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Remember the Tom Tom Annual Survey of  Traffic Congestion suggesting that Vancouver is a parking lot of traffic?   And Minister of Transportation Todd Stone calling the Massey Tunnel one of the most congested places in British Columbia according to a Canadian Automobile Association Survey?

Business in Vancouver reporter Patrick Blennerhasset cuts through the congestion chat by talking to a transportation expert,  City of Vancouver Manager of Transportation Steve Brown. Steve notes that we need to define what we mean by congestion. Congestion can also be a very good thing-if transit or biking or walking is more efficient and gets you to a place faster, then congestion is your active transportation friend. The slower traffic, the safer active transportation users are too-while only ten per cent of pedestrians will survive a vehicular collision at 50 km/h that rises to a 90 per cent chance of survival with a vehicular collision at 30 km/h.

Steve Brown has great logic-“the key for Vancouver to continue to relieve congestion lies in creating alternative transportation methods to automobile trips…Over the last few years, we have seen a lot more concerns over congestion. And because we’re kind of falling behind on some of our transit infrastructure investments, we’re seeing that there are tending to be more trips lately relying on the road network.”

So…bolstering active transportation and transit reduces congestion, actually making driving easier for folks that want to do this. But doesn’t that defeat the purpose? And that is where misinformation comes in.

“Last year, Langley City councillor Nathan Pachal compiled the 2016 Transit Report Card of Major Canadian Regions. He gave Vancouver a high ranking in terms of public transportation—second only to Montreal—using Canada Transit’s Fact Book 2014 Operating Data by the Canadian Urban Transit Association, which gathers its data from transit agencies across the country and Statistics Canada’s National Household Survey. Pachal also called into question the accuracy of the TomTom rankings. He said during the transit referendum in 2015, discussion around congestion in Vancouver reached a fever pitch.”

And back to those Tom Tom Statistics-those are predicated upon counting the extra travel time during peak hours for a vehicle versus the time taken to travel during no traffic conditions, and then multiplied for 230 working days a year. Remember that Tom Tom’s clients are drivers, and therefore cities with freeways and highways that provide a quick exit are ranked highly, with no ranking given to alternative transit modes or active transportation.

While Vancouver ranked as the 34th most congested cities for vehicle users according to Tom Tom, “the INRIX Global Traffic Scorecard, has ranked Vancouver 157th worldwide in terms of traffic congestion.”  Why? Because INRIX a Kirkland, Washington-based transportation analytics company, analyzed traffic congestion in 1,064 cities for its second annual report. Its methodology calculates congestion at different times of the day in different parts of a city using 500 terabytes of data from 300 million different sources covering over five million miles of road. ” This is a much more sophisticated analysis on “overall travel times” as opposed to peak versus free-flow times.

But neither of these two approaches factor in active transportation or transit, and measure a city’s performance by the efficiency of this type of movement. While Tom Tom may be getting a lot of attention, the INRIX Global Traffic Scorecard is perhaps a more accurate gauge. Here’s to an index that also factors in other users besides vehicular.

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INRIX Global Traffic Index Scorecard:

  •   Los Angeles
  •   Moscow
  •   New York
  •   San Francisco
  •   Bogota, Colombia
  •   Sao Paolo, Brazil
  •   London, England
  •   Magnitogorsk, Russia
  •   Atlanta
  •   Paris, France

 TomTom Traffic Index ranking:

  •   Mexico City
  •   Bangkok, Thailand
  •   Jakarta, Indonesia
  •   Chongqing, China
  •   Bucharest, Romania
  •   Istanbul, Turkey
  •   Chengdu, China
  •   Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
  •   Beijing, China
  •   Changsha, China