Building a freeway is the unthinking solution to addressing transportation problems. Its unthinking because freeway building is, at best, a band-aid solution to clearing our transportation arteries. But, more to my point, freeway building is unthinking because it really does not involve that much thinking. Building a freeway has become an impulsive act and process. On the flip side solutions that may be slightly more unconventional and require more time and energy in the planning stage are overlooked.
The prevailing ideology in transportation planning is to increase motor vehicle speed while reducing congestion and conflict. The engineering tools to accomplish this are well developed and widespread. One tool commonly used are level of service indicators. If passing on a highway becomes difficult and/speed is reduced or varies the level of service is considered poor. If a highway fails to meet a minimum level of service than it is assessed as needing more lanes, more interchanges or other mediation. The use of these relatively simple tools has become routine and the applied solutions are similarly orthodox.
Some Assessments Prevailing Standards
Building infrastructure for the automobile is a relatively inefficient use of land compared other modes of transportation. Freeways are built for 20-30% of the week when motor vehicle traffic peaks (even in peak hours only half the freeway is really in use). Building freeways for peak traffic hours has resulted in a poor and inefficient use of valuable land. Replacing a freeway link with rail for example would (when factoring in the need for parking) would use up to twenty times less land (B Meyer 2000).
|(Source: Sallis 2007)|
Air quality in metropolitan areas across Canada are strongly linked to sprawl and freeway expansion. Tailpipe emissions and fossil fuel consumption are leading contributors to co2 levels and air-born particulates. The majority of air pollutants and one third of green house grass emissions in Canada are caused by automobile use.
We have many different transportation tools available to us. The automobile is only one of these tools, but has become central focus of most of our transportation planning. Alternatives to freeway construction such as multi-modal transportation and integrated transit are less methodical and not as conventional. You have to get cars, buses, trucks, trains, bikes, pedestrians and ferries all working together and this is not easy to do. It involves a lot of thinking and re-thinking. Trains, shared cars, ferries, shared bikes and buses that may have operated as separate systems may need greater integration. Creating a functioning multi-modal and integrated system is a much more cerebral task for transportation engineers than planning and designing a freeway.
Connecting bikes to public transit is an excellent means of creating better multi-modal and integrated transit systems. Providing spaces for bikes on buses and trains has become common in many Canadian cities. However, to establish a realistic alternative to freeway expansion and a truly integrated transit system we must creating quality connections between bikes and public transit. Quality connections include:
|Bicycle Hanging Racks on Transit|
- matching bicycle travel times with transit arrivals and departures
- reducing capacity constraints
- greater ease of boarding for people with bicycles
- comfortable facilities for cyclists at transit stations
|Hanging racks in train baggage car|