I don't always agree with Randall Denley, but this time, I think he nails it. He discusses a review of the most recent proposals for light rail in Ottawa. Here is his conclusion:
The key concept for councillors to remember is that this expensive new transit plan will only be justified if it can change our travel behaviour and development pattern, making the central part of our city one where people can live without cars. If it's all just to justify past and future suburban expansion, it's a bad way to spend public money. (emphasis added)I couldn't agree more. I forwarded the following comments to him after reading his column:
It needs to be recognized that the bulk of our planning decisions for the design of our cities have been based on the assumption that we can always depend on the automobile. It is becoming clear to increasing numbers of us that this is not possible. The 2020 vision in Ottawa of increasing transit use will not be fanciful and a 'nice to have' in a few short years. The clamour for automobile alternatives will be demanded by more people because of the ever increasing cost of automobile use.We have been getting it wrong for a very long time. Whether we like it or not, we will be forced out of our vehicles as our primary source of transportation. The type of expansive living we have accepted as the norm is coming to an end within the next generation or two. The convergence of the pressures from peak oil and climate change are narrowing our options. The sooner that individuals and communities come to terms with this reality, the better off they will be in the future. Those that continue to deny reality do so at their peril.
This fundamental redirection of our thinking is not going to be easy. It will require substantive compromise. The inner urbanites (self included) are going to have to deal with the pressures of increased densities in their own backyard. The suburbanites and beyond are going to have to accept that they can't have taxpayer supported instant mass transit at their doorstep while living in sprawling communities. Mass transit only is sustainable with sufficient density. If Kanata/Orleans/Barrhaven want mass transit, they will have to become dense enough to sustain it. They will not be viable simply as 'bedroom' communities.