Current Political Thinking as Backed up as our Roads

Would be Vaughan MPP’s recently proposed solutions to alleviate your traffic congestion woes, unfortunately their proposals, ranging from road expansion to “improving” public transit will do nothing to reduce your commute times. Without real funding attached to these promises, your commute will continue to be miserable. In an age of budget deficits, do Vaughan wannabe politicians and their parties have the political will to take on this problem?

Politicians during every recent election claim to have the cure for our traffic congestion blight. They don’t, there is currently no solution to help alleviate traffic congestion in Vaughan or elsewhere in the GTA. In fact what politicians will not tell you is that Vaughan’s traffic congestion problems are going to get far worse before they ever get better.

The City of Vaughan intends to develop 20 570 single and semi-detached houses. Thanks to a recent decision by Vaughan council, the recently approved accelerated development on whitebelt lands will add another 9600 single and semi-detached homes north of the city’s existing urban boundary for a total of 30 170 single and semi-detached homes over the next twenty years. This in a city already composed of approximately 85% single and semi-detached homes.
The average Vaughan citizen doesn’t need a degree in traffic engineering or urban planning to understand what their future will look like. The majority of the new home buyers will commute by car. Regardless of what York Region politicians and planners will tell you about their grand public transit plans for these new growth areas, people don’t move to Vaughan to take a bus for two hours to get to work.

There is currently no plan at the Provincial level to deal with the traffic congestion that is costing the province billions of dollars in lost productivity annually and ruining your quality of life. In fact the Province’s Standing Committee on General Government is currently conducting a study on traffic congestion in the GTA referred to as the study on “gridlock”.

As we await the findings of this study, the Province intends to reward the new growth areas in Halton, Caledon, Peel and York Region with a new mega highway which will stretch from Highway 400 in Vaughan and arc all the way around the Golden Horseshoe down to the Niagara border with Fort Erie. First planned in the Province’s Big Move document, the coyly named GTA West corridor and the Mid-Peninsula Corridor will pave over portions of both the Greenbelt and the Niagara Escarpment.

Unfortunately this new highway will do nothing to alleviate congestion in the long term. According to University of Toronto researchers Gilles Duranton and Matthew Turner, “roads cause traffic”. In their study, The Fundamental Law of Road Congestion, Duranton and Turner, concluded that road construction can never keep pace with road congestion.

In the long term building new roadways does not divert traffic from existing roads. The only mechanism that does help reduce traffic congestion, according to their report, is congestion pricing. Not surprisingly, this solution is not mentioned by any of the political parties. Also not mentioned is the idea of a new tax geared towards raising funding for public transit infrastructure.

In a recent study by Canadian sustainability think-tank Pembina Institute, 70 per cent of Toronto area car commuters stated they are prepared to pay user taxes or tolls if it helps to reduce their commute times.

We need to eliminate car dependency by offering citizens an alternative means of getting around other than by car. This will require billions of dollars over the next twenty years spent on a mix of public transit infrastructure coupled with the political will to curb continued sprawl. Are citizens of Vaughan willing to pay for a shorter commute? Do politicians have the political will to raise the necessary funds through new taxes and tolls? Or do we endure yet more political campaigns with empty promises.

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Help Support a Real Cycling Infrastructure

The Region of York is currently proposing a painted bike lane along Highway 7 adjacent to the future Vaughan Metropolitan Centre. Sustainable Vaughan has always maintained that a painted lane is not acceptable and that all new bike lanes on Regional roads must be segregated by either a continuous physical barrier or more preferably, a lane raised to the level of the sidewalk.

To read more please follow the link below,

http://www.yorkregion.com/opinion/columns/article/1331443–york-region-risks-empty-bike-lanes-as-legacy

To bring attention to our demands Sustainable Vaughan is organizing a community bike ride along Highway 7 to protest the Region’s painted bike lane proposal. Sustainable Vaughan intends to hold the cycling protest ride in mid September.

In order to hold the event Sustainable Vaughan requires a road permit from York Region. In order to acquire such a permit we will need to obtain insurance for the event.

In addition to this, we believe the community bicycle ride should be accessible to cyclists of all ages and experience. This is what we ultimately want by demanding a segregated bicycle lane. In order to ensure the safety of participants for the event, we need to hire two York Region police cyclists and one patrol car.

