If British Columbia wants to get more drivers out of cars and using transit, bikes, and their own two feet, then they’re going to have to take the weather more seriously.
One of the primary reasons people own private cars – which are extremely expensive to buy, insure, fuel, and maintain – is that they are a reliable source of transportation. You can get into your car at midnight and just go somewhere. You can go to a park, where there’s no bus service, or straight to a friend’s driveway.
And, your car will still take you where you want to go when there’s a storm.
(It might take you straight into a ditch if you’re overconfident or have some rotten luck with black ice, but that’s another story.)
Every year, transit service takes a massive hit when B.C. is hit by winter storms.
It’s not just that buses are certain to see some delays, it’s also that the remainder of a trip becomes deeply unpleasant. Here in the usually warm and damp Lower Mainland, we’re often inept at handling simple duties like shovelling sidewalks and keeping crosswalks reasonably cleared of snow.
It isn’t just that getting around by bus may be more difficult, getting to and from the bus stop may be difficult or, for those with mobility issues or a child’s stroller to wrangle, outright impossible.
Likewise, walking to the store or taking a bike becomes a hazardous adventure, not for the faint of heart.
Getting people out of their cars is a laudable goal, but it’s one of the most difficult public policy challenges we face. Our cities were built around the use of the car. Retrofitting them to make buses, SkyTrain, walking, and cycling more attractive is going to be a decades-long endeavour.
And one big part of it is going to have to be more attention to snow, ice, and even heavy rains, and how those hold back non-car transportation.