Congestion costs, road capacity and implications for policy-makers

CAA SCO sponsored report stresses need for focused, strategic discussion on improving roads for all users 

THORNHILL, ON, Nov. 18, 2016 /CNW/ - Today marks the release of Congestion Costs, Road Capacity and Implications for Policy-Makers – a comprehensive report examining the toolkit of options available to policy-makers looking to reduce congestion. Commissioned by CAA South Central Ontario (CAA SCO) and authored by the Conference Board of Canada, the report calls on policy-makers to leverage every tool available to them to reduce congestion and to ensure that any discussion of congestion remains strategic and focused on policy-makers' stated objectives.

"Too often the discussion around congestion starts and stops with 'road pricing' with a lack of transparency on the objectives and how those expected to pay actually benefit -  and this does little in tackling the frustration of getting around," says Teresa Di Felice, Director Government and Community Relations, CAA SCO. "This report demonstrates that policy-makers have many tools at hand and they need to use as many as possible first, in order to show that road pricing as a congestion-reduction strategy is a last resort. Congestion reduction requires focus and clarity and a strategy with clear measurements," she added.

The report examines both the design and implementation aspects of congestion policy. It observes that policies designed to raise revenue are substantially different from those designed to produce a behavioural effect, like reducing driving on clogged arterial roads.

In addition to road pricing, such as tolls or congestion charges, it examines many other tools available to policymakers looking to make roads flow more smoothly, including:

  • Improved coordination between land use and transport planning
  • Intelligent traffic management measures, such as:
    • Freeway ramp metering
    • Reversible lanes
    • Variable signage
    • Variable, intelligent speed limits
  • Demand management measures outside of road pricing, such as:
    • Access controls (time-of-day restrictions on truck traffic and time-of-day speed restrictions)
    • Parking controls
    • Support for ride-sharing
    • Support for bicycle and pedestrian facilities
  • Investment in public transit
  • Road network capacity expansion

The report also makes it clear that an honest public discussion of the costs and benefits of road pricing must include a full accounting of who pays, who benefits and by how much. The report – and a previous report released by the Conference Board of Canada, Where the Rubber Meets the Road – discusses how many of the costs of road use, such as maintenance, congestion delays and fuel costs, are already 'internal' to road users, either individually or as a group.

If a congestion reduction strategy is to cost drivers more, it must be very clear about the reasoning behind those costs and the associated benefits.

"Drivers, more than anyone else, appreciate the need to reduce congestion," concludes Di Felice. "We only ask that politicians looking to reduce congestion be clear about their goals, how they are going to achieve them and how the benefits will outweigh the costs."

To view the full report, please visit http://www.conferenceboard.ca/e-library/abstract.aspx?did=8183.

As a leader and advocate for road safety and mobility, CAA South Central Ontario is a not-for-profit auto club which represents the interests of 2 million members. For over a century, CAA has collaborated with communities, police services and governments to help keep drivers and their families safe while travelling on our roads.

SOURCE CAA South Central Ontario

For further information: Michael O'Shaughnessy, Senior Consultant, Hill and Knowlton Strategies, michael.oshaughnessy@hkstrategies.ca, Phone: (416) 413-4732.

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