August 28, 2008

Driving downtown is for suckers

Ever driven downtown or been stuck in traffic in the overpopulated centre of a metropolis? Well, then you probably understand the constant headache it is.

What kind of lunatic would want to drive downtown in a crowded city core? Seriously, unless you're a taxi driver, a pizza delivery guy, a Fedex guy, or somebody driving a limo... you really have no business driving downtown in the first place.

Starting today in Toronto Canada pedestrians rule at the corner of Yonge and Dundas, where the city has launched the first pedestrian priority traffic lights — also known as scramble crossings or Barnes dance — at the busy intersection this morning.

For a 28-second period in every cycle cars face a red light in all directions, during which time pedestrians are allowed to cross in any direction (side to side or corner to corner). Pedestrians are also allowed to cross in the conventional way, in the same direction as traffic, when vehicles are using the intersection.

Pedestrians vastly outnumber cars in the downtown core of Toronto, and the message is being hit home to car drivers: "If you're not downtown on business, what business do you have driving downtown?"

The pilot project will be extended to other busy downtown intersections (Bay and Dundas; Yonge and Bloor; Yonge and Eglinton) over the coming years and talks have started up of making "pedestrian only streets".

Idling cars will just have to wait their turn and car drivers are being encouraged that if they want to go downtown take the subway like everybody else.

Traffic congestion problems in downtown Toronto have become so bad in recent years the city is being forced to do more in an effort to get unnecessary cars from driving downtown.

Other cities around the world are also dealing with heavy traffic congestion in their downtown cores.

In São Paulo Brazil the city is planning to increase subway tracks by 50% by 2010 (from 38 miles of track to 60 miles) and to triple subway tracks (to 120 miles) by 2020.

In Auckland New Zealand the city is building more subways, more buses and building more roads.

Over in London England cars now pay a tax just to drive downtown. They are hoping to cut traffic congestion by half by 2025.

In the United States, the Texas Transportation Institute estimates that in 2000 the 75 largest metropolitan areas experienced 3.6 billion vehicle-hours of delay, resulting in 5.7 billion US gallons (21.6 billion liters) in wasted fuel and $67.5 billion in lost productivity. It also estimates that the annual cost of congestion for each driver is approximately $1,000 in very large cities and $200 in small cities.

The highest levels of traffic congestion in the USA are Los Angeles, New York and Chicago. The congestion's fuel cost for Los Angeles alone was estimated at US $9.3 billion.

Want to drive downtown and waste both gasoline and time waiting in endless traffic? Driving downtown is for suckers.

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