In the old model, the City (ie, taxpayer at the Fed, Prov, or municipal level) provided roads at no charge to motorists. The Fed and Prov level recovered some of the money through taxes on gasoline in excess of the general sales tax rate.
For non-motorists, there are sidewalks, and Ottawa is very good at having sidewalks along most major roads, including some rather isolated ones where pedestrians are rare.
For transit users, the cost is shared between the user, who pays a per ride or monthly fee, and the taxpayer.
A number of municipalities have experimented with no-fare transit, and find that ridership soars. In theory, the additional cost of the service is offset by providing fewer/narrower roads.
As soon as any user fee or fare is charged, the balance of choice between car and transit alters. Many households have a car anyway, and if the parking is convenient and free … most users simply fail to recognize the cost of having the car (got a garage? you’re paying $20-40 a month more in municipal taxes for that!).
The U-pass is an attempt to shift the balance for cost-conscious students, and by all accounts I have heard it has been pretty successful. The universities do not, of course, immediately save on parking space provision, but over time they definitely provide fewer as demand is less.
Some businesses charge for parking. MEC even charges its customers for parking, and the place is full and expanding. The Rideau Centre garages aren’t exactly empty either. Until the day when parking is a taxable benefit, or must be charged for, special efforts to help transit will be required. These are insignificant when compared to the cost of providing and maintaining a surface parking space, which is in excess of $1000 a year.
When will our semi-public big corporations move beyond greenwashing to actually doing something to help the modal split? The School Boards could lead by example, by offering staff that want it a subsidized bus pass, call it the T-Pass.
Students would actually see role models rather than the current spectre of teaching without practicing.