Dysfunctional Transportation: The Doctor's Bill

  • Ten reasons why
  • Comments
  • There can be little doubt that the best way of gauging the seriousness of the mounting problems of our dysfunctional transportation arrangements -- hence the need for fast and effective remedies -- is not so much from a purely transportation lens, or public works, nor even that of "environment" or land use - though all these are of course critical components of the challenges we need to resolve. Rather, above all we should be prepared to look at this from a public health perspective. It is only from this vantage that we can begin to appreciate the full range and degrees of severity of the problems that we are, in fact, resolutely refusing to face.

    Impacts: Public health broadly defined - as it must be - is heavily impacted by the dysfunctional parts of our transportation arrangements in Toronto, and indeed in every city in the world. Here are ten broad areas in which these impacts are being felt, and which therefore should make it clear why this is a challenge that needs to be addressed immediately as a very high priority for the city and its region.

    Ten reasons why "Dysfunctional Transportation" is major public health threat for Toronto (and for your city)

    1. Time Pollution: This is the first thing that we all see and feel. As a result of our dysfunctional transportation arrangements, we are all spending far too much time stuck in traffic under present arrangements. This is taking away from the time we should be spending with our families, with our own personal development, with our neighbors, doing important work. The stress that is related to this significant time-deprivation does little to improve our health.

    2. Air pollution Clean air must be a priority for the health of our citizens and their children - and more than 50% of air pollution comes directly from the cars out there on our roads. (Closer to 75% for Toronto at present where the number of respiratory deaths due to road air pollution has been charted at 1800 for the last year alone. Look at the stats for your city. They have to be comparable if not worse.)

    3. Traffic Deaths and Injuries: We need to achieve major reductions in traffic deaths and injuries, most of which occur in or because of cars. We can do this if we chose to (and if you need a real world example check out the results of the French example of the past two years which have been sensational and entirely a function of political will and commitment form many levels of society).

    4. Destruction of urban form and quality of life: Roads and traffic are the life blood of a city, but too much of both threatens the city's livability in many ways.

    5. Climate Modification: Everybody needs to do their bit to cut back on global warming. Rather than decreasing emissions by grams each year to get us back to 1990 levels - itself a proposal so timid as to warrant deep soul searching, -- our cities, all of them, are steadily doing worse every year when you look at the bottom line (e.g. CO2 emissions resulting from increased traffic volumes). Moreover there is not end in sight. If we cannot somehow come up with something that is consequential and will get these basic trends back in line, it will just continue to get worse year after year and the planet, Canada and Toronto will all passively go to hell in a handbasket.

    6. Traffic noise is a public health problem too. And while we are at it there are also such intrusions as odors and light pollution, each of which eat away at the health of those who are directly inflicted.

    7. Life Styles: Promote healthier, more active life style. And in the process cut back on obesity for children and adults

    8. Economics: Indeed if we add up the annual cost to society of these, let us call them "transport dysfunctonalities" - and I will address them shortly - we have a very very large number which at the very least should get our fullest attention.

    9. Medical Resources: Puts unnecessary pressure on our hospitals and public health programs - crowding them with patients and problems who really should not be there, and taking from them scarce resources that are much needed for other uses).

    10. More costs: And finally, we need to find ways to get a lot more bang per buck for the huge amount of money we spend on transport (so that we can free it for more important uses such as education, health, culture and more)

    Does this bring us to the end of our list? Far from it, but working with this as a opening step, you will be able to take it much further for your own purposes.

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    -----Original Message----- From: Richard Katzev
    Sent: Tuesday, September 07, 2004 4:45 PM
    Subject: Comment on Public Health Summary for Toronto Summit

    Dear Eric:

    I have always thought the surest way to reduce driving would be to cite all the diseases it is linked to. Smoking cessation finally begin to take hold when the long list of diseases it was related to became apparent. That model might also be applicable to driving.

    Richard Katzev
    Public Policy Research (PPR) is located in Portland Oregon and conducts research on a broad range of social and environmental problems.

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