“we’ve attached more value to preserving neighbourhoods than simply accommodating cars” says Ottawa City Councillor Alex Cullen in a piece yesterday discussing proposals to widen the Queensway in Ottawa. I travel from Ottawa’s Manotick neighbourhood to Gatineau on the Quebec side of the river ever day. The total trip is 31 kilometres. Ottawa has two problems that make my commute difficult — a lack of a North-South artery, and an overutilized East-West corridor. As a result, those 31 kilometres take me between 60 and 90 minutes to travel each day, during rush hour. I left at 7:30 on Thursday of this week, and arrived at 8:45. If I leave at 8:30, I can expect to be in my office at between 9:30 and 9:40. If I leave at 9 AM, on the tail end of rush hour, I can make the trip in 35 minutes.
To put that in perspective, in the days I lived in Seattle, I travelled 17 miles (about 27 km) from my home to Microsoft each day. That trip could be done in just under 20 minutes when I first moved there. By the time I returned to Canada, Seattle’s traffic was reckoned to be the second worst traffic problem in the entire US, and my travel time was 40 to 45 minutes.
Another perspective is gained by adding up the hours I sit in traffic each day. At 1 hour of travel time, average, I waste 20 hours a month travelling to and from the office. That’s roughly 1.5 waking days. If my travel time could be reduced to a reasonable 10 hours a month, that would be terrific. What couldn’t any of us accomplish with one more day per month of time?
Ottawa has a big traffic problem. We’re not a small town anymore. We need to put small town thinking behind us, build the infrastructure it will take to support the economy we wish to create here, and then bite the bullet and do it.