Victoria BC Commute Traffic Trouble
Commuting to Victoria, BC
The reality is that Victoria, BC, has a bad set of conditions that lead to traffic jams everyday, but traffic is not as bad as in many large cities. The problem is that Victoria has all of the bad planning conditions that lead to horrible traffic jams. The city is the primary destination of many of the workers in the lower Vancouver Island area. The city is a small area that is isolated. Poor access to downtown is caused by narrow bridges that are inadequate for the numbers of cars they must serve. Public transit use is stalled at relatively low levels.
Most vehicles enter the city carrying only a driver and no passengers. Those vehicles that are not single occupant are likely being used to transport children to schools located across the city. Further from the downtown core, large numbers of single occupant vehicles are constricted through narrow channels that also are inadequate for the number of vehicles using them every day. There are many causes to the daily traffic jams. There are also various solutions that could be implemented to improve traffic. Unfortunately, planning takes a long time, budgets must be allocated, options must be considered and none of these actions are being started. Victoria commuters are wasting an hour of their time, in many cases, to travel barely 10 miles. Due to inaction and misdirected actions, the situation is likely to get much worse before it gets better. Elsewhere, cities have much more traffic jam trouble than Victoria, but just wait. Victoria is currently destined to have some of the worst traffic jams in Canada if the current thinking and trends continue.
Geograhical Layout Causes Traffic Choke Points
Distributed vehicle traffic
While Victoria is a city of only about 78,000 people, the surrounding area numbers over 330,000. Further away, outlying cities such as Sidney, Sooke, Langford and Colwood largely exist as bedroom communities. Most people living in these cities commute to jobs in Victoria. Others living outside Victoria commute to various public schools, universities or colleges located near Victoria. A large number of commuters live much farther away in the city of Duncan some 50 kilometers, or 30 miles, to the north. A smaller number commute even farther with some workers travelling 150 kilometers, nearly 100 miles, perhaps 3 times a week to jobs in downtown Victoria. The longer distance commuters, many travelling in single occupant vehicles, must mix with the nearer commuters from Sooke, Langford and Colwood. These commuters travel on a few highway and locals routes which are squeezed into a pair of narrow arterial roads. Every work day, the traffic jams into a local phenomonon known as the "Colwood Crawl". Traffic backs up on Colwood road for several miles as vehicles attempt to enter the pair of roads that lead to the downtown core. In a classic funnel arrangement, the outlying roads to the north and west of Victoria bring a large number of cars into a narrowing that is completely inadequate for the load. During the latter part of 2010, the Colwood Crawl was worsened due to road work on one of the routes through the area. Work began on the project early in the morning, just as the commute traffic was building. Project workers would impede traffic with lane closures, bad road conditions and closures for equipment. This had the effect of stalling traffic on this route. As a result, commuters quickly abandoned the route in favor of the only option available, the main highway. As this highway was already inadequate for the daily load, it too became more choked as double the normal number of vehicles attempted to use it. Commute delays increased as a result.
Long Distance Commuting From Duncan
Hoping that the price of gasoline stays low
A large number of commuters leave Duncan, 50 kilometers, (30 miles), to travel to jobs in Victoria. Some of these people take the relatively new commuter bus each morning and others carpool but most travel as the single occupant of their vehicle. Each day they travel, (many 5 times a week), they cover the bulk of their commute distance in perhaps 30 minutes. The distance between Duncan and Victoria is served by the Trans-Canada Highway which is a modern route that allows 90 kilometer an hour, (55 mph), speed along most of the way. Small communities south of Duncan, and a few to the north, add commuters to the daily traffic that heads to Victoria. All of these commuters from the north meet those attempting to travel to Victoria from Sooke, Langford and Colwood. They must all travel through the narrowing corridor as the roads near Victoria. Commuters from Duncan, having travelled a long distance to read Colwood, are met with significant backups for the last 10 miles of their commute. These commuters travel the first 66% of the distance in 33% of the time.
Making the traffic jam worse
Each day, significant numbers of commuters perform various driving actions which make commuting worse for everyone who comes afterwards. While many of these are not illegal, they do cause additional merge situations that slow traffic. People will exit the primary route, travel through neighborhoods for some distance and then merge back into the original stream of traffic. There are various places in the area where this is possible. In many cases, the civic authority has established traffic barriers to prevent such actions. The actions will sometimes allow the commuter to shave a few minutes off their commute at the expense of other drivers behind the merge point. Were the obvious shortcuts closed where possible, the whole traffic jam might be significantly improved in the future.
A new commuter trick is going to be enabled soon. The infamous highway to nowhere is going to get connected to Goldstream Avenue. This will allow a large number of cars to enter the highway north of Spencer Road. Unfortunately, that area is already a choke point due to the reduction in lanes from two to one. With the new access, the choking will be even more severe. It is hoped that left turns from Spencer north onto the highway will be outlawed, but there is not much chance of that. The resulting traffic mess will be much worse for the afternoon commute.