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LETTER: What can we learn from this winter’s travel crisis?

From reader Keith Wiley…
A man and young boy who arrived on a Cathay Pacific flight from Hong Kong walk together at Vancouver International Airport, in Richmond, B.C., on Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2023. Photo: Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press

The headlines are grim after the continent-wide, extreme weather event this Christmas. This new event made travel a nightmare and in the U.S. arctic cold and blizzards followed a December heat wave and killed dozens.

Vancouver’s airport, and many airports across the country, became Christmas refugee zones for days. Blocked VIA Rail trains trapped riders for hours and hours. A bus rolled on an icy highway west of Kelowna killing four and injuring dozens.

On top of all the airline, train and bus tales of woe, thousands of people risked their lives driving in blizzards, stuck in ditches and some certainly dead and injured in weather-caused crashes.

After a year of extreme weather calamities, this latest jump south by the polar vortex has to teach us something about the climate emergency.

One of these lessons should be that the age of ultra-convenient travel continent-wide – or even just hundreds of kilometres in just a few hours – is a fossil-fuelled luxury our planet can’t afford.

Canada needs to rebuild a sustainable transportation system, moving away from fossil-fuelled jet airliners, and SUVs. But our federal and provincial governments are barely talking about the future of transportation.

Just like our housing disaster, with years of no major planning or public investment, our governments have no future vision for transportation.

A high-speed Halifax-to-Vancouver passenger rail corridor is an easy thing to visualize. Party members have called for a new public train project at many political conventions. Governments haven’t listened.

With an electric bus feeder system that connects people to the frequent high speed train, we can easily have a transportation structure that links our country affordably together.

Slower, safer, travel will be part of slower living and smelling the blooming roses in a beloved natural world.

Keith Wiley