Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Buses, Cars and New Urbanism


Recently I had to take a Via train to Toronto and then grab a Go Transit bus to a small town outside T.O. I was the only person on the full-sized city bus that could have carried 60 passengers.

Noticing I was his only fare, the driver called ahead to see if any riders were waiting for the bus at my stop, the second last stop on the run. No one was at the terminal. It was deserted. The driver asked me exactly where I was going and, as he had no more passengers, he left the scheduled route to take me the final three kilometres to my destination. I had planned on walking.

I am not giving many details as I don't want to get this driver in trouble. But think about it. A bus taking a regular, daily run through Canada's biggest city, through dense suburbs to a small, outlying town often makes the trip empty. I was the only passenger the day I rode that bus and I'm from London. Not one resident of Toronto or any of the suburbs through which we drove had any interest in taking that bus.

Whenever I read an article about new urbanism, the claim is made that new urbanist communities have densities that encourage the use of mass transit, read buses. My bus ride calls that belief into question. With tens of thousands of potential riders, if not hundreds of thousands,  there is often not one rider. Not one!


Neighborhoods today require lots of parking.
I am not blogging as much as I once did; I am now grandparenting almost daily. This is like babysitting but done by a senior for love rather than by a teen for money.

The other day, while taking my granddaughter for a walk, I noticed a picture. I confess that it was taken with a long lens. The street does not actually look like a parking lot but that is not my point.

Most of these homes have two car garages and yet their driveways are filled with cars. Curious, I interviewed a few folk. It seems, that with both the husband and the wife working, two cars are the minimum number in my neighbourhood for each home.

Why don't these folk just take the bus? Hey, read the paragraphs above titled Buses. People, even people who have a bus route just a few feet away, hate riding buses.

Now, these couples often have children and if they are old enough, that explains the cars parked on the driveways. When our daughters are home, we often had five cars parked at our home: a Morgan, a Chevy, a Pontiac, a Ford and a Saturn.

Holiday weekends are worse. Christmas can be a real problem, even for us. I can park six cars on my property and I can use every one of those spaces at Christmas. This is a fact that brings us to new urbanism.

New Urbanism

Parking garages behind new urbanist homes in Oakville.
If  the ideal new urbanist community has lane ways to access the garages, where will the kids park their cars? And at Christmas, where do all the visitors park their cars? With the deep banks of plowed snow, this may present a problem.

I know a couple living in Cornell Village in Markham. It's one of the best known new urbanist communities in Canada. The next time we get together I am going to ask them about these apparent parking problems. And yes this couple has two cars and neither walks to work nor to the store. Why? See Buses and Cars above.

1 comment:

  1. The way to put people into the buses is to persuade them to stop using their cars. That may involve higher gas prices and road tolls.

    Parking problem solved.