Here's the question: how do we reduce traffic congestion?
|Hwy 401 traffic on the Saturday of a long weekend (photo credit: Bicycle Bob - Flickr)|
This assumes, of course, that clogged roads are something we would like to eliminate. From wasting time to causing road rage to sickening us by polluting the air we breathe, it is an unwanted yet complacently accepted symptom of large urban areas. For the sake of this discussion, we must take for granted that everyone wants away with traffic jams. And, if you're like me, you also hope to get rid of slower-than-normal speeds on highways due to a high volume of vehicles outside of rush hour, on weekends. (This past Saturday, I found myself carpooling en route to a small town about two hours from where I live, and was appalled but not shocked at how many others were doing the same. Next time I will take the train.)
Instead of entertaining the fantasy of completely overhauling our North American public transit systems so they closely resemble those in places like Copenhagen, Munich, and Tokyo, let's focus on less resource-intensive and therefore more realistic strategies. Here are a few to start you off:
1. Implementing Toll Roads. The initial setup brings some costs, but these are offset by toll revenues before too long, and only those who drive are "penalized". Check out the current debate on this very issue between the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario and a car-lover.
2. Eliminating Subsidies to Oil Companies. Here's a thought: instead of giving billions of dollars to fossil fuel producing corporations via tax breaks, spend the money on the fantasy transit systems I mentioned above and watch as drivers find more affordable methods of transportation! For a summary of the Climate Action Network report on this controversy, go here.
3. Bringing back Chevrons. Remember the white blazes on the 401 near Whitby? They were meant to remind drivers to keep a safe distance from each other. I believe they are equally useful, at least in theory, to move traffic along more smoothly during times of congestion. At least one of my friends agrees that educating the public about the futility and inefficiency of staying close behind the car ahead (causing stop-and-go movement) is part of the solution.
There you have it: only three ideas, but still they indicate how wide the range of possibilities may be. Please share your thoughts on these, feel free to add other suggestions, and comment on what others are saying. To keep track of the discussion, subscribe to receive updates on new messages via e-mail with the link at the bottom of the comments section.