in a similar way, I’ll try to keep them distinct).
This is a big shift in policy that blows my mind a little bit. The long and the short of this poll shows that across the GT(H)A, people – CAR people – are interested in paying for what they want – a quick, easy, commute to work. Don’t we all.
How did Rob Ford do this, you ask? He promised us subways. He promised us subways on every street, running 24/7 and subways without graffiti or dirt. And he promised us he would do it for free. Of course, that was/is all bogus. But what what his promises did accomplish was that it got us thinking about how much we did want the dreams Rob had promised. We do like subways. We do like easy commutes. When we have to drive, we don’t like being stuck in traffic. So… how do we make this happen, with or without Ford’s promises? How much are people willing to tolerate? Apparently, people are willing to up to even $10 a trip for the right to move without being impeded.
The Star made a graphic of the different tools for transit infrastructure, and what it means. A few more graphs are found here.
People are willing to pay, and pay more, for the right to be able to choose the way they move around. This is a fundamental shift from even a few months ago, when people felt that they were owed the right to move around the way they want to. Car people felt that they had already paid for their right to move freely when they bought a car, and didn’t want to subsidize public transit through taxes. Transit people felt like they were getting the short end of the stick when they said (and still say) that they pay for their public transit through taxes, and were subsidizing cars through their taxes. So, who’s right?
The reality is that there is an interdependence between cars and public transit. Anyone who doesn’t know it at this point hasn’t been paying attention. Car people need public transit people, because without them we’d look like the scariest suburb of the scariest road-infested city of all time. Public transit people need car people because, well – actually, I’m not quite sure why, but I don’t want to discount the fact that the car is a needed means of transportation in a city like Toronto. At least for now.
If we want things, we have to pay for it. We have to pay for it with taxes, or we have to pay for it using our own personal choices and after tax spending. Things cost money. (Wait, what?). Either way (or may be both ways), we’re going to have to pay for the congestion that is currently clogging our city streets and highways to the tune of $6 billion a year in lost productivity.
In his article, Royson James said:
Former mayor David Miller approved Transit City without a big public discussion. Ford tried to do the same with his subway plan, and failed. Now that the city is engaged on the matter, let’s talk.
That’s exactly what we need to do. We need to talk. The rhetoric has changed on transit, and surprisingly, we do have Rob Ford to thank. We didn’t realize what we had, and now that we still don’t have it, we want it. How fitting then, to end with Joni Mitchell and Big Yellow Taxi. As the song says, “You don’t know what you got ’til it’s gone”: