What smart, innovative cities are doing to combat gridlock (Toronto not included)
Believe it or not, Toronto isn’t the only city dealing with traffic congestion (paging Los Angeles). Big or small, old or new, cities around the globe are afflicted with the same issue: too many cars and too little road. Earlier this week, the Globe and Mail explored some of the more interesting and inventive ways that other cities—including Singapore, Zurich and Bogota—are dealing with their respective traffic problems. Unfortunately, most of the ideas the nation’s newspaper looked at are non-starters in Rob Ford’s Toronto.
Around the world, cities have implemented extreme solutions to their congestion woes, from taxes to tolls to cable cars that soar above the vehicle-clogged streets. “I think a lot of the measures are built on the very real assumption that there’s no more room to build new stuff,” says Tom Vanderbilt, author of the bestseller Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do. “So if you can’t add capacity, how do you manage the demand?”
Many of these solutions will eventually become standard practice for large municipalities around the world, he believes. There was a time in New York, Mr. Vanderbilt points out, when paying for on-street parking was considered untenable. “Now it’s just considered the norm,” he said. “I think a lot of these things, the longer the policy is there, the more it will be accepted.”
As Vanderbilt hints, many of the proposed solutions to traffic congestion can be summed up under the umbrella of “drivers paying more.” Whether its taxes, parking fees, licence fees (Singapore charges the equivalent of $48,000 just to get permission to own a car) or removing on-street parking spots (which are a huge hassle for traffic engineers). These are all interesting examples, but it’s a fair question whether any of them will be coming to Toronto anytime soon. Mayor Rob Ford has explicitly ruled out some of them and, given the current political climate, others are likely non-starters. But no worries—that Sheppard subway extension is coming right along, right?