Friday, December 27, 2013

Traffic jams could be eased with more roads

Traffic jams that are costing billions in terms of time and diesel fuel could be reduced by building more roads, not by investing more in public transit systems, says Brian Lee Crowley of the Macdonald-Laurier Institute in Ottawa.

The Ontario agriculture and food industry is experiencing increasing costs to move livestock, poultry and produce in and out of Toronto and even a massive investment in public transit won’t improve that situation, Crowley indicates from data gathered from cities across North America and around the world.

A study released in August estimated that traffic jams in Toronto increase costs by $11 billion a year.

The Ontario government policy has, however, been to shift priorities from highway building to public transit systems, including subways and light-rail systems for Toronto and other urban centres, including the Waterloo Region.

Crowley points to studies that began 30 years ago at the Texas Transportation Institute, which is located at Texas A&M University, and have found that congestion was eased in cities that continued to invest in highways and roads, but got worse in cities that shifted budgets away from road-building into public transit.

This puts the lie to urban planners who have said that building more roads and expressways makes downtown gridlock worse.

Portland, Oregon, ignored those urban planners and spent its money on more roads and expressways; its ranking for congestion improved from 47th to sixth in North America.

On a global scale, Crowley writes in the Globe and Mail today that Canada ranks third in terms of longer commute times because of congestion - i.e. traffic jams.

The average Canadian commute now takes 25 per cent longer than necessary.

There are only five cities in North America that are worse than Toronto.

Vancouver is now the worst in North America and third-worst in the world.

Crowley concludes with advice for urban planners: “Remember urban sprawl is not a problem to be solved, but part of the answer to how vast numbers of people can live together in big cities without life grinding to a half in traffic.”