It is not a coincidence that we have among the lowest levels of traffic congestion and among the highest rates of injury risk for people walking and riding bikes.
By Ryan McGreal
Published March 24, 2016
Mapping company TomTom recently released their fifth annual Worldwide Traffic Index, in which they measure traffic congestion in cities by evaluate the travel speed of TomTom devices on city steets at various times compared to the speed of travel when there is no congestion. As you can see from the following table, the report finds that Hamilton has the second-lowest traffic congestion among Canadian cities.
|Rank||City||Overall Congestion Level||AM Peak||PM Peak|
This is consistent with what we have been arguing for years at Raise the Hammer, which is that Hamilton streets are seriously overbuilt for the low traffic volumes they experience.
The biggest problem we face on Hamilton's street network is not traffic congestion but dangerous speeding. It is not a coincidence that we have among the lowest levels of traffic congestion and among the highest rates of injury risk for people walking and riding bikes.
The report also directly confronts the ridiculous arguments of lane-capacity apologists who claim that Hamilton has some kind of "gridlock" problem and we can't possibly spare any roadway capacity to provide more dedicated space for walking, cycling and transit use.
Garth Street during evening rush hour (RTH file photo)
Queen Street South during evening rush hour (RTH file photo)
Claremont Access during evening rush hour (RTH file photo)
Actual gridlock at Bloor and University, Toronto, during evening rush hour (RTH file photo)
The fact is that rebalancing the transportation system is proven in a wide variety of contexts to shift some trips away from driving and make more effective use of scarce, expensive public right-of-way.
Quite simply, the City of Hamilton can't afford to maintain its vast network of high-capacity streets. We are already siting on $2 billion in unfunded infrastructure maintenance deficit, a number that grows every year.
Meanwhile, we are spending tens of millions of dollars this year to build still more roads that will only add to the city's long-term lifecycle debt obligations.
Ironically, TomTom has some interesting advice for cities that want to deal with gridlock:
We should not expect our transport authorities to simply 'build away' congestion. Studies have shown over the years that building new motorways or freeways does not eliminate congestion.
At TomTom, we're excited about the paradigm shift that we're seeing reflected by many governments' attitudes to transforming our cities globally. They're managing congestion with clever, sustainable policies - such as better public transport infrastructure, investment in cycling and walking initiatives, and ambitious policies pointing to the future of automated driving.
Will that paradigm shift ever really take hold here in Hamilton? Or will we continue to waste year after year on the unaffordable status quo, endlessly delaying already-approved changes to the transportation system out of fear that someone will howl "gridlock" when they have to stop at a red light?
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