Thursday, December 08, 2005

Stop Don't Go Traffic

Oh to be the guy who sells traffic lights to the city of Vancouver! He must be making money hand over fist. This holiday season, who needs Christmas lights? We’ve already got plenty of flashing red and green lights for as far as the eye can see!

For those of you fortunate enough to not have to drive Vancouver city streets each day, let me explain. Back in the early 70’s, Vancouver city planners made a conscious decision not to build freeways. Their vision was one of a city with lots of green space, minimal cars and effective transit. Considering Vancouver’s idyllic location on the west coast, I’d say that wasn’t a bad idea.

However, there is a not-so subtle difference between vision and implementation, and Vancouver is a textbook example of how the one doesn’t necessarily lead to the other. In fact, it more closely resembles an example of how bright ideas can get totally screwed up.

The original plan was to discourage people from commuting by making driving in the city as frustrating as possible while at the same time providing efficient and cost effective transportation alternatives. Pretty simple, really. If driving is a pain, people will take another option.

Well, they got it half right. Driving in Vancouver is indeed a pain. You can’t get anywhere quickly because all the roads are clogged city streets. There are no freeways or thoroughfares. Moreover, there are hardly any left hand turn lanes or advance turn signals! As a result, rush hour lasts from 7 AM to 7 PM.

Of course, making life hell for drivers was the easy part of the plan. The city has saved a bundle on highway construction (there is none) and has obviously put no money or even thought into improving the infrastructure of existing roads. About all they seem to have done is to initiate a plan whereby traffic lights are being installed at every single intersection in the city. It’s infuriating in its idiodicy, but it sure adds to the goal of snarling traffic and exasperating drivers. Good job on task one city planners!

Meanwhile, the city collects some of the highest civic taxes in the country. Now, it was my understanding that the reasoning behind the high taxes was that the city was going to build a world class public transit system. Remember that part of the plan? The bit about effective and efficient alternatives? Instead, the city appears to be spending the money talking about building a world class public transit system. Apparently, talk doesn’t come cheap here on the west coast. So, while city planners talk, the number of cars on the road multiplies like rabbits, and drivers have an increasing number of stop lights where they can get out of their cars and clobber their fellow motorists with golf clubs.

On a recent trip to Seattle, I heard that they are looking to Vancouver as a model for the redevelopment of their downtown core. I hope they’ve stocked up on traffic lights.


Anonymous said...

Vancouver does have a comprehensive city plan to manage growth and you can see it here

and we do have an excellent transit system try living in montreal and using their bus system to get anywere on time it's a joke by contrast vancover busses are reliable, the web based trip planner is well done too