Going the wrong way could be the right way to solve Calgary’s groan-inducing gridlock.
Of course I’m talking about lane reversals, where traffic planners identify rush-hour chokepoints and give an extra lane over to the direction with the most flow at peak times to relieve the constant crunch.
Currently the city has two fully automated lane reversals on Centre St. north going into and out of the downtown core as well as along 10 Ave. N.W. through Kensington.
Two more, one along Memorial Dr. and the other at the 5 Ave. connector at Bow Tr. SW, have been undergoing trials for years, with lane reversals marked by pylons and portable street signs.
Both are set to become fully automated (with the overhead electronic lane marking signs that are well known on Centre St. and 10 Ave.) later this year after engineers saw how effective they were at slashing drive times during the rush hour commutes.
Troy McLeod, the city’s manager of traffic, says Calgarians should get used to the low-cost but highly efficient solution in dealing with commuting woes.
“It certainly allows us to use the existing infrastructure more effectively,” he said.
“For a relatively minor cost you can achieve a high benefit so we will definitely continue to look at these projects.”
On Memorial, for example, what was once a 10-minute average commute through the inner city bottleneck has been reduced by four minutes. In the grand scheme, that’s not that much, but every minute is precious to harried commuters. And the timing for such innovations couldn’t be more crucial.
Today, city council will debate its Plan-It Calgary blueprint, outlining how the city will grow over the next 60 years.
One of the more controversial tenets of the scheme is a moratorium on expansion to Calgary’s existing road network despite projections of another 1.3 million residents to the city.
You thought your commute was bad now, try adding a few hundred thousand more vehicles to roadways that will not be substantially expanded in the future. The hope is people will flock to alternate forms of transportation — transit, cycling, walking — to relieve the pressure on packed roads.
But Calgary’s roads have never been busier.
Lane reversals and other ways to optimize traffic flow have long taken a back seat to new interchanges and road expansion. But with plans to limit the road network, it’s time to put the pedal to the metal on alternatives.