Highways have always been a priority in the transportation budget. Even as Mike Harris was dropping responsibility for transit in the laps of cities in the early 2000s, he was pouring cash into highways.
At the same time as the province was crying poor to transit initiatives in its largest city, $3 billion went into building highways. However, even at this rate and regularity of maintenance and construction, the GTA’s highways can’t keep up with the demand of the driving public.
What is being done for highways? The recent implementation of high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes on highways 403 and 404 aims to reduce the number of cars on the road. GO Transit bus right-of-way lanes and park-and-ride stations are also relieving single-occupant cars from cluttering these routes, with a full bus potentially removing up to 57 cars from daily traffic. Given these examples of highway improvements, it seems that the solution for daily gridlock is really an increased partnership with transit.
It’s not only bumper-to-bumper traffic that damages the quality of life of Torontonians. The environmental cost of highways also needs to be taken into account. Each hour, 7,000 vehicles hit the 403 — and with growing awareness of the cost of greenhouse gases and pollution, mass transit becomes even more essential.