The conclusion of Glen Pearson’s moving speech delivered to the audience at the Wolf Performance Hall in London’s Central Library for City Symposium, where he describes the differences in engagement from voters in the Sudan and how Canadians would rather splinter than coalesce to tackle the big issues.
City Councillors Matt Brown and Paul Hubert cut the ribbon at the recently constructed Sarnia Road bridge in London, Ontario. The construction took nearly 8 months to finish to replace the century old single lane wooden bridge that spanned the railway in North West London between ward 7 and 8. The multi million dollar project allows traffic in both directions and feels much less like a bridge and more like the natural extension of Sarnia road between Wonderland and Hyde Park Road in London.
[singlepic id=204 w=1920 h= float=center]
When I heard that GM was opening the doors to the CAMI Ingersoll Plant I was excited to go. I've been through the Lexus Cambridge Assembly which builds the RX 350 since 2004 and the Coventry Jaguar plant which was closed a few years ago. This I thought would be a more maintream plant, a car for everyone built which the solidarity of unionized labour. Here is a brief introduction to what goes on in Ingersoll, Ontario, 30 minutes from London on highway 401 and 90 minutes from Toronto.
The tour started in the parking lot with a huge line up stretching from the gates to the plant all the way back to the end of the property. The line passed a GM Apparel vendor, and the OPP demonstrating their Roll Over Simulation.
CAMI builds the GMC Terrain and Chevy Equinox, but used to build the Suzuki XL7 and the Pontiac Torrent. The plant has the last Torrent and XL7 hoods on display as trophies of the past models.
We took a school bus from the main gate to one end of the factory. A Cami employee handed out safety glasses which were a mandatory style accessory while on the premises. We got a further safey briefing on the bus before being dropped off at the stamping press. Photography was forbidden but these shots were leaked.
The main stamping machine towers above you seemingly 10 stories tall, dropping dies onto the sheet metal at high force, pressing out more intricate details with each pass. These pieces are then passed to an army of welding robots which put all of the stampings together into subassemblies. Three or four sub assemblies welded up comprise a body structure. These body shells are then dipped and treated a number of times to ensure rust inhibition and adhearence of paint. Robots apply the paint evenly and then humans are tasked with inspecting for any flaws or defects. Any defects are recorded and addressed immediately on display screens so problems with the manufacturing process don't affect other vehicles
A hydraulic system raises the engine and drive train up to meet a painted body and then wheels and suspension are bolted in. The rolling chassis is then moved to the final assembly stages where the interior and trim is installed. These vehicles undergo a number of tests and adjustments before passing final quality control.
A production GMC Terrain comes off the line.
CAMI has provided vehicles to a number of emergency services, OPP, Security, and Fire.
|Production||August 10, 2009–present|
|Assembly||Ingersoll, Ontario, Canada|
|Class||Mid-size crossover SUV|
|Body style||4-door SUV|
|Layout||Front engine, front-wheel drive /four-wheel drive|
|Platform||GM Theta platform|
|Engine|| 2.4 L I4
3.0 L V6
|Wheelbase||112.5 in (2,858 mm)|
|Length||185.3 in (4,707 mm)|
|Width||72.8 in (1,849 mm)|
|Height||66.3 in (1,684 mm)|
ICBC offers services in Chinese and Punjabi: “The Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC) is now offering many of its key online services into Chinese and Punjabi, including how to get a driver’s license, how to insure a vehicle, and how to make a claim.
We’ve seen what other companies have in store for our automotive future, and now Audi’s given us a glimpse of what we can expect from its car of tomorrow. The company’s Silicon Valley research lab have teamed up with four universities here in the US to develop technologies that will give city drivers the full KITT treatment — vehicles that recognize the driver (and his or her preferences) and can detect and avoid dangers and traffic delays. Called the Audi Urban Intelligence Assist initiative, each participating university has a specific area of urban mobility research ranging from urban crash analysis to aggregating historical and real-time traffic, parking, and pedestrian data in cities. The schools will also study how best to deliver relevant information to drivers and get them from point A to point B as easily and efficiently as possible. Looks like the groundwork is being laid for a German counterpart to GM’s EN-V we test drove in Vegas, and we look forward to the fruits of their labor. Ich bin ein Ingolstädter!
You’ve heard it a thousand times from the highway lobby: Roads pay for themselves through “user fees” — a.k.a. gas taxes and tolls — whereas transit is a drain on the taxpayer. They use this argument to push for new roads, instead of transit, as fiscally prudent investments.
The myth of the self-financed road meets its match today in the form of a new report from the U.S. Public Interest Research Group: “Do Roads Pay For Themselves?” The answer is a resounding “no.” All told, the authors calculate that road construction has sucked $600 billion out of America’s public purse since the dawn of the interstate system.
The Myth of the User Fee
First, let’s dispense with the idea that the gas tax – the primary source of financing for federal transportation projects – is a user fee.
“If you go to a state park and pay the fee to get in there, that’s a user fee,” report author Dan Smith, U.S. PIRG’s transportation associate, told Streetsblog. “If you’re driving down the road and you have to pay the toll for driving on that specific road, that’s a user fee.”
But people also pay gas taxes to fill up their lawnmowers. And those lawnmowers don’t usually end up on the highway. Just because you fill your tank doesn’t mean you ever drive on the roads funded by the gas tax you pay.
Then there’s the huge contradiction underpinning the core arguments for highway expansion. Do new roads cut congestion, or do they “pay for themselves”? Highway lobbyists try to have it both ways, but the truth is that neither of these propositions hold water.
