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The war on the car

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In today’s post I’d like to focus on the second tweet I embedded in yesterday’s piece about downtown Toronto. Specifically, the fact that almost 75% of downtown residents walk, cycle, or take transit to work, leaving drivers firmly in the minority.

For me, this then makes me question whether or not we’re optimizing well enough for the majority. However, it’s often not that simple. And that’s because the downtown core is clearly regional in its draw, and the further you move out from the downtown core, the more the modal split flips. In the suburbs, driving is obviously the majority.

And herein lies the tension and the reason for all this “war on the car” rhetoric: We have a downtown core with completely different mobility preferences than the rest of the region.

But as Toronto continues to intensify and grow (the population of the Greater Toronto Area is projected to reach almost 9 million by 2036), I truthfully don’t know how we could reasonably expect to (efficiently) move that number of people in private cars. I’ve just never seen it done before.

Some people think that if we simply got rid of all those damn streetcars on our city streets, that we’d be doing a lot to eliminate traffic congestion. But it’s not that simple. The Highway 401 here in the city is already 18-lanes and one of the widest in the world. And yet it’s perpetually clogged. No streetcars there.

So I look at this tension as a growing pain. Sooner or later I think we’re going to realize that this war should really be a war on inefficiency. How do we move lots of people around big cities while minimizing waste, maximizing economic output, and enhancing quality of life?

Now that’s a war worth fighting.

Image: Helibacon

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