I have spent the past several months meeting residents at their doors and talking about issues that impact their lives. One issue that I hear consistently across the entire ward is concerns about traffic. People are concerned about traffic volumes and speed in their subdivisions and the related issues with safety, especially regarding the safety of children. People are also concerned about traffic on major streets and regional roads as these roads take us to our destinations and getting there is now taking far too long.
It was recently announced that Richmond Hill has grown to a present population of over 200,000 people. This is a huge growth from where we were only 10 years ago, so it should not surprise anyone that we are experiencing much more traffic volume than we were experiencing even a few years ago. I am also not surprised that the methods we used to manage lower traffic volumes may not be serving us as well since we have grown in population. I believe that it is time for a review of traffic patterns, volumes, speeds and driving behaviours in our subdivisions and on the regional roads in our community.
In my time as Chair of the Government Affairs Committee Chair at the Chamber of Commerce, traffic was the number one issue for local businesses, and it is now a high priority for citizens as well. This is now a very good reason for us to take action as a council to do what we can to make our community safer and easier to get around. I will be asking for this traffic review early in the new council term and I look forward to finding what tools are available and in what combinations to make this problem better.
There are many potential “tools” in the “toolbox” to be used for traffic improvement but one tool is the ideas and programs that Smart Commute Markham Richmond Hill has been implementing for a number of years now. There are many facets to the Smart Commute program, but one of these is the idea that we need to get people out of their cars by encouraging people to use transit, car pools and active transportation like bikes and walking. I attended Smart Commute‘s annual summit recently. Many large corporations were at the meeting actively promoting Smart Commute’s programs to their employees. These programs included giving employees discounted transit passes, to offering showers and change rooms for those that can bike to work, to providing reserved parking for people who carpool. Smart Commute has a lot to do with changing our behaviour and our reliance on single vehicle occupancy cars. The Town of Richmond Hill is one of those large employers that participates in the program as well as the York District Catholic School Board, CAA, the Sheraton Parkway, Honda (yes – Honda – a car manufacturer) and many many other employers big and small.
Is Smart Commute the answer to all of our traffic problems? – No.
Is it a low cost, and cost effective, realistic and multi pronged approach that is helping now and as it grows will help more in the future? – Yes.
There is no way we will solve traffic by doing only one thing. A good solution to traffic problems will require a fact based approach with many tools in the tool box and Smart Commute is proving to be one of those tools. I look forward to identifying and implementing other tools in the coming years to help solve our traffic problems.
For more information on Smart Commute visit www.smartcommutemrh.ca