It’s not easy to predict how we will get around in 25 years, but it might be wise to plan for some “just in case” scenarios. For one, suppose gas costs 10-times what it does today? We can take steps to avoid the upheaval or just wait and see, hoping to adapt quickly when change occurs.
A quarter century from now, projections show a majority of commuters will still drive to work — thanks to decades of building car-friendly suburbs transit cannot adequately serve. Intensification will help some, but our urban form has largely been set.
When it comes to switching the fuel that powers our vehicles, the auto industry has resisted change — but the transit world is not much better. It’s true a bus can generally carry more people with less fuel, except modern cars are so efficient older buses look like pollution-mobiles in comparison.
Things might have been different. Toronto once had a modest electric trolleybus network, but the TTC let it fall into disrepair. The commission dumped its fleet of no-emission vehicles in the early 1990s and has since made a series of ill-advised decisions on alternate fuels. The TTC is back to buying diesel buses, but may try hybrid-electric models again — once reliable batteries are found.
Toronto residents who live near transit terminals are especially interested in quiet, fume-free buses. Alas, it seems current hybrids cannot simply run on battery instead of idling and a recent TTC test found some mechanical — and personnel — obstacles to turning buses off while in stations.
And let’s not forget the other major debate in fuelling vehicles — how the energy is produced. Every type has knocks against it. Even wind and solar power have their detractors. So unless you can bike or walk to your destination, there’s no easy answer to this commuting conundrum.