No quick fix for Toronto’s traffic problems: expert

ABOVE: There is no quick fix for Toronto’s traffic problems. Jackson Proskow reports. 

TORONTO – Traffic in Toronto is bad and road tolls or congestion charges are unlikely to help.

And a recent report by the C.D. Howe institute suggests the region loses approximately $11 billion each year due to the effects of congestion.

But it’s unclear how to fix the problem. Road tolls and congestion charges have been used successfully in London to curb congestion but Khandker Nurul Habib, a professor of civil engineering at the University of Toronto, said London unlike Toronto, has a viable alternative to driving.

“There is basically not much alternative for people who are driving to switch to transit,” Habib said. “They’re equally congested.”
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Related: Identifying cheap and easy transit solutions for Toronto’s public transportation system. 

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And building new roads will “never be a solution” to congestion Khandker said claiming that new roads raise demand and in turn, increase congestion.

Congestion can cause people to shift their behaviour over time, Khandker said, and a C.D. Howe Institute report backs up the suggestion the region loses upwards of $11 billion each year when people either can’t get to work or decide to stay home rather than go out and spend.

“This unobserved thing of what would the service been but for this transit?” Benjamin Dachis, a senior policy analyst with the C.D. Howe Institute said in an interview. “If I’d been able to get downtown, what would I have done? What are the things that I could have done? The sort of stores that could have opened up, the sorts of services, the sorts of entertainment things that could have opened up, these are economic costs that governments just haven’t been thinking about.”

The province however has already unveiled a multi-decade approach to battle congestion dubbed The Big Move. The 25-year, $50 billion project aims to build over 200 transit projects across the region including the Eglinton Crosstown LRT, the downtown relief line and the Union Pearson Express.

Related: Global News examines the decisions being made for the future of Toronto’s transit. 

But planning transit projects for the Greater Toronto can be difficult. The region’s largest employment zone is downtown Toronto. The region’s second largest employment zone is near Pearson International Airport.

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And the city’s traffic trends are beginning to change as a result of that distant employment centres. City documents show that people are increasingly driving away from Toronto’s downtown core during the morning rush hour.

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