Weekly Poll: Battling Single Occupancy Vehicles

single occupancy vehicleWith construction season about to pick up steam, the closure of major arterial routes such as Division Street will undoubtedly put addition strain on alternate avenues throughout the city. This will result in some additional headaches for drivers, however our local commuter woes still pale in comparison to larger centres. The traffic problems in the Limestone City may be relatively miniscule in terms of average commute times, accidents and so forth, but let’s not ignore the fact that Kingston recently ranked hightest in Canada in per capita private vehicle greenhouse gas emissions. It’s simple really, more cars equal more traffic, and that results in wasted time and environmental degredation.  Perhaps the single greatest cause of traffic congestion in the Limestone City isn’t inadequate roads and aging infrastructure, rather it’s single occupancy vehicles. Accordingly, this week’s poll asks:

How can Kingston deter the use of single occupancy vehicles?

  • Cheaper Transit fares (50%, 71 Votes)
  • HOV/Bus lanes (30%, 43 Votes)
  • Vehicle tax (13%, 19 Votes)
  • More car pools (4%, 6 Votes)
  • Toll routes/zones (1%, 2 Votes)

Total Voters: 141

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The traffic problem may not be near the tipping point here in Kingston, and let’s face it, the widening of John Counter and probable construction of a third crossing over the Cataraqui River will further serve to to delay us having to do something about it. Even so, whether we are forced to face this issue in 5, 10 or more years, Kingston will eventually have to confront traffic congestion and embrace potentially unpopular solutions. Not to deminish the benefits of the rack and roll system, adjusted bus routes, new commuter car park and so on, but we need something big to set the scene for commuting in Kingston in the decades to come.  I mean, if we can see the local traffic problem coming from a mile away, why not hit the brakes now and avoid following Toronto, Montreal and others into commuter hell?

How would you propose we deal with the situation? Are tolls during peak commute times the best solution, or should we demand the city improve mass transit by way of even more buses, cheaper fares, HOV lanes and perhaps even an LRT line?  Drop off your comments on this issue below.

Thanks to Reverend Pain for today’s photo.

Comments

  1. kimmy says

    I absolutely don't believe that lower transit rates will attract more riders. The issue with public transit is that it takes longer to get from place to place by public transit. The issue is of convenience and frankly, it IS cheaper to drive and park than to take mass transit. Two things have to happen to reduce single occupancy vehicle traffic: first, you have to improve transit to the places people want to go, in terms of dedicated bus routes, number of bus routes and the frequency of buses especially in peak times. Second, it has to be absolutely unattractive financially for someone to take their car into a popular area. This is how Europe does it — tolls and restriction on entering city centres combined with quick, fast, affordable transit means that it doesn't make sense to drive into the City Center. You'll catch the bus. Until we make it financially restrictive to enter the city centre AND improve transit services, people will continue to use their own cars for their own convenience.

    • says

      Friends and coworkers of mine who take the bus have double, sometimes triple the commute time in comparison to those who drive from similar distances. Some of those folks don't have to walk far to get to/from their stops, and most don't have to transfer from one bus to another. That's all to say that I fully agree with improving commute times with things like express routes, buses etc… but I wouldn't hold my breath on things getting better any time soon.

      Tolls are becoming increasingly popular, which is why they were included as an option for this week's poll. However, as the poll results hint, there isn't a huge appetite to create toll roads/congestion zones anywhere in Kingston (ie downtown). When researching potential solutions to the single occupancy vehicle vs mass transit issue, I came across this article which outlines how congestion pricing works, and where it's being used around the world. Like I said in my closing paragraph, perhaps this sort of "wild idea" is exactly what we need to ensure that Kingston does not become like every other city, and resemble a parking lot during rush hour.

