Traffic congestion is widely recognized to be the biggest threat to the long-term competitiveness of the Toronto region’s economy. For all companies, whether large, medium or small, gridlock is imposing massive costs on day-to-day operations and becoming a strategic disadvantage for firms located in the region. For this reason, the Board has over many years highlighted the need for both large scale expansion and investment in the region’s public transportation network.
Helping to realize this objective is Metrolinx's, The Big Move. This is a 25 year, $50 billion plan for coordinated, integrated transportation and transit across the Toronto region. Since being launched in 2008, just over $16 billion has been invested and is already producing visual results including the Mississauga bus rapid transit and Union Station revitalization projects.
The need for this large investment is well documented and highlights why we need to get traffic moving in the region. Our daily commute times, productivity and quality of life are at stake. Gridlock costs the Toronto region $6 billion annually in lost productivity and is projected to grow to $15 billion by 2031.
The cause of this is clear. The region’s transportation infrastructure is not keeping pace with our population growth. From 1950 to 1980, our population grew by nearly 2 million people and we built nearly 400 kilometres of commuter rail track. Yet, from 1980 to 2010, population nearly doubled to 6 million with only an additional 43 kilometres of track laid.
Not surprisingly, this underinvestment is making the region’s commute times amongst the longest of any major urban region in the world. As the Board documents annually in its Scorecard on Prosperity, when it comes to getting people to and from work in a reasonable time, the Toronto region is the worst performer in Canada and near the bottom of global rankings, based on Statistics Canada figures and comparable international data.
Most emblematic of congestion in the Toronto region is the 401 highway, declared “officially the busiest stretch of freeway anywhere in North America” by none other than the US Department of Transportation.
While the challenge is big, the benefits could be massive if the Toronto region gets on with building a world-class and truly coordinated regional transportation system. For starters, we could reduce the distance people drive everyday by one-third and in the process reduce environmentally damaging emissions by 50 per cent per person. At the same time, the investments we make in transportation infrastructure would generate over $20 billion in new employment income and 430,000 new jobs in the construction sector alone. All in all, a pretty good environmental and economic return on investment to say the least.
Play your part to get traffic moving. Visit: letsbreakthegridlock.com