The official version of the Metrolinx White Papers 1 and 2 are now available for review and comment.
For those who read the draft versions in the agenda of the April 25 Board Meeting, the major change lies in the addition of appendices discussing alternative test cases and the challenges of achieving the Ontario targets for reduced environmental impact of the transportation network.
Appendix E reviews two alternatives to the test cases already discussed.
- Model B2 starts with the original “radial” network, but adds six major highways highways plus a ten percent increase in regional arterial capacity through road widenings in the 905. It is also based on the land use scheme from the “linear” network because the population densities of the radial and web schemes would overwhelm the road capacity in the 905. More about that later.
- Model C2 starts with the original “web” network , but omits planned provincial and municipal road improvements, the highway 407 east extension, and the proposed 404 and 427 extensions.
The results are not very surprising.
The B2 case causes the modelled travel to shift from transit to roads and travel times by road to go down. Note that the total demand for all test cases is fixed by the presumed land use and the trip pattern it will generate. Induced demand caused by an excess of road capacity is not included in this model although a well-known effect of building any new major link in the network is the creation of demand because formerly impractical trips become viable.
The report is silent on how long the reduced congestion implied in this model would actually last. Building more roads provides short-term relief, but eventually they fill up again especially if growth in demand from new residential and commercial construction continues. The question is always “when is the road system finished” in the sense that further capacity increases are impractical. We have already seen this in the 416, but the 905 (or at least some parts of it) cling to the dream that the end date for road-oriented development is long in the future.
The C2 case results in a small change in the transit modal split (from 29.0 to 29.5 percent over the entire region) because the changes in the road network do not affect most travellers in the 416. In the 905, there are small increases in transit use, but nothing striking. What this clearly shows is that it is not enough to not build roads, but a significant additional investment in transit is required to affect the modal split.
Travel time comparisons are shown for various non-core-oriented trips, but these show little effect from the additional or removal of roads from the network because the modelled trips generally lie along routes that are not affected by the network changes. However, the modelled congestion cost of option C2 is about $2-billion/year higher than other test cases that do include new road building.
This is a major conundrum for network planners. The cost of congestion is significant, but providing the capacity to relieve this also works contrary to the goals of improved transit usage in the GTA as a whole.
Appendix F discusses the issue of how Ontario can achieve its reduction targets. This is a change from the draft White Paper approach where only the diversion of car trips to transit was considered as a source of environmental improvement. Now, Metrolinx recognizes that this shift alone cannot address the huge growth in transportation demand in an area whose population will grow rapidly, and whose structure makes service by transit extremely difficult.
Roughly half of the emission savings to meet the target are now ascribed to technological improvement and/or change in the car and truck fleets. Better fuel mileage (through better propulsion technology and smaller vehicles) will be required to meet this target. There will be some reduction in trips or diversion to other modes, but the big impact comes from better vehicles.
This has implications for the future demand on the road network. If, in effect, we cede the 905 to an auto-orientation, we may even threaten such transit improvements for that region as might otherwise be funded, and the idea that we will muddle through somehow is a dangerous invitation to inaction on the transit and land use fronts. We must look beyond the short term when we might, briely, spend our way out of congestion and hope that rising fuel prices will shift people into cars and trucks with better fuel efficiency.