Friday, April 25, 2008

Don't like rising gas prices? Stop driving so much...

Raised in Guelph, I chose to live in Toronto because I liked the open-minded culture and way of life. Thirteen years later, I still love it.

Of course, within Toronto, one can choose to live as far away as the suburbs of Mississauga or Markham and still have easy access to the delights of the big city (at least by car). But I've chosen to mostly live and work within the old city of Toronto, first living in the Bloor West Village area, followed by several years (on and off) in Boystown around Church & Wellesley, a brief and unfortunate stint on Finch Avenue near the Yonge subway line, Leslieville, the Annex and now the Junction. Except for my brief stay on Finch Avenue (when I exclusively used transit to get to work downtown), I've always been able to bike to work. In this city, biking is the best way to get around, virtually nothing (except bad weather) gets in the way of my daily bike ride and I love it. I don't make a huge amount of money in my day job, but I do make enough to get buy, pay my bills, save a little and have an enjoyable life.

Long before cutting down on one's carbon footprint became trendy, I chose to live and work within biking distance. I don't own a car, although my partner does (and the car comes in very handy for groceries, trips to see family out of town, etc.) But generally speaking, I've long been able to live quite happily ignoring the ever-changing price of gasoline at the pumps.

With news that the price of gas is about to skyrocket yet again to new heights over the next few months and years, I can only say to those grumpy folks who have chosen to live in some quiet suburb miles and miles from where they work or play, or in some city or town without an adequate transit system, forcing themselves to be dependent on their motor vehicle, get a life! I have little sympathy for you.

If gas prices continue to rise, it'll force people pretty quickly to start making smarter choices about how they live their lives. And that's a good thing.


My apologies if my post seems a little harsh or unsympathetic to those who live outside of the old city of Toronto (or other major urban centres.) I'm well aware that most people don't like public transit, even if it is decent in their communities. Personally, I greatly dislike using transit in Toronto too and avoid it as much as I can. Thus, my choice to live within biking distance of work and play.

Most people in medium-sized and smaller centres choose to drive cars for convenience sake. Transit services in Markham or Guelph or London or Ottawa are good. Many continue to drive despite the growing awareness of climate change and the cumulative damage such activity has on our environment. Sadly for them, it might take astronomical increases in gas prices like those predicted for them to finally choose to drive less. Relying on good will doesn't seem to be working in getting people to change their comfortable habits. We'll have to see if hitting them in the pocketbook does the trick. Of course, I'm not looking forward to the howls from those demanding relief at the pumps so they can continue to live as they have been living.

********UPDATE #2

People should lobby for more dedicated bike lanes in every major urban centre. Transit may be an annoyance, but I can bike 6.6 kms in 30 minutes safely in Toronto thanks to dedicated bike lanes...


MERBOY said...

Gas prices have been going up for years now... however... I'm surprised that nobody's questioning why exactly gas prices are going up so fast lately... the kind of leap they're talking about this summer is similar to the huge jump we had when a hurricane knocked a bunch of refineries offline... what's the excuse this time.

MERBOY said...

In response to the rest of your post...

I currently live in Markham and work in Markham... and consequently I drive everywhere. I would love to live somewhere more urban so I could at least decrease my auto dependance... but... have you seen condo prices lately?

Matt Guerin said...

Yes clearly these price increases aren't really justified. If more people relied less on their vehicles and could simply choose to take transit or walk or bike instead of drive, gas companies couldn't get away with this gouging.

This is a simply lifestyle choice. If one chooses to live in Markham, or Mississauga, or virtually any non-major urban centre like Toronto, I do realize that transit isn't the most reliable or efficient way to get around. The folks who planned these suburbs did so with little regard to making transit viable, or biking viable. One can't bike around the suburbs of Toronto without risking one's life on inhospitable roads.

I've chosen to live and work in downtown Toronto as a result. Yes, I just bought a condo along the Bloor Street subway line near the Junction, so I am aware of condo prices both in the core (out of my reach financially at the moment) and those on the outer limits of the core, still affordable, you just have to look and be vigilant and quick. I understand condo prices are likely just as bad in Markham as they are in other hot spots in Toronto.

MERBOY said...

Public transportation between my subdivision + work isn't actually that bad... in fact it's a VIVA route... but my subdivision is SO large... it takes me more than 20 minutes just to talk to the bus stop. :D

Torian said...

it's possible to live in markham and have little use for a car

MERBOY said...

Anything is possible... however it's major inconvenience in comparison to driving unless:

1. You live near Yonge + highway 7.


2. You rarely ever need to go downtown.


3. You rarely need to go anywhere at night or on weekends.

Matt Guerin said...

It's sad but these suburban communities were built for cars, not for people, or bikes, etc. Oil companies have gotten very rich due to this kind of planning in North America over the last century and will continue to get even richer now.

Torian said...

yonge and 7 is in richmond hill, so I don't live near there.

I rarely go downtown. Dont work there, and I can get everthing I need where I live.

I have a very busy life...I just choose to do local things.

I don't find it inconvienient...I see it as a good way to make sure I get my exercise in :) And on a nice spring day, I'd rather be on a bike or walking around then stuffed up in a car.

MERBOY said...

Yonge between Steeles and Highway 7 is on Markham's ward map.

There are definitely people who can and do live productive happy lives in Markham without a car... but they are in the minority... and when you consider the land area covered by the city and the distance between the major transit roads... it isn't all the surprising.

These are the reasons I drive.

To + From Work: 50 minutes (car) vs 120 minutes (transit).

Downtown (outside of rush hour): 40 minutes (car) vs 130 minutes (transit)

Mall: 7 minutes (car) vs 50 minutes (walking).