Hibernating is not an option, eh? (Editorial)

Sure this is Canada, but come on. There have to be ways to make it easier to get to work during the winter.

This time of year all other work considerations seem to come second to the struggle to trudge and sputter through the snow and ice. This can’t be good for productivity.

Or retention. The fight to get to work some winter days is surely a big contributor to people leaving the corporate world in favour of self-employment or early retirement. Or California.

It’s not just about the ice-induced snarl in congested metropolitan areas like Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal, where the morning rush hour lasts well into the afternoon. Smaller cities face the same traffic and transportation mess. The worst traffic I’ve ever suffered was on a Sudbury Saturday and that wasn’t even during winter.

And the Charlottetown Guardian reports traffic congestion is so bad at Peter Pan corner in the city’s core that municipal councillors are thinking about putting in a roundabout. Considering what Charlottetown has borne this winter it’s not too much for commuters to hope for (that and renaming the intersection). Last month, Atlantic Canada was hit with three blizzards in one week. Charlottetown businesses were frustrated with how long it took to clear roads, but you can only budget so much for snow without raising taxes.

Besides, as P.E.I. snow removal contractor Earl Watts told the Guardian, it would help if people stayed off the roads so they could be cleared. Most cars he sees during the worst of it only have one passenger, so carpooling is his suggestion for those who venture out.

Carpooling usually isn’t very popular — seems contrary to the whole point of getting your own transportation — but in snow emergencies, companies would do well to have a plan that includes a carpool list.

Maybe Humvees could be pressed into service as carpool vehicles. Since a Humvee — the modern man’s bungalow-on-wheels — takes up the traffic space of six Neons and requires barrels of Iraqi oil to keep going, they could give something back by being designated as SEPTVs — snow emergency public transit vehicles.

They have a better chance of getting people to work on time than most transit systems. Waiting for the bus during a snow storm is another one of those things that has staff holding tight to the bedcovers. The least cities could do is to build more bus shelters. People are freezing out there. Is there one where your staff wait for the bus?

Commuter trains can be as bad as buses. If trains can travel between Alberta and B.C. via snowy mountain passes, why does the slightest snow fall cause major delays and cancellations for the rail system that moves people from Toronto’s suburbs into the downtown?

But not everyone has to be a slave to the winter commute. More telework is something that would be good for a nation that sometimes wakes to snow piled up against the doorway. It gets people off the roads year-round and has them productive on bad-weather days when others can’t make it to work.

And last, but not least, there’s the hope that one day a mid-winter national holiday will be declared, making one less freezing day to get out of bed for. For the last two years I’ve called for the creation of Louis Saint Laurent Day on Feb. 1.

But although Canada’s post-Second World War prime minister was conveniently born at the start of February, there isn’t much progress on this one. Oh well, if you’re stuck in the snow at Peter Pan corner take heart, at least you’ve made it to Valentine’s Day.

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