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Commuting headaches: What are other cities doing to alleviate traffic?


Daksha Rangan
Digital Reporter

Tuesday, July 8, 2014, 6:26 PM -

So far in 2014 the Gardiner Expressway has been a four-lane headache for commuters in the Greater Toronto Area. As part of the City of Toronto’s Congestion Management Plan, Toronto and its neighbouring cities have witnessed the elevated deck’s gradual replacement (resulting in the reduction of two lanes in both directions of the highway); the rehabilitation of three bridges between the Humber River and Park Lawn road; and meridian replacement from Ellis Road to Dufferin Street.

In 2014, Torontonians are commuting an average of 65.6 minutes to work each day – and that doesn’t include time spent commuting home. Although most of the work is expected to be completed by 2015, the city’s current commute times have left many wondering: is it really worth it?

We’ve found a list of four groundbreaking projects from all over the world that show how restoration projects are helping reduce traffic.

1. Cheonggyecheon Stream Restoration Project – Seoul, South Korea
What it accomplished: This project uncovered a stream by tearing down a highway, resulting in traffic reduction.

Ten years ago, you couldn’t see Seoul’s Cheonggyecheon Stream. It was covered by a 16-lane highway, notorious for its traffic.

The congestion was so bad that a marketplace of vendors formed around it, selling items to drivers trapped in the traffic. In 2002 the city’s government began tearing down the highway as part of an ongoing plan to make Seoul more “livable” for its residents.

Although it seems strange that removing a highway would decrease traffic, that’s exactly what happened. The highway that once covered the stream was converted to two, two-lane roads along both sides of the river. When the route re-opened in 2005, the traffic spiked. But as people figured out new methods to reach their end destination (Seoul also built new bus and subway lines to handle the spillover), the traffic decreased to below pre-construction levels.

2. Union Station Redevelopment – Denver, Colorado
What it will accomplish: Adding a bunch of new public transportation options – some of which are free.

Denver has brought new life to its once outdated train station. A $4.7-billion dollar project, the city’s new public transport options include a Free Metroride – a bus route that takes commuters to stops from Union Station to the Civic Center Station, 18 blocks away. The Free Metroride started running during rush hours in the morning and evening.

Denver plans to open more than 70 miles of commuter railways along three new lines. With plenty of cars off the road, this restoration plan is sure to reduce traffic.

3. Southern California Housing Bubble – Southern California
What it’s accomplishing: Taking young Californians out of the suburbs and into the city.

A bubble – when prices in specific markets are inflated beyond their actual values – can be very dangerous, economically speaking. In 2008, a national housing bubble brought the American economy down, and now, a smaller version that is happening in South Carolina.

Although this sounds like a negative project, as inflation affects the value of homes in Southern California, it encourages more young Californian home-buyers to purchase condos in the city instead of homes in the suburbs.

But before the bubble even began to inflate, the use of public transport in Southern California was already beginning to increase. Residents drove 2.9 billion miles less in 2010 than they did in 2006, according to an analysis of federal data provided by the Frontier Group and the U.S. PIRG Education.

As more SoCal residents choose an urban living standard with more public transportation and walking, traffic will gradually begin to fade. Of course, there is always the risk of the bubble popping, in which case we can only hope that the economic consequences aren’t too harsh.

4. BART Expansion – Warm Springs and San Jose, California
What it will accomplish: Connecting San Jose to San Francisco and Oakland, adding 5.4 miles of commuter rail.

San Francisco’s Bay Area Rapid Transit system plans to take almost 12,000 cars off South Bay freeways, according to the Santa Clara Valley Transit Authority. Already, BART boasts its ranking as the fifth-busiest transit system in the world.

The project plans to add 5.4 miles of rail by 2017, spanning between the Warm Springs district of Fremont and the Berryessa neighbourhood of San Jose, roughly 50 miles from the heart of San Francisco.

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