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Will more lanes fix 32nd’s traffic problems?

February 26, 2012

photo: BA Blacktop

Monday’s council meeting heard from many residents near Polygon’s proposed development at 152nd and 32nd. Traffic, traffic, traffic was the refrain, which I’m sure comes as no surprise to those of you who have to brave the roads around South Surrey.

One of the complaints about that part of Surrey is the lack of alternatives to driving.

I came across a very interesting 2009 report (pdf) from the American Federal Highways Administration. The gist of it is most of the US’s traffic problems are because growth road capacity has been far outstripped by the growth in travel distances in the last 30 years or so.

As Americans have spread themselves further and further afield, more and more pressure has been put on the US’s highways system. Two key stats worth focusing on: the highway system has grew by just 1.5 per cent between 1980 and 1999, while ‘vehicle miles travelled’ increased by a staggering 76 per cent. People are driving almost twice as far they used to!

Another stunning fact? “On the basis of current trends, a medium sized city should expect its congestion in 10 years to be as bad as or worse than that currently experienced by a large city.”

Building up roads will not solve our problems. More than half of America’s traffic congestion is recurring. This is because there are way more cars than there is road capacity. The same report estimates that, per mile, building one lane of urban highway costs US$10 million.

Lanes will alleviate some traffc in the short term, but the real truth is alternatives need to come into play. The area needs more options for walking, for cycling and better transit. Right now, no one has a choice but to drive out into the traffic. No one wants to contribute to a bad situation; there’s just no choice right now.


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