The motion completely neglects to acknowledge that the very act of widening the highways will by itself generate additional traffic, eliminating the congestion-reducing benefits of the widening.
By Ryan McGreal
Published November 02, 2015
Ward 9 Councillor Doug Conley is bringing a notice of motion to today's Public Works Committee meeting to ask staff to report on the feasibility and cost to widen the Red Hill Valley Parkway and Lincoln M. Alexander Parkway from four lanes to six lanes.
Red Hill Valley Parkway (RTH file photo)
Because the City's Council/Committee meeting website is an unusable quagmire, we can't link directly to the report. However, you can download it by scrolling down to item 10.1, clicking on it to pull up a temporary link to the report on the right pane of the web page, and then clicking the tiny PDF icon next to the text "** Expansion of the Red Hill Valley Parkway and th - EDRMS_n584779_v1_NOM_(Conley)_Highway_Expansion.pdf" (but not the text itself because that would be too usable).
Councillor Conley, who claims to be a fiscal conservative and said last year he would have voted against the Cannon Street Cycle Track, is apparently willing to spend several orders of magnitude more money as long as it goes to increasing vehicle lane capacity.
The motion cites increased residential and commercial development across the upper city and rush-hour traffic congestion, but couches the request in the language of "business attraction and industrial park development", calling the RVHP/Linc "vital transportation corridors for both people and goods movement".
It skips over the fact that the growth in automobile-dependent suburban sprawl creating the traffic congestion was made possible by the construction of the Linc/RHVP in the first place.
Perhaps more important, it completely neglects to acknowledge that the very act of widening the highways will by itself generate additional traffic, eliminating the congestion-reducing benefits of the widening.
This is due to the well-understood phenomenon of induced demand, proven over decades of traffic studies in North America and around the world.
Induced demand is simply the fundamental economic law of demand applied to transportation: when you increase vehicle lane capacity, more people drive longer distances more frequently.
Frankly, no one who has the power to make capital spending decisions about our transportation system should be allowed anywhere near a committee meeting without a clear understanding of how induced demand shapes the growth of traffic in response to road widening.
Expanding the RHVP/Linc to six lanes is guaranteed to be a colossal waste of money, even if the City succeeds in getting the Province to "cost share" the capital obligation as the motion resolves to attempt.
We can't afford to maintain the road infrastructure we already have, in significant part because a large - and growing - proportion of it is surrounded by low-density suburban developments that do not generate enough property tax revenue to pay for themselves.
It is lunacy to expand that unfunded road infrastructure obligation further, especially in such a way that it will further increase the growth of financially unsustainable sprawl developments that will drive the city further into the hole!
Here is the text of the notice of motion:
NOTICE OF MOTION
Public Works Committee
Date: November 2, 2015
MOVED BY COUNCILLOR D. CONLEY
EXPANSION OF RED HILL VALLEY PARKWAY AND THE LINCOLN M. ALEXANDER PARKWAY
WHEREAS, the Lincoln M. Alexander Parkway and the Red Hill Valley Parkway are vital transportation corridors for both people and goods movement; and,
WHEREAS, residential and business construction has increased significantly in the upper city, including Stoney Creek, Ancaster and Glanbrook and will continue to increase; and,
WHEREAS, both of these highways are reaching, and at times exceeding, peak rush hour capacity; and,
WHEREAS, there is an increased city-wide focus on business attraction and industrial park development and expansion and transportation linkages will be critical to sustain this growth; and,
WHEREAS, the initial construction of both of these highways allowed for expansion opportunities in the future;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED:
(a) That staff report to the Public Works Committee on the total costs, and feasibility, to expand both highways from the current four lanes to six lanes
(b) That the report consider the highway expansion as part of the City’s overall Master Transportation Plan
(c) That, with the support of Council, the Province of Ontario be approached to cost share in this capital infrastructure project.
(h/t to Joey Coleman for noticing the notice of motion)
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