See a brief television interview with James Alcock, Chair of the Get Toronto Moving Committee about the Cross-Toronto Tunnel: https://www.facebook.com/citynewstoronto/videos/10154965627526175/
Underground Automated Highways
As new technologies emerge, a new tunnelled highway in Toronto will eventually evolve into an Underground Automated Highway for driverless cars.
What will be the shape of tomorrow's dominant urban transportation system? Post-2030 it seems likely we'll see the beginnings of an underground automated highway (UAH) network emerge, one that may extensively under-grid many of our major cities by the mid 21st century. The degree of emergence of this new system may depend on the way a number of important local contingencies play out, including our own insight (early or late) into the unique advantages of this system, and the strength of our political resolve to set up test systems. However, this is inevitably coming to cities as traffic gridlock gets worse.
To make our case, let's look briefly at recent and coming developments in three important technologies: tunnel boring systems, automated highway systems, and zero emission fossil fuel and fuel cell vehicles. The convergence of capacities in these three technologies may create a transportation option that looks much more resource and capacity optimized than any other 21st century solution that has been proposed.
1. Tunnel Boring Systems.
Digging connector tubes between dense urban cores underneath cities, if we can complete several such pilot projects some time after 2020 (earlier would not be practical, for reasons explained below) would show how easy it is to create major improvements in our space, time, energy, and matter efficiencies (STEM efficiency) of social interaction in our largest, most population dense cities. Compressing social interaction time is what cities do best, and it why they will continue to outcompete rural areas in living choice for most first world citizens, even as rural homes become ever more affordable as getaway spots for city dwellers.
2. Automated Highway (AH) Systems.
Some time post 2020, possibly as late as 2040-2050 in a more pessimistic analysis, we shall begin to see special, above-ground lanes with
markings that allow our increasingly intelligent cars to self-pilot over long distances. The first automated highway networks will be built when our car's onboard computer, sensor, and actuator systems can solve the "2D" problem of auto-routing moving vehicles within special pre-mapped (and rea ltime updated) virtual spaces. It is reasonable to expect that this problem will be solved many years, perhaps even decades before we have the ability to create autonomous, agent-based air traffic control systems in 3D space for tomorrows airplanes, as this latter is a significantly more difficult computational problem. Furthermore, the vastly increased numbers of humans traveling on (and dying on) today's roads vs. in today's skies makes the former a much higher social engineering priority.
At first, there will only be a few of these special AH lanes, probably taking over the inner HOV lanes on our freeways (first for intercontinental trucking) and later, larger boulevards. For at least the first decade or two, we should also expect that humans will be required to remain behind the wheel, at least theoretically being able to take over this "cruise control" at a moment's notice.
These systems will certainly be built out slowly due to very high initial coast, beginning some time after 2020, between and within our more sprawling and high-density metropoli, like Los Angeles and New York, and at significant road real estate expense. These smart small trucks and vehicles will be carefully-watched curiosities for several years, and automatic collision-avoidance systems will be the interim technology, likely appearing in every new car before we see the first full scale automated vehicle (AV) models (Toyota? GM? Xeon? We wait with anticipation...). When hooked into an AV/AH system, 21st century multitaskers can simply do a lot more living than they can when their hands, feet, and eyes are constantly chained to the road. Being allowed to view video (or the interactive internet of 2030) while driving in an AV may be a killer app for productivity and free time, one that by definition causes many of us to purchase such systems.
The future of an idealized transportation network would include fully automated routing to our destination, allowing us great nap, entertainment, or private time in the increasingly comfortable mobile offices and entertainment spaces that we've been busily building toward since the birth of the automobile. Our early luxury furnishings gave rise to station wagons, minivans, and SUVs.
All roads lead us toward the increasingly magical "Swiss-army cars" of tomorrow, able to increasingly dynamically reconfigure themselves to fit the changing needs of the occupant.
3. Fuel Cell, Electric, and Zero Emission Fossil Fuel (ZEFF) Vehicles.
Sometime circa 2030, by many accounts, we'll see the first mass-market affordable fuel cell vehicles. GM's Autonomy frame, perhaps the most provocative design to date, is pictured to the right. As today's high school students will tell you, these beauties produce only water in their exhaust and are really cool.
At the same time, we'll see more electrics, more clean burning natural gas vehicles, and the takeover of the gas burning market by hybrids, which are today almost as efficient as idealized hydrogen cars but without all the problems of conversion.
