July 18, 2006

Accumulating Evidence

More evidence from Stats Canada that we’re getting what we say we want.
“B.C. Residents Driving Less,” reports today’s Sun: “British Columbians … travelled five billion fewer kilometres in their cars than the year before.”
How come?
A shift to public transit, says TransLink.
Price at the pump, says the B.C. Automobile Association.
Is it possible that we’re seeing the consequences of good local and regional planning? As we build more of our communities with the right combination of density, mix, proximity and transportation choice (the latter a result of the former), we’re getting positive results.
The evidence accumulates in Vancouver: commuter trips are not lengthening, transit use is up significantly, car trips are dropping in the central core, walking and cycling are up dramatically.
Apparently, compact, complete communities with transportation choice – you know, the livable region stuff – actually work.
But then skip over to the business section: “$1-billion development proposed for Abbotsford. Highway interchange would come with retail, commercial and residential project.”
Since the company will construct the interchange on the Trans-Canada Highway in order to service the development, one can pretty much anticipate the design of the components, all separated, all provided with abundant parking.
Apparently, though, this doesn’t work, given the experience of places that have tried it. “Widening and building new highways actually causes, not relieves, traffic congestion in Cincinnati and other major U.S. metropolitan areas. … up to 43 percent of traffic in Greater Cincinnati is caused just by expanding the area’s road network.”
The evidence accumulates: no matter how many billions we spend on nore roads – in fact, because we widen highways and build interchanges – traffic gets worse. In the places we haven’t built freeways and have offered alternatives, things get better.
Check this out, and more, at the Livable Region Coalition site. The link is in the Blogroll on the left.
Update: Clark Williams-Derry at the Sightline Institute weighs in with some well-founded scepticism about those Stats Canada driving figures here.

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  1. A very well written, informative article that demonstrates the need for more mass transit and light rail initiatives in our country. I’m an intern for Louisville Metro Planning and Design Services in Louisville, KY and I am continually sickened by our state government’s incompetency and lack of research or ingenuity in finding out what types of transportation systems work to make a more cohesive, sustainable community. Currently, our state transportation cabinet wants to widen the expressway over our award-winning Waterfront park and add more lanes to a highly dangerous convergence of highway lanes, currently dubbed “Spaghetti Junction,” or another nickname that I feel suits the situation better: “Hospital Curve.” With Cincinnati right up the river and their transportation problems entangled in a wiry, cluster of blobs of highway mazes, we still can’t muster the planning intelligence to learn from our neighbors’ mistakes. Our light rail plan was recently removed from our 2030 Comprehensive plan and we continue to allow scattered subdivisions to dot our rural character. I am completely convinced that transportation options and better mass transit is the way to revive our communities, save our environment and help to make our culture a more diverse and accepting one. Please help us midwestern cities Northwest planners! We’re going ass backwards and we don’t know why. Actually we do, but our politicians don’t want us to. Uggh! Politics

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