Sunday, June 29, 2008

Sorry, you can't get there from here.

I recently had the unfortunate and very frustrating experience of trying to arrange some personal travel within the Ottawa-Montreal-Toronto triangle using public transit rather than my own vehicle. The following are but two examples of why people still drive everywhere in this country.

Kingston, Ontario is an apparently inconsequential hamlet of some 150,000 people located right on the major East-West corridor (Highway 401) about 250 kilometres east of Toronto. There is one Greyhound inter-city bus a day that goes from Kingston to Toronto. It leaves at 7 AM, takes 9 ½ hours, routes through Ottawa, covers a total distance of 566 kilometres, and costs $104 plus taxes (one way).

Then there’s Peterborough, another inconvenient urban centre located just an hour east of Toronto. With a population of 120,000 and growing, a couple of major post-secondary institutions, and a huge tourist industry one would expect that getting there from, say, Montreal would be easy. Well, to get to Peterborough from Montreal by Via Rail – oops, sorry, Via Rail doesn’t service Peterborough. You have to get off the train in Cobourg and somehow find your own way the last 50+ kilometres. But just getting to Cobourg would set you back a cool $112 (one way).

Until Canadian travellers have a properly functioning inter-city transportation system (other than air), we will never get out of our cars. It’s just too painful and expensive to consider anything other than driving, especially if there is more than one traveller involved.

If governments are serious about reducing greenhouse gas emissions from private vehicles, a really good place to start would be to use some of the billions spent on building more highways with more lanes to subsidize intercity mass transit by rail and bus to bring costs and convenience in line with personal use vehicle travel. Do that and people would start to leave their cars at home, opting instead for fast, convenient, and relaxing travel to their destinations. And then, perhaps, we won't need quite as much blacktop.

6 comments:

jaybird said...

Exactly! That is why the carbon tax is neither fair nor will it be effective at reducing ghg emissions. How can the government tax consumers when they have few options. Rail and transit have been underfunded by all levels of government for DECADES and yes that include several federal and provincial Liberal government mandates. There has been zero leadership on renewable energy generation (again all levels of govt) which means that industry and individual consumers have had few viable options other than coal or natural gas (particularly in Ontario). What is desperately needed is government investment in green infrastructure so that Canadians have green options from which to choose. This is built in to the NDP cap and trade plan which would also put a hard cap on emissions, something the Liberal plan doesn't do.

Anonymous said...

What are you talking about?? Kingston has several buses each day to Toronto. Here is the sched:
http://www.coachcanada.com/CoachUsaAssets/files/116/TOMOKIApr2008.pdf

Canajun said...

I was checking Grayhound only. I didn't know these folks even existed, so that's good to know for future reference.

Canajun said...

Jaybird:
This is not a one-solution problem. If we are going to get serious about tackling ghg and global warming, then we need to be looking at combinations of all of the various strategies tailored to meet specific objectives. But you have to start somewhere and different parties have just started at different places.

talk talk talk said...

I heard the Conservative government is bringing train service back to Peterborough. Don't know how it will take to make it happen though. What would be really nice is a high-speed train a la TGV in the Windsor-Montreal corridor -- not only FAST but also passenger service wouldn't be disrupted so often by freight trains.

jaybird said...

canajun: I agree we have to start somewhere. That is why I support the NDP cap and trade plan. And i didn't say there was no rail or public transit but it is far more limited than in Europe. If we really want people out of cars than government as well as the private sector have a role to play. We need a bullet train along the windsor - montreal corridor. We need more rail options that are affordable for cross country trips. We need to increase rail cargo capacity. I live in Toronto and even though the TTC is far better than most transit systems in Canada it pales in comparison to transit services in most major US cities.