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Traffic piles up on the Gardiner Expressway as commuters head home during the evening rush hour in Toronto on March 14, 2011. (Kevin Van Paassen/Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail)
Traffic piles up on the Gardiner Expressway as commuters head home during the evening rush hour in Toronto on March 14, 2011. (Kevin Van Paassen/Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail)

Road Sage

Is your commute a soul-extinguishing, rage-inducing slow death? Add to ...

A new report examining transportation and infrastructure was released last week. The Toronto Board of Trade's Scorecard on Prosperity 2011 is a benchmarking study that shows how Hogtown and other Canadian cities stack up when it comes to matters such as transportation, livability and growth.

Not surprisingly, commuting is tops in the bug-up-the-butt category. Out of 21 international cities surveyed, Toronto is the worst, with its maligned citizenry spending an average of 80 minutes roundtrip commuting per day. Montreal rings in at 76 minutes, Calgary and Vancouver average 67 minutes. Barcelona, meanwhile, boasts a mere 48-minute average commute, great food, splendid weather, interesting cinema and lots of good looking Spanish people.

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"Canada's largest urban centres are the principal source of our economic growth, prosperity and global competitiveness," the study's press release states. "The quality and availability of infrastructure directly affects where business locates and expands their operations. If employees and goods can't get to their destinations on time, productivity will be negatively impacted."

As far as report findings go, this is big news.

I always assumed that commuting was bad because it's a life-draining, soul-extinguishing, rage-inducing, socially-alienating, slow death. But I was wrong. It turns out commuting is bad because big business isn't making enough money off it.

All that time we spend sitting in our cars listening to podcasts could be time spent sitting in front of a computer making large multinational corporations money. Commuting is bad because it's hurting our "productivity" and "impactfully impacting" our owners' Prosperity 2011.

Like Paul, the world's first commuter, stuck behind a chariot on the road to Damascus, I've had a life-changing epiphany.

If money's the matter, maybe we are approaching the problem the wrong way. Perhaps the solution is to create longer commutes and develop connectivity that will allow drivers to instantly make purchases using their mobile hands-free devices. Stuck in traffic for five hours? Why not order a pizza or download an Easter-themed Angry Birds app (the birds hurl 30 silver coin-shaped eggs at a pig dressed up as Pontius Pilate).

And isn't it possible that we are being a little too hard on commuting? Analysts of the Prosperity 2011 noted that commuting caused "untold hours of lost family time and dollars of lost production." But aren't those the two elements people like best about commuting - that calm limbo between not being at home and not being at work. Is there a more optimistic feeling than the one you get in your car thinking, "Maybe work won't be too bad today?" or "Maybe they won't drive me crazy when I get home?" So, here's to you commuters! I say "Fill'er up - with denial."

Here are a few more commuting positives to be grateful for:

1) Keeps radio DJs employed (good if you are a DJ).

2) Helps you confront your mortality.

3) Great multi-use metaphor.

4) As a kid you always used to say, "When I grow up I want to be a commuter."

5) Allows you to catch up on your thinking about all the people you knew who are now dead.

6) Commute spelled backward is "regret."

7) You could be reading.

8) Chance to catch up on your texting.

Horsing Around

Oil is still more than $100 a barrel, right?

I ask because, while the cost of driving continues to rise, there are still diehard zealots out there who are hell-bent on burning it up no matter what the cost. Bugatti has the 16-cylinder four-wheel-drive Veyron (which produces 1,001 metric horsepower) and, not to be outdone, the Swedes recently unveiled the Koenigsegg Agera R - which can generate up to 1,115 horsepower. In Canada, we have the HTT Plethore LC-750, a robust vehicle - with 750 horsepower and a 7-litre V-8 engine - that costs $790,000.

Now, the Veyron and Agera cost a little more than a million each (more if you want bucket seats) and you can add to that sticker price the cost of actually driving them. The Agera, for instance, burns approximately 12.5 litres/100 km on the highway. In contrast, a Toyota Avalon averages 6.8 litres. Many wonder if there is a limit to the horsepower designers will put in super cars. Surely fuel prices will have some effect.

Doubtful. If you can afford a Bugatti Veyron, you not only don't worry about fuel costs; you don't know that fuel costs money. When you go to the gas station you simply pull up and hand the man what your butler calls a "credit card." That's the extent of your transaction. The bill goes to your accountant. So I predict that 2012 will see the release of a 1,300-hp car, followed in 2013 with the release of a super car that has so much horsepower it propels the driver into a peaceful mindset that is free from craving, anger and other afflicting states.

Put it this way: the people who drive Bugatti Veyrons are the same people who lie awake at night worried that your commuting is negatively impacting economic growth.

*****

Follow Andrew Clark on Twitter: @aclarkcomedy

 

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