150 miles north of Toronto is the most extraordinary wilderness, Algonquin Provincial Park. If you own a car, it is an easy drive on good highways. If you don't it is not so easy; a bus or train to Huntsville, an expensive taxi ride or hitchhike in; for camping, just like anything else, the system is easy and convenient for cars and difficult for the rest. If we are going to get people out of cars, this has to change.
And it is changing; this year a new non-profit called Parkbus will pick you up at a number of convenient urban locations and three hours later, drop you off at an outfitter or campground right in the park.
It is also the kind of good idea where you just put the right people together and make things happen:
Parkbus is a non-profit, private initiative started in 2010 with an ambitious goal of making most popular Ontario parks accessible by bus. We decided to start small with a pilot project, that would connect Toronto and Algonquin Provincial Park. Getting in touch first with Mountain Equipment Coop, then with Ontario Parks, and then with Algonquin Provincial Park, we created a plan that we presented to the bus operator that agreed to add Toronto - Algonquin service to their routes.
There are a million people in the Toronto area without cars, and of Mountain Equipment Coop customers (the Canadian REI) without cars, (a high percentage) a whacking 94.9% said that they would use the service. Surprisingly, 35.4% of MEC customers who DO have cars said " they would be interested in an environmentally-friendly alternative to the wasteful car travel."
And why not? A lot of MEC types who own cars have them just to get out of town to the parks. It's cheaper, too; the CAA calculates that a car costs $0.56 per kilometre to run, or $ 140 one way to the Park; the bus is $42.
Buses by Great Canadian Holidays
This is more than just a bus. This is the kind of initiative we need to make it as or more convenient to NOT own a car as it is to own one. They also drop you right at the outfitter; like a Product Service System, you just hop on the bus at one end, into your canoe at the other. More at ParkBus, via BlogTO
I have a few minor caveats; they don't let you take bikes on the bus. My sinful second home is 15km from Algonquin Outfitters, their first stop at the Park; If they would let my bike on the bus I could do a multimodal commute right to the cabin. I don't think I am alone.