Public Values

Major shift in thinking needed to get commuters out of cars into public transit

Public transit expansion in Kitchener-Waterloo sees ridership up among students, low-income adults.

Southern Ontario once had extensive interurban public transit linesA column in the Waterloo Region Record in southern Ontario about a recent study looking at the expansion plans of the regional Grand River Transit system argues that transit serves more as a "social service" than a proven way of getting commuters out of their cars. It provoked area transit activist George Bechtel to compose a letter to the editor.

The column points to how 60 per cent of bus passengers are students and how the rest tend to be low-income adults, that the rise in commuters using the system has risen very little. Columnist Jeff Outhit says that a further investment in the system of up to $800 million will do little to draw higher income workers onto the buses or the planned rail systems.

Letter from George Bechtel to the editor of the Waterloo Region Record

RE: Commuters still resisting an improved bus system (Feb. 6)

Convincing drivers to abandon their cars and start using public transit is a tough sell in a medium-sized North American city. Should we just give up on transit or should we start looking at things differently when it comes to public transportation and traffic congestion?

Too long we have showered great advantages on cars and short changed public transportation. It will take a major shift in thinking to realize that public transit systems produce cities that have less traffic congestion and cities with massive highways have unbearable traffic jams.

Commuter times on a third of the 400-series highways in the Toronto area are getting a lot longer. Commuters can be crawling along at 38 kilometers an hour, down from 71 in 2006. On a section of 401, commuter speed has dropped to 50 kilometers from 95 two years ago. Ontario has given up on building more lanes in this area where more lanes mean ultimately bigger traffic congestion.

Faster, easier, sorter car trips can happen only with more trips on transit not more roads.

A good transit system is a vote for reduced crash costs, lower auto insurance costs, reduced health and pollution costs and savings in delay for delivery trucks which waist millions stuck in traffic jams.

A seven minute walk to the bus or train stop means 70 minutes of exercise a week for better health.

George Bechtel
Kitchener, ON

Posted: February 20, 2010

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