These requirements will push the cost of the half day event up to $3500. In order to provide a safe community cycling event open to cyclists of all ages and experience levels for a leisurely ride along Highway 7, we are required to obtain insurance and the assistance of the Regional Police. This speaks volumes about how unsafe cycling along Highway 7 currently is.

Creating a painted lane will invite cyclists onto the highway without insurance or the benefit of a police escort, however this painted lane will not be much safer

In order to make this event possible, Sustainable Vaughan is asking for small donations from concerned members of the community to help make this one day community bicycle ride possible and to show York Region that we demand safe bicycle lanes.

Please get in touch if you’re interested in lending your support, any amount is greatly appreciated.

Thank You!

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Region, Vaughan need to curb insatiable sprawl

The City of Vaughan recently voted to backtrack on a key piece of legislation that would have provided an orderly phasing of development on the City’s whitebelt lands over the next twenty years. In doing so, the city green lighted and acelerated the type of development model the province has been trying to curb for the past decade. However, the province seems content on sitting back while its own legislation is undermined.

Vaughan Official Plan Policy “10.1.1.2 – Timing of New Secondary Plan Areas,” required that five of the six missing secondary plans within the city’s existing urban boundary had to be substantially complete before development of lands outside the city boundary (whitebelt) could proceed. After the vote, only two of these secondary plans are required.

What precipitated this revote was a report crafted by York Region (Ground Related Housing Demand/Supply Analysis) arguing there is a looming deficit of single and semi-detached homes within the Region. Unfortunately those Vaughan councillors who voted in support of the revised policy did so based on flawed information.

One of the major flaws in the Region’s report is that it excludes all future townhouse developments within the City’s existing urban boundary. Leaving these townhomes out of the report artificially creates a deficit of ground related housing which further helps to substantiate the Region’s argument for accelerated sprawl.

The city hired a consultant (Hemson) to look at the housing supply potential in Vaughan as part of creating its new Official Plan. The consultant found that there is the potential for 6720 new townhouse units through intensification in the existing urban boundary. This number was excluded from the Regions report. The number of single and semi -detached housing units that the Region is desperate to develop in the whitebelt totals 6260.

The Region’s report also excludes the future townhomes that will be built within the six missing intensification areas. These would also number in the thousands once secondary plans are complete.

In fact the consultant has stated in the same report;
“One of the advantages that the City of Vaughan has…is the potential for a relatively large supply of rowhouse (townhouse) units, which are somewhat better suited for families than apartment units.”

Vaughan is fortunate enough to be receiving the type of public transit infrastructure that will help support higher density development; a future subway and bus rapid transit line within its existing urban boundary. The city is also well suited, as stated by the consultant’s report, to develop ground related housing in the form of townhomes. The Region can have both development levies and intensification, so why the aggressive need to develop more houses outside the city’s boundary?

York Region is in debt by approximately one billion dollars. This debt is mostly due to the York-Durham Sanitary Sewer Southeast Collector, more commonly referred to as “The Big Pipe”. York Region’s entire debt financing model is based on recuperating costs through development fees collected from the urban boundary expansion. In fact, the Region was planning the urban boundary expansion as far back as 2008, before the creation of the Vaughan Official Plan had begun.

York Region has managed to dig itself into a financial burden by building infrastructure in one area of the Region and gambling that money from development levies in another part of the Region will offset these costs. In order to pay this debt down, the region is using the white belt lands within Vaughan as collateral.

Those who believed the Provinces Places to Grow Act would help to place limitations and controls on this type of growth have been severely disappointed. If the Province is willing to stand back and allow Vaughan and York Region to undermine the Places to Grow Act and accelerate development of single and semi-detached housing for the sake of recuperating development levies, how soon can we expect the Region to begin going after the Greenbelt? York Region’s insatiable appetite for sprawl has not been abated by provincial legislation.

With traffic congestion the worst in North America, can the GTA handle thousands of new single and semi-detached homes along the edge of the Greenbelt? With the Province and Federal governments in deficit, there will be little chance of increased funding for public transit. These developments will be car dependent and will exacerbate the problems of congestion on GTA roads.

Your council’s short sighted decision was based on flawed information. Thanks to a lack of Provincial oversight, citizens of Vaughan will have to deal with the headache for decades to come.

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How do you build a cycling infrastructure in York Region?

You start by creating bicycle lanes that people will actually use.

York Region is currently planning to create a bicycle lane along Highway 7. This lane will be painted to separate the area meant for cyclists from motorists. Although speeds along highway 7 will be decreased when these lanes are implemented, I believe a painted bike lane will do little to provide safety for cyclists and convince more people to bicycle.

