Highways are a red herring. They are perhaps the most susceptible to induced demand, and in the worst of ways. Because the more you build, the more people use them, and the more they're used, the more congested they get. This is a clearly established transportation principle, and one we see played out not only on our own highways but around the world. The world's widest highways are still heavily congested. We should not be building more lanes. We need to throw in the towel on this outmodded thinking and figure out how to get cars off the roads. That's the only viable way to reduce congestion.
So setting aside highway widening and expansion, I have suggestions for reducing congestion:
- Expand and prioritize public transit. The transit also needs to be faster and more affordable than driving in a car. If a train from Niagara Falls to Union Station takes longer and costs more, there is no incentive for anyone to get out of their car. Being able to read a book is not enough of a factor to get people out from behind their steering wheel. This will require a rethink, perhaps through priority rail and express trains that have very limited stops (perhaps one collection point in Niagara, one in Burlington, and then right on to Union).
- Mandate off-peak delivery. Prohibit trucks from the most congested highways during rush hour. Force them to move freight and deliveries into offpeak times.
- Twin all HOT lanes (and add a whole lot more). There should not be a single HOV/HOT lane and 2 or 3 or 4 single occupancy lanes. There should be 2 or 3 or 4 HOV/HOT lanes and only one single occupancy lane if it comes down to it. Having a HOV/HOT lane backed up worse than your single occupancy lanes defeats the whole purpose. We need to severely restrict (preferably to the point of nearly eliminating) single occupancy trips, especially in congested times.
- Buy back the 407 and end toll highways. This is the quickest way to reduce congestion because the infrastructure already exists. Barring that, significantly reduce the tolls so that it is not only a private highway for the affluent. Consider giving free ridership to underpriviledged people, e.g. on social assistance.
- Reduce urban sprawl, focus on densification. Adding more distant subdivisions and communities adds to our problem--not mitigates it.
- Incentivize employment growth outside of Toronto. Bring jobs back into the communities where people live.
- Rebalance the economy. Years ago, Toronto studies discovered that the reverse commute volume from downtown Toronto was almost equivalent to the inbound commute volume. And we see this every day now with equal gridlock on all highways in all directions. This is dumb as can be. If people downtown are working outside the city and vice versa, let's figure out how to rebalance those jobs and workers so they stop waving to each other as they pass on the highway. This could be facilitated through a government sanctioned job exchange, perhaps with benefits or tax breaks to all employers who engage in the rebalancing effort. The federal government used this system years ago to match surplus workers to retirements.
- Do explore options to manage passenger travel demand such as pricing, parking charges, telecommuting and flexible work hours.
- Do prioritize active transportation.
- Focus on where commuters are coming and going from, and target those areas. If most of the inbound traffic into the GTA comes from Niagara (or KW, or anywhere else) then target specific strategies to address and eliminate that traffic.
Submitted June 29, 2021 11:12 PM
Greater Golden Horseshoe Transportation Plan – Discussion Paper
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