The Gardiner Industry Coalition, of which the Ontario Trucking Association is a contributing member, released an independent study today that finds removing the eastern portion of the Gardiner Expressway would cost Toronto’s economy up to $37 million dollars per year as a result of increased delays and traffic congestion for commercial operators and commuters travelling within the downtown core.
The study – conducted by the University of Toronto’s Centre for Intelligent Transportation Systems – examined the impact of removing the Gardiner East. On top of costing between $23 and $37 million a year, the research shows safety of pedestrians and cyclists could also be at risk as a result of congestion spikes and traffic flow on arterial roads in the downtown area breaking down.
Accordingly, the study reinforces the so-called “hybrid option” supported by the Gardiner Industry Coalition. This proposal would establish a continuous link – in effect, an at-grade, hybrid compromise that would realign the Gardiner’s connection to the DVP and maintain east-west traffic to and from the city – rather than simply tear down the elevated portion of the highway without any suitable capacity replacement.
The UofT study is the