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Keeping Track - there is always more to discuss

With two years and 17 columns under my belt, my term as a member of the Guelph Mercury's Community Editorial Board is up. I will, however, be continuing as a monthly columnist in the paper starting in January under the title "Keeping Track".

My final editorial board column was written very casually and personally, though the published form is a bit more prim and proper, with my favourite line "I use vi to write these columns -- ten points to anyone who knows what that is" removed. So, um, who'll get the ten points?

There's always room for more discussion

This is my final column as a Community Editorial Board member, but I will continue to opine in this paper.

The last two years as a part of the editorial board have been eventful. From my first column, prodding this city to embrace the Lafarge property as the logical place for a park-and-ride transit station, to my last, prodding this city to embrace the Lafarge property as the logical place for a park-and-ride transit station, I have covered many aspects of transit and policy issues at all levels of government. My personal life, not usually the topic of my columns, has been a roller coaster of its own as my career took a dramatic change in direction while my marriage quietly ended.

Through it all, I have kept my focus on how I see the world and how I would like to see it improve. I have developed many new perspectives on the world that I may not ever have had, or expanded on to the same extent, without the opportunity to share them with you.

There is, of course, always more to discuss. Transit is my focus but far from my only concern. The computer keyboard and a word processor are among the deadliest weapons in the world and there are many issues I have yet to address.

Through subsequent column offerings, I intend to cover many of the issues I did not get to in the past two years. I expect to comment on why Linux should be your computer operating system of choice, why properly made poutine is the tastiest food ever made as well as being the only way to eat a potato, and why there is no such thing as sustainable growth.

There is, of course, also more to be said on my favourite topic. For example, because of a proposal to council, university students have been asking me recently if their universal bus pass is in danger.

And I answer: I doubt it. Nobody in his or her right mind would terminate the University of Guelph student bus pass outright, in spite of the idea being floated. The risk of 60 per cent of our transit system's ridership having to choose between buying passes and tickets or simply resorting to driving on our already overcrowded streets should make even the most anti-transit decision-makers reject any such notion.

I use transit regularly, but not exclusively. I take the bus downtown two, sometimes three, days per week and always use our city's paper tickets. I would rather use a pass, and would no doubt use the bus more if I had one. But the economics are not there for me to spend that kind of money.

To me, there is a more obvious solution, and while the appropriate venue to present solutions is the new Transit Growth Strategy Project Advisory Committee, there is no harm in presenting it here: Rather than having university students pay four times what they do now, I believe everybody in the city should have access to a university-style bus pass, good for a year instead of a month, and economical to buy. It should cost dramatically less than it does to buy passes by the month, and there should be strong incentives for everyone in the city to buy one.

So I ask the vast majority of you who are not regular transit users: what would it take for you to take the bus at least sometimes? I have made it clear in the past that I believe transit should be free and parking should always cost, though I'm enough of a realist to know that that is a bit of a pipe dream so long as even I feel a need to own a car. But that's just it, isn't it? It is all a chicken and egg problem. Nobody will use transit until it can compete with the car, and it won't be able to compete with the car until everybody uses it.

Nor will this conundrum even be addressed until we, collectively, understand the danger of continuing to focus on the car, no matter how green the fuel we put in it becomes over time. Until we learn to build our cities around the infrastructure we have rather than always trying to build infrastructure to keep up with the cities we have, sprawl will remain a vicious cycle and sustainable growth will increasingly be shown to be the myth that it is.

But all of that is a matter for a future column.

Posted at 18:10 on December 15, 2009

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