Comment 2925

By schmadrian (registered) | Posted January 12, 2007 at 11:54:43

From Jason: "From what I've heard from folks who have visited Europe and seen online they really seem to get transit over there...the system seems balanced, not car-centric."

First off, you have to decide whether you're going to include the UK in 'Europe'. (Personally, having lived there, I don't...but that's another discussion entirely.) If we are, then your statement especially doesn't hold. (The British, in their own way, are all the more in love with their cars...but for somewhat different reasons. Again, another discussion, another time.) But regardless, the fact is that the car has just as much a place in people's lives over there...the difference being that because so much of their urban infrastructure was in place before the advent of the car (unlike over here), the application of mass transit solutions has been a more organic, and if I may suggest, a less contentious one.

I think it might help to reduce this discussion to a more basic level and ask a simple question: 'Why do people change?'

Why do people change their point of view, how they look at things... Under what circumstances do people 'give up' something in order to accept another?

Part of the answer here (not meaning to leap ahead too much) is to be found in the comment "Perhaps $3 a litre gasoline will help change our habits and addictions for us." Do you have any idea what the current price of petrol is in the UK?!?

Living in the UK and taking the train a lot, as well as daily transit in Brighton/Hove, made at least one thing painfully clear to me. (And from this single realization, other aspects of understanding). If you want people to change their habits, you have to provide an alternative that effectively 'seduces' them. If you want people to use mass transit more then their cars, then you have to provide an option that a) makes sense economically, b) has 'route-coverage' and c) is dependable. (I know I've covered this elsewhere in a comment...)

What I saw in the UK is a faint-hearted desire on the part of 'those in power' to create a viable alternative to the car. Too expensive, not extensive enough and hardly reliable. I suspect that in most situations, those people who 'design and implement' mass transit have hardly ever used it on a daily basis and certainly don't after the fact.

The UK is hardly an exception, though. I'm sure you see this everywhere, to greater and lesser extents. But you don't get an incredible result in terms of ridership by demonizing cars (higher taxes on gas or the such), you get it by making the option of mass transit so utterly seductive that it becomes a no-brainer. Yes, ideally, downtown Hamilton would be more pedestrian-friendly and mass transit-based. Perhaps even the outright banning of cars within a certain area. But to make this possible, you have to have something so reliable, so economically attractive, so thorough as 'seduce' people. (Of course, you have to have somewhere for people to go, something for them to do...which Hamilton does not currently have...and I don't care how much of an arm-wrestling match this elicits, Hamilton's downtown...the Farmers' Market aside...is not worth the effort to get to.)

And once again, I've managed to not stay on topic! The reason is clear; this is a massive discussion, not so much individual topics of discussion, but pieces of the puzzle.

However...

I would say this, at the risk of repeating myself: (I do have an admitted 'I'm not being heard!' syndrome...) even on a grumbling-under-your-breath level, less energies need to be accorded slagging off cars and their mis-use. In the face of all things-environmental, I still believe in the old adage "You can attract more flies with honey than with vinegar.'

I'm very curious to hear readers' answer to my query: 'Why do people change?'

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