But at the same time, it presently seems highly likely that the majority of our vehicles in 2050 will still be burning gasoline. The more things change, the more some things stay the same.
Despite what some futurists will tell you, gasoline (whether made by oil extraction, oil shale, coal gasification, coal liquefaction, natural gas conversion, or some other source) probably has a long future lifespan. Fuel cells are nice, but there's every reason to expect that as they are improved, they'll simply be coopted for use in second generation gas-electric hybrids, not lead us to a hydrogen economy, as alluring as that sounds.
Expect to see increasing numbers of Zero Emission Fossil Fuel (ZEFF) vehicles on the market in coming decades. Unfortunately, CO2 is not part of this equation, but as we move a more efficient fossil fuel (natural gas-driven and coal gas-driven) electric grid, CO2 sequestration at the power plant will make increasing sense in coming decades, delivering the eco-friendly machines we all seek. Big Oil is not going away, but will continue to innovate heavily in coming years.
Self-driving cars for everyone on the planet who wants them, operating on some future evolutionary, not revolutionary generation of today's power systems seems to be in the cards for at least the first half of the 21st century.
The Convergence Vision: Robust Underground Automated Highways (UAH)
Because of the steadily decreasing price/performance ratios of our tunneling technologies, the increasing intelligence and cleanliness of our automobiles, and the ever increasing social value of our spare time, some overcrowded city (Shanghai? Osaka? LA?) will eventually decide to put a nice, long AH express tube underground, creating a fast connection between two important and yet informationally different urban cores, at the same time bypassing the most gridlocked sections of the city. Only certified, ZEFF, electric or fuel cell automated vehicles will be allowed into these underground connector tubes. Want Speed? Get Intelligent and Go Green.
The first tunnels will likely prove so popular with busy consumers that they'll be sure to upgrade to cars that can operate in them, and in the space of a decade following, leading cities will rapidly turn it into a network. Given the time frames discussed above, I'd expect the first AH "test tube" to arrive some time between 2020 (most optimistically) and 2050 (most pessimistically), in some enterprising city around the world. The choice is ours to accelerate or delay, but not to prevent, as far as I can tell. Combining intra-city AH, ZEFF/fuel cell vehicles, and semi-automated tunneling systems seems like an inevitable developmental attractor for convergence of these three revolutionary technologies.
One of the hidden benefits of eventually putting most of our automotive transport underground is that AH "riders" don't care that there's no scenery. They won't be looking around at their surroundings, so they don't need to be above ground. As soon as the cruise control is engaged, if legal, they will retreat to the cozy environs of their cars, buses, and mini-trains, getting on with the business of their lives.
Additionally, with the typical Canadian winters, traffic could continue to flow unimpeded during a bad winter snow storm as it would be underground and out of the way. Traffic being underground means it can flow without traffic signals and offers an opportunity for better surface transit, bicycle lanes and wide sidewalks on surface streets above. It is a win-win for all modes of urban transportation. The tunnels also offer safe exits from the city in case of an emergency. Automation and tolling would ensure that traffic is space properly and the tunnel do not become congested. Traffic would always flow at good speeds.
Those Cisco routers under their hoods will handle the merges and interchanges, while serving up the latest information feeds to the passenger compartments. Imagine that: data and physical packets, automatically flowing along on one convergent protocol. Tomorrow's urbanites, if the most fully realized AH networks emerge, will be thus able to "teleport" themselves wherever they want throughout the megacity, with little disruption of the flow of their lives in the process.
Typical AH networks will involve some "fan" of exits to handle the outflow volume, and the more popular underground AH becomes, the more underground parking lots will be built. The strongest surface traffic reduction would emerge when all the city's major above-ground parking structures are directly linked to the tunnel network. Drivers will still have to come back to their seats to drive that pesky "last mile" on the surface by hand. If they don't do that, they will be auto-routed to some expensive city-owned underground storage lot, you can be sure.
Only a very robust A.I. could take over an open-course, surface street driving function, and that eventuality, as we will discuss, changes the nature of the game. But within the first AH network, wherever it emerges, 21st century Jetsons will be zipping along in their vibration-stabilized wombs at seventy to ninety miles per hour, nonstop, nearly as straight as the crow flies. That would make the pleasures and possibilities of the entire New York Metropolitan Area as accessible as the corner store, any time of day.
Want to drive the whole way manually instead? There's always the surface option.
