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?

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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