Halton's Transportation Plan: Please don't go anywhere.

When I try to explain Halton Region Transportation Master Plan (HRTMP) to people, I constantly get the reaction that I must not understand it. It seems too crazy to believe that the plan is that people will simply be scolded into not using their cars.

I encourage you to read it yourself as it is available here

Here is my reading of the plan: If we do nothing and continue to build higher density housing in the area, serious congestion in violation of Halton's own standard will crop up pretty much everywhere (HRTMP Page 25). The preferred solution is “Transportation Demand Management”.

“A comprehensive TDM program involves independent action of residents and private businesses as well as partnerships between governments, the private sector, public institutions, nongovernmental organizations and community groups.” (HRTMP Page 30) 

This is a fancy way of saying that you will stop using your car when you want to. We will all think of ways to “ration” our use of the road system as it degrades. I find this ideology totally unacceptable. Residents should have the basic freedom to move any time and in any way they choose.

“The success of TDM depends on the implementation of outreach strategies that encourage the general public, as well as public and private institutions to change unsustainable travel habits.” (HRTMP Page 30)

The only reason your travel habits will become “unsustainable” is because we keep loading more people onto the same area without any real alternative transportation plan. It is not because of environmental reasons. Though gas cars are likely unsustainable, electric vehicle use is expanding every day. Even today a Chevy Volt with 4 passengers in electric mode is closing in on using less energy than walking. That is pretty incredible and the technology is only going to get better and cheaper.

This TDM idea is at best wishful thinking. At worst it represents a government which has switched from building what we need for our lives to one which dictates what residents can do with their lives. If the plan was to build compelling alternatives, then we would not need “encouraging”.

My sense is that this will very likely lead to disaster. The city will discover that busses gets stuck in the same traffic as everyone else, it's too cold for bikes in the winter, and the distances that people need to travel are too vast for walking. All the promotion in the world of the “alternatives” will not change people's behaviour, because they are already using these options if they make sense for them.

My preferred idea is to build the type of communities where people do walk around. Though the report alludes to this (HRTMP Page 31) no mechanism exists to actually make it happen. Though this requires changing the zoning and the way permits are issued, in the end it benefits us all. You should only "intensify" an area when you have either the possibility of increased road capacity, lots of large commercial enterprises coming into an area, or appealing mass transit is available. If the city can not figure any sensible way to provide alternatives, then do not intensify an area.

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