Monday, November 24, 2008

We can Fix Gridlock

The following post is from South Fraser OnTrax board member Bill Taylor on an article he read in Readers Digest.
December 2007, when GO Transit, the Greater Toronto Area's (GTA) regional commuter agency, extended its rail service up to Barrie of 132,000 by Lake Simcoe. "Every Day," he says, "I hear three or four people tell someone it's their first time.”

Inside, Roslyn Tyrell is still bundled in her wool coat as she waits for the train so she can commence her 90 minute journey. She works as an office manager in a tower just steps away from Union Station in downtown Toronto. She's been commuting from Barrie for eight years, either by bus or by car. The trek down Highway 400 can take up to three hours if the weather's bad-and that's just one way. “The train,” she says, "is a lot more convenient. It's still a three-hour commute both ways. But on a day like today, I'm saving a couple of hours."

Tyrell isn't just saving time. By avoiding crowded highways, she and her fellow passengers are helping to reduce gridlock, which exacts a toll on the wealth, environment and quality of life in Canada's urban areas. These problems are not unique to Toronto. In Vancouver, the bridges spanning Burrard Inlet and the Fraser River are congested, while Montreal's aging highways are chronically clogged, especially with thousands of commuters streaming in from the West Island and the off-island suburbs that circle the city. Ottawa's Highway 417 is jammed with civil servants driving in from the capital's far-flung suburbs. Booming, Edmonton and Calgary, meanwhile, are Canada's lowest -density big cities, which means car dependency is especially high.

"It's a misconception that gridlock is going to go away," observes Michael Roschlau, president and C. E. O. of the Canadian Urban Transit Association. The question is, how do you give people choices or options that simplify their daily routines.
As someone indicated in one of the Township meetings in Langley, there has been a lot of money spent in the South Fraser on new roads and the upkeep of the old roads. There is another piece of the puzzle that is missing. We need light rail. The province through BC Hydro, as I understand, still has passenger rights in the Interurban corridor. Having an under-utilized rail right-of-way through the heart of urban center (Surrey) is envied by most places in the world. By using the right-of-way we would be able to give people the choice to get out of the gridlock on our roads.

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