There are lots of other details to confront, of course. Earthquake-proofing of the underground network will have to be done in an economical manner. In the same way that modern skyscrapers are often built on a "fluidized bed" of rock that acts like a stabilizing lake in case of underground movement, we'll have to build something equivalent into our AH around the fault zones, and this will increase the cost, perhaps delaying its emergence another few years. But in the Kobe earthquake in Japan, underground buildings were the least damaged, as the structures moved with the land rather than whiplashing. It's all doable.
As no petrochemicals are being belched from these vehicles, underground air quality and ventilation challenges will be far easier engineering issues than in our present tunnels. Such vehicles may also be required to contain their own independent and emergency air systems, fit into very small spaces by clever auto designers. Rather than escape exits at regular intervals, it seems more likely that automated successors to today's tow trucks would become the "immune system" that AH networks would rely on in case of mechanical failures by cars within the tunnels. Again, these are worthy challenges for our future engineers.
Source: John Smart,
John M. Smart
Futurist and Foresight Consultant
San Francisco Bay Area
President, Acceleration Studies Foundation, Accelerating.org
216 Mountain View Ave, Mountain View, CA 94041
Streetcars in mixed traffic should be phased out as this causes congestion. Streetcars should be replaced with energy-saving trolleybuses which, unlike streetcars, can maneuver around street blockages.
The proliferation of bicycle lanes on major arterial roads by removing traffic lanes should cease. This is not safe and reduces needed road space. Bicycle lanes should be placed along minor and local roads. They can be placed along major roads if traffic lanes are maintained and not removed. College Street is an example where this works well. There are two through traffic lanes and bicycle lanes on either side. Everything runs smoothly. An extensive network of off-road cycle trails as proposed in this plan will reduce the need for bicycle lanes on streets and increase cyclist safety.
Building roads actually does a good job of cutting traffic congestion, and not just building expensive public transit. See this article from Toronto's Globe and Mail newspaper from 2013: Sick of Congestion? Build roads not transit.
The following extensions to Toronto’s arterial roads system are recommended:
What stopped expressway construction is building through built-up areas. The Gardiner Expressway, Don Valley Parkway and the Allen Expressway north of Lawrence Avenue West were most built through open space, so had little trouble with going through. However, south of Lawrence Avenue, two whole streets and hundreds of houses had to be removed and a park split in two to make way for the extension of the Allen Expressway to Eglinton Avenue. If it had gone further, it would have cut through the Cedarvale Ravine and houses on both side of Spadina Road would have been removed. Even with the eastern extension of the Gardiner Expressway, 650 to 1200 houses through the Beach area would have been demolished to make way for it depending on the route. This type of construction is no longer supported and should not be revived.
Traffic sitting idling in gridlock produces nine times the pollution than traffic travelling at 100 km/h. New highways would vastly reduce idling pollution levels in local residential neighbourhoods. With traffic travelling at high speeds along the highways, concentrated pollution levels would be quite low. These routes would pull through traffic out of the nearby neighbourhoods and make the local streets safer for residents, pedestrians, cyclists and children going to school.
There are much better ways to construct highways in the City - and that is with the use of tunnels under existing corridors. They can also be paid for entirely with private funding, recouped through tolls, like Highway 407, which can also control the amount of traffic on them. New roads are not a thing of the past as cities in China, India, Chile and Australia are building them today.
Cross-Toronto Tunnel Network
A continuous six-lane tunnelled highway should be constructed from Highway 401 at Highway 2A in the east to Highways 400, 427 and 403 in the west. This route would be entirely privately-financed, privately-constructed and tolled. It would be built in stages over several years starting from the northwest. The provincial Government should lease the right-of-way under the Metrolinx GO Lakeshore East and Kitchener rail corridors to a private company which would assume construction and maintenance of the entire route.
The tunnel route would consist of two sections: one in the west and one in the east.
The tunnelled route in the west should extend northwest from the Gardiner Expressway at Strachan Avenue under the Kitchener GO rail line and Union-Pearson Express rail line to Eglinton Avenue at Black Creek Drive. It could then split into two branches: one continuing north under Black Creek Drive and one continuing west under Eglinton Avenue to Highway 427 and eventually to Highway 403 in Mississauga. Black Creek Drive is experiencing severe congestion because it is carrying highway traffic and the road is too small with signalized intersections. The tunnel would solve this problem by moving the traffic underground. Black Creek Drive, immediately above, could then be downgraded and become more of a local road serving the local community. It would be relieved of the heavy 400-bound traffic that it carries now. Access from the tunnel would be provided at Bloor Street, St. Clair Avenue, Eglinton Avenue and Lawrence Avenue. The western branch could provide an underground express link to Highways 427 and 403. Another branch could extend west across Humber Bay, relieving the western Gardiner Expressway of heavy congestion. This could be built first easily. The tunnel would be privately financed and tolled.
