ENERGY SOLUTIONS: Stop-gap measures only delay traffic congestion

NANAIMO: Without transportation, life would grind to a halt, as it did here during the huge snowstorm of 1996-97.

Without transportation, life would grind to a halt, as it did here during the huge snowstorm of 1996-97.

So no surprise that last month’s energy article about ways we could become more intelligent, cost-effective and sustainable in our transportations options drew more comments (positive and negative) than any other article published in the six years since these articles began.

This high priority is also reflected in the outcome of a process Nanaimo held earlier this year.

It engaged in an open process for residents, business people, youth and all to determine the direction for our fair city.

Regardless of the segment of the population, all agreed that transportation was a high priority, and that changes needed to be made so as to improve the ability for people to move around using public modalities rather than to depend on the single-occupancy motor vehicle.

With increasing fuel prices, an aging population, stagnant or falling incomes for most, an unsustainable ferry system, a troubled railway, the expense to taxpayers to keep the current system going, and the need to get around safely, it is no wonder there is a clamour for change.

Many comments I received applauded what the article suggested. No surprise, as the article reflected the city’s conclusions. One caller suggested we build a uni-rail system above the existing railway.

However, three others advocated for a continuation of the existing car-centric system. They are not alone.

British Columbia now has the widest bridge in North America. While this is quite a feat, it will accomplish one principal thing: more individuals and companies will now opt to drive that highway because it has been freed up.

As anyone in the Toronto area knows, the traffic congestion will only return. Then what?

Getting people out of our cars is not easy.

A mother of two pre-teen children recently told me she walks her children whenever possible, using the family car only when really necessary.

The quality of her interactions is better, and they are more aware of their surroundings. Sadly her nine-year-old is now picking up the common belief that walking is only for “those” poor people, and so is protesting.

By the time those children are retiring the Earth’s supply of metals and other materials will be nearing exhaustion. It is past time we stop and smell the roses.

It is good that Nanaimo’s transportation master-plan is now available for public comment.


Ian Gartshore chairs the non-profit Energy Solutions for Vancouver Island.