Our transportation future
In Ottawa we have a government that in October 1989 cut half the
country's rail service, adding 1 million more car trips per year.
Then in April 1990 the Minister of Energy of the same government
said that Canada cannot reduce gas emissions by 20% because there
is no alternative to the automobile!
Is this the same level of government that stopped funding urban
transit in 1984 and, therefore, increased our dependence on cars?
Governments are not indifferent to the pollution problem. They actually
make it worse.
Pollution problems don't just happen by accident. We make choices
as a society when we invest public funds in transportation projects.
Take the present proposal to invest $13 to $17 billion to improve
the road system.
Does it really make sense to increase the capacity of the road system
when we have a railway system with underused capacity, capacity
that will be cut because of insufficient traffic?
The billions of dollars proposed to be spent on roads would be better
invested in electrifying the main rail lines in Canada. The speed
and reliability of an electrified rail system would reduce pollution
by attracting traffic away from the more energy intensive air and
Trains, waterways, and pipelines use about one quarter as much energy
as do trucks to transport freight. Yet Transport Canada projects
that truck freight will grow at a rate three times faster than rail
or marine freight in the 1990's.
This is because heavy trucks do not pay their share of the cost
of building and maintaining roads built to suit them. A heavy truck,
loaded to 9,100 kilograms on each axle, does as much damage to the
roads as 34,200 automobiles for each kilometre driven.
From Transport 2000's submission to the Royal Commission on
National Passenger Transportation. Copies of the submis-sion are
available for $3.95 from Transport 2000, P.O. Box 858, Station B,
Ottawa, Ontario K1P 5P9.
Published in the Connexions Digest #53, January 1991
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