Snow Day in Toronto Means Economic Slowdown

Snow Day Mosaic 1212 Shireen Jeejeebhoy 8 9 Feb 2013

They warned us. They began with a storm is coming, then day after day they increased the snow totals. First it was 5 to 10 cm, then maybe 10 to 15. Then a whopping 20 and even hints of up to 40, although on Thursday night when they could see how the two storms headed our way were converging, they dialled it back down to 30. Still, it was the biggest storm Toronto has seen in 5 years.

Many of us cancelled our plans for the day and stayed home. In winters past, when snow was common and blizzards known, when streets were cleared quickly and efficiently, we may have continued about our day. But in the 21st century, the city isn’t used to winter, doesn’t clear back lanes, doesn’t clear side streets until the storm is over, and couldn’t even get Queen Street East – a major artery that should have had a subway line built underneath it by now, safe from blizzards and wind storms -- cleared soon enough and well enough for the streetcars to be able to run. I saw lots of tweets on how the TTC got stuck on that busy route. In the 21st century, cars are built low to the road and so need, more than in previous decades, every alley, every side street to be cleared just so people can leave home. It doesn’t matter if main streets are plowed if you can’t get out of your block.

If public transit was up to the task, as it was until the Mike Harris government killed it over Toronto envy, it would have mattered less if you couldn’t leave home by car. People could have slogged through the snow to the nearest subway stop (very important it be a subway with buses and streetcars sliding and stopping and hitting things). But with so few lines, that’s an impossibility for many, many Torontonians. Our lack of public transit isn’t just a commuting nightmare, it also compounds the economic effect of storms, events that with climate change is apparently going to happen more and more often.

If the Prime Minister is so hot to trot on the economy, why on earth does he neglect one of the biggest drains on Canadian worker productivity: public transit? Maybe the Senate should make itself obviously relevant by making a ruckus on this issue.


Yes, it’s been awhile since I last blogged here. :( I have been blogging weekly on my website, and I hope to get back into it here.