  2. mar says

    As long as people can get more house for their money in "the burbs", sprawl will continue-as will 2 car households. Want proof? Try visiting Ottawa-awful, bloody awful! Developers buying up cheap farm land in Kanata, Orleans and Barrhaven to build "Master Planned" communities (yuck). Big box retailers line Hazeldean, Innes and Strandheard making it impossible to shop on foot or bicycle. Huge infrastructure dollars are hammering city budgets, trickling down to residents and their property taxes. It takes close to an hour to cross the city-east to west…every kilometer of road, sewers, utilities etc. costs money. Councils solution? OC transpo, dedicated bus lanes, huge articulated buses, park and ride stations. So now folks drive their two cars from their massive houses in the burbs, one battles traffic on the 417, while the other goes to the park and ride because it's hip to be "environmentally conscientious"…but really, parking downtown is just too expensive.

    Kingston needs to learn from Ottawa's mistakes. We have an incredible downtown-one of the best in Canada. We need to limit expansion beyond our existing borders and focus on intensification-now. Developer incentives for responsible infill projects downtown. We need stunning, affordable condos-walking distance to everything. Not 600 sq ft ala Toronto or Vancouver, but family sized condos-1200 sq ft+ (with realistic maintenance fees…$500/month? for what?). These could line upper Princess St. (please let's do something up there). I'm thinking of a street car system servicing the downtown, in keeping with Kingston's charm…hop on and off…why not for free? It's cheaper to subsidize transportation than build out massive infrastructure, no? More people living and working downtown=more business downtown and no need for a car at all. Stick $10,000 of after tax dollars back into your pocket, see here:
    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-drive/new-ca

    I live downtown and I love it…anyone want to buy my car? (seriously)

    I welcome all comments…

  3. mar says

    As long as people can get more house for their money in "the burbs", sprawl will continue-as will 2 car households. Want proof? Try visiting Ottawa-awful, bloody awful! Developers buying up cheap farm land in Kanata, Orleans and Barrhaven to build "Master Planned" communities (yuck). Big box retailers line Hazeldean, Innes and Strandheard making it impossible to shop on foot or bicycle. Huge infrastructure dollars are hammering city budgets, trickling down to residents and their property taxes. It takes close to an hour to cross the city-east to west…every kilometer of road, sewers, utilities etc. costs money. Councils solution? OC transpo, dedicated bus lanes, huge articulated buses, park and ride stations. So now folks drive their two cars from their massive houses in the burbs, one battles traffic on the 417, while the other goes to the park and ride because it's hip to be "environmentally conscientious"…but really, parking downtown is just too expensive.

  4. Dina says

    I agree with Mar!! We need condos and public transit to them. Reasonably sized condos at prices not bordering a million dollars! We wanted to move right down town and walk everywhere. There is really NOTHING to buy anywhere near there that is not over five hundred thousand for a tiny space if you can even find that. I live on Pembroke St. Not exactly the burbs but, I'm older now and I cannot easily walk from here to Princess St. and back. We need to concentrate great condos right in the downtown core as much as possible and the street car is a fantastic idea for that area. I think Kingston used to have them and why they got rid of them as they are easy public transportation and the fit in with the charm of the city. Kingston's core could be very much like parts of San Francisco.

    As for condo sizes ditto again Mar! People need a reasonable sized nice condo. 1200 to 1500 sq. feet is plenty if it is designed correctly. Toronto and Montreal have built huge condos at huge prices to go with them. If more residents actually lived in the downtown core perhaps property taxes could be kept lower for the inner city area too. They are exorbitant right now for a city this size. That discourages people from moving in and walking too. Of course I'm going to live in the burbs if I can get more for my money AND I'm not paying a huge disproportionate to the value on my home. Lots can be done here. Will it be?

  5. Dina says

    I agree with Mar!! We need condos and public transit to them. Reasonably sized condos at prices not bordering a million dollars! We wanted to move right down town and walk everywhere. There is really NOTHING to buy anywhere near there that is not over five hundred thousand for a tiny space if you can even find that. I live on Pembroke St. Not exactly the burbs but, I'm older now and I cannot easily walk from here to Princess St. and back. We need to concentrate great condos right in the downtown core as much as possible and the street car is a fantastic idea for that area. I think Kingston used to have them and why they got rid of them as they are easy public transportation and the fit in with the charm of the city. Kingston's core could be very much like parts of San Francisco.

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