PT: We’re in a sudden, massive, global real-life experiment in how we live and move in our cities. While there is lots of theorizing going on (we’ll now work mainly at home – except when we won’t), the reality on our roads will tell us what we’re really doing.
Here’s an ominous report from New York:
Traffic jams are a familiar sight again in (New York City). “This traffic is just ridiculous,” said one driver waiting to turn onto traffic-choked Morris Avenue in the Bronx. “We live in this neighborhood, it doesn’t make sense for it to be this way.”
Traffic engineer Sam Schwartz, better known as Gridlock Sam, said car traffic is now 85 to 95 percent of pre-pandemic levels. Truck traffic is at 100 percent, and some days more.
The increase appears even more striking considering that only 15 percent of workers have returned to their Manhattan offices, according to Partnership for New York City.
The biggest problem, experts say, is that many New Yorkers are not yet comfortable riding buses, the subways and commuter railroads again…. “The same thing happened in other parts of the world,” MTA Chairman Pat Foye said. “Riders had a multitude of alternatives to commute into the central business districts, starting with Wuhan and other parts of both Asia and Europe. So it’s not surprising.”
While the scale and complexity of New York is substantially different from us, we do share one thing in common: growth in population and business travel has been accommodated on transit, not through an expansion of road capacity. There just isn’t a lot of room available on the asphalt to handle even a small shift from transit to car – and, as the report notes, only a small percentage of workers have returned to CBDs and other work spaces so far. This is not looking good, especially if transit use permanently declines.
It’s easy to forecast one political fallout: there will not be an appetite to take road space away from vehicles if it’s already saturated. Or worse, to return space reallocated for other uses – notably patios, slow streets, bike lanes, transit priority – to ‘reduce congestion’.
We need a similar update on what’s happening in Metro Vancouver – especially where congestion is emerging, how much and how fast. It may be more in the suburban and ex-urban parts of the region (what’s it like out there, Abbotsford?) than in the Metro Core.