On Idle Cars and Lost Productivity

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, an “international organization helping governments tackle the economic, social and governance challenges of a globalized economy,” released some startling facts about Toronto this week.

Apparently, traffic congestion in the region costs the entire country of Canada $3.3 billion in lost productivity each year. This comes as a result of several factors:

  • Urban sprawl
  • A disjointed public transit system
  • Decades of underinvestment in public transit by Ottawa

We sit in traffic, unproductive and idle. Meanwhile, our idling cars emit noxious gases into the atmosphere, decaying the ozone layer and lining lungs everywhere with air pollution. And that’s just in Toronto.

gridlock-main

If we’re to be more productive in our cars, Ontario erred in passing a law restricting the usage of cell phones in automobiles. That is also notwithstanding the fact that if the provincial government were serious about its efforts to keep drivers’ “eyes on the road and hands on the wheel,” it would have completely banned cell phone usage while driving. After all, according to the Ministry of Transport, “driver distraction is a factor in 20 per cent of all road accidents.” But I digress.

I’m not even quite sure what kind of productivity we are expected to produce while driving, but whatever it is must surely be easier done with a phone in hand.

The fact is, if we are to be more productive in our cars, Ontario erred in passing the law restricting the usage of cell phones in automobiles. If the aim is to increase productivity while driving (which also defeats the purpose of attempting to eliminate driver distraction), let us use cell phones.

Better still, offer us a reasonable alternative to driving.

Realistically, the TTC is not a reasonable alternative to driving. Nor is any public transit system in Toronto, as the OECD notes that “transit service in the Toronto Census Metropolitan Area has not kept pace with population growth.”

Don’t tell us to use the TTC. Instead, make it more attractive to potential riders. Transit City is on the right track, though light years behind, and – given the bureaucracy inherent in Toronto and the TTC – indefinitely ongoing. Hell, I’d sit through 10 years of traffic congestion, construction, and closed roads if it meant my kids would grow up with a transit system on par with those in New York, Hong Kong or London.

We don’t want to be told to use the TTC, we want to want to use the TTC.

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