A bus stop at night.

Attitudes toward urban lifestyles are rather hostile in Quebec City. Our mayor proved this point when exiting a recent electoral debate organized by the Chamber of Commerce of Quebec. The slip up: “I’m not sure that you could find 100 people who would dream of taking the bus.” In other words, who would be able to stand the smell of others, complete discomfort, several stops, and waiting outside in the rain… and all of this by choice? Or, would someone who does not take the bus be ready to do so?

This is something we often hear from people who have never known any other means of transportation aside from a car. Nevertheless, these remarks are unsettling when they come from an important figure in the public administration. It should be noted that the administration finances this system, whose supposed flaws have recently been brought to light. Making this declaration during election time ought to have steered future officials to do more in order to promote our public transportation network, and even making it a more attractive option, not the opposite.

Moreover, that’s what thousands of people have done through petitioning in order to make their presence known. Ordinary people who would like to go from point A to point B in comfort, quickly, without having to use their own vehicle. This petition was definitely signed by fans of public transportation, people who make the voluntary choice to not have a car, and also by those who think that the system responds to their specific needs. And this is where the mayor was mistaken. Finding 100 people who dream about it seems rather easy, but finding just as many people who do it is different. What’s more, faced with the success of the petition, the mayor said “I understand that they dream of having a better public transportation system. But I still don’t think that there are thousands of people who want to abandon their cars to take the bus.”

A bus in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

Until now, the people of Quebec City are proving him right. Aside from some urban dwellers dedicated to the cause, who takes the bus solely by choice? Who is ready to make the transition from dreaming about it to doing something in reality? For the majority of people, public transportation will always be a constraint, or a choice made by necessity. It will be that way until our societies move towards more ecological values that are less individualistic and materialistic.

It is considered constraining because it requires more time for the numerous paths and stops, and more flexibility in regards to time. Committing to public transportation also requires subsequent lifestyle choices such as reducing the radius of daily activities and living in more densely populated neighborhoods.

It is a necessity due to the cost of owning an automobile, the limits of our road network, and the tendency for people to build urban areas where wealth is concentrated. Through acting on these limiting factors, several cities have succeeded in overturning attitudes towards public transportation. Quebec City refuses to consider this option.

For those who are currently trying to pressure the city into investing in public transportation, I have this to say: Signing a petition will never carry the same weight as purchasing a monthly pass. You just have to make the effort.

How can public transportation be made more appealing? Are arguments about sustainability convincing enough to change attitudes about using public transportation?

Credits: Images and data linked to sources.

Original article, originally published in French, here.