“No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible.”
– Stanisław Jerzy Lec
Everyone is frustrated with traffic congestion and delays across the North Shore. Elected officials face ever louder calls to “fix the traffic problem!”
Congestion is a serious problem. It erodes livability and has significant economic, social, and health effects. Every elected official would love to conjure a solution. To investigate short and long-term options, elected officials from all levels recently came together through the Integration North Shore Transportation Planning Project (INSTPP). INSTPP’s conclusions are not surprising: no one factor causes the congestion and there no one, or easy, solution.
Sadly, the “big ideas” we so often hear about aren’t feasible and won’t work. Existing bridges won’t support additional lanes and a third crossing would be technically challenging and prohibitively expensive. More importantly, traffic modelling reveals that increased bridge capacity would increase local congestion. At the same time, the North Shore road network is significantly constrained by geography and existing development patterns. Improvements to a small section of Highway 1 will cost over $200 million and have only limited impact. Experience shows that traffic increases proportionately with an increase in road capacity. As urban planner Lewis Mumford once put it: “building more roads to prevent congestion is like a fat man loosening his belt to prevent obesity”.
Instead, INSTPP recommends a series of incremental measures, including improved transit services, a better functioning road network and incentives to encourage efficient transportation choices. To INSTPP’s list, I would add improved car sharing and ride hailing services. It is evident that individual choices are, collectively, a major cause of our present dilemma and the key to an effective solution. Only by improving transit options and reducing road demand, can we change our behaviour and truly relieve traffic congestion.
Metro Vancouver is predicted to grow by 1,000,000 people by 2040. The North Shore can’t insulate itself from this growth. Housing will become even more unattainable if we stop building supply. Residents will be forced to move to neighbouring communities and others will commute to and through the North Shore. Traffic pressures will only increase over time.
West Vancouver recently held a student video contest entitled “Am I traffic?” The entries show that the kids “get it”. We are all traffic and we must all be part of the solution. Can we plan our days to reduce trips in peak times? Can we shop closer to where we live and live closer to where we work? Can we walk, cycle or take transit more often? Elected officials have a role in making it easier for people to make the right choices. The rest is up to us.
THIS COMMENT IS THE PERSONAL OPINION OF THE AUTHOR AND IS NOT MADE ON BEHALF OF ANY OTHER PERSON OR ENTITY.