Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Driving Nation

Today the international community is discussing ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across the planet to address the issue of global warming. Canada is one country that is involved in reducing its greenhouse gas emissions over time. But, what are local communities encouraged to do besides separate garbage and conserve electricity to reduce their impact on the environment? Are Canadians being encouraged to rely less on their cars and more on public transportation? I think not! It seems that much of our tax money goes towards road construction and repair to specifically cater to commuters in urban regions and long-distance transport of goods. Is this a good thing for Canadian tax payers?

Well, due to the strong focus by the provincial and federal governments on road maintenance the Canadian Transnational Railroad, an important historical structure, is no longer being maintained. In turn, the trains that use the rail are not being maintained. Instead, goods are being transported by trucks that use the Canadian roads which the government regularly spends tax dollars on for repairs and construction. The roads are the primary source of transport for all goods in Canada.
Due to the lack of maintenance of the Canadian railroad and trains, Canadians living in rural parts of Canada, that depend on rail travel, now have limited access to urban regions and services because the railroad is not safe and the trains regularly break down. For example, it takes 16 hours by Canadian rail to travel to Kapuskasing, Ontario because the railroad can only handle a train traveling at the speed of 40km/hour. It used to take 14 hours to travel to the north by train two years ago and 11 hours 5 years ago. It used to cost $300 round trip to fly to Northern Ontario in 1.5 hours which was a good alternative to taking the train, however, prices have increased to about $800 round trip for a 1.5 hour flight. Now, the only alternative is to take the 16 hour train ride or 10 hour drive of which half of the drive is on a one lane highway. This shows that the government wants Canadians to rely on the roads. Flying to the north is hardly an options.
Canadians are forced to drive on roads alongside massive transport trucks sometimes on one lane highways and due to the large number of trucks on the road there is more damage and volume meaning that the government must allocate more tax dollars to regularly repairing and expanding the roads. Since it is forced to do this, it is in turn forcing Canadian tax payers to depend more often on the roads since much of their tax dollars are going towards road maintenance and less towards other services like public transportation and city services.

If you notice, there is much road construction and expansion going on north of the City of Toronto all the way up to North Bay. There is massive expansion going on just south of North Bay. Highways 400 and 11 north of Toronto are being expanded and repaired while road maintenance and construction on highway 401, where volume is quickly growing, is slow to non-existent. The TTC subway system in Toronto, even with increased user fees, has not seen any upgrades or expansions in more than a decade. It is clear that the government is very focused on road construction for the transport of goods and for commuters to drive into Toronto for work. Moreover, the expanded and repaired roads north of Toronto are being used by Torontonians and GTAers for long-distance vacation travel. But now that millions of people are now using the 400 and 11 there is an excessive volume of cars on these highways during holidays. Why are so many people traveling by car on their holidays?

The government is not currently encouraging Canadians to drive less but rather it is focused on condo/housing/road development north of Toronto and transport of goods. In turn, this has encouraged Canadians to regularly depend on the roads. I now understand why millions of Canadians will use the same highway on the same day on their vacation and spend hours to days to get to Niagara Falls by car. It is because there is no other moderate means to 'get away'.

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