Highway expansions are often justified as projects that relieve traffic and, believe it or not, reduce pollution. So if a highway widening achieved its stated aims, it would cut congestion and fuel consumption, which would mean fewer gas tax dollars and roads that don’t pay for even a fraction of their construction costs. However, we know that new highway capacity doesn’t actually reduce driving – it induces more driving.
The additional traffic created by expanding highways does generate more gas tax revenue, but still not enough to come close to covering the costs of new roads.
U.S. PIRG cites the Pew Charitable Trusts’ SubsidyScope project, which found that “user fees paid for only 51 percent of highway costs, down 10 percent over the course of a single decade.”
Even if gas taxes were the direct user payment they’re made out to be, no one seems to have much appetite for making sure they actually pay for the infrastructure needs in this country. Gas taxes haven’t risen to accommodate more fuel efficient cars or even for plain old inflation. Nor have they compensated for the fact that driving is declining, meaning less gas consumption (but, puzzlingly, not less road-building).
The federal gas tax hasn’t gone up since 1993.
The Highway Funding System as a Subsidy for Driving
The argument that drivers pay for roads might be somewhat more credible if they weren’t taking money away from other public funding streams. Gasoline is exempt from sales taxes in 37 states and the District of Columbia. So rather than paying into the general revenues for the state, motorists are paying into an already narrowly prescribed pot of funding, which highway advocates want to see prescribed even more narrowly to exclude transit and bike/pedestrian projects.
In New Jersey, the savings on the sales tax exceeds the gas tax drivers have to pay. In that way, the government actually provides a financial incentive to purchase gas and drive. And since gas taxes are fixed and sales taxes are percentages of the purchase price, more and more states could end up with this perverse subsidy as gas prices rise.
What About Tolls?
Tolls are, indeed, an honest-to-goodness user fee, charging drivers directly for the road they’re driving on. But the overwhelming majority of roads are not funded by tolls. Local streets don’t have tolls. Rural highways don’t often have them. And tolls don’t come close to covering the costs of roads. According to U.S. PIRG, “In the 1950s, experts estimated that no more than 9,000 miles of highway (compared with the more than 3 million miles of highway in existence at that time) could support themselves with tolls.”
The report goes into ancient history (the Hoover administration), investigating the original intent of the gas tax at both the state and federal levels, and debunking the myth that they were always intended to pay only for highways. Indeed, federal gas taxes originated in the 1930s and were dedicated exclusively for highways only for a 17-year period, starting in 1956, covering the construction of the interstate highway system. Since 1973, the gas tax has been used for a variety of transportation programs and has even been used, on occasion, to pay down the deficit.
And now the obvious: You can’t measure all the costs of driving with the price of asphalt. The U.S. PIRG report gives a laundry list of external costs associated with driving, including:
- Changes in the risk of accidents, including injuries to non-drivers and damages to property.
- Environmental and public health impacts, including smog, greenhouse gases, water pollution from highway runoff, and the impacts on wildlife and outdoor enthusiasts.
- National security and economic implications of protecting access to foreign oil.
- Increased pressure on those without cars.
- Quality of life and the impact of roads on active transportation, such as walking and biking.
- Car-centric development patterns, sprawl, and the resulting infrastructure costs for the expansion of water, sewer, and other services.
The report cites one study that finds that, just to pay for roads, user fees need to be 20 to 70 cents higher, and another study that finds that, to pay for external costs like these, we’d have to add another $2.10 a gallon.
The Cost of the Myths
“Road advocates use these myths about the gas tax being this user fee and that highways pay for themselves to get preferential treatment, and to get a larger chunk of the dedicated fund,” says Smith of U.S. PIRG. “Advocates of any type of policy would like a dedicated fund, because it is a stable source of funding.”
The myths associated with road financing put all other forms of transportation at a disadvantage, said Smith. “Conservatives say all other transit is social policy and should come from the general fund.”
With a Republican majority in the House, the myth that roads pay for themselves will be again be enlisted to prioritize highways over transit, as the GOP begins shaping a transportation agenda around “getting back to basics” and cutting spending, especially for transit.
“We want to make sure that those falsehoods are not a part of this debate,” said Smith. “People will think twice before saying roads pay for themselves when the numbers say they don’t.”
I just got back from seeing Doug Ferguson, candidate for liberal MP London West, at Crossings on Hyde Park road in London. My first visit to Crossings with my mom last month was not the top notch dining experience I hoped but the place has been jammed every night since it opened. Doug was named president of the Liberal Party of Canada in 2008 and since Crossings is around the corner and my Bachelor of Arts does say Political Sciences on it, I thought I should check it out.
I showed up 2 hours after it had started and the conversation had winded down. He filled a room with about 30 people. mainly from the Liberal party it seemed. I ran into Carol, who works in Chris Bentley’s MPP office and ran into old USC at UWO Vice Pres Josh Morgan who I correctly identified as having served in 2003. I miss school!
Doug and Carol said they had been discussing high speed rail, the economy, Afghanistan, and much more. Next time I’ll try to be there more promptly. I grilled Carol on a few policy items like minimum wages and I could tell I was being over bearing. Josh and I had a great chat about cars and investments. He’s been busy as a board member for the Western Fair and the London Public Library. He said he had ran Matt Brown’s campaign in the October municipal election in London where Matt had won by a landslide. Good job Josh!
Check out more about Doug Ferguson.