People in Ottawa who rely on transit will also have to make do with reduced service right after being made to pay a fare increase because ridership is lower due to the pandemic and profits are nowhere to be seen. OC Transpo hopes to save $5.5 million this year and $11 million next year by cutting routes and 70 jobs, out of a half-billion or so budget.
Car drivers, though, aren’t paying anything more to ride or park their private metal box on public streets. Because that would be — what, unfair? To whom?
Imagine if we ran roads with the same kind of profit motive as we run pretty much everything else. Would we spend millions building big wide roads that are dramatically under-used most of the time except for a few hours each day when they are impossibly clogged? Would the Suez Canal make sense economically if every ship carried only one container? Of course not. So why do we do it on Bronson Avenue?
We build roads because there is a public benefit to being able to move goods and people around. Having a city where trucks couldn’t deliver cans of chicken noodle soup to grocery stores would not be conducive to human happiness. There are indisputable advantages to having a good road network. But it has to benefit everyone, not just a minority.
I would argue there is a bigger economic advantage, a public benefit even, to having clean, comfortable, accessible and reliable public transit move people around efficiently. And to making it easy for people who do not drive to go where they’re going in good time at a reasonable cost.
Shipping companies don’t own humongous boats because they enjoy being able to see them stuck in some canal from outer space. They do it because in order to be profitable, transportation must be efficient. And while we can’t stack humans like we do shipping containers, we would do a lot better — including economically — if we favoured high-volume transit over humanity’s most economically inefficient mode of transportation in cities: the individual car.
Brigitte Pellerin is an Ottawa writer.
This content was originally published here.