Toronto takes the wrong turning towards solve its traffic problems
While Toronto can quickly and sustainably eradicate traffic jams by increasing car occupancy rates, Mayor Tory has chosen to resort to an inefficient mix which will never reduce the amount of cars on the road in sufficient numbers to eliminate traffic jams.
We have recently read Mayor Tory’s announcements regarding his proposals to reduce traffic congestion in Toronto with great interest.
His comments regarding the implementation of road pricing and the partnership signed with Waze surprised us.
BILLOO DEVELOPMENT has been supportive of road pricing arrangements for a long time and we are happy with a proposal to introduce road pricing arrangements for Toronto. However, we perceive the problem somewhat differently to Mayor Tory.
Urban concentration continues to increase sharply
For several decades, Toronto and all major cities have been growing steadily due to a constant flow of migrants.
The more populated the cities are, the greater their appeal.
As a result, the migratory flow to these cities has been sustained and has expanded over time. The loop is re-looped and is self-fulfilling.
The more populated cities have become, the greater the number of commuters.
As the number of commuters grows, not only within the cities themselves, but also in their suburbs, the difficulties encountered in accessing Toronto city centre increases on a daily basis.
The greater the number of road commuters, the slower the road traffic because town planning schemes are slow-moving and unchanging over long periods of time thereby failing to keep in step with traffic demands.
In order to avoid paralysis and the asphyxiation of Toronto’s city centre, we agree that the free movement of road traffic must be given the city’s top priority, especially in light of its impact on the economy, environment and public health.
Constraints are not a solution
For several decades, a theory has prevailed that has assumed that by applying increased constraints on the use of the car (lack of car parks, high car park price, traffic restrictions, etc.) this would somehow automatically result in a greater use of public transport and thereby a reduction in road traffic.
The same people propounding this theory also assumed that public transport would be able to meet the demands of the population.
This theory has been seen to fail because it completely ignores the realities of the daily commute.
All current traffic management models based on restrictions on the use of the car in one way or another have resulted in increased city centre congestion, making access to it evermore difficult, and to a traffic becoming totally gridlocked at rush hours.
This policy significantly increases the frequency and magnitude of road congestion and tends to paralyse urban and suburban areas.
Public transport is structurally unsuitable
In order to meet the real needs of the urban and suburban commuter, public transport must fine-tune a coordinated approach so that commuters do not have to use complementary means of transport to cover the distance between their point of departure and their point of entry onto the public transport network (first mile) and thereafter, between their exit point from the public transport network and their final destination (last mile).
The way to manage these two ends of the commute is essential when choosing the combination of means of transport for the commute.
The more complicated the means of access to the first or last mile of access to the public transport network (eg. no car parking, or insufficient, inadequate or expensive car parking), the less attractive public transport is to the commuter.
In order to meet the needs of the urban and suburban population, the availability and frequency of public transport must also be in line with the personal and professional constraints of the population in order to expedite their commutes.
Finally, the public transport pricing policy must offset the perceived disadvantages of public transport, such as lack of flexibility.
There can be little doubt that public transport is, structurally, a long way from being able to cope with all requirements and constraints of the population.
London is a good example.
From 2003 to 2014, the number of Londoners who opted for public transport increased as a result of improvements to the efficiency of the public transport network.
However, since 2014, road congestion has rocketed because the public transport network improvements cannot keep step with the expansion of the urban and suburban population.
Even if massive investments are made to improve the efficiency of public transport, their effects are never immediately perceived.
Due to the time required to make the necessary improvements, they only tend to cover the natural evolution of traffic demand and do not sustainably resolve the problem of traffic jams.
The car remains a necessity
Because the private car provides cover for the failures of the public transport system, the number of cars on the road increases proportionate to the population.
However, the greater the number of cars in and around the cities, the greater the traffic congestion, resulting in a longer journey time.
The pollution emitted by traffic reaches highs when traffic flow is heavy. Its harmfulness is accentuated because the pollutants that are emitted, linger in cities around buildings that block the dispersion of pollutants by the wind.
Notwithstanding the impact on the economy, social relations, environment and public health, it makes more sense to manage and exploit the use of the car as a largely untapped resource, than to simply reject its use.
Road toll alone cannot reduce road congestion
If roads were to be treated as public utilities that must be paid for by its users proportionately, then a road pricing solution is ideal for creating a level playing field amongst all users.
If vehicle owners are treated as solutions to a problem, then road pricing is a good way to collect money.
But road pricing alone cannot reduce road traffic congestion particularly at peak hours.
In the same way, road pricing alone cannot help to manage the high traffic density in Toronto unless the tariff is variable and unless the basic price is economically bearable.
