Lost in congestion

INRIX 2018’s global traffic scorecard tells us a lot about what’s happening to the average Canadian commute. For the second year, Toronto can moan about Canada’s worst traffic congestion. Hogtown, 19th worst traffic city in the world, traded places with Washington, D.C. (now 20). Montreal sits alone in 34th; Calgary lags at 60th.

It may not seem like it, but Montreal’s traffic congestion has been improving in relation to its worst-traffic competitors. Montreal is down from 28th last year; in 2014, it was Canada’s worst traffic town, with construction and traffic jams adding up to a 21.6% delay and an average of 38.1 hours lost.  Internationally, Montreal’s traffic moves faster than it does in Rostov-on-Don. Montreal traffic is worse than Hamburg’s, where the time lost in congestion costs the average motorist more than 1,200 euros annually.

Congestion now costs the average Montreal driver 145 hours annually, says INRIX’s 2018 scorecard. That’s 15% better than in 2017. Montreal drivers average 12 km/hr in the final mile of their commute. The cost of congestion per driver isn’t available from the data collected in  Montreal, but we can compare ourselves to Los Angeles (47th, 128 hours lost to congestion), with an average cost per driver of $1,785. Average speed for that last mile: a blistering 14 km/h. Yes, L.A. traffic is less congested than Montreal’s. (Boston, #8 worldwide, has North America’s worst traffic, with the average driver losing 164 hours to congestion.) 

How does INRIX know all this? INRIX is a metadata consumer located on the U.S. west coast. It tracks the tower-to-tower handoffs of hundreds of millions of cellphones worldwide and uses movement data to determine at what rate traffic is moving in major cities. You don’t even have to be using your phone to be a droplet in the oceans of data INRIX feeds on.

INRIX began in 2005 and has been on a roll since. INRIX’s Roadway Analysis team works with cities, transport authorities and their agencies. INRIX traffic engineers and programmers produce software for in-vehicle navigation and location tracking systems for autonomous vehicles. In 2016, INRIX Research released its annual worldwide traffic scorecard, crunching data harvested from moving cellphones in 200 major cities around the planet.

INRIX’s scorecard is an effective marketing tool (you can bet that every newsroom in every one of those 200 cities will pick up their story) but it should be obvious it’s not scientific. The data doesn’t differentiate between cellphones riding ground-level public transit and cellphones in cars. Assuming there was a way of  separating them, would it make a big difference? Probably not, an INRIX spokesman told me some years back — buses in most cities still move at the speed of traffic.

What does any of this mean to our average Vaudreuil-Soulanges commuter? In a previous blog (Commute from Hell, Nov. 21/16) I explained how INRIX analytics work in determining average commute times and therefore the additional time lost to congestion. Two years ago, the average commute from the Bédard traffic light to the Guy off-ramp was 45-60 minutes. The ride home varied between 60 and 75 minutes. 

What I see from the latest INRIX stats is that there is no longer an average commute. Tieups are more frequent and take longer to unsnarl. The Ile aux Tourtes bridge averages an incident serious enough to halt traffic once a week. At what point does congestion become an integral part of the commute? 

This brings me to the Reseau express métropolitain (REM), the latest in a string of disappointments for Vaudreuil-Soulanges.  As I blogged last week, a preliminary environmental impact assessment found that over half of those who submitted opinions to a consultation regarding the replacement Ile aux Tourtes Bridge want the designers to consider a REM extension from Ste. Anne de Bellevue to Vaudreuil.  Current plans for the bridge show dedicated bus, cycling and pedestrian lanes — but no space for a REM extension.

The message is clear: by 2023, public transit from Vaudreuil-Soulanges will require at least one other form of transport to connect with the REM. If the Montreal Metropolitan Community (MMC) follows through with repeated threats to impose tolls on the bridges to Montreal Island, how many commuters will say ‘screw the REM’ and pay the tolls?

