Jump to content

Is the modern urban infrastructure unfriendly towards the poor?


Machjo

Recommended Posts

A hundred years ago, when the average level of wealth was lower than today's, most people could not afford cars. As a result, most lived near work, near a subway line or tram line, or walked or cycled to work. The lower incomes meant not only lower personal disposable income, but less government revenue too. As a result of that, governments could not afford to build or maintain suburban infrastructure. You either lived in the city or in the country. And with more people walking or cycling to work, less money was needed for road construction. And with more people making use of trams, subways, etc., government did not need to subsidize the public transportation system as much since the free market supply and demand took care of that. essentially, if you could not afford a car, you were in good company, and the urban environment had evolved accordingly, thus making life quite comfortable for those who could not afford a car.

As our overall level of wealth increased, more people bought cars. And as government revenue increased owing to our increased wealth, governments responded by building the modern suburbs. This changed the face of the urban landscape drastically. Gradually, governments transformed our urban infrastructure into more car-friendly environments, making life easier for those who could afford and wanted cars, forcing those who could afford but did not want a car as a lifestyle choice to have to make tough decisions as the urban environment became ever less friendly towards them, and forcing those who could not afford a car into a bind.

We often express contempt for the modern poor who might not be able to afford a car, and often look to the 'good old days' when 'people pulled themselves up by their bootstraps and took a job, any job'. What we forget though, is that the urban infrastructure of those 'good old days' was much more accommodating to the poor than the urban infrastructure of today. To some degree, the modern urban infrastructure, built for a higher level of wealth, essentially makes the poor more dependent on the government than they would have been a hundred years ago in a somewhat more accommodating urban environment.

So my question to those who compare the circumstances of the modern poor to those of a hundred years ago with contempt: Are you prepared to sacrifice the modern conveniences of a suburban infrastructure built for your car so that those who can't afford a car could live like the average person did a hundred years ago in exchange for society not having to help them as much anymore? Are you prepared to go back to those 'good old days' when we all had to choose between city and country, with only the upper class being able to afford to buy a car and live in the suburbs?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Replies 53
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

Personally, I'd be all for government putting a stop to any further suburban development, not only at the local level, but perhaps even in provincial or even federal law. This would save taxpayers money too by the way in not having to pay for as much road construction and maintenance, not to mention electrical, telephone, sewer, and other systems having to drag out for miles outside the urban core.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

So my question to those who compare the circumstances of the modern poor to those of a hundred years ago with contempt: Are you prepared to sacrifice the modern conveniences of a suburban infrastructure built for your car so that those who can't afford a car could live like the average person did a hundred years ago in exchange for society not having to help them as much anymore?

No I'm not prepared for that and you don't even make sense. A hundred years ago those same poor would have probably spent more time hungry and in the cold than they do now. They still live in the city now and today they have bus service instead of having to walk everywhere. Relative to a poor person 100 years ago, things are better for them.

Personally, I'd be all for government putting a stop to any further suburban development, not only at the local level, but perhaps even in provincial or even federal law. This would save taxpayers money too by the way in not having to pay for as much road construction and maintenance, not to mention electrical, telephone, sewer, and other systems having to drag out for miles outside the urban core.

Yeah totally.... :rolleyes: It's all the fault of the suburbs. Damn all those greedy hard working people who made a living for themselves and pay their taxes so that today's poor can be looked after.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

No I'm not prepared for that and you don't even make sense. A hundred years ago those same poor would have probably spent more time hungry and in the cold than they do now. They still live in the city now and today they have bus service instead of having to walk everywhere. Relative to a poor person 100 years ago, things are better for them.
Agreed.
Yeah totally.... :rolleyes: It's all the fault of the suburbs. Damn all those greedy hard working people who made a living for themselves and pay their taxes so that today's poor can be looked after.
Something, too often overlooked. It is those people who bear a great share of the burden.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

No I'm not prepared for that and you don't even make sense. A hundred years ago those same poor would have probably spent more time hungry and in the cold than they do now. They still live in the city now and today they have bus service instead of having to walk everywhere. Relative to a poor person 100 years ago, things are better for them.

Yeah totally.... :rolleyes: It's all the fault of the suburbs. Damn all those greedy hard working people who made a living for themselves and pay their taxes so that today's poor can be looked after.

I think you misunderstood me here. I do agree that overall the poor a hundred years ago had it harder than the poor today. The point I was trying to make was that those who suggest we just cut welfare altogether neglect to consider that, while the poor of today are better off than their counterparts of a century ago thanks to social assistance, if it weren't for social assistance, they'd be even worse off. After all, while the poor a hundred years ago had to walk a mile to get to work, many today would have to walk 20.

