We need to do a better job promoting transit, urban densification

Government savings can ultimately be had by more aggressively promoting mass transit

The announcements of investments by senior levels of government in the E&N rail and other transit systems will reduce government operating costs.

Recently an international network for public transport authorities estimated that in North America, the costs of trips as a proportion of the gross domestic product is 12.7 per cent, whereas in Hong Kong, Japan and Singapore it is only 5.4 per cent. The difference is a productive advantage for the Asian economies.

At the government level, transportation authorities are spending ever-increasing amounts of funds just to service the next subdivision.

Governments should not be in the business of promoting and financing urban sprawl, which increases operating costs to all levels of government, but particularly the province.

Encouraging mass transit and urban densification will entail the following cost implications:

Government will reduce costs for service provision as we move towards more compact communities.

For instance, out-patient health-care providers, social workers and transportation providers are now increasingly travelling farther to service clients. If a service provider can attend two or three appointments within walking distance, or commute a short distance by transit or even automobile, this is a time saver and also a fuel cost saver.

Existing road capacity is used more efficiently, thus delaying or negating the need for further road investments for expansion. This will help deliver our goods to the Far East markets more efficiently. Trucks stuck in traffic benefit nobody.

Correspondingly, there will be measurable decreases in road maintenance and rehabilitation costs.

Governments will also receive direct cost savings from decreased incidence of automobile accidents involving those commuters who switch modes of travel, through decreased exposure – a tangible benefit measured in millions of vehicle kilometres travelled.

Countries with the highest levels of walking and biking also have the lowest levels of obesity. This preventative measure is very important as our health-care costs are projected to increase exponentially.

Avi Ickovich