Comment 6147

By JH (anonymous) | Posted March 29, 2007 at 13:05:26

Thriving at $2.75?

While more efficient mass transit is commendable on many grounds, including the obvious environmental benefits, and the potential to affect "urban renewal" I wonder whether the author, and readers of RTH, have considered the so-called "growth and efficiency" of the Toronto transit system to be a consequence of the increasing gentrification of Toronto.

See, efficient transit is great for middle-class folks, though it vital for the survival of poor folks. Where mass transit was originally developed as part of the welfare state's need to provide efficient means of transport for the masses of people lumped in high-density, urban core areas, the changing class demographic of Toronto's downtown core, where the most accessible transit is to be had, also reflect the ability for wealthier (or upwardly moblile) people to choose car-free living in newly fashionable neighbourhoods, with all the ameneties of "inner city living," such as mass transit, at their doorsteps. Though one might disagree as to the extent of the impact of fare increases, it is logically untenable to claim that such increases will NOT have an effect on the lower income people who rely on mass transit. Transit increases, as stated in a previous post, neccessarily reflect the increasing down-shifting of financial costs of public services (if you consider public transit to be, actually, a public good) on to individual citizen-consumers. So while the middle class transit users might look at a 15 cent transit increase as insignificant, this dismissal of the relative impact of this cost does not take into account the very real fact that as impoverished sectors rely on public transit, the real minimum wage, and the sheer percentage of people living in poverty has increased in the last decade (does the year 1997 ring a bell for anyone?)

This bring the question of "voluntary ridership" into new light. Choice, here, is defined as what the relatively wealthy can do. (i.e. "what to take...the train, plane, or automobile?"). So, to increase the ridership of "voluntary riders" is to construct a choice to NOT travel, to NOT be able to enjoy a public good, for those low-income riders who cannot bear the brundt of increasing costs of mobility. Remeber, planes, trains, and automobiles are real travel options for some, and not for others.... just as restricted mobility, and ghettoization are real options for some, and not for others.

And, Jon Dalton, as a university-educated, presumably middle-class professional, I propose that you reexamine just who, exactly, are the people who are riding the Go train with you everyday. Then take a look at how these commuters stack up compared to the people on the HSR on some of the routes going to North or East end Hamilton. Even a sensitive perception of these differences should reveal how the benefits and so-called "publicness" of travel by mass transit, are restrictively fixed by cost.

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