The tunnelled route in the east should extend west from Highway 2A at the Highland Creek bridge, entirely in a 23-km tunnel, under Kingston Road to Guildwood GO Station and then continuing west under the Lakeshore East GO rail line to the Gardiner Expressway at the Don River. Access can be provided at Morningside Avenue, Markham Road, Birchmount Road, Victoria Park Avenue and Greenwood Avenue. No properties are required for the route as it would be entirely tunnelled within the Metrolinx rail corridor and under Kingston Road. The route would be built in sections and would be privately financed and tolled.
Eventually, the two sections of the tunnel could be linked up in the middle by moving the elevated Gardiner Expressway underground, either under the Metrolinx Lakeshore rail corridor or under the lake. This would make the route into one continuous tunnel across the City and remove the elevated Gardiner Expressway. However, this is a more long-term consideration.
Cross-section plan for a twin tunnelled route under the Metrolinx GO rail corridors for cars, trucks and express buses
Toronto has not built any major roads since 1971 when construction of the rest of the Allen Expressway was cancelled. The only new road to be built since then was Black Creek Drive and that was constructed by the Provincial Government in 1982. The lack of road construction has been due to political reasons. Toronto's traffic has grown three times since the 1970's and congestion levels are reaching gridlocked proportions. It is time for Toronto to start building roads again in addition to subway construction, but on a moderate scale and only using existing available corridors such as under existing arterial roads, along existing rail and hydro corridors in order to preserve neighbourhoods and not demolish homes or businesses. Electric self-driving cars are the way of the future and new roads will be needed to accommodate them.
The Province of Ontario built and maintains a system of Provincial Freeways including the QEW and the 400-series Highways. Highways 400, 401, 404, 409 and 427 are the Provincial Freeways within the City of Toronto’s boundaries. The Province transferred the Toronto section of the QEW (now part of the Gardiner Expressway) and Highways 2A and 27 (now an arterial road) to the City of Toronto in 1997.
Toronto built the Gardiner Expressway east to Leslie Street, the Don Valley Parkway north to Highway 401 and the Allen Expressway (originally the Spadina Expressway) only as far south as Lawrence Avenue between 1954 and 1971. Plans were drawn up to extend the Allen Expressway to Bloor Street, extend the Gardiner Expressway east into Scarborough and extend Highway 400 south to the Gardiner.
These plans were abandoned as the City stopped building expressways in 1971 when further construction of the rest of the Allen Expressway was cancelled due to protests for neighbourhood preservation. The Allen was, however, later extended as an arterial road from Lawrence Avenue to Eglinton Avenue, as the right-of-way had already been prepared for it, hence the current name of Allen Road. Cancellation of the rest of the Allen also affected other planned GTA expressways at that time. However, without constructing less damaging alternate expressway routes, this decision has been considered the most devastating blow to growth and mobility in southern Ontario. Highway 400 was extended only to just south of Eglinton Avenue, but as an arterial road known as Black Creek Drive and the section of the eastern Gardiner Expressway between the Don River and Leslie Street was demolished in 2001 as it was under-utilized and would not be extended.
In 2000, the City of Toronto adopted the Road Classification Plan as part of the Official Plan. That report gave a specific classification for each road in Toronto as expressway, major arterial, minor arterial, collector and local road. The Gardiner Expressway, Don Valley Parkway, Allen Expressway from Eglinton Avenue to Transit Road, just north of Wilson Avenue, and Highway 2A are classified as ‘expressways’ due to their important function within the City’s overall transportation infrastructure inventory. This is enshrined in the City's Official Plan and the expressway status of these roads must be maintained.
Major missing links in the expressway system exist in the northwest and in the east.
Gaps in the arterial road grid also need to be filled in to maintain a continuous network of streets which carry buses, pedestrians and bicycles as well as cars. Breaks in Toronto’s arterial road system grid, especially in the Leaside, Beaches and Junction areas, must be linked to improve mobility and provide more direct bus services. No new roads should be built in the Rouge Valley Park which should be preserved in its natural state. There are several identifiable gaps in Toronto's arterial road grid which need to be addressed.
