Automotive addiction, not just a question of utility


(Montreal) For many motorists, traveling by car is not as rational a choice as they would like to believe.

Roxanne Ocampo
The Canadian Press

Jerôme Laviolette, a PhD student in transportation engineering, said on the occasion of Polytechnique Montreal's open house on Sunday.

After a bachelor's degree in civil engineering and a master's degree in transportation planning on the taxi industry, Mr. Laviolette chose to study in a "more holistic" way the dependence on the automobile, taking into account its psychological and social dimensions. , under the direction of Professors Owen Waygood and Catherine Morency.

"It's a little different from what Polytechnique Montreal would expect in transportation engineering," he acknowledged at a conference in front of future students Sunday afternoon.

In his research, the David Suzuki Foundation Fellow notes that the car is favored not only for its usefulness, but also because of its heavy symbolic burden.

"Most people will say they do not have the choice to use the car because it's faster, more convenient, more efficient," he says. The reality is that there are so many other things that influence us, perhaps more unconsciously. "

"Why does someone buy big pickups when he's not even working on construction? " he asks.

In his eyes, popular culture is not for nothing, with franchises such as Fast and Furious that convey "the idea that at the wheel, we are all-powerful" or even children's films like Cars which are really a human face to the racing cars.

Possession of a car – or even two cars – is inseparable from a certain conception of success, as well as access to property.

"The car still represents a certain prestige property, a way of expressing our identity. "

A costly dependency collectively

Faced with such an attachment to the car, measures such as adding dedicated bus lanes can be seen as attacks on a whole way of life.

Faced with the climate emergency, it is therefore not enough to improve the supply of sustainable modes of transport. Authorities must also invest to transform social norms and accompany motorists in a difficult introspection, said Mr. Laviolette, who draws a parallel with offensives against smoking in the 1990s.

Because it is a huge cost dependency.

According to the Quebec Institute of Statistics, transportation is the second largest item of household spending, after housing, in front of food. And these calculations do not include the costs that are borne by the whole society.

"The various taxes on gasoline, registration and all that are barely enough to pay the road network maintained by the Government of Quebec. We do not even talk about the municipal network paid in large part by property taxes, "Laviolette said in an interview with La Presse canadienne.

The bill continues to climb if we take into account the consequences of dependence on the automobile, especially on public health, because of the sedentary lifestyle, stress, noise pollution and the deterioration of the quality of the car. air, among others.

Not to mention the emissions of greenhouse gases that accelerate climate disruption.

"We all pay collectively for these consequences," says Laviolette.

Faced with the current development of the territory, Jerome Laviolette recognizes that the car is sometimes essential, but he urges its users to see it for what it is: "one tool among many others to move effectively."

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