The link below is a recent op-ed piece I wrote for the Vaughan Citizen newspaper, criticizing the region’s decision to have a painted lane not physically segregated from vehicular traffic.

http://www.yorkregion.com/opinion/columns/article/1331443–york-region-risks-empty-bike-lanes-as-legacy

It is for this reason why I ask your support in promoting the idea of a bicycle lane segregated by a curb or one raised to the level of the sidewalk as a means for providing the safety needed to help grow a cycling culture in the suburbs.

I am aware that many of you do not use a bicycle as a part of your daily commute to work or even recreationally. Vaughan and other suburbs are difficult places to ride a bike due to the large distances between destinations and concerns over safety. As Vaughan rapidly urbanizes, parts of the city will grow more compact and dense. It is important, as part of the city’s future transportation mix, that riding a bicycle become one of several commuting choices. It is only fair that this choice is also a safe.

I ask for your support in demanding that York Region implement a segregated bike lane along highway 7 and abandon the idea of painted bicycle lanes.

I encourage you to take a moment and email York Region councillors and mayors who sit on the Regions Transportation Services Committee as well as Kathleen Llewellyn-Thomas Commissioner of Transportation and Community Planning and Steve Kemp, Director of Traffic Management and Intelligent Transportation Systems at Regional Municipality of York.

Let them know that you do not support a painted bike lane along Highway 7 and instead want to see a bicycle lane segregated by a curb or raised to the level of the sidewalk.

jjones@markham.ca

gino.rosati@vaughan.ca

vspatafora@richmondhill.ca

mayor@newmarket.ca

mayor.emmerson@townofws.ca

glandon@markham.ca

rgrossi@georgina.ca

kathleen.llewellyn-thomas@york.ca

steve.kemp@york.ca

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York Region risks empty bike lanes as legacy

A recent Money Sense magazine survey of best places to live in Canada ranked Vaughan 102 out of 190 cities. This is down from the previous year’s ranking of 70, out of the 180 best places.  Much of this survey has to be taken with a grain of salt as decisions about why we choose a particular place to live are more complex than the 10 categories used in its rating system.  But what was revealing about the survey was that Vaughan ranked dead last in the walking or biking to work category. Even places such as North Bay, Ontario and Red Deer, Alta. scored better.

Getting on a bike in most suburbs is fraught with danger. In Vaughan, it is especially hazardous due to the large number of transport trucks that dominate our roads.  That’s why I was disappointed by a recent decision by York Region to favour bike lanes along Hwy. 7 that would not be physically separated from vehicular traffic. Instead, paint will be used to separate you and the 18-wheel transport truck in the next lane.

 
In a recent Vaughan Citizen story about the proposed painted Hwy. 7 bike lanes, the region’s director of traffic management Steve Kemp stated: “A novice cyclist wouldn’t want to try Hwy. 7 any more than a novice driver would start on Hwy. 401.”  Unfortunately, the region is investing in cycling infrastructure that it expects very few people to use. Mr. Kemp believes the number of cyclists will grow over time after this bike lane is created. This seems highly unlikely because the same barriers that will make cycling dangerous along Hwy. 7 will always be there.

The region should be promoting cycling as a viable transportation option over the car.  To do this requires a bike lane segregated by a curb or one raised to the pedestrian sidewalk level.  A bucket of paint will not accomplish this. Clearly, your safety and promoting cycling doesn’t seem to be the focus.

 
Meanwhile, York Region already has a progressive plan to convert car commuters into public transit users. Ridership on regional transit grew by 25 per cent from 2005 to 2011 and had its busiest year in 2011, despite the strike. The region needs to learn from its promotion of public transit and apply the same lessons to its cycling infrastructure. Passengers here pay the highest fares in the GTA and taxpayers pay the highest subsidies to support and grow public transit. If you want to get people out of their cars and reduce traffic congestion, it will cost money up front. But the long-term gains are worth it.

 
Ottawa, which ranked No. 1 in the Money Sense survey, has created the very type of segregated cycling lane that would provide safety for cyclists and convince more users to choose a bike as a viable means for transportation, whatever their riding skills may be.

 
A pilot project along Ottawa’s Laurier Avenue has a curb separating cyclist from cars and also helps create a buffer for pedestrians. It’s a simple idea that’s proven to make cyclists safer and encourages people to get on a bike.  What’s happening in Ottawa is not revolutionary by any means. Segregating people from cars is simply common sense.

