Last weekend ended in Ontario with family day on Monday. As my wife and I do many family day weekends, we headed up to Ottawa to see our middle daughter, and her pets. It was a lovely weekend, with the highlight probably being a skate on the Rideau Canal, the world’s largest skating arena. The trip to Ottawa went markedly well, with even the trip through Toronto being pain free. The trip home was a bit of a different story.
There were many hold-ups and back-ups on the 401, Canada’s busiest highway. Undoubtedly this is due to the fact that most of the highway east of Toronto is the same size as it has been for many years, while the number of drivers increases without end. All it takes is one person’s flat tire to bring things to a halt, which thankfully was not crashing in any way – but frustrating all the same.
My wife and I mused about the state of affairs with car travel on the drive home. Cars are altogether convenient, affordable and (nearly) predictable. As long as this is the case, people will not convert to public transit. When public transit is cheaper than driving (and parking) a car; and when it is utterly predictable and convenient, people will make the switch. Alas, people will not give up their cars simply because cars are bad for the environment.
I have chosen to take the train to work two or three days a week. I don’t train on days when events after work mean the trip home would be quite a bit later than I want; and since I don’t pay for parking, and it is relatively cheap for me to drive; and the trip home is quicker than taking the train, I have to be quite deliberate in a decision to take what is reasonably convenient, affordable and predictable public transit.
Last Thursday I was waiting for a train that was 8 minutes late, and I kicked myself for not driving. But the train arrived. I took out my book as I took my seat, and as the train lulled me into that netherworld only accessible in the knowing that I need not worry about the next 20 minutes because they are in some else’s hand, I arrived at the place where I could say: “This is good.”
“This is good!” is, of course, a biblical phrase. God speaks it as creation’s contours slowly fall into place, as the light relates to the dome in the sky, and the sky relates to the ground separated from the waters, and all of these relate to plants and animals and humans and more. “This is good” is all about good relations, about being together. I experience a kind of being together, a conviviality on the train that I definitely do not experience on the 401, where we are buffered from one another by atomistic vehicles and speed. But conviviality will not persuade us to switch
At the end of the day, affordability, predictability and convenience will rule the ride.