Driving Home a Point

circulationcity1.gifSaturday’s Post had a somewhat incoherent article with the bombastic headline “Toronto’s War on Cars” over the weekend, featuring a 25-year-old risk management consultant who couldn’t be arsed to walk to the subway stop nearby. But they made up for it today with a great op/ed by News Talk 1010 drive home host John Moore.

I have a message for those who choose to drive in the heart of the city: suck it up. Toronto, we are told, is a city that has declared “war on the car.” If it has, it’s a just war. Single car commuters in urban centres are like obese people who think the solution is bigger furniture.

The strongest part of the article is when he calls bullshit on a pervasive meme that, amazingly, often ends up leaving me feel guilty — the idea that suburbanites would really love to live downtown, or near good transit, but unlike you, they just can’t afford the luxury:

Actually it’s not a luxury. It is a choice; a choice that, like all others, comes with sacrifices and benefits.

Drivers: You chose to live in the suburbs. For that you get a five-bedroom house, a backyard and a two car garage. Your car allows you to control your space, your music and your climate during your commute. Good for you. Your sacrifice is that your commute takes forever and you have to pay for parking.

I chose to live downtown beside a subway station. My work is four stops away. My shops, cinemas, pubs and restaurants are right around the corner. The downside of all this is that I live in a house that is 13 feet wide and cost the same as the suburban dream home described above. The subway is often crowded. Taxi drivers in Toronto have a dodgy knowledge of addresses, and I am often subjected to their tabla and reggae music, and non-stop cellphone jabbering. Worse, my street car is usually stuck behind a cortege of cars — each filled with one driver who is no doubt complaining about downtown congestion. The final insult is that we all pay the same taxes to fund roads and transit — but my household shells out an extra $2,400 a year in user fees to get on the subway.

I’d like to refer Tess Kalinowski, The Star’s transportation reporter, to this article. The Star has a baffling, less-than-fascinating series underway on how difficult it is to commute around the 905. While this is no doubt true — and. admittedly, my disdain for series comes partially from my inability to understand a lifestyle that would involve commuting from nowhere worth being, to a second location best avoided — Tess doesn’t seem to be able to absorb the advice of the commuter blog, complaining today that “Star readers who have been taking the Commuter Challenge with me talk about giving up the drive downtown but so far haven’t suggested any alternatives on how to reach one 905 area from another.”

In fact, several readers on the blog recommend biking in the 905. Another few made the choice to relocate to be closer to work, the implicit suggestion being she might want to do the same. And why not — there’s going to be a subway up to Vaughan in, oh, ten years’ time or so, right?

As the headline on Moore’s op/ed says, “Drive if you must. But please stop bitching.”