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LETTER: Public transit, smaller vehicles are key

'Kenya taught me an early lesson – fuel economy matters when gas stations are scarce and widely scattered,' says letter writer
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MidlandToday welcomes letters to the editor at andrew@midlandtoday.ca. Please include your daytime phone number and address (for verification of authorship, not publication). The following letter is in response to a column about gas prices, published June 14, and a subsequent 'LETTER: When it comes to gas prices, size matters,' published June 15. 
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Dear Editor,

Patrick Kelly of Penetanguishene suggests that I do not know my geography because I compared the size of Kenya to that of Ontario.

Although Ontario is twice as large, well over 60 per cent of Ontario is only accessible by air. On the other hand, even 50 years ago, almost every corner of Kenya could be accessed by road.

Kenya taught me an early lesson – fuel economy matters when gas stations are scarce and widely scattered. I took that to heart and worked on my elderly Land Rover, boosting its fuel economy by a very useful 30 per cent. I have continued to prize fuel economy in my vehicles ever since – it’s a “no regrets” policy.

Over 80 per cent of Canada’s population lives within 100 kilometres of the U.S. border. Traffic density around Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver easily rivals that of many European countries. Unfortunately, we have systematically dismantled public transport. Greyhound is the most recent example. Meanwhile, most of Europe has expanded public transport, particularly rail. Great Britain is a notable exception.

For the record, I have travelled widely in Canada. I have driven from Montreal to Vancouver three times and taken the train once. I have also driven to the Maritimes twice. Doing these trips in a fuel-efficient vehicle simply enhances the experience.

I also sympathize with Lincoln Bayda’s frustration at Canada’s poor public transportation services. A quarter-century ago, I tried to interest our then-MPP in improving our GO train service by electrification. Not only were they uninterested, but Barrie’s GO train was cancelled for over a decade.

If we want to improve public transit, we need to tell our politicians, and we need to be willing pay the taxes required to get the job done. Apparently, this is a low priority for most voters.

It’s not clear what government, provincial or federal, can do to reduce the cost of housing. The Bank of Canada’s rising interest rate seems to be working. Time will tell...

Whatever type of vehicle you buy, you need to understand that four-wheel drive will add around 15 per cent to its fuel consumption.

The reason you believe you “need” it is simply due to dealer propaganda. They want to sell all-wheel drive because it increases the selling price and boosts profit.

Driving with confidence on the one to two days each year when driving conditions are poor saddles you with higher fuel consumption for the 363 to 364 days when the road is clear, but that’s your choice. Mine is to reduce speed instead.

As to your need to accommodate six passengers, that’s another story. Clearly you cannot squeeze six people in a small car. However, most of the vehicles overtaking me on the 400-series highway are large, SUVs or pickups, and the majority have just one person inside. I am certain not many are tradespeople who actually need the cargo capacity – it’s a matter of choice.

As to reducing fuel taxes, that wouldn’t come close to saving as much money as choosing a small car.

Furthermore, I and many others do not need the savings. Any relief should be directed to low-income people who do need it. The rest of us should prefer to see government spend the money on other things with lasting value, like public transport, road repair or other infrastructure.

Peter Bursztyn
Barrie

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