Essentially, my challenge to those who want to cut welfare altogether is to think about how our urban infrastructure is itself designed around our modern conveniences for those who can afford it. Had welfare never come into being, we'd likely find an urban core today with walkways and bicycle path replacing roads in at least some part of town, and that would have been a good thing. Seeing that that is not the case, before we could just cut welfare, we'd first have to restructure at least parts of the urban environment to make it possible to cut welfare.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think you misunderstood me here. I do agree that overall the poor a hundred years ago had it harder than the poor today. The point I was trying to make was that those who suggest we just cut welfare altogether neglect to consider that, while the poor of today are better off than their counterparts of a century ago thanks to social assistance, if it weren't for social assistance, they'd be even worse off. After all, while the poor a hundred years ago had to walk a mile to get to work, many today would have to walk 20.

I don't really think there was ever much question about that. Anyone who's saying we should just cut off welfare outright is suggesting thousands starve and freeze to death. It does not, however, have a whole lot to do with the suburbs but rather with society completely reinventing itself over the last century.

Essentially, my challenge to those who want to cut welfare altogether is to think about how our urban infrastructure is itself designed around our modern conveniences for those who can afford it. Had welfare never come into being, we'd likely find an urban core today with walkways and bicycle path replacing roads in at least some part of town, and that would have been a good thing. Seeing that that is not the case, before we could just cut welfare, we'd first have to restructure at least parts of the urban environment to make it possible to cut welfare.

Your challenge is pretty pointless though. Had welfare never come to be, we'd have less slums and more people either dead or starving. Welfare wasn't our ticket to expand our urban centres and sprawl all over the continent. Simple want and desire was.

Not paying welfare, if anything, would have the double effect of freeing up a lot of money for further urban infrastructure and also removing a lot of poor votes from politics. Homeless people don't have a strong voter turnout. Less poor votes shifts the political centre to the right which promotes even more urban growth.

I suggest you re think what you're saying here.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

You do have a point there Moonbox, and I don't necessarily support cutting all help to the poor myself. My main point though was hoew we can't really compare today with a hundred years ago. The very structure of our cities and highway systems today makes it more difficult for those without cars compared to a hundred years ago. To some degree, we can say the very physical infrastrucutre of our cities reflects our values.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

You do have a point there Moonbox, and I don't necessarily support cutting all help to the poor myself. My main point though was hoew we can't really compare today with a hundred years ago. The very structure of our cities and highway systems today makes it more difficult for those without cars compared to a hundred years ago. To some degree, we can say the very physical infrastrucutre of our cities reflects our values.

I dunno, I WAS poor, and all that meant was that I looked for work near where I lived - and worked for housing near where I worked - and always with an eye on transit. I doubt it's a lot different now, or do you think the poor look for work or housing down in Stittsville or Russel?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I dunno, I WAS poor, and all that meant was that I looked for work near where I lived - and worked for housing near where I worked - and always with an eye on transit. I doubt it's a lot different now, or do you think the poor look for work or housing down in Stittsville or Russel?

I don't know. When I lived in Montreal, I found its public transit infrastructure to be quite efficient, so efficient in fact that not only did I not need a car, but seldom even needed public transport, with nearly all I needed within walking distance. At that time I was starting out, wasn't particularly rich, but found the system quite satisfactory. Add to that that since Montreal has a few business districts spread across the city, it's easy enough to find a good job near where you work. I can add too that though I was not particularly rich then, the borough I was living in had quite a range of social classes, from rich to poor, so even as I accumulated more wealth, I didn't mind staying in the same borough and just move to a better home.

Then I moved to Ottawa to be closer to family. In Ottawa though, public transport is not as impressive and the city is much more sprawled out. Add to that, that it doesn't make much effort to try to spread business around, so most of the business is downtown while most of the residential neighbourhoods are in the suburbs. This also results in inner city neighbourhoods being neglected, so they really are reserved for the poor. So I decided to move into the suburbs and buy a car and now work downtown. It's a shame though because I miss the lifestyle in Montreal, where essentially a 'poor' borough was not necessarily a slum. OK, I'm exaggerating a little and indeed Montreal has its slums, but my point is that there are plenty of 'poor' eighbourhoods that are not far from middle class ones, and quite integrated with them too. Here in Ottawa, I live in Orleans, which is essentially wall to wall middle class, with neither rich nor poor, or not many of them anyway. The rich live on the other end of town and the poor downtown. There really is little sense of community, mainly because of the overall urban planning.

