The Ontario Transportation Ministry is planning a new super highway in the 905, the GTA West Corridor. It will extend across Vaughan to Miton, beginning at Hwy. 400 and cut through Peel and Halton regions.
The province believes this highway and the linkages it will create are required for future commuter and shipping needs.
For those who believe building more highways in Vaughan will help alleviate the city’s congestion, you’re wrong. In the long term, not only will new highways not reduce traffic, they will create even more congestion.
A new highway will simply funnel more cars into Vaughan from other growth centres. Vaughan will potentially be the regional epicentre of automobile traffic due to its existing highway infrastructure and central location.
Connecting the car dependent growth centres of Guelph, Milton, Brampton and Vaughan will only result in another congested highway in the region. Over the next 20 years, one thing will remain consistent in Vaughan: traffic congestion. As long as there is car dependency, there will be traffic congestion.
According to University of Toronto researchers Gilles Duranton and Matthew Turner, “roads cause traffic”. Their study, The Fundamental Law of Road Congestion, Duranton and Turner, concluded that road construction can never keep pace with road congestion.
The data gathered from studying highway networks across the United States showed “vehicle kilometres travelled … increases proportionately to roadway lane kilometres for interstate highways”. The researchers call this the fundamental law of highway congestion.
Among the surprising findings of the study is the fact that building new roadways does not divert traffic from existing roads. The Toronto researchers also found that adding transit does nothing to ease highway congestion. When one driver leaves the road, another simply takes his or her place.
The only mechanism that does help reduce traffic congestion, according to their report, is congestion pricing. Placing a price on road use is the only effective tool to help curb traffic congestion.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone in Vaughan. One need only study Hwy. 407 for evidence of this finding at work.
Hwy. 407 does not suffer the same congestion that we witness on highway 400 or 427 due to the cost of using it. Avoiding congestion has a price.
Guelph, Halton, Peel and Vaughan all suffer from traffic congestion related to car dependency. This dependency is born out of urban sprawl and a segregated land use pattern of development that is typical of GTA suburbs.
The GTA West Corridor will extend across whitebelt lands in Peel and Halton, facilitating sprawl and exasperating the problems related to car-dependent development. It is counter-productive to reward these suburbs with a new highway.
There are tens of thousands of un-built, single and semi-detached homes in car-dependent subdivisions yet to be built in Halton, Peel, and York Region.
Traffic congestion will get worse over the next 20 years. During this time Vaughan will also continue to witness new high-density developments.
Having great public transit infrastructure in place when this occurs will convince people moving to the city that a life devoid of car dependency is possible.
The province needs to focus on helping municipalities break free of their automobile dependency by investing in public transit infrastructure, not new highways.
Investing money toward public transit infrastructure will allow citizens of suburbs a greater range of commuting options that will help reduce congestion, improve commute times, reduce car-related pollution and improve quality of life.
How bad is our dependency on cars? In its report, Toronto as a Global City: Scorecard on Prosperity 2010, the Toronto Board of Trade found that 70 per cent of GTA residents drive to work. York Region came in last.
The average round trip in the region is 80 minutes, 24 minutes more than Los Angeles, a city legendary for its long commute times. By 2031, that commute is predicted to become a staggering 109 minutes.
Sustainable Vaughan believes the proposal of creating a highway through Vaughan’s greenbelt is out-dated.