There is a Field of Dreams quality to road expansion. Building more lanes on congested roads doesn’t mean that there will be any long-term reduction in traffic. As streets can handle more cars, more people will drive on them. This is a pretty basic fact, assuming no Detroit-style economic ruin.
So it looks like we’re narrowing Woodroffe Avenue in Hearts Desire. City planners don’t see any significant issue, as there are other routes that motorists can take to get through this slice of suburbia. So, is this just that same phenomenon in reverse? Will traffic levels adjust to match road capacity?
If increasing a road from two lanes to four lanes will increase the amount of traffic from X to Y (while maintaining traffic density), would reducing that road from four lanes to two lanes decrease the amount of traffic from Y to X? If not, why not?
And if it won’t, shouldn’t that make us even more cautious about road expansion?
An interesting thing is happening in Ottawa South/Outer Barrhaven. Development and expansion continues, but Woodroffe Avenue, a major road for the developed and developing areas, is being reduced. The Citizen‘s David Reevely has the details:
I treated this in a brief story on a busy day but Greater Ottawa reader won’t want to miss the impending closure of the south end of Woodroffe Avenue at Prince of Wales, in Barrhaven. Not only that, but a couple of hundred metres of Woodroffe are to be narrowed. A lane, pretty much, just closed. Grassed over or something. Sold to Minto.
It’s the second time this has happened in Hearts Desire, which has apparently had a sort of provisional road network, reworked and adjusted as bigger roads have been built.
Now, it’s not like people are driving less. If you’re a critic of roads, the reason Woodroffe is being trimmed is that we’ve built a beast of a road in Strandherd Drive and now it’s a bigger traffic sewer and so on. But at a minimum, the city is acknowledging that drivers accustomed to using that stretch of Woodroffe are just going to have to drive farther. It’ll eliminate a sometimes tricky intersection with Prince of Wales, make the remaining part of Woodroffe less busy, and make Hearts Desire more pleasant, so it’s worth it.
The city’s obligated to effect this closure thanks to an old Nepean plan and an agreement with Minto dating back a decade. I wonder what it would take to make something similar happen on, say, Bronson Avenue or Montreal Road.
(I stole his entire blog post to quote here, so be a dear and click on his links so that he doesn’t get mad at me.)
This reminds me of the Complete Streets debate in regards to the re-development of Main St. (which I have written about). The argument against the initiative for Main St. was that such a reduction in car-privileged road design would hurt the commuters from farther out (by prolonging their commute by three minutes). The argument in defence of commuters boiled down to treating the neighbourhood around Main St. as a mere corridor for suburban residents trekking into work. But, now, we can see that such an argument doesn’t hold much water. The residents of Hearts Desire will benefit significantly from the narrowing of Woodroffe Ave., and it will not put much of a burden upon those travelling from parts afar. Continue reading