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Vancouver nowhere near the top in global gridlock ranking

Last Updated Feb 6, 2018 at 10:46 am PDT

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New global ranking measuring traffic congestion places Vancouver 77th globally

Vancouver comes fifth in Canada in a new gridlock ranking

Transportation expert takes issue with definition of congestion in 'Global Traffic Scorecard'

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Call it the “Full Vancouver” — when you complain about real estate, the weather and traffic all in one conversation.

But it turns out our gridlock is nowhere near the worst in a new global ranking measuring traffic congestion and its impact on urban areas around the world. In fact we’re not even the worst in Canada.

The INRIX Global Traffic Scorecard places Vancouver 77th globally, with drivers spending an average 29 hours in congestion in 2017.

Top spot Los Angeles, by comparison, is 102 hours; followed by Moscow and New York at 91; and Sao Paulo, Brazil at 86 hours.

Even within Canada, Vancouver is fifth in the gridlock ranking behind Montreal (50 hours), Toronto (47 hours), St John’s, Newfoundland (34 hours) and Ottawa (31 hours).

During peak traffic hours, the study finds drivers in Vancouver spend 15 per cent of their time bogged down in traffic but one transportation expert is taking issue with how the report defines congestion.

“There’s an assumption behind it that automobile drivers should always be able to go at the posted speed limit — as fast as possible — without having to slow down. If you’re going 10 km/h below the limit, then that’s congestion,” says Gordon Price, a fellow with Simon Fraser University’s Centre for Dialogue.

“And behind that there is a further assumption that cities should be built so that traffic never has to slow down. To achieve that you pretty much have to destroy the idea of a city, which is people coming together to do exchange — whether it’s money or goods or ideas or even just going on a date. No city could possibly eliminate congestion, nor would it want to. That would not be a successful city.”

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So how would Price characterize Vancouver traffic?

“This is so personal. If I’m the one caught in traffic at a bridge or tunnel, I’m not going to feel good about it. I do want to get there as fast as possible and I’ve kind of been raised with the expectation that I should be able to,” he says.

“But really, as the report itself says, congestion just keeps getting worse, no matter how much we spend on new roads. That’s called ‘induced traffic’ and you’re not going to solve it that way,” Price adds.

“They do suggest better use of data and things like road pricing and demand management, you can put whatever words you want on it, but it really comes down to this — you have to build roads, they are vital to the health of a city, but if you just keep funnelling more cars trucks and buses on them, that’s not going to be a solution.”

Of the the 38 countries covered by the INRIX Global Traffic Scorecard, Thailand leads with the highest average hours spent in peak congestion (56 hours), outranking Indonesia (51 hours) and Columbia (49 hours), followed by Venezuela (42), and the U.S. and Russia both with 41 hours.

Among developed nations, U.S. and Russia shared top of the most congested countries in the world.

“Congestion costs hundreds of billions of dollars, and threatens future economic growth and lowers our quality of life,” says Dr. Graham Cookson, Chief Economist at INRIX.

“If we’re to avoid traffic congestion becoming a further drain on our economy, we must invest in intelligent transportation systems to tackle our mobility challenges.”

Price believes, ultimately, that comes down to giving people better choices.

“Better transit and that kind of thing, but it really has to be part of the design assumptions behind how we build our cities. If the object of it is always to fight congestion, I guarantee you’re going to lose.”