When I moved to Ottawa, I wasn't so poor anymore, so honestly don't know for sure what it must be like to be poor in Ottawa, but I can't imagine it's very pleasant. Based on a quick glance at the city, I'm happy I was poor in Montreal and not Ottawa. I just ca't imagine living without a car in Ottawa. And in this sense, I'd say that Montreal is much more community oriented and 'poor'-friendly than Ottawa.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think it's more interesting to consider what will happen when oil prices go through the roof again once this recession is over.

What's the red line for oil prices that makes the suburban lifestyle unaffordable for most of its residents?

How long will it take once that line has been crossed for the value of all those homes to start dropping?

What will happen to society when a large segment of the country looses all their savings they've built up over their lives because their house is worth half of what it was when they bought it? Or even less?

I personally think re-engineering suburbia should be a national project - the future of our country may depend on it.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I understand what you're saying Machjo, I simply don't agree with it.

It's not at all the urban infrastructure that makes life hard for the poor. If anything, it helps them. Public transit, however meagre it might be, allows the poor to find work further away than usual.

100 years ago you couldn't work anywhere that was outside of walking distance. Today you can. Sure the areas are more spread out, but it's easier to move around now. In 1910 if you were poor and you couldn't find a job within walking distance you were screwed.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi Moonbox

I understand what you're saying Machjo, I simply don't agree with it.

It's not at all the urban infrastructure that makes life hard for the poor. If anything, it helps them. Public transit, however meagre it might be, allows the poor to find work further away than usual.

100 years ago you couldn't work anywhere that was outside of walking distance. Today you can. Sure the areas are more spread out, but it's easier to move around now. In 1910 if you were poor and you couldn't find a job within walking distance you were screwed.

While I agree with the gist of your post about civic services for the poor, my 'transit fan' side feels it necessary to nitpick about your assertions on 1909's transit systems.

|

Sorry, mate:

Past transit operators

Private

* Williams Omnibus Bus Line - 1849-1861

* Metropolitan Street Railway of Toronto 1877-1897

* Toronto Street Railways - 1861-1891

* Toronto Railway Company - 1891-1921

* Toronto Suburban Railway - 1894-1921

* Toronto and York Radial Railway - 1904-1921

Public

* Toronto Civic Railways - 1913-1921

* Toronto Transportation Commission - 1921-1954

* North Yonge Railways - radial railway operated by the TTC from 1927-1930

Wikipedia TTC Page

Link to comment
Share on other sites

A hundred years ago, when the average level of wealth was lower than today's, most people could not afford cars.

Most people had never seen a car either...

As a result, most lived near work, near a subway line or tram line, or walked or cycled to work

In 1909 the number of subway systems could be counted on 1/2 of one hand.

Edited by M.Dancer
Link to comment
Share on other sites

What a shocking realization! Hard to believe that a society founded more than a century ago suffers from some form of urban infrastructure issues.

I really hate to burst some bubbles out there, but the current city planning trends are out to lunch. Very nearly every city has a different slant and spin on what it is that they need/want/desire the various levels of government to do for them. The cold hard truth is that these cities are falling apart piece by piece. They were designed originally around the transportation systems available, rivers and lakes. The tried to adapt to railroads and then to automobiles. It is a sad case of forced and failed adaptation.

The most cost effective solution is one in which entirely NEW cities are designed and built according to functional designs with built in growth and development plans.

Forget the old, let them fend for themselves.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

No matter the cost of petrol many people prefer to live in the outskirts and always will. There's a higher standard of living which is what we're after. The traditional suburbs of Toronto, Peel, Durham and York Regions are becoming very crowded and more and more city like so people are moving even further out to places like Halton Region but this too is being built up so I can only assume that it will spread out again once it gets even more crowded out here for example that people will once again move away.

I've mentioned this many times before on this board and many people try to say it isn't true but new home construction would paint another story altogether. We used to have our house in Georgetown but since they've been building for the last ten years it's lost it's small town feel and we've since left a few years ago to be further out. As the people buying these new houses largely come from Toronto but they bring their Toronto ideals and lifestyle with them which we don't like or agree with so we leave.

This will never stop. No matter how much government tells us we need to get along with these people many refuse and just move since it's now pretty much illegal to decide who you'll sell your house to. We aren't allowed to filter who we let into our neighborhoods so many just sell and leave.