What’s almost as disappointing as the complete disregard for the safety of the region’s cyclists is the missed opportunity to do something progressive. The region actually has an opportunity to leap ahead of Toronto and show the rest of the country that it is not the same suburb of the past, instead, the region’s politicians risk having a series of empty bike lanes as their legacy to alternative transportation.

 
A large part of the problem is that those making decisions do not themselves use a bicycle as a means for transportation.  Before the region makes a final decision, perhaps transportation services staff would like to take a bike ride along Hwy. 7. I’ll bring the bucket of paint.

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Secondary Suites Make Cities Sustainable

It was recently announced that Mississauga decided to grow up. As a means of increasing its stock of affordable housing, the city has put into plan the legalization of secondary suites (basement apartments) by this coming fall. Currently basement apartments are not legal in Mississauga or in Vaughan. A simple internet search reveals basement apartments are being rented out in both cities and other municipalities where they are banned.
This change in policy isn’t through any newly enlightened position on the part of Mississauga council. Bill 140, Strong Communities through Affordable Housing Act was passed in January by the Provincial government. According to this bill,
“Municipalities are required to establish official plan policies and zoning by-law provisions allowing second units in single, semi and row houses, as well as in accessory structures (e.g. above laneway garages).”
Yet again, the Province has had to step in to aid the maturing process of suburban municipalities which seem inept in managing their own growth. First it was curbing sprawl through the Places to Grow Act and the creation of the Greenbelt, now McGuinty, has to again play the role of Premier Dad forcing municipalities to grow up.

 
In Vaughan, growing up is hard to do, and a potential political minefield. Homeowners in Vaughan will tell you they moved here for a “suburban” way of life and wish to maintain that increasingly diminishing notion as much as possible. Part of that way of life involves living in predominantly middle class neighbourhoods with fellow homeowners, where members from other socio economic and racial groups are underrepresented or not represented at all. This fear seems outdated and completely inappropriate in a city that is already rapidly urbanizing and becoming increasingly diverse. Change is difficult.
Allowing residents to rent dormant basements is both equitable and sustainable. It will also generate income for residents on fixed incomes or those struggling to pay mortgage costs on large homes. A small rental tax could help raise money for the municipality. This money could be used to help support public transit.
According to The City of Vaughan’s Social Services Report completed in 2009, “With housing costs rising, income not keeping pace and a lack of diversity in housing choices, the ability of Vaughan residents to purchase a home is diminishing. In addition to rising housing costs, almost a third of Vaughan’s residents are spending more than a third of their income on housing.”
The notion that secondary suites will lead to increased traffic congestion in Vaughan is a myth. In fact, secondary suites have the potential to alleviate congestion on our roads. More people commute to Vaughan to work then leave Vaughan to work elsewhere. This statistic is the result of a lack of rental housing within the city. Increasing the stock of rental housing will only help alleviate congestion on our roads as those choosing to rent in the city are doing so to be closer to jobs in order to reduce their commute times.
In February of 2010 the previous Vaughan Council approved the creation of the Secondary Suites Task Force to study and provide recommendations regarding the implementation of secondary suites. To this day nothing has been presented back to council or published. With the previous election in the same year, it was expedient for the politicians of the day to take this issue off the table. As we all now issues have a way of ruining with a good campaign.
The issue of Secondary Suites is a real test of this council. The province requires municipalities to allow secondary suites yet has been very shrewd, forcing local politicians to approve the legalization at the municipal level. No doubt this legislation would have been easier if forced on the municipality, allowing Vaughan politicians to point the finger at the Province. Are we to expect the usual political ineptitude regarding this issue for the next two and a half years? Or is the “new” Vaughan council ready to start making the tough decisions that come with a city growing up.

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Infrastructure, Growth and the Shape of the Suburbs

Infrastructure, Growth and the Shape of the Suburbs;

York Region’s Infrastructure Challenges in the next 20 years

 Tuesday October 4, 2011, 6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.

Vellore Village Community Centre, 1 Villa Royale Ave, Vaughan, ON L4H 2Z7

Sustainable Vaughan together with The Vaughan Citizen newspaper and Human Endeavor are hosting a Speaker Series and Panel Discussion. The series is focused on infrastructure in the suburbs and the challenges faced by municipalities within York Region. Infrastructure, Growth and the Shape of the Suburbs; York Region’s Infrastructure Challenges in the next 20 years will be held on October 4th 6:30-8:30 at the Vellore Village Community Centre.

