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Environment

Your Car Is Killing Me. Seriously.

Posted by Kari / November 7, 2007

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A new report released recently states that over 400 premature deaths occur each year, and these untimely deaths are caused by one of our favourite things in the entire world - the automobile.

In addition, the report estimates that pollution caused by car emissions puts 1700 Torontonians in the hospital per year, causes 1200 of our kids to experience acute bronchitis, results in 67 000 reports of laboured breathing, causes 68 000 asthma symptom days, and makes for 200 000 instances where people have to stay in bed/inside, instead of enjoying the summer months in this beautiful, supposedly temperate, city of ours.

Add to that the $2.2 billion that tax-payers are doling out to take care of "mortality related costs", and you've got a hefty argument to make the switch from gas-guzzler to pedal/foot/TTC power.

Here are some of the measures that could be taken to alleviate this sad, sad burden:

  • tolls for cars entering the downtown core
  • higher taxes for automobile owners (thank you Mr. Miller!)
  • higher tarriffs on gas purchases
  • rebates for owners of the more fuel efficient/hybrid/electric car owners
  • higher tax deductions for cyclists/TTC takers/walkers
  • lower fares for public transit
  • a complete network of bicycle lanes/paths
  • more car-free events, and maybe even designated car-free time periods/areas
  • widely accessible education on the disadvantages of driving a car, and the benefits of active transportation

In short, making the alternatives to driving a car not only accessible, but also desirable and safe. And emphasizing the absolute necessity of decreasing our dependence on the gas-fueled vehicle. It's a state of mind; a lifestyle change. Having a Hummer H2 does not make you look cool, it makes you look stupid, and ignorant of today's environmental and health concerns. With every single decision we make (ourselves as individuals and the various governing bodies in this country), the first consideration should be how it will affect our environment.

End rant.

What else can be done to help reduce emissions, and in turn, decrease the number of detrimental health affects? Brainstorming session begins... NOW. (That means post a comment with your suggestions!)

Photo by Ryan C.

Discussion

14 Comments

Chris / November 7, 2007 at 10:12 am
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Whatever happened to the SUV tax? Did that ever pull through? I can't count how many SUVs and (shudder) stretch SUVs I've seen downtown. Get the fuck out!
uptownguy / November 7, 2007 at 10:34 am
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I'm surprised you didn't mention "invest in the expansion of public transit" on your list. In my opinion, our stunted transit system is the most glaring problem this city currently faces. Unless you live downtown or along a subway line, chances are you're going to need a car to get around. Biking and walking are out of the question for those living and working in opposite ends of the city. Not to mention, bus services in Toronto are frequently unreliable and rarely seen by drivers as a viable alternative - especially since buses get stuck in the same traffic as everyone else.

This city desperately needs a massive investment in public transit to expand subway and rapid transit lines to areas that are now shamefully under-serviced. We can't expect people to leave their cars at home until they can be made to believe that the TTC truly is the better way.
Jerrold / November 7, 2007 at 10:39 am
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An HOV lane on the 401 and QEW/Gardiner.
uptownguy / November 7, 2007 at 10:47 am
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Yeah, and I agree with Chris. Tax the hell out of gas-guzzling SUVs and high-performance luxury cars. Anyone who can afford to drive something as ostentatious and wasteful as a Hummer or a Bentley can certainly afford to be taxed through the nose.
Kari / November 7, 2007 at 10:49 am
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Good point uptownguy... I also found it incredible that our transit system, in all of its mediocrity, is one of the most expensive in North America.
Ben / November 7, 2007 at 11:16 am
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I think that Queen should be car free between University and Spadina. After a few years when it has been declared a success, they can expand it from Yonge to Shaw, and so on.

Things would be a lot better for pedestrians, street cars, and cyclists. :)
Rick / November 7, 2007 at 11:27 am
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I'm with uptownguy.
And I take public transit from downtown to Markham everyday. Luckily I live near Yonge (a subway line) and work near Steeles (a major bus route.) Many don't.
Chris / November 7, 2007 at 11:48 am
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I live in Markham too (in fact, quite far north of Steeles) and have had to take a painfully long transit ride downtown before so I feel your pain and that's why I have no choice but to drive to a subway station and park. If I took all transit, my commute would be about 2+ hours. Anyway the fact of the matter is that expanding the transit system just doesn't make sense (yet).

The city itself is not densely populated enough to warrant any kind of subway or rapid transit expansion - I think they need to ramp up and <i>better</i> services to get people using the system (and becoming financially viable again) and then, and only then, can they attempt to <i>expand</i> routes and offer more service. It's a long road, but that'd get the ball rolling.
sookie / November 7, 2007 at 01:26 pm
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my two cents: rail expansion to the airport.
Jerrold / November 7, 2007 at 01:38 pm
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Allows taxis to drop off AND pick up at the airport.
Ben / November 7, 2007 at 02:31 pm
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I got a great idea (which I am sure many have thought of before) from this thread.

There should be tax breaks for people who live near work. Maybe there should also be tax increases for those who live very far away.
rek / November 7, 2007 at 02:50 pm
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I tried posting this earlier but the commenting system takes forever to finish...

Why do most vehicles have their exhaust pipe pointed at, or on the same side as, the nearest sidewalk?
Rick / November 7, 2007 at 04:55 pm
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"Maybe there should also be tax increases for those who live very far away."

What about those people who work downtown, but can't afford to live there? Should they be taxed more despite already not having enough money?
Brian Ross / November 8, 2007 at 09:22 am
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I live in Brampton because I get a deal on rent, but work at the 404 & 401 as I try to save enough to buy a condo (and thats just where my job happens to be).

If I drive, its 60-90 minutes and costs about $5-10 in gas each trip in my Civic (one of the lowest-emissions non-hybrid/electric vehicles, for the record). If I take transit, it takes 120-180 minutes across 3 transit systems and costs about $11 total each way.

I only go downtown once per week on Fri/Sat to visit friends, and it costs me a couple dollars in gas and $3 in parking (Green P night rate) for a round trip total of about $8-10. If I took transit, it'd cost a total of about $22 for the round trip.

We're not all selfish, SUV-driving sociopaths. Some of us are doing what we can and just can't value spending double or triple the time and cost just to think we're making a difference.

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