Monday, August 09, 2010

Just some quick thoughts on traffic

On Friday Sheila and I drove up island to camp for a night and we left town during the height of rush hour.   Leaving when we did meant we had to go out with the Colwood Crawl and I have a few observations on the traffic from town all the way out to Duncan.

First, between the Colwood and Langford exits people use whatever lane works to weave in and out of the traffic to get a couple of cars ahead.  The distance is only 3.5 kilometres and the relative time gain over that distance when you drive 110 km/h versus 90 km/h is only a savings of less than 30 seconds.   If you could drive the whole freeway section distance 20 km/h faster, you still can only save less than one minute of time.  The driving pattern is not gaining much in time but it is adding more risk.

Second, the light at Spencer Road leads to a merge right after it.   I have driven in Vancouver for years and there are locations where there are constant merges going on.   In Vancouver there is a clear understanding of the expectations of all concerned in a merge and people follow this pattern consistently.   The merge just after Spencer Road there was no sense that many people understood how to equitably merge, a number of people chose to zip far ahead and then merge in.   The best gain you can get in being rude and pushy like this is 15 cars ahead of where you would have been.   You gain at most 20 seconds on your trip doing this.    What does happen is that civility is reduced and people get angry.

Third, the traffic speed over the Malahat was markedly faster than what I have normally expected in that stretch. the moving traffic speed was over 120 km/h all the way to Duncan once we cleared Goldstream Park.   The speed is not that much of a problem, the real problem is that almost every person driving the fastest did not understand how to drive at that speed.   Some examples of what I saw was that they did not signal clear intentions when they changed lanes, they tailgated consistently, and were not staying consistently centred in their lanes.

All in all, given that we were leaving at the busiest time of the day on a Friday, the delay from the Colwood crawl is still not very much, it is not a major traffic problem.   Certainly it does not compare to the delays one sees at many of the locations in Metro Vancouver like the Lions Gate Bridge, the Deas Island Tunnel, or the Oak Street Bridge.   There is a reason why Vancouver has a 24/7 traffic radio station, the first one anywhere.  

Given the relative problems with traffic, our worst traffic problems do not compare to the top ten in Metro Vancouver.  We should not expect dramatic government support for transit and road improvements in this region until a lot more is dealt with in the Lower Mainland.

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