Friday, December 12, 2008

Grow in population and in traffic

I was doing some quick math again on population growth and on what this means for the number of cars in the region, I can see no way that population growth will not mean growth in traffic.

We are adding about 4000 people a year to the region at the moment, this means we are adding roughly 2000 more passenger vehicles to the region each year as well. We need more housing units for the people coming, but we also need more road space for the cars that are coming.

I know that it is very fashionable for people to say that more roads only leads to more traffic and if we did not build more roads then people would not be able to increase the traffic. I have disagree with this view strenuously.

Whether we like it or not, the cars are coming and will be on the roads. Offering more road capacity does not mean people will drive more, though it does mean they can get from point A to point B faster.

Not adding capacity to the roads means we reduce the average speed of traffic and we increase the time cars sit and idle waiting to move. We also increase shipping costs. We slow buses and therefore need more of them. We have more frustrated and angry drivers which leads to more accidents and a lower quality of life.

The assumption is that people will move further away from work if the roads are better. I disagree, people move further out because this is where they can find housing that is cost effective for them. If the housing someone desires is available at comparable prices in Oak Bay and in Langford, the house in Oak Bay is what they will buy. The problem is that we have all manner of restrictions on housing at the core of the city which create an artificial scarcity and thereby drive up prices.

There are a number of roads that could be expanded in this region and they would not lead to more sprawl, the expansion would simply reflect existing reality. Interurban from Camosun to Burnside should be four laned as should Wilkinson road, Glanford and Finlayson. I know the last one will make many people burst a few blood vessels, but the region is need of a decent east/west corridor between Hillside and Mackenzie.

Adding capacity to all of these roads would simply reducing long waits are traffic lights, allow more and better movement of people and goods in the region, and improve the quality of life for thousands of people.

The Mackenzie Highway #1 interchange would also improve things dramatically. Though I would only do this if the lights at Burnside and Mackenzie and Hwy #1 and Tillicum were also removed in some fashion. I think it is in the interests of better movement to have Mackenzie from Hwy #17 to Hwy #1 become a freeway.

2000 new cars per year in the region is an extra 50 million kilometers of vehicle use per year. It also means that there will about an extra six kilometers of road space being used during rush hours. That is a long line of cars that will be covering pavement in this region. This is an annual increase, not a one off.

I have lived in Vancouver and spend enough time there to know that traffic congestion has to be a lot worse before people might move to transit. Even with the virtual gridlock in parts of the Lower Mainland, people still drive to work. Anyone that thinks people are going to embrace transit here en mass is kidding themselves. The reality is that we have to work with the actual behaviours of people and not fantasy visions.
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