Guest speakers include Eric J Miller, Director of the University of Toronto’s Cities Centre, Zack Taylor Professional Planner with Metapolis Consulting, Dr. Faisal Moola, Science Director for the David Suzuki Foundation and Roger Keil Director of the City Institute at York University.

Over the next twenty years municipalities across the GTA will began falling into debt paying for the maintenance and repair of existing infrastructure. Mississauga is undergoing this very problem as it developed over 30 years prior to newer municipalities such as Vaughan. Mississauga will spend its reserves over the next year and loose its debt free status in order to pay for maintenance, repair and replacement of its aging infrastructure. According to Mississauga’s 2008 Report, “City’s Now”, The City is facing a $1.5 billion infrastructure deficit over the next 20 years. This year’s property tax increase alone is 5.8%.

As it begins the process of urbanizing, Mississauga still hasn’t developed adequate infrastructure to deal with the increased density growing within its city centre. Developers are already building the type of residential density envisioned in the Places to Grow Act however, will the city have the adequate infrastructure in place to service this density? Mississauga’s current plight should serve as a warning for other municipalities which are not adequately planning for future infrastructure needs within areas set to become denser.

Municipalities throughout the GTA are struggling to keep up with infrastructure needs. The current federal government scrapped the Ministry of State and Infrastructure and seems only willing to invest in shovel ready projects that provide short term political gain and short term impacts for the Region. The Province is also mired in debt and will have limited capabilities in providing bail outs for municipalities. Just this past spring the McGuinty government postponed funding for the Highway 7 Bus Rapid Transit Line in Vaughan, this at a time when ridership on the VIVA system is steadily increasing annually.

Future infrastructure challenges will become an ongoing issue in municipalities across the country. With money not available to satisfy every needed project, York Region needs to begin the conversation about Priorities and Choices. What infrastructure does the Region need to be prioritising now to pre-empt this inevitable infrastructure deficit? What are our choices? What can we learn from other cities?

The Provincial Election is less than a month away and the City of Vaughan is close to finishing its Official Plan document.  It is a perfect time to invite experts to weigh in on this important topic.

Speakers

Roger Keil

Roger Keil is the Director of the City Institute at York University and a Professor at the Faculty of Environmental Studies at York University. He researches global suburbanism, cities and infectious disease, and regional governance. Among his recent publications are The Global Cities Reader (ed. with Neil Brenner; Routledge, 2006); Networked Disease: Emerging Infections and the Global City. (ed. With S.Harris Ali; Wiley-Blackwell, 2008); Changing Toronto: Governing the Neoliberal City (with Julie-Anne Boudreau and Douglas Young; UTP 2009); Leviathan Undone? The Political Economy of Scale. (ed. with Rianne Mahon, UBC Press 2009) and In-between  Infrastructure: Urban Connectivity in an Age of Vulnerability (edited with Douglas Young and Patricia Burke Wood, Praxis(e) Press).

Dr. Eric J Miller

Dr. Miller is Director of the University of Toronto’s Cities Centre, a multi-disciplinary research institute that aims to encourage and facilitate research on cities and on a wide range of urban policy issues, both in Canada and abroad.

Dr. Miller is former Director of the Urban Transportation Research and Advancement Centre within the University of Toronto Department of Civil Engineering, where he has been a professor since 1983. He is the past Chair of the International Association for Travel Behaviour Research, and he also serves on a number of committees for transportation research in Canada and the US.

The City of Toronto uses his “GTAModel” modeling system to forecast regional travel demand in the Greater Toronto Area to support urban transportation policy analysis and decision-making. He is also the principal investigator of the research team currently developing advanced microsimulation systems for modeling travel and other urban spatial processes.

Dr. Miller received his BASc in Engineering Science from the U of T in 1973, his MASc in Aerospace Studies from the U of T in 1975 and his PhD in Civil Engineering Transportation Systems from MIT in 1978.

Dr. Faisal Moola
Program Director, Terrestrial Conservation and Science

Faisal leads the terrestrial team in working to protect endangered and at-risk species that live on land, and the habitats that support them. Faisal is a practicing scientist and has published widely in scientific journals on ecology, conservation biology, and environmental policy. He has conducted research in some of Canada’s most significant wilderness areas, such as the Boreal Forest, the old-growth rainforests of British Columbia and the Acadian woodlands of Atlantic Canada. He has also been a university lecturer.

