About the Blog:

Guelph Politico is locally sourced and dedicated to covering the political and cultural scene in the City of Guelph. Est. 2008.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Good, the Bad and the Points in Between

GO train service started up again this week, in a move that's been greeted by the vast majority as a tremendous next step in securing better intra-city transit options for the City and People of Guelph. My jubilation was somewhat elated though when local media pointed to the one or two dark clouds in an otherwise cloudless sky.
To begin with, the CTV station in Kitchener talked with a transit advocate that said that the new Monday to Friday commuter service would do nothing to help out students, not that it's really supposed to. But he said that one train could do the job of the extra buses GO puts on Friday to ferry university and college students from K-W to Toronto. That's a bit like getting chocolate cake for you birthday, but complaining because it wasn't chocolate fudge, because as a transit advocate, anything that improves transit in your area should be lauded for its existence, not derided for what it doesn't offer.
The other news item was from our own Guelph Mercury, who in covering the first day of GO service, mentioned in the first sentence of the article that the train was three minutes late. In the numerous problems with transit this year, such a statement throws in a problem with the way public transportation is viewed and covered in this city: most people, be it the people in power, city hall, or the mainstream media in Guelph, are people who don't take public transit very often. If they had, they'd realize that a three minute late train is nothing to sneeze at. I don't think I've ever boarded a train at the exact time it was meant to depart. Or put it this way, last week it was announced that American Eagle Airlines will start running flights into the Waterloo Region Airport. Can you imagine the mainstream media reporting that the first plane arrived three minutes late? At least as the lead of the report? Have ever been on a plane that's arrived at its destination at the exact time that was printed on your ticket?

The Mercury article went on to talk about the lack of parking accommodations downtown, no PRESTO service and the fact that Guelph Transit doesn't start running early enough to get the first train of the day. All fair points, but they were already made in previous articles. Of course a good news report offers balance, but it seems to me that in the case of GO Transit, the balance has weighed towards pointing out the faults rather than pointing out the benefits.
So on that account, I share a letter I received earlier this year about a unique service offered in our area, the Guelph Community Car Co-op. There's an interesting statistic on the website that says that cars spend 90  per cent of the time parked, and if that's true, and let's say your car payments are $300 per month, than you're only getting $30 worth of actual drive out of your car. That's pretty staggering if you think about it.
Politicians like Rob Ford and Tim Hudak have used the expression "War on Cars" to describe progressive policies supporting public transit, and highway infrastructure through increased fees and government funding. But if there really was a War on Cars, there would be no support for low gas prices, increased fees for licensing and toll roads everywhere. That advocate from K-W was right about one thing, more people on trains means fewer people on roads, and considering that many of the cars on those roads carry passengers numbering one, including the driver, a single train load of those drivers could make the morning commute on the 401 feel more like a Sunday drive.
Never in the brief history of traffic has more roads decreased the amount of congestion. More roads just means more room for more cars, and sadly, the logistics just do not allow every single last person the ability to drive their own car, even if they wanted to. I think the GCCC has the right idea, and I hope it's an idea that catches on.
Here's the letter:
On behalf of Grand River CarShare and Guelph Community Car Co-op we are writing in response to your March 2nd coverage of Guelph’s recent budget discussions where you highlighted the changes that have been made to transit. In your past columns you have asked why there is not more use of the public transit system in Guelph. Part of the reason is that there is a lack of knowledge of and also insufficient access to Carsharing, a transportation option that makes public transit more viable.

Grand River CarShare and Guelph Community Car Co-op are non-profit carsharing co-operatives which provide access to vehicles on a self-serve, pay-per-use basis to members in Guelph, as well as in Kitchener, Waterloo, Cambridge and Hamilton (GRCS). We are writing jointly to you because as co-ops we aim to promote the good work we are both doing, and because you write for a publication that is distributed in both of our communities.

CarShare works best by filling in the gaps that currently exist in the sustainable transportation network. With CarShare access the co-op’s members help support the use of greener transportation modes such as public transit and cycling. Many households are also able to reduce the number or size of vehicles they own by supplementing their other trips with CarShare reservations a few times a week. This means that some don’t need to own a car, while others have been able to reduce their ownership from 2 cars (or more), down to 1.

With CarShare access the overall amount of driving by our members can be reduced by about 50%, helping members to improve their personal and financial health, while mitigating climate change and increasing neighbourhood vibrancy. Vehicles can be reserved online or by phone and are located in our service areas at self-serve stations, often near home or work, and on transit routes. Trips are billed monthly, with gas, maintenance, and insurance included.

Specific to transit, Guelph might ask itself how many more people would take the bus, if they had more convenient access to CarShare vehicles in all parts of the City. Commuting behaviour can also be switched to transit if employees know they will have CarShare access available for work trips near or at their place of employment. With two vehicles located in the Baker Street Parking lot anyone with access to a bus can reach a CarShare vehicle near St. George’s Square or the new Transit Hub. City of Guelph websites should also mention CarSharing as an additional green transportation option.

Thank your for your attention to the issue of a need for more access to Carsharing and both organizations would be available for comment on future articles focusing on improving transit in Guelph and Waterloo Region.

More information including contact info, location maps and rates can be found by visiting www.grandrivercarshare.ca as well as www.guelphcarcoop.ca

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