You can’t tell some people anything.
“Don’t go out on those rocks,” you’ll say.
And guess what they do?
“Don’t stand behind that horse,” you’ll say.
And guess what happens?
In the 1990s, a lot of people tried to tell St. John’s City Council something.
“Don’t build the new arena downtown,” they said.
And we all know what city hall did.
Parking was a primary concern. Or lack of parking, to be more exact.
As is often the case, the critics of officialdom were right. Arrive downtown for an IceCaps game 90 minutes before the puck drops, and you have a chance of finding a parking spot in the same time zone as Mile One Centre. Show up 60 minutes before game time, and you’ll need about that amount of time to hike to the rink.
Strange, then, to hear the moaning and groaning emanating from city hall about how the downtown area needs more parking spaces to meet demand, and more people using public transit to ease parking demand.
Their whining is so last-century. It reveals another common trait of officialdom: they’re slow to clue in.
“There isn’t enough parking downtown.” What part of that statement made it unfathomable to city hall, circa 1998?
Mile One Centre or the IceCaps or Leonard Cohen aren’t necessarily the cause of the downtown parking shortage, although they are proof of it. (Note to city council members: read that sentence to someone nearby, and get them to explain it to you.)
Staying true to its credo of taking action while ignoring critical facts, city council has jumped on the public transit bandwagon (a bandwagon being what mobs used before buses became available).
City council wants to extend Metrobus service into outlying towns. It wants those towns to help pay for Metrobus’s expanded service, and it wants residents to use it.
The city should curb its enthusiasm. Its plan will cost taxpayers more money and will not result in enough people using it to justify the expense.
Saying bad things about public transit is akin to calling a baby ugly, so let’s not do it here. Instead, let’s bounce some salient information on our knee.
Statistics Canada did a study in 2011 about Canadian commuters and public transportation. As reported by The Canadian Press, StatsCan found that 82 per cent of commuters drive to work, 12 per cent use public transit and six per cent either walk or cycle.
Supporters of expanded public transit — and its accompanying increased public subsidies — habitually decry “car culture.” It is a derogatory term that implies laziness, selfishness, disregard for the environment and, quite possibly, hatred of ugly babies.
It is also erroneous. We don’t so much live in a car culture as we live in a time culture. Everyone, at a certain age — say, six — realizes their time on Earth is finite. At about 12, they realize that waiting for a bus or sitting on a bus is stealing their time.
The StatsCan study concluded what should be obvious: “Commuters who used public transit took considerably longer to get to work than those who lived an equivalent distance from their place of work and went by car.”
How much longer? In a mid-sized city such as St. John’s, getting to work took an average of 46 minutes by public transit and 23 minutes by car.
Simple arithmetic reveals how much time buses steal: 46 extra minutes commuting each day, multiplied by 240 workdays per year, equals 184 extra hours travelling by bus instead of by car; divide 184 by a 16-hour waking day, and you spend 11 1/2 days per year waiting for and taking a bus.
Brian Jones is a desk editor at The Telegram. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.