A balanced and workable
new transportation plan
for the City of Toronto
Proposal For Toronto UAH
We propose that the Cross-Toronto Tunnel be built as a UAH tunnel, utilizing private consortium investor funding paid for by electronic tolling. Little or no public funding is necessary. These five tunnels would be built under existing rights-of-way so as not to interfere with any residential neighbourhoods or green space. Surface streets above would offer manual alternate routes. Additional UAH tunnels could follow in the future.
Work should begin as soon as possible to construct the western sections of the Cross-Toronto Tunnel network connecting Highways 403 and 400 with the Gardiner Expressway. These would be followed by the eastern section from the Gardiner Expressway & Don Valley Parkway interchange to Highway 2A & Highway 401. Central and Northern tunnels would follow much later on. The tunnel network would operate as an ordinary tolled traffic tunnel to begin with. The automated technology would be installed as the tunnel is built and the autonomous cars will be adapted to it as they become available. Bright LED lighting will also be installed in the tunnel that simulates sunlight to make the driving experience bright and safe.
Transit does not solve gridlock, roads do
It is commonly believed that in order to solve traffic congestion, we need to give people an alternative to cars. Get them out of cars and there will be fewer of them on the roads. If we build expensive public transit, then people will leave their cars and use the transit and the traffic problem is solved.
This is a strong theory, but it does not work in reality. People want to be able to travel from their starting point to their destination in a way which is convenient and comfortable. While building fast trains does help to some degree, it mostly cannot compete with the convenience and speed of a private car. Cars go where and when you want to go, in comfort and privacy. With public transit, you are tied to a fixed schedule, you may have to change routes several times and you have no privacy. A trip across town on a bus or train could take over an hour, while it may twenty minutes by car on the route of your choice.
In 1971, Toronto stopped building major roads and focussed on public transit. At that time, the modal split for the Toronto area was 69% by car, 25% use transit and the remaining 6% walked or used bicycles. At that time, Toronto had two subway lines and two commuter rail lines. The City had only 27 km of subway. The City had very little traffic congestion at that time.
Today, Toronto has three subway lines and seven commuter rail lines. The City has 98 Km of subway (70 km in operation and 28 km under construction). Another 6 km of subway has been approved and more are planned. Its rail transit system has more than doubled in 45 years. At the same time, the City has the same expressway network it had in 1971. The modal split in Toronto has not changed at all. The figures today are exactly the same: 69% by car, 25% use transit and the remaining 6% walked or used bicycles. Transit and bicycle use is only high (near 50%) only in the downtown core where people make short trips. This has always been the case. However, in the outer suburbs, it just takes too long to use transit, so people drive. In Scarborough, Toronto’s eastern suburb, 86% drive and only 14% use transit. It takes almost two hours by bus and subway to go across the city from the east end to the west end, while only 30 minutes by car on the highway. This will never change. Today, Toronto is strangled with traffic gridlock with roads built for 75,000 vehicles per day, carrying over 200,000 vehicles per day. Not building new roads and expansion of transit only has clearly not worked in nearly half a century. Isn’t that long enough to judge the results of it? Bicycles are just not practical in the Canadian winter when bike lanes sit empty.
The 5.5. km Sheppard Subway was built in 2002 for nearly $1 billion, yet it only carries about 40,000 passengers per day. Meanwhile, Highway 407, a new toll by-pass road, cost exactly the same amount of money ($1 Billion) and stretches for 69 km across the top of Toronto. It carries over 200,000 vehicles per day (which is about 300,000 people per day), plus trucks. As a toll road, it is never congested and takes a driver across the City from west to east in less than 30 minutes. Both spurred new development, but which got the better results for the investment? The highway, not the subway. Transit also cannot carry goods, while roads can.
London, U.K. has 2 km of subway per capita for every one km of subway per capita in Toronto. London has been building and continuously expanding its subway system for 150 years since 1863. However, traffic congestion has got so bad that cars move about 9 km/h during London’s rush hour. It was so bad, that congestion charging was implemented in the downtown core. This only drove business away, so a plan to expand the congestion charging area was abandoned. London considered building a ring freeway network in the 1960’s, of which only part of the system was completed. Plans to remove sections of freeway in Toronto met such fierce opposition, that they were abandoned in favour of retaining and improving the highways instead. Roads can also be privately built by private sector investment. This is recovered by the use of tolls and governments may get a slice of that toll revenue. This makes the road entirely self-financing because of the toll revenue. They also remain congestion-free because people have to pay to use it. Public transit relies entirely on public government money to build it. Private investment does not go into transit because of the operating costs. Passengers pay a fare which goes to the operating transit authority, not the builder. It relies on tax revenue, which is limited.
