Tuesday, 4 December 2012

North American VS European Cities – A Tale of Green Greed

On a day when Toronto, ON. Canada was ranked one of the top fifteen cities in the world to live in, the cost for getting around that city increased.

That is if you are an environmentally-friendly commuter. The city’s politicians approved a fare hike for the Toronto Transit Commission, the city-run public transit service which averages about 450 passenger rides every year, making it one of the busiest transit systems in the world.

Also on a day when the largest city in Canada was placed on this top livable cities list, the provincial transit service – GO for Government of Ontario Transit – announced plans to also increase it’s prices.

Human resources consulting firm Mercer supposedly considers transportation, along with government stability, crime rates, banking, health care, pollution levels, housing and recreation when they create these lists.

Although there are far worse places in the world to live, there are far greener cities in the world to live than Toronto -- or any North American city.

Vienna, Zurich, Munich and Frankfurt all ranked highest on the list – which says something about European versus North American cities when it comes to being the best places to live.

Europe has embraced alternative modes of travel to gas guzzling cars. It isn't uncommon for people in these places to take public transit, bike, or even car pool if they do have to drive.

Toronto – which ranked 14 on the list and Montreal – which ranked 23—both have excellent public transit systems. However, in both cities – actually many North American cities – there appears to be a stigma associated with taking public transit.

Those who take public transit in major urban centres in North America are often seen as the working poor, the trailer-park-trash of the urban jungle. The rift-raft that can’t afford a car.

That’s why public transit is so poorly funded in North American cities. It’s all in the head. Or at least the heads of the people that live there.

In Europe, the costs of operating the public transit systems are paid for largely by local and federal levels of government. It’s not considered a working poor rift-raft using service – it’s considered a necessity for the people and the good of the city.
Europeans don’t attach silly stigmas to those who take public transit. They realize that if it weren't for the public transit system, they’d spend hours in traffic just to get to work each day. If it weren't for public transit, they’d sit in traffic jams inhaling horrible fumes each day just to see their friends and family. They know they’d be contributing to global warming every time they went to the corner store.
Oh wait – we know all these things here in North America too.

So why do we attach idiotic ideologies about those taking public transit in Canada and the United States?

And worse, because of those idiotic ideologies, we force the costs of public transit onto the backs of those who take it – instead of using the tax-base to pay for it – which furthers that mentality because if the government doesn't think paying for public transit is a good thing, why should the average citizen?

And as we always complain about high taxes, governments always cut funding to the least popular government services – which usually means public transit because of this silly mentality North American cities have about the green way to travel.

So governments continue to under-fund transit in North America, increasing costs to riders, which translates into fewer people taking transit – ultimately pushing more people into their cars, creating enormous traffic tie-ups, pumping toxic fumes into the air we breathe, while increasing the amount of greenhouse gasses in our environment.

Which begs the question – how’d any North American city even make the top livable cities in the world to live in?

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