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Vaudreuil-Dorion Mayor Guy Pilon, Vaudreuil-Soulanges MRC DG Guy-Lin Beaudoin and MRC prefect and Rigaud mayor Réal Brazeau presenting at the Oct. 19, 2011 PMAD adoption. The lack of interest in the room symbolized the MMC’s disregard for the 150,000-resident MRC. 

Everything I see and hear infers there’s a hidden hand trying to dissuade people from moving off-island. I’ve suspected this to be the MMC’s hidden agenda since the October 2011 adoption of its master plan at the St. Constant Railway Museum. The Vaudreuil-Soulanges delegation was shown perfunctory courtesy and zero respect. I found the public shaming embarrassing. 

Oct. 19, 2011 marked the beginning of the end for Vaudreuil-Soulanges political autonomy and it’s my belief the MRC and its 23 mayors still haven’t recovered after being bigfooted by the MMC. The Charest Liberals (followed by the Couillard Liberals) supported the MMC in forcing Vaudreuil-Soulanges to bring its master plan into harmony with the PMAD, the 82-municipality MMC’s master plan. A freeze was placed on farmland dezoning, nixing the original location proposed for the new regional hospital. (Was it any coincidence when history repeated itself with the current site?)

A direct result of the PMAD, picturesque towns like Hudson were ordered to densify their downtown cores on the basis of a  spurious transport-oriented development (TOD) pretext leading to the imposition of inappropriate multi-unit projects in heritage sectors. Transport-oriented development based on a train a day each way? Who are they trying to fool?

Officially, the REM changes nothing when the Ste. Anne terminal opens in 2023. The Vaudreuil-Hudson line will continue to operate one train a day in and out of Hudson. The A40 Express will continue to run between Vaudreuil station and the Côte Vertu metro. Shuttlebus and adapted-transport services will continue to those municipalities willing to pay. But the train’s days are numbered unless Vaudreuil-Soulanges elected officials and citizens demand the level of service available to the rest of the Montreal Metropolitan Community. And so is our autonomy. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Vaudreuil-Soulanges REM update

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This Facebook page has been created to advocate for the extension of the Réseau express métropolitain (REM) line to Vaudreuil-Soulanges via the new Ile aux Tourtes bridge. 

When the REM surface line to Ste. Anne de Bellevue is completed in 2023, the $6 billion, 26-station automated electric light rail transit (LRT) system will link Montreal, Laval, north and south shores — but not Vaudreuil-Soulanges, Quebec’s fastest growing MRC.

In December, the government announced that a replacement for the nearly 60-year-old Ile aux Tourtes bridge would be completed by 2030. Plans for the new bridge include dedicated bus lanes and separate corridors for cyclists and pedestrians — but no LRT corridor.

Already, proposed parking at West Island REM stations is being cut back. Autorité régionale de transport métropolitain (ARTM), the MMC’s overseer of public transit, favours active transport (walking, cycling) and local shuttlebus service.

Unless regional public transit agencies are prepared to keep operating the existing Vaudreuil-Hudson commuter rail line once the REM is in service, Vaudreuil-Soulanges and its 150,000+ residents will lose their only mass public transit link to Montreal. 

Le REM dans/in Vaudreuil-Soulanges will work to raise awareness of the need to redraw plans for the Ile aux Tourtes replacement to include a REM right of way serving Vaudreuil-Soulanges and points west.

Without access to a high-speed mass public transit system: 

– Vaudreuil-Soulanges enterprises, including the promised hospital, will struggle to attract labour. By its projected 2026 completion, the hospital will represent some 4,000 jobs;

– Vaudreuil-Soulanges residents will continue to be at the mercy of Montreal’s worsening traffic chaos and the eventuality of tolls;

– the Montreal Metropolitan Community will have missed the opportunity to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the fight against climate change, a keystone of the MMC’s master plan.