The costs of tunnelling are coming down, toll revenue works and cars are becoming smart and self-driving. Combine these together and you have the underground automated highway. This is the future of urban transportation. Tolled underground highways under our cities for smart cars. They can move 100,000+ vehicles with no congestion, keeping the vehicles at a safe and fast-moving pace. They can be built without the need for tax investment. Governments can make money from them by getting a percentage of the toll revenue on a permanent basis.
Few ideas have proven more powerful in shaping Canadians’ thinking about urban transit than this: Building roads is self-defeating. Like those famous South Sea Islanders who built crude wharves thinking that it was the wharves that caused cargo ships to appear and unload valuable goods, those holding this view believed that building highways could never solve our transit woes because the mere existence of the roads would conjure up more cars.
This theory drives much of our preoccupation with building highly expensive urban transit – subways, light rail, dedicated bus lanes and more – because, the argument goes, we break the cycle of dependence on the car and cut congestion by shifting resources away from road building and into transit.
Except it’s not true. As urban geographer Wendell Cox likes to say, this idea that road construction only worsens congestion is like believing that building more maternity wards will cause more babies to be born.
This connection between road construction and congestion has been most comprehensively studied in the United States. There, 30 years ago, the Texas Transportation Institute at the Texas A&M University created an annual Travel Time Index (TTI) that estimates how much time traffic congestion adds to commuting by comparing actual travel times of commuters in different cities with the time it would take to travel the same distances in the absence of congestion.
Over the decades of its existence, the TTI has revealed some fascinating shifts. In the early days of the index, Phoenix, for example, had the 10th worse congestion among major urban areas in the U.S., despite being only 35th in population. It has more than doubled in size in the ensuing decades (it is now the 12th largest urban area in the U.S.), but its traffic congestion has fallen to 37th.
What explains this major improvement? A huge expansion of public transit? Hardly. Try a major road-building program. Something similar happened in Houston.
At the other end of the spectrum, Portland, Ore., has pursued road-skeptical policies similar to many major Canadian cities. The result is markedly worsened commuting times. According to the TTI, over the past 30 years Portland has gone from having the 47th worst congestion in the U.S. to the sixth worst.
Now data are starting to emerge that allow us to compare commute times among similar rich-world industrialized countries in Western Europe, the U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The results are not encouraging for the anti-car crowd. The worst urban congestion in this group of countries is in New Zealand, followed by Australia, countries that have invested relatively little in urban highways.
Canada comes third, with the rankings showing the average commute in Canada takes nearly a quarter longer than it needs to due to congestion. My hometown of Vancouver takes the cake for the worst performance in North America (worse than Los Angeles!) and third worst among all the countries surveyed. Toronto has nothing to boast about, with the sixth-worst performance in North America.
Counterintuitively for most Canadians, who believe American cities are largely highway-shaped parking lots, the U.S. has the best performance over all, with the average commute lengthened by less than 20 per cent by congestion. It also has only four cities in the list of 20 most congested, but 15 out of the 20 least-congested cities in all those studied.
Of course road-building isn’t the only thing that distinguishes American cities from many of these international peers ranked in the data. According to Cox, two other factors matter hugely. One is that U.S. cities tend to be less dense than cities elsewhere, and jobs are more widely dispersed throughout American cities.
This relationship between density and travel times is another counterintuitive puzzler for those who believe cars and roads are the problem, rather than the solution to transit woes. How easy it is to assume that travel times must be shorter where cities are dense and people therefore have shorter distances to travel to work.
What the real world shows us, though, is that when urban population density is lower, and jobs widely dispersed rather than concentrated in a city centre, commuter traffic is more widely scattered on the road network, lowering commuting times. This is a real challenge for the advocates of heavy investment in subways and light rail, which are reliant on commuting patterns focused on a hub-and-spoke model bringing workers downtown along densely developed transit corridors.
A good New Year’s resolution for much of Canada’s urban planning elite, then: 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 halt in traffic.
This information comes courtesy of Brian Lee Crowley. He is the managing director of the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, which is an independent non-partisan public policy think tank in Ottawa: www.macdonaldlaurier.ca.
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