Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The cars of Iqaluit

As most people likely know there are no roads into Iqaluit. Located on the shores of Baffin Island, 3 hours flight north of Ottawa, Iqaluit is as about as remote from you can get from automotive production. In the past transportation here was mainly based on taxis, and for $5 per person you could ride to anywhere the road might take you (stopping along the way to pick up other passengers heading to other destinations).

There are only 2 ways to get cars into Iqaluit: By sea-lift, the yearly shipping of goods from Montreal to Iqaluit by barge during the summer, and by air. Yes, believe it or not, people do actually fly cars into the city. As Iqaluit has grown and become a capital city there has been an influx of cars. As there are only about 40km of roads in and around town, and no highways, it is a bit surprising that cars are as popular as they seem to be. I would guess that the number of cars per km of roadway in Iqaluit is approaching that of other cities in Canada. During my last cab ride, I was surprised to hear the cabbie say that we would be taking a detour due to rush hour. There are no lights in town, but the 4-way stop was 5 cars deep in all directions. With skills no less than I would expect in grid-lock at Bay and Bloor, he zipped through 2 parking lots, around the back of another building and cleared us of the rush.

When I arrived here in Iqaluit I expected to see cars focused on utility, perhaps pickups, perhaps small cars that would cost less to ship. What I did not expect to find here were Hummers. In fact there are 3 Hummers here in Iqaluit, and Volkswagen buses, and all sorts of other cars you would never expect to find. It seems that in such a remote place the novelty is not just owning a car, but owning a novel car.

Below is perhaps the most novel car of all. I have no idea what it is used for or why it is painted this way (if you know please enlighten me!), but it always makes me laugh.

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