Urban traffic the center of a benchmark study

| 3/28/2006

What costs $3 billion a year and has no end it sight? The answer: traffic congestion in Canada’s cities.

The nine largest cities in Canada are the subjects of the first study of its kind by team of consultants hired by the government. The goal was to find out how much traffic congestion costs in terms of time, fuel and the environment, according to Transport Canada, which is the Canadian equivalent to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Lost time by drivers and passengers represented the largest cost, accounting for 90 percent of the expense of congestion and traffic jams on a daily basis. That cost corresponds to the times of day when the cause of congestion is mainly the fact that motorists’ demands exceed the capacity of the cities.

The cost of weather, accidents and other occasional causes of congestion were not directly studied in this particular effort.

The studying group consisted of three groups: Delcan, iTRANS and ADEC on behalf of Transport Canada. They studied traffic in Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Quebec City, Hamilton, Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver.

“It is especially difficult to draw accurate comparisons among the cities studied,” according to a Transport Canada statement. “Understanding congestion and how to measure it is an important area for future research and collaboration among different levels of government.”

The study group said the solution to congestion does not simply mean building more roads. Instead, cities’ long-term urban planning should include mass transit and other alternatives to driving.

Once in a while, congestion causes governments to look at issues, like the Toronto City Council did with a proposal to ban truck deliveries from the downtown core during rush hour. That measure failed, but governments continue to try to reduce congestion.