The Future of Civic Politics and Transportation

            At some point in the future, municipal governments will simply have to confront the difficult reality that they can no longer obey voters’ wishes to expand roadways and intersections to allow more automobile traffic to flow. When no more land is available for this, the jig is up! Municipal and regional governments must start to restrict or limit automobile use on their major roadways. Until now, it has been a gluttonous feast of more, more, more, with elected officials, planners and engineers falling all over themselves assuming it is their ‘public duty’ to make the passage of automobiles on publicly-funded roadways easier, faster, more convenient and to make this their priority.

As it is now, our roads are choked with poison-belching vehicles which often transport only one person. At some point this carcinogenic, corpulence-inducing crescendo has got to stop. Just when isn’t certain. And it may have to be born out of some cataclysmic event. Perhaps gasoline will become so rare that it will sell for $18/L. Perhaps car manufacturers will be so busy building electric vehicles that replacement parts for internal combustion engines, forget about entire cars, will become so scarce their owners will simply leave their vehicles in the driveway and sell them for scrap. Or possibly, government debt will climb so high that one way of funding this collective is to license all residential vehicles (not work-related) at ten times the current rate. Next insurance companies will follow suit, jacking up rates for non-essential, family-use vehicles. These fees will become so expensive, drivers will choose to leave their cars at home rather than licence and insure them. Of course, then, government will say, “You can use the public transit. That’s why we provided it for you.” It’s hard to predict. But the happy time for owners of powerful internal combustion cars and domestically-operated pickup trucks will, in fact, eventually have to stop.

So, when this cataclysmic event occurs, we will be on our bicycles, or taking a bus, or walking, looking over the vast expanses of empty space in roadways and deserted parking lots that used to be crammed with automobiles and contemplate the absolute waste of time and money all this vehicular infrastructure cost our communities. The air will be purer, the neighbourhoods quieter, we’ll be healthier, children will be more welcomed to play on their streets and the life expectancy of our community will rise.  Then we’ll think, “Why couldn’t we have done this sooner?”

Steve Harper, Cycle Newmarket

Ride on!

2 Replies to “The Future of Civic Politics and Transportation”

    1. Brilliant, Stephen! But there’s one other reason the feast has to end sometime: it’s economically unsustainable. Vast road infrastructure is simply not economically productive enough to support its own costs. As Charles Marohn of Strong Towns says, today’s car-oriented development pattern is a giant Ponzi scheme where we have to build more just to fund the maintenance of what we built previously. And then there’s the proven theory of induced demand, whereby expanded roads create traffic directly proportional to the added capacity. There’s no way to win that game!

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