Car-Free Day

09.21.03

Tomorrow, Montreal will be one of 954 cities around the world participating in car-free day. During off-peak hours, a core area of downtown will be closed to cars.

This is one of the dumbest ideas I’ve ever heard.

Okay, so the objective is to point out how dependant we are on our cars. We already know that . . . and most of us hate it!

You want us to get rid of our cars? Fine. Give us a real alternative.

In Montreal’s climate, walking or cycling is really only viable a few months a year. The metro doesn’t go west or north, and the buses only circulate locally and come every half-hour or hour.

City planners constantly complain about “urban sprawl”. In the meantime, people are forced to spread out from downtown cause – in case nobody’s noticed – there’s nowhere to live in the downtown core! Montreal is facing one of the most severe housing shortages in years, with prices for tiny one-bedroom apartments spiralling out of control.

The city’s growing, but the infrastructure hasn’t kept up. West-islanders don’t get a metro or decent buses because there’s no political incentive for any provincial government to make us promises. The commuter trains only run at rush hour and only straight downtown – they’re of no use for those of us who don’t work in that area. And have you ever tried to go out on a Saturday night and get home after midnight without a car?

Give us decent and convenient public transportation, and I – like many others – would be more than happy to get rid of my car and use it.

But no such decent public transit exists – at least not where I live. So I’m stuck taking the car, like it or not.

In the meantime, tomorrow’s road closures will only aggravate people trying to get where they need to be, and create traffic and parking nightmares that will augment, not reduce, pollution.

People who drive aren’t all greedy fat cats with SUVs trying to take over the road. We don’t all have love affairs with our cars. High gasoline prices, parking nightmares, and insurance and maintenance costs are certainly not our best friends.

But until there’s a real alternative, we’re gonna keep driving. And no token “car-free day” is going to have any effect other then pissing off a whole lotta people.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Eric 09.21.03 at 8:54 PM

They’re no shutting down the ENTIRE city, they’re just shutting down a few blocks in the core of downtown. In this area of the city, there are PLENTY of buses and the metro is easily accessible. It’s hardly the end of the world.

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2 segacs 09.21.03 at 9:25 PM

Nope. It’s not the end of the world – just a pointless annoyance that proves nothing.

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3 David H 09.22.03 at 5:16 AM

Its not hard to discourage car use while increasing the vitality of the public transit system. The trick is to hit the car drivers where it counts – the pocketbook.

Dump a $1 per litre tax on gas, use all that money to fund a better public transit system. Problem solved.

People will bitch that they have a “right” to drive cars, and that the tax is denying this right to the poor. This, as usual, just points out how most people are surprisingly unaware of the difference between a “right” and a “privilege”.

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4 Michael Demmons 09.22.03 at 7:28 PM

Sari,

I know you’re talking about MTL, but with the exception of the weather, you’ve described the hellhole that is Atlanta traffic to a “T!”

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5 segacs 09.22.03 at 8:58 PM

Michael, Montreal traffic is nowhere near as bad as most major North American cities.

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6 Jonny 09.23.03 at 7:27 PM

I used to like car-free days in Sydney when I used to ride my bike everywhere.

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7 segacs 09.23.03 at 10:38 PM

Hard to ride a bike everywhere in the wintertime . . . or even in the summer from the suburbs.

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8 .:crystal:. 11.23.03 at 10:41 PM

perhaps by eliminating car use in downtown montreal we will somehow also combat the growing problem of obesity among modern society?

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