 

Zack Taylor

Principal consultant at Metapolis Consulting

Doctoral Candidate at University of Toronto and the 2010 recipient of the Blanche and Sandy van Ginkel Graduate Fellowship in Municipal Finance and Governance

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Sustainable Vaughan Hosts GTA West Corridor Information Night

The Province of Ontario has cancelled the southern portion of the mega Highway which was to connect to the proposed GTA West Corridor, beginning at Highway 400 and cutting through the Niagara Escarpment down to the Niagara Peninsula.

http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/article/1031007–province-puts-brakes-on-controversial-highway?bn=1

The Northern portion of this highway which runs through Vaughan is still in the planning process. However it is also a contentious issue in some regions.

http://www.insidehalton.com/community/milton/article/1046251

Sustainable Vaughan will be holding an information night regarding the proposed GTA West Corridor (or as we`ve taken to calling it, The Green Belt Express). Sustainable Vaughan has raised opposition to the highway. Our bigger concern however is the lack of knowledge regarding the highway and its impact to existing residents. As with contentious large infrastructure projects initiated by governments, there is always a lack of information. Sustainable Vaughan would like to address this chasm.

As the Provincial election nears, we believe this highway will become a major election due to the impact on the city of Vaughan and most notably, the residents of Kleinberg. The cancellation of the southern half of this project is proof of this.

Sustainable Vaughan will be holding an information session on Tuesday August 9th at the Kleinberg Library, 10341 Islington Avenue North from 6:30pm to 8:00pm.

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New highway through Vaughan an outdated idea

The Ontario Transportation Ministry is planning a new super highway in the 905, the GTA West Corridor. It will extend across Vaughan to Miton, beginning at Hwy. 400 and cut through Peel and Halton regions.

The province believes this highway and the linkages it will create are required for future commuter and shipping needs.

For those who believe building more highways in Vaughan will help alleviate the city’s congestion, you’re wrong. In the long term, not only will new highways not reduce traffic, they will create even more congestion.

A new highway will simply funnel more cars into Vaughan from other growth centres. Vaughan will potentially be the regional epicentre of automobile traffic due to its existing highway infrastructure and central location.

Connecting the car dependent growth centres of Guelph, Milton, Brampton and Vaughan will only result in another congested highway in the region. Over the next 20 years, one thing will remain consistent in Vaughan: traffic congestion. As long as there is car dependency, there will be traffic congestion.

According to University of Toronto researchers Gilles Duranton and Matthew Turner, “roads cause traffic”. Their study, The Fundamental Law of Road Congestion, Duranton and Turner, concluded that road construction can never keep pace with road congestion.

The data gathered from studying highway networks across the United States showed “vehicle kilometres travelled … increases proportionately to roadway lane kilometres for interstate highways”. The researchers call this the fundamental law of highway congestion.

Among the surprising findings of the study is the fact that building new roadways does not divert traffic from existing roads. The Toronto researchers also found that adding transit does nothing to ease highway congestion. When one driver leaves the road, another simply takes his or her place.

The only mechanism that does help reduce traffic congestion, according to their report, is congestion pricing.  Placing a price on road use is the only effective tool to help curb traffic congestion.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone in Vaughan. One need only study Hwy. 407 for evidence of this finding at work.
Hwy. 407 does not suffer the same congestion that we witness on highway 400 or 427 due to the cost of using it. Avoiding congestion has a price.

Guelph, Halton, Peel and Vaughan all suffer from traffic congestion related to car dependency. This dependency is born out of urban sprawl and a segregated land use pattern of development that is typical of GTA suburbs.

The GTA West Corridor will extend across whitebelt lands in Peel and Halton, facilitating sprawl and exasperating the problems related to car-dependent development. It is counter-productive to reward these suburbs with a new highway.

There are tens of thousands of un-built, single and semi-detached homes in car-dependent subdivisions yet to be built in Halton, Peel, and York Region.

Traffic congestion will get worse over the next 20 years. During this time Vaughan will also continue to witness new high-density developments.

Having great public transit infrastructure in place when this occurs will convince people moving to the city that a life devoid of car dependency is possible.

The province needs to focus on helping municipalities break free of their automobile dependency by investing in public transit infrastructure, not new highways.

