By Heino Molls
The key to solving the national dream of owning a home is transit. There is math involved in this, but it sure isn’t rocket science or nuclear fission.
In every city in Canada, we have a problem of overcrowding on the roads. There are no reasonable alternatives. When was the last time you were in Ottawa? Did you enjoy that drive on the 417? I have no doubt it was bumper to bumper whenever you were there. It must terrible to have to make that drive everyday if you live there. How about you good folks in Vancouver? I’ve been on the Hastings Street parking lot with you. I’ve lined up with the rest of the mooks on Highway 1 waiting to get on the Ironworkers Memorial Bridge.
In all our cities there are other ways to get around, but they are so unfavourable and so challenging to use it is simply better to just sit in our cars and fume. Nerves are frayed, tempers are short and emotional fuses are popped. No wonder normally kind and patient people are turned into monsters who go into full psychotic episodes on the highway. The person in front of them is too timid or the person behind them is too aggressive. It doesn’t matter, it’s just too damn crowded on the road and that’s just the highway, wait till they get onto city streets with you. People in America apparently shoot at each other. You think they’re crazy? Just wait. We’re not that far away.
The answer is transit. Frequent, comfortable, restive transit. We have public transit in all our cities, but it is not restive or comfortable and it is hardly frequent. If you need to take a bus you have to wait, in the rain, in the snow and in the heat of a blazing hot day. Usually some lout has spilled coffee or thrown a soda on the one bench that has not been cleaned since it was installed 10 years ago, so you can also count on standing during the wait. Once the bus arrives, it is crowded and filled with folks, once again standing cheek to jowl. If you are a woman, it is likely that you will be standing next to some creepy guy.
So, come on! Government, bureaucrats, planners, smart thinkers and above all you voters! Elect somebody who will make transit, real transit, a priority.
What difference would it make? If we had frequent, comfortable, restive transit people would flock to it. It must be reasonably priced, and it is going to cost a fortune to build. But it would be worth it, and we can do it. If the journey was more civilized than it is today we would have a better country with far less harried, haggard, short-tempered people.
Think of the housing development that could happen 100 km away from your city, even Vancouver. I am tired of the talk about how Vancouver cannot grow because of the mountains and the ocean. Yes, it can! I have driven for hundreds of kilometres outside of Vancouver. There are lots of places for development. A good rapid transit system could easily make a 100-km journey in about an hour or less.
I am not referring to a high-speed train. I mean a train that is rapid, frequent and comfortable with a seat for everyone. Once in the city, a good local transit system is paramount. The only thing that can stop a system like that from being built is a group of narrow-minded people who say it can’t be done. No is such stupid word. Have you ever wondered why it is so narrow in letters and how short it sounds? It has no substance.
Ask any real estate agent, what is the best thing to stimulate the economy of the country? Every one of them will tell you it is housing. The purchase and sale of housing represents an endless list of economic stimuli that includes every kind of job imaginable from home renovations to building schools and hospitals, and from retail jobs to entrepreneurial kids cutting lawns.
What could create a huge market of thousands and thousands of houses bought and sold in every city in Canada, all within an hour’s commute to downtown? It’s transit, for crying out loud. It’s transit.