The problem, the irreducible share of private transport
“The irreducible share of private transport” is the term we like to use to describe drivers who will continue to use their private vehicles no matter what, and regardless of the cost of their journey.
It is understood that road pricing will not change the behaviour of drivers who use their vehicles for professional reasons (eg, van drivers who meet new customer requirements and new urban consumption patterns, drivers of private rental vehicles, etc.).
In these cases, road pricing remains an ineffective solution to road congestion and it only increases the cost of the delivery of goods and services.
It is also understood that road pricing will not change the behaviour of drivers who use their private vehicle because public transport fails to provide them with an efficient way to travel.
In these cases too, road pricing will not change the behaviour of drivers who use their private cars because they have no access to alternative forms of travel.
Real time in-car information is lowly efficient on road congestion
Real time in-car information road traffic like Waze, is a nice tool to have to take advantage of the entire road network’s capacity to absorb road traffic.
However, town planning schemes have made bottlenecks that real time in-car information road traffic cannot solve.
In addition, real time in-car information does not expand the road network capacity nor reduce the number of cars in motion which is the key factor to reducing road congestion sustainably.
Car-sharing saves money but does not reduce road congestion
The average amount of time that a car is used, is less than 45 minutes a day, or less than 3% of a day.
Car-sharing solutions increase the time use of vehicles and numerous car-sharing companies have emerged in recent years.
A very promising market opens up to them because of the great savings that car-sharing not only allows to car owners but also to the finances of the city by reducing, among others, the number of car parks presently required to service the car fleet.
However, car-sharing does not increase the average car occupancy rate and consequently it does not reduce road congestion.
Ride-sharing: the main solution to reduce road congestion
Today, during peak hours, the average occupancy rate of vehicles is 1.1, up to a maximum of close to 4.8.
Thus, most of the transport capacity in motion remains untapped.
As we have shown, managing the first and last miles of a commute, is the most important criterion for choosing the most appropriate means or combination of means of transport. This is especially true when journeys are short, (which is the case for journeys within urban and suburban areas), or when people commute to a public transport system.
Because current carpooling platforms do not offer a seamless door-to-door journey via the use of just one or more cars, carpooling has not attained its market share for commuters.
GOVOIT: the multi-leg door-to-door ride-sharing app.
The GOVOIT app. allows subscribers to travel from door-to-door using one or more cars via a seamless connection.
In this way, the GOVOIT app. removes the main obstacle to carpooling by solving the difficulties of the first and the last mile of a ride and allows users enjoy the same comfort and flexibility as their own vehicle, but at a lower price than public transportation.
In addition, the GOVOIT app. operates a subscription model to select subscribers to enforce the safety of its users.
In this way, The GOVOIT app. eliminates the second main factor that blocks the mass development of ride-sharing: the fear of unknown people.
At an economical level, in addition to the subscription fee, a fee per kilometre is paid by the passenger and transferred in its entirety to the driver, thereby guaranteeing a best-value ride.
Political and economic decision-makers can make use of the GOVOIT app. to work towards improving urban and suburban road traffic flows while safeguarding the best interests of local authorities, businesses and population.
Road network free use must be reconsidered
Urban tolls have been set up in several capitals such as London and Stockholm.
Their impact needs to be analysed more closely in order to measure their real effectiveness.
Similarly, many cities continue to support inefficient public transport systems by subsidising them, resulting in hundreds of millions of euros being lost every year.
By providing effective alternatives to increased average vehicle usage time and average car occupancy, car-sharing and door-to-door carpooling can enable urban conurbations to quickly eliminate the free use of the road network.
The toll collected would balance the overall cost of each mode of transport, and promote those methods that best improve traffic flow. Thereby creating a virtuous circle.
As is the case with all of all tomorrow’s cities, Toronto will be more populated in the future than it is today, and the problem of commuting within the city and its suburbs will grow exponentially.
Due to the structural disadvantages of public transport, the car will remain, more than ever before, the citizen’s preferred means of transport.
Traffic fluidity management is a major problem that cannot be solved without increasing the average occupancy rate of cars on the road.
By facilitating door-to-door carpooling via seamless connections, the GOVOIT app. offers an efficient sustainable alternative which opens doors to a massive increase of ride-sharing opportunities.
A road toll applied to the urban and suburban road network would finance the alternative solutions to public transport.
Of course, to live and move easily in the cities of tomorrow, it is also necessary to consider measures beyond the field of transport, such as those relating to urban planning and revised work practices.
It is only under these circumstances that Toronto will be able to bear the burden of progress although other measures worthy of consideration beyond the field of transport, such as those relating to urban planning and revised working practices, should be introduced in parallel.
GOVOIT offers a quick and sustainable solution to a city’s traffic problems.