I was listening intently to the budget speech and I believe the government missed an opportunity to reduce government operating costs through the promotion of urban density.
Urban sprawl carries many costs that increase operating costs to all levels of government, but in particular the province.
• The province and municipalities will reduce costs for service provision as we move towards more compact communities.
For instance, out-patient health-care providers, social workers, transportation providers are now increasingly travelling further out to service clients under the current urban sprawl model.
If a service provider (e.g., social worker, health-care provider, policeman and so on) can attend two or three appointments within walking distance or short commuting distance by transit or even automobile this is a time saver and also a fuel cost saver.
• Also by freeing road capacity government will stop the vicious cycle of trying to catch up to the next subdivision (urban sprawl). This means existing road capacity is used more efficiently thus delaying or negating the need for further road investment for expansion.
Correspondingly, there will be measurable decreases in road maintenance and rehabilitation costs.
• Governments will also face the direct accident cost savings of decreased incidence of automobile accidents for those commuters that switch modes of travel, through decreased exposure. A tangible benefit measured in million 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.
• The chairman of Dofasco addressed a group of Grade 13 students, of which I was one, at Dofasco’s steel mill about 30 years ago at a management ground level training program.
He indicated as per a European model, lower operating and transportation costs for individuals is good business for Dofasco. This is why Dofasco encouraged higher density in Hamilton, Ont. It prevents transportation headaches, creates punctuality, and makes their pay go further.
Labour accessibility is good for manufacturing, but is also good for all segments of the economy.
Density is not a panacea, but it helps make workers’ pay go further in the face of cheaper production costs globally.
The government may want to keep this in mind when it faces negotiating labour contracts.