Poor people bring crime, drugs and prostitution we don't like that and want to protect our children from such ills of society.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Poor people bring crime, drugs and prostitution we don't like that and want to protect our children from such ills of society.
You have the blinders on. Drugs are of significant proportions in rural communities. Where do you think the illegal drugs come from anyways? Lots of homegrown operations in farming communities. Prostitution? Some of the best destinations for Prostitution and peeler bars are in rural communities in villages under 100 people. Crime? Yeah, while I never locked my doors, I can assure you that criminal activity in rural communities exists. ATVs and Snowmachine theft runs rampant. B&Es is regular and violence per capita is higher.

The only difference between the city and the country with regards to crime is the travel distance. Just means in the country you steal a vehicle to start your spree.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

You have the blinders on. Drugs are of significant proportions in rural communities. Where do you think the illegal drugs come from anyways?

The only difference between the city and the country with regards to crime is the travel distance. Just means in the country you steal a vehicle to start your spree.

Per capita there is more crime in the burbs than in the big city. If you look at youth crime I believe there is a huge jump as suburan kids are bored and there are less police to worry about.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

You have the blinders on. Drugs are of significant proportions in rural communities. Where do you think the illegal drugs come from anyways? Lots of homegrown operations in farming communities. Prostitution? Some of the best destinations for Prostitution and peeler bars are in rural communities in villages under 100 people. Crime? Yeah, while I never locked my doors, I can assure you that criminal activity in rural communities exists. ATVs and Snowmachine theft runs rampant. B&Es is regular and violence per capita is higher.

The only difference between the city and the country with regards to crime is the travel distance. Just means in the country you steal a vehicle to start your spree.

The big difference between crime in urban centres and crime in smaller communities is this. There tends to be more violent crime against people, robbery, muggings etc while crime in the outer areas tends to be more property crimes.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

:rolleyes:

I doubt it lol

There's quite a lot of money locked up in suburban real estate and infastructure - and none of it will be worth anything in a world of $200 a barrel oil, which is where we're headed pretty soon.

That loss could greatly destabilize our economy, and even society - as folks who've worked their way up to being middle or upper class are plunged back down after they thought they "made it" - not a situation I'd like to be in.

But please. go on . . .

Edited by JB Globe
Link to comment
Share on other sites

No matter the cost of petrol many people prefer to live in the outskirts and always will.

As said elsewhere - if this were true, there wouldn't be 2.5 million people living in Toronto, especially when they can get cheaper housing in the 905.

SOME people like living in the outskirts would be more accurate.

There's a higher standard of living which is what we're after.

I fail to see how one's standard of living suffers if you move downtown. If anything you just have a standard of living that isn't better or worse in any sort of quantifiable sense - you just live in a different manner.

The traditional suburbs of Toronto, Peel, Durham and York Regions are becoming very crowded and more and more city like

Because they have finally realized that sub-division property taxes can't support sub-division infrastructure. They need to intensify or face a tough choice between going bankrupt or crumbling and inadequate infrastructure.

The suburban model of the last half century is just NOT sustainable. We built our way into the problem, now we need to re-think and build our way out.

No matter how much government tells us we need to get along with these people many refuse and just move since it's now pretty much illegal to decide who you'll sell your house to. We aren't allowed to filter who we let into our neighborhoods so many just sell and leave.

So when you want to keep non-whites and non-Christians out of your neighourhood, what do you call it? Because when brown folks do the same thing, you call it an ethnic ghetto, and you don't like it one bit.

Poor people bring crime, drugs and prostitution we don't like that and want to protect our children from such ills of society.

People who can afford to buy homes, especially new suburban homes, are generally not poor. So I fail to see where "poor people bring crime" comes into this.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Per capita there is more crime in the burbs than in the big city. If you look at youth crime I believe there is a huge jump as suburan kids are bored and there are less police to worry about.

Add to that that in a high-density area, it's hard to commit a crime unnoticed while there are people everywhere. I remember one documentary a few years ago pointing out that the suburb is the perfect crime destination. In the country, many work at or near home. In the city, there are people everywhere. The suburb are practically ghost towns on weekdays in the daytime. It's perfect for those trying to escape prying eyes. In fact, mid-day is the best time of day for them.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Unfortunately, your content contains terms that we do not allow. Please edit your content to remove the highlighted words below.
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


  • Tell a friend

    Love Repolitics.com - Political Discussion Forums? Tell a friend!
  • Member Statistics

    • Total Members
      10,745
    • Most Online
      1,403

    Newest Member
    historyradio.org
    Joined
  • Recent Achievements

    • CDN1 went up a rank
      Rookie
    • User went up a rank
      Experienced
    • exPS went up a rank
      Contributor
    • DUI_Offender earned a badge
      Very Popular
    • exPS went up a rank
      Explorer
  • Recently Browsing

    • No registered users viewing this page.
×
×
  • Create New...