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Wheels readers offer creative solutions to traffic gridlock

Published Saturday August 9, 2014

I recently wrote a column about traffic gridlock in the GTA that clearly struck a nerve with readers. I received many emails in response to this highly-charged topic.

     First off, I want to thank readers who took the time to provide feedback on an issue that is so important to Ontarians. Traffic gridlock continues to dominate headlines and is a common curse among hundreds of thousands of drivers every day.

Today, I'd like to share some reader suggestions.

     The big traffic issue that readers pointed to is the use (or misuse) of express lanes on major highways. One reader wrote that too many slow-moving vehicles are using left lanes when they should be used exclusively for fast-moving vehicles.

     This reader suggested that "trucks should only be allowed to use the right lane on three-lane highways, except for passing." There was even a suggestion that police should be targeting slow moving vehicles that use express lanes and be more aggressive in ticketing them. I agree with that.

     The same reader floated the idea of synchronizing traffic lights in urban areas to reduce incessant stop and go traffic. Apparently, there is a five-year plan in place to synchronize traffic lights along priority corridors in Toronto.

     Another reader suggested introducing metered ramps on the Queen Elizabeth Way, the Don Valley Parkway and 400 series highways. Metered ramps involve a process of regulating the flow of traffic entering a freeway using controlled devices, such as traffic signals (this practice is currently in use in Mississauga).

    Still on the subject of highway traffic, one reader suggested introducing remote controlled moveable guardrails to ease bottlenecking on "on" ramps. This would cut down on multiple vehicles trying to merge into traffic at the same time, which causes backups on ramps and potentially dangerous situations on highways.

     I don't know how practical controlled moveable guardrails would be, but in principle, it's worth exploring.

     I received some interesting solutions for easing traffic gridlock. One reader suggested that employers shorten the work week to four days and lengthen each work day to 10 hours.

     The reasoning here, however impractical, is that fewer work days and longer working hours would reduce traffic during rush hour, with the added benefit of saving motorists on gas, reducing stress and improving quality of life. An interesting idea, but I'm not holding my breath.

     One reader proposed mandatory road testing on 400 series highways every five years. If a motorist fails, he/she would be banned from driving on these highways until they passed an advanced driving test or attended a driving school. I like this idea, too.

     This touches upon one of the root causes of traffic congestion: poor driving. Most traffic accidents are the result of human error and accidents cause traffic jams, and so if driving skills were improved across the board, it would prevent accidents and improve traffic flow.

     Finally, I received an email from a reader who complained about motorists who deface their license plates in and around the GTA, a practice that is more commonplace that you might think.

     Although defacing license plates doesn't pose a direct traffic problem, it is against the law. Vehicles with defaced (or missing) license plates avoid detection by speed cameras and are often unidentifiable when committing driving infractions. Plus, if these vehicles are involved in hit-and-run accidents, it's difficult to track them down. Again, police should be targeting and ticketing the offending culprits.

     My guess is that easing traffic gridlock in the GTA will require more than one solution, and it won't happen overnight. Perhaps our political and civic leaders will recognize the value in some of the solutions presented in this column.

     Again, thank you to all readers for their valuable responses - keep those emails coming!

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