There was an article this morning by Luke Simcoe in the Metro about greenhouse gas emissions in Toronto, and how "extreme commuters" -- people travelling into Toronto from the suburbs to work -- are a major cause of emissions. He cites U of T professor Marianne Hatzopoulou, who says we need bold and drastic changes and far-reaching transit solutions to address the problem. The population is expanding outside the city, but jobs are growing in the downtown area, causing the commuting problem and leading to increased pollution. She suggests banning new residential development in areas without access to adequate transit.
Reading this, a number of thoughts came to my mind, the first being "Why not focus on creating new jobs in the suburbs so people don't have to commute in the first place?" I've been making the trek downtown for over 21 years now, and I would LOVE to find adequately-paying work in Mississauga. But the truth is there's just nothing comparable that would support my family the way my current downtown job does. I've applied for jobs closer to home, but they all pay almost half what Toronto pays. Give me comparable work close to home and I'd be more than happy to get off the roads.
My son has found that to find work, you have to go somewhere where housing prices are high. If you go to places where housing is affordable, there are no jobs, and you have to commute. Some jobs lend themselves to telecommuting, but many don't. I wish I could find work that did. I'd love to stay home and work in my fuzzy slippers all day!
My husband had the idea of insisting all vehicles except EMRs, delivery trucks, and taxis stay out of the downtown core. Increase the frequency of GO trains (and, I would add, extend GO trains further out away from Toronto). Increase parking availability at the GO stations. Then offer shuttles and taxis within Toronto itself that are linked to the same Presto card system as the buses and GO trains are. Link the systems between cities so that one fare covers all. This would help the lagging taxi industry at the same time as it takes vehicles off the road and reduces congestion. I could take the train in and take a taxi to my office for one combined fare. Right now, I take two buses to get to the subway, then pay the separate subway fare to get to my office. If I want to take the GO train, which would make the commute much quicker and more comfortable, it's a matter of one city bus, the train, and then the subway at the other end---three separate systems to pay for! I think merging the systems would be brilliant.
When we were in Cinque Terre in Italy, I was bemused to find that many of the hill towns make the residents park their vehicles at the top end of town, and the village itself is entirely pedestrian. If you want to own a car, fine, but you have to park out of town and walk to it. I like that idea for neighbourhoods in Toronto too. You can park in one place, and then you take a taxi home... If you made them affordable as well as convenient, I think it would be a great solution. I'd much rather sit back and let someone else drive, especially in bad weather.
If we are going to address greenhouse gases and the gridlock problem in Toronto, we have to start thinking bigger and more creatively. I'd love to hear what other ideas people come up with.