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How long did it take you to get to work this morning?

What was your mood when you arrived?

While our cities expand, so do the costs of running them and living in them, yet the quality of life within them is declining. While everyone can see the congestion and gridlock on our roads, not enough people are talking about commuter stress and what causes it.

Governments of large urban areas want to grow their population and services, yet seem to want to still live like it’s the ‘50s. When asked why he was opposed to public transit and bike lanes, former Toronto Mayor Rob Ford replied, “People want to drive cars.” And big cars, judging by his own large SUV.

times spent commuting-01Any changes to public transit can be nothing more than a very expensive band-aid solution. Many people insist on driving because they say public transportation is too stressful and inconvenient. Yet more cars, larger cars, higher density and longer commutes guarantee gridlock.

Current Mayor John Tory has his own six-point plan for addressing gridlock and congestion in Canada’s largest city, yet it doesn’t address the true root of Toronto’s congestion.

What causes traffic congestion on our roads?

It’s simple to see that if the same length of roads are used by an increasing number of people for longer distance travel, congestion will result. In Toronto, for example, there were 5,600 kilometers of roads in 2012 – the exact same number as in 1962, even though in that 50 years the population had increased from 1.8 million people to 2.6 million.

Also, the number of people living outside of the Toronto area and commuting into the city had increased from 300,000 to 3 million. The road system was not designed for this and congestion and wasted time and energy are the predictable outcomes.

The situation is much the same in Vancouver where the population went from 390,000 in 1962 to over 600,000 in 2012 while the greater Vancouver area went from 800,000 to over 2 million people over the same period. Montreal’s road system has been famous for its immobility.

It’s clear that gridlock, high-stress transit and high cost of living are robbing Canadians of quality of life. And this is not in our best national interest.

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