Extend the REM, public consult urges

 

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As announced in December, the new Ile aux Tourtes bridge will not include a right of way for an off-island extension of the Réseau express métropolitain (REM). Over half of the participants in a public consultation told the provincial Environment ministry they want to see a REM extension made part of the environmental impact assessment process. (John Kranitz photo)

An environmental impact study of the replacement Ile aux Tourtes bridge should include an analysis of extending the Réseau express métropolitain (REM) line to Vaudreuil-Dorion, according to a majority of opinions submitted to a public environment ministry consultation released Monday. 

As currently configured, the 26-station automated electric light rail transit (LRT) system will terminate in Ste. Anne de Bellevue when it begins service in 2021. The $6B network will link Montreal, Laval, the north and south shores — but not Vaudreuil-Soulanges and its 150,000+ residents. 

The public consultation — on which factors should be taken into account in the planning and reconstruction of the Ile aux Tourtes bridge — began on Dec. 12/18 and concluded Jan. 11/19. The 16-page document is a summary of observations from participants on the factors which they feel should be considered in a future environmental impact study. 

In December, the government announced that a replacement bridge would be completed by 2030 to replace the two-kilometre span, built in the early sixties and neglected for long periods. The new bridge will be 45 metres wide (the existing bridge is 29 metres), with dedicated lanes for public transit and carpooling. 

The consultation drew 28 briefs, 17 of which specifically urged the transport ministry to include an extension of the REM to Vaudreuil-Dorion as an integral part of the reconstruction project. 

Accessibility and public safety were significant concerns of most intervenors. Ten comments focussed on traffic congestion on the bridge and its approaches before, during and after construction. Recommendations including closing some on-ramps and exits to mitigate the risk of accidents and to restore fluidity, both in the planning stage and during construction. Others wanted a speed limit reduction, photo radar, reflective lane markers and the quick removal of snow accumulation. One brief suggested diverting all truck traffic to Highway 30 unless it is headed to the West Island.

Environmental concerns were well represented, with a number of briefs urging the addition of dedicated bicycle/pedestrian lanes and the development of policies to preserve prehistoric sites and natural habitats of Ile aux Tourtes and adjacent islands and shorelines. 

Noise and vibration from the roughly 83,000 vehicles a day — 10,000 of them trucks — were also raised as concerns. A number of contributors wanted the new span’s design and construction to reflect best practices worldwide.

Consultation participants raised concerns about the ongoing lack of transparency on the part of the transport ministry when it comes to the existing bridge and how traffic will be rerouted during construction of its replacement. Many cited a lack of transparency while the existing bridge underwent repairs and expressed concern at the foggy timeline for its replacement.

Article 31.3 of the Environmental Quality Act requires that after having received a directive from the environment minister, a project’s initiator — in this case the Ministère du Transport — is required to publish a notice announcing the start of an environmental impact evaluation, the first step in drafting an environmental impact assessment of the bridge replacement project 

Under the law, any person, group or municipality has the right to suggest what factors should be explored in the process of determining the project’s environmental impact. Once the consultation period ends, the environment ministry shares the results with the project’s initiator and posts factors it considers relevant on the Registre des évaluations environnementales page. 

Next step is an impact study to detail modifications to be made during the planning process and to address issues raised in the course of this evaluation process. No hard dates have been set for the start of construction or completion. The transport ministry hasn’t indicated whether the existing span will be demolished. 

Documentation and citations: 

Les observations sur les enjeux que l’étude d’impact devrait aborder:

Reconstruction du pont de l’île-aux-Tourtes entre Vaudreuil-Dorion et Senneville par le ministère des Transports

Consultation publique

réalisée par le ministère de l’Environnement

et de la Lutte contre les changements climatiques

3211-05-469 31 janvier 2019

Nom du projet :

Reconstruction du pont de l’Île-aux-Tourtes entre Vaudreuil-Dorion et Senneville

Initiateur :

Ministère des Transports du Québec

Document :

PR2.3 – MELCC. Observations et enjeux soulevés par le public, janvier 2019, 16 pages.

Date du dépôt du document :

2019-02-04