Saturday, June 11, 2005

What am I supposed to do on Clean Air Day?

On my way out of the city this week, I noticed an ad on the back of a bus that declared June 8 as “Clean Air Day”. The idea in itself was great, I (and every other Torontonian) was supposed to contribute to cleaner air by walking, taking transit, riding a bike, or any other means of reducing emissions. The part I missed on the ad was any motivator that would change my daily routine.
Unlike most advertisements that purport to improve my life by buying their product, there was nothing to buy (or even vote for!). What exactly is “Clean Air Day”? What special event was supposed to occur? To my dismay, NOTHING! There was nothing out of the ordinary on happening on “Clean Air Day” beyond a poster declaring it as such.
I am all for reducing emissions (I already take public transit out of good conscience rather than necessity) but I didn’t see why a poster declaring “Clean Air Day” should make anyone take transit who doesn’t already. If Toronto is dedicated to cleaning the air, then more needs to be done to encourage alternative forms of transportation beyond a billboard. Why not make public transit free on “Clean Air Day”? At least give people a carrot for ditching their leather interiors for the drab furnishings of a street car. Why not make an event out of “Clean Air Day”? Why are we making posters rather than taking action?
Sadly, the “Clean Air Day” poster is just another waste of money (likely taxpayers’) in a desperate attempt to reduce pollution in a city that sees more smog days than snow days in a year. Cleaning the air requires much more spending than a few coloured posters. Serious investments need to be made into public transit. Rather than spending billions of dollars on roads every year, the city would do itself a favour by taking all that money and putting it into the subway system. The roads we build only subsidize urban sprawl. By making housing developers pay for the currently subsidized roads, not only do we decrease urban sprawl (it becomes much more expensive to move to that country estate) but we also reduce the distance people drive to get to their downtown office jobs. With good urban planning, people can avoid driving altogether and take public transit.
Rather than make June 8 “Clean Air Day”, we would spend our money wiser if we made the 21st century “Clean Air Millennia”. When will people stop looking to short-term gimmicks to solve long-term problems? Cleaning the air is a problem that will take a long time to fix. A single day on the subway isn’t going to do it… besides, why should I take the subway?