Transportation Study … it’s time!

I’m typically not a big fan of studies especially when the issue has already been studied to death and where the outcomes have almost always been the same as in previous studies. Classically, London’s oft-studied Ring Road, Centennial Hall’s Future and the Damned Dam come to mind.

Where studies can be of enormous value, (especially those conducted by recognized third-party professionals) is when an issue or challenge becomes so apparent and so daunting that there appears to be no clear cut solutions coming out of the usual quarters such as City Hall or Queen’s Park.

In the case of London’s transportation corridors and the various services and technologies that support them, a comprehensive study would certainly seem in order. No one I talk too boasts about London’s efficient, smooth flow of traffic. No one I talk to brags about how courteous and patient London’s drivers are, and no one I know is thrilled about the productivity of our business sector when thousands of cars a day are left idling for up to twenty minutes a pop while waiting for the trains to go by, not to mention our generous contribution to greenhouse gases.

In tandem with the stated hopes and aspirations of other plans such as the Downtown Core Study, the London Transit Study, the Downtown Parking Study and yes even the 12 year old Millennium Plan – a well crafted Transportation study could be the catalyst for what may just end up looking sorta, kinda, like a strategic plan or a strategic vision for London. The point simply, is by not doing these things together in a concerted, strategic way you end up with a bunch of plans that are disconnected and less likely to vault you into the league of “leading communities”.

In my view the time has come for us to engage leading experts in transportation planning to tell us if we really do, or don’t have an effective traffic light system in the city. If we do or don’t have an efficient, well located transit system that both serves its customers while at the same time allows for the efficient flow of regular vehicular traffic. Whether we do or don’t have an efficient and effective roads system that enables pedestrians, cyclists and cars to move freely and safely throughout the community without excessive bottlenecking and unacceptable idling time.
I have driven in every province and dozens of states and in most you can easily make a left hand turn at the lights because they are timed such that 30 to 40 cars can safely make that turn.

The reason we have too few of those in London (and even if you can find one you would be hard pressed to get one or two cars through), is, according to those in charge – “the majority rules rule”. Well frankly that’s just not a good enough answer.

Surely we can do better or at least as good as what others are doing. While majority rules may be convenient, it does not address the excess road rage that is created when you are the poor devil who gets stuck in the intersection
because of the one-car-at-a-time rule and then has to decide to run the red or be crashed into by oncoming traffic. And not to mention the 10 to 20 cars behind that driver who won’t make it through either and are left idling away still spewing all that lovely stuff into our atmosphere.

And please don’t get me started on lost productivity. Those same cars stuck in turn lanes or at rail crossings are people just like you and I. They have jobs to get to, appointments to keep, purchases to make, and banking to be done. It’s called commerce and we are doing none of it while sitting in traffic. And don’t get me wrong, I, more than most, get the connection between the bustling rail cars that crisscross our city and the tremendous contribution that they (and their manufactured freight) bring to our local economy. This is anything but a rail against the railways. I’m simply saying that there has to be a better way, a better answer.

I don’t know about you but increasingly I find myself being bogged down in traffic and not just at the typical drive times. Oxford Street from Wonderland to Adelaide can often take you upwards of a half an hour any time of day. Wellington, Wonderland, Commissioners and Wharncliffe are also seeing their share of increased traffic snarls and bottlenecks – and this is on a regular basis not just during the construction season.

Even traffic in the Big Smoke seems to move more efficiently and more intelligently than ours. Londoners once used to joke that we had a “Rush Half-Hour”. The truth is it’s no longer a half an hour and it’s no longer a joke. We have some serious traffic issues and I fear they are going to get a lot worse before they get better.

Let’s park the “majority rules” theory for a minute and concentrate instead on an intelligent, strategic, intuitive transportation plan that respects safety, the environment, volume, time of day and oh yes – commerce. It’s time for a professional, expert, third party study.


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