Metro Vancouver is Canada’s most congested urban area and second only to Los Angeles in North America, according to a report.
The rankings by GPS maker TomTom – based on data gleaned from the traffic movements of its subscribers – found Vancouver drivers take on average 30 per cent longer to make a trip at congested times than when roads and highways are free flowing.
Los Angeles was worst among North American cities – with a 33 per cent delay – while Miami, Seattle, Tampa and San Francisco ranked third through sixth at around 25 per cent. Toronto was ninth at 22 per cent.
For Vancouver, TomTom estimated congestion translates into a 34-minute delay for each hour driven in peak periods, adding up to 83 hours over the course of a year for motorists with a 30-minute daily commute.
But TransLink spokesman Drew Snider said the findings are deceptive.
Metro Vancouver has fewer highways and therefore lower overall traffic speeds than Los Angeles, he said.
That means a 10 kilometre per hour reduction in the speed of moving traffic is a bigger proportional delay here compared to U.S. cities with more freeways, giving Vancouver a worse ranking.
“We made the choice not to punch freeways through the centre of Vancouver and that’s made the region more livable,” Snider said.
He said TransLink is working to expand transit – as well as cycling and pedestrian infrastructure – to offer alternatives to car use in more of the region.
SFU City Program director Gordon Price said the rankings more accurately reflect the plight of drivers in areas where cars dominate, but not where transit is frequent and more viable.
“Car congestion is not a measure of mobility,” he said. “So long as you have choices, you don’t have to be hung out in traffic.”
Price said the region will soon see what a huge increase in highway capacity achieves when the new Port Mann Bridge, expanded Highway 1 and South Fraser Perimeter Road all open.
Highway congestion should be cut, at least initially, he said, although he forecasts it will spur more car use and new construction geared for drivers rather than transit, potentially undermining efforts to expand transit South of the Fraser.
He also predicts the tolls on the Port Mann will increase congestion on arteries within Surrey as some drivers seek to avoid paying and more South of Fraser drivers try to stay on their side of the river.
Price said the City of Vancouver’s decision to shun freeways has paid off because large numbers of car trips have shifted to transit, walking or cycling.
“We’re down to 1965 levels of traffic coming in and out of downtown Vancouver.”