Investing money toward public transit infrastructure will allow citizens of suburbs a greater range of commuting options that will help reduce congestion, improve commute times, reduce car-related pollution and improve quality of life.

How bad is our dependency on cars? In its report, Toronto as a Global City: Scorecard on Prosperity 2010, the Toronto Board of Trade found that 70 per cent of GTA residents drive to work. York Region came in last.

The average round trip in the region is 80 minutes, 24 minutes more than Los Angeles, a city legendary for its long commute times. By 2031, that commute is predicted to become a staggering 109 minutes.

Sustainable Vaughan believes the proposal of creating a highway through Vaughan’s greenbelt is out-dated.

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GTA West Corridor; Letter to the Province

June 29, 2011

To Hon. Dalton McGuinty, Premier of Ontario, Hon. Kathleen Wynne, The Minister of Transportation, Hon. Greg Sorbara, MPP for Vaughan and Mr. Neil Ahmed, P. Eng., Consultant Project Manager.

Re: GTA West Corridor

As residents of Vaughan, Sustainable Vaughan’s executive is writing to express its opposition to the GTA west corridor. Vaughan does not require more highways to deal with increased growth and existing traffic congestion. If highways were considered anathema to the problems related to growth and congestion, highway construction would be an ongoing consideration in the City of Toronto. Toronto’s growth also increases each year and far more goods and people flow in and out of Toronto than Vaughan. We understand that this type of solution is out-dated and detrimental to the city’s vitality. Far more is lost when we propose drastic solutions such as an expressway through the city.

Sustainable Vaughan believes the proposal of creating a highway through Vaughan’s Greenbelt is equally out-dated. Guelph, Milton, Peel and Vaughan all suffer from traffic congestion related to car dependency. This dependency is born out of urban sprawl and segregated land use pattern of development that is typical of GTA suburbs. This problem is a result of previous political decisions. It seems counter-productive to reward these suburbs with a new highway and further feed resident’s addiction to their cars. This vicious cycle needs to be broken if the province ever hopes to alleviate the region’s traffic congestion woes.

The cost of traffic congestion within the GTA is well documented by The Toronto Board of Trade in its report, “Toronto as a Global City: Scorecard on Prosperity 2010”. The report suggests the reasons for the GTA’s traffic issues are urban sprawl and decades of under-investment in public transit (not the lack of highways). The report also found that 70 per cent of Torontonians drive to work. The city came in last compared to other major cities such as New York where 60 per cent drive to work, 40 per cent in London, and 25 per cent in Paris. The average round trip in the region is 80 minutes, 24 minutes more than Los Angeles, a city legendary for its long commute times. Building new highways will not change this culture of congestion.

It’s unfortunate your government continues to pursue this highway as it has delayed funding to public transit infrastructure. Your government has delayed York Region’s funding to expand the Viva system, along with $4 billion dollars in other public transit infrastructure projects in the GTA. The new subway extension to Vaughan will go a long way to reduce traffic congestion, but without an efficient and extensive network of public transit spreading throughout the city, traffic congestion will only get worse. A new highway will not reduce this. It will simply funnel more cars into Vaughan from other growth centres.

Vaughan will potentially be the regional epicenter of automobile traffic due to its existing highway infrastructure and central location. Connecting the car dependent growth centres of Guelph, Milton, Brampton and Vaughan will only result in another congested highway in the region.

This “Greenbelt Expressway” will represent another form of sprawl: infrastructure sprawl. It would result in the slow and incremental erosion of our natural heritage in favour of increased automobile-oriented infrastructure in what the province itself has designated as significant, protected lands.

The most basic type of cost benefit analysis for this highway is missing. Will the loss of the natural heritage in Vaughan be more detrimental in the long term then the gains received by building a highway? The David Suzuki Foundation estimates the ecological services and benefits provided by the Greenbelt are valued at $2.6 billion per year. How will the natural economy be impacted?

Sustainable Vaughan asks the Ministry of Transportation to reconsider its pursuit of the GTA West Corridor at this time and consider instead focusing on studying alternatives through two reports; first, a cost benefit analysis to determine the true, long term costs of the loss of Greenbelt lands versus the economic gains of the highway and second, a study to determine the alternatives of increased investment in public transportation as a means of alleviating the traffic congestion and as a preferred means of stimulating the economy, job growth and building compact communities within existing urban boundaries.

We hope you will reconsider the pursuit of this Highway.

Thank You

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