What’s the Big Idea?

Work in Progress

By Ivan Morgan

So hear me out.

I wrote about this 20 years ago.

Back in the day I wrote about how expensive it was to operate a vehicle. My bills from then now look quaint. My kids laugh at my old bills, which at the time prompted ulcers. I told my youngest recently what my monthly mortgage payment was on the house she grew up in. “Jeez Dad, I pay more than that for my car!” Sheesh.

Cars haven’t gotten cheaper over the last two decades. The price of gas is soaring (11 more cents Tuesday), insurance rates climb every year. The infrastructure – roads, bridges, and such – are crumbling and no government seems to have much of an appetite for fixing them, and every year nothing is done the roads get worse and the price for repairs gets higher.

I am not loopy enough to call for the end of cars. Cars are deeply imbedded in our culture.  Most of us love our cars and the freedom that comes with them. We’d have to, given the expense.

My suggestion two decades ago was an electric train running from Harbour Grace, through all the Conception Bay communities up through CBS and Paradise and into town. Would it make sense? Most cities in Canada (and elsewhere) have them.

While we are still a small population, the last 25 years has seen the Avalon explode to almost 300,000 people. Is that a big enough population?

It’s a big idea. Is it a good idea? If any people should have learned of the dangers of big ideas, it’s us. We have always been suckers for people with big ideas. Over one hundred years ago the first railway bankrupted the place (well, not the owners). Most of us know the basics on the Churchill Falls project. It was a big idea – a terrific idea. Giving it to Quebec, not so much.

We are already bankrupt facing bills from the extension cord from Labrador for the next few decades. Muskrat Falls was a big idea. What we don’t need is another megaproject.

Unless … it made sense this time, and we could prove it was economically viable, and it would actually be a benefit for the average person. Sure, that would be a first, but stranger things have happened.

It could be cheaper for the average person to get around.

It would be hellish expensive to build, but some of the infrastructure already exists. The railbed is now used for recreation. No doubt there would be a racket if it was repurposed.  But it’s there.

Part of the Muskrat Falls disaster is we are all locked into paying for the electricity whether we use it or not (don’t get me started). Seeing we must pay for it anyway, would this be a good use?

Business is always saying they can’t find workers, but what they mean is they can’t find people to work for minimum wage. Study after study has shown a more mobile workforce is a boon to the economy. A transit system like this could provide better movement of labour. People could afford to work further away from their homes.

What about quality of life? How many commuters would prefer a nap on a warm train along the Shore to the white-knuckle stress of a blizzard on the Trans Canada or Veteran’s Memorial? 

It makes sense to me, but I am not in control of people’s tax dollars – you are.

I know this is a big idea “in your dreams” scenario, but one can dream, can’t one?

Imagine yourself reading The Shoreline on your way home on the train, looking up to watch the towns roll by.

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