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I challenge the Waterloo Region Record to step up and show its corporate social responsibility on transportation issues.

Full details follow but first why I have decided to make this new challenge.

Some progress

I have noticed a difference in the Waterloo Region Record’s coverage of transportation issues over the past few months. It appears to me that Jeff Outhit is no longer doing double duty as both transportation reporter and columnist. A definite step in the right direction.

The road ahead requires cars

Outhit continues to write his weekly column anchored prominently to the front of the local section every Saturday. Here are some of my favourite quotes from his recent columns.

It’s always neat to visit a great city where walking makes more sense than driving.

May 5, 2012

In this column, he infers that there are no spaces in Waterloo Region where it makes more sense to walk than drive.

My sense is people ride bicycles for fun and exercise. Often they choose trails or quiet streets where they do not have to contend with traffic.

Politicians want us to use bicycles differently, to ride them to work and to run errands.

I can think of several reasons why residents are unlikely to embrace this kind of cycling. Weather and suburban form work against it. Also, some people feel unsafe cycling on busier or faster streets that are best-suited for commuting and errands.

And later…

My guess is residents will continue to resist commuting by bicycle even as politicians separate lanes. That said, keeping bikes and cars apart improves safety more effectively than lectures about the need to share the road.

May 12, 2012

In short, he doesn’t want to ride a bike to work and can’t understand why anyone else would. But more importantly, he doesn’t want to share the road with cyclists or be lectured that he should share his road.

I’m going to tell you why it’s smart to merge late.

And later…

Late merging makes more sense to me but I admit it takes more nerve than I often have. [Note: He means even if there is a line of cars already on the highway.]

May 18, 2012

Even as a driver, he looks out for his interests first. I’m not sure where he gets the idea that the merge lane is meant to be extra capacity and that people using it have some sort of priority over people already on the highway and get to pass those cars. I always understood it was for accelerating up to highway speed in which case a later merge is smart–if it is possible.

Here’s what I suspect is happening: As Grand River Transit adds buses and routes, it’s providing for the most part more rides for the same non-drivers always inclined to take the bus, that is students and people who struggle to afford cars.

June 2, 2012

Here, he relies on the perceived reliability of numbers to reinforce his preconceived argument and reinforce the stereotype that buses are only for people who have no choice. If he wants numbers, I understand there are some more recent numbers available that show that the change he says isn’t occurring is.

Responses to Outhit’s columns

I am not alone in having trouble swalling Outhit’s columns. Here are a couple responses I particularly appreciated reading.

Reissuing the Jeff Outhit Challenge

I found myself frustrated that Outhit continues to pursue his narrow agenda when I had challenged him to experience life without his own car so I reissued my challenge to him in a letter to the editor that I submitted on the weekend.

I have not been contacted to confirm that I wrote the letter so I assume they have no intention of printing it.

Here is the letter the Record doesn’t want you to read

How is the Record’s transportation columnist Jeff Outhit marking Commuter Challenge week?

Will he finally accept my challenge to live without his car for 30 days? A challenge that I made on my blog Perspectives from King and Ottawa and has been co-signed by 45 people.

Jeff can car pool, use carshare, use his wife’s car when she isn’t using it, he can walk, run, cycle or take public transit. He can choose any form of transportation he likes. He can use a unicycle or rollerblade if he wants but his own car stays parked for 30 days.

In recent columns he infers that Waterloo Region isn’t as walkable enough, that he believes cycling is only for leisure purposes and cars shouldn’t have to share the road with cyclists and concludes that buses are only used by people who can’t afford a car.

How would he know? Apparently, his only perspective is from behind the wheel of his car. Even if he is right, the days of everyone owning and driving their own car are numbered.

I think Jeff Outhit could benefit from some firsthand experience using a variety of modes of transportation. Don’t you?

Using a mix of transportation choices is the way of the future. Accept the challenge Jeff!

Maybe I should give up on my challenge to introduce Jeff Outhit to a new perspective and way of thinking?

My challenge  to the Waterloo Region Record

I think it’s better to turn my attention to the Waterloo Region Record which as a good corporate citizen has a responsibility to the community it serves.

I’m still not sure why the Record has a weekly column on transportation issues–especially one written by someone who can only write from the perspective of someone who relies solely on his own car for transportation.

Why don’t we have a weekly column with a dedicated space on municipal affairs? Or development issues? Or social issues such as poverty?

But that’s the Record’s decision.

The Record also decided to decline to assign my challenge to its transportation columnist.

Those are editorial decisions that they are free to make. But what about the Record as a local business?

If it continues to feature Road Ahead by Jeff Outhit, I challenge the Waterloo Region Record as a local business to step up and show its corporate social responsibility on transportation issues by:

  • Joining Grand River Carshare as a corporate member – Doing so would allow its staff to reduce its dependence on driving their own cars to work but make it easy for them to have one when they need one. There are several carshare locations nearby but the Record could take its commitment one step further and arrange for a carshare vehicle to use a spot at Market Square.
  • Joining Travelwise This Region of Waterloo initiative helps employers to encourage their staff to use alternatives to travelling solo in their own car. Most notably, it makes it easy to arrange carpools and gives them access to discounted GRT passes.
  • Become a member of Sustainable Waterloo Region’s Regional Carbon Inititative – Much more than a transportation initiative, the Record would demonstrate that it cares about its carbon footprint and is interested in making strategic decisions to reduce it–such as for example helping its staff (including columnists) to reduce their reliance on single occupant vehicles.

Note: Individuals can also use the carpool tool.

This challenge is not just for the Record

The Record is not the only company that I have challenged. I made a similar challenge to a local developer at a recent forum so that he could say to companies that he’s trying to attract to the Central Transit Corridor that it is possible to operate a company in our core areas without having 1 parking space for each 4000 square feet of office space.

Maybe if the Record accepts this challenge, Jeff Outhit will accept his?

One thought on “A transportation challenge for the Waterloo Region Record

  1. Here is the Record’s response:

    Thanks you for your note and for submitting an idea for an editorial project. As you already know, our editors have decided not to pursue this idea at this time. As you may or may not know, The Record and Metroland are committed to environmental responsibility and have an excellent track record. For example, we recently calculated our carbon footprint in an effort to better measure and manage this aspect of our business.

    I appreciate your suggestions on social responsibility however we will continue to manage this aspect of our business as we currently are.


    Paul McCuaig
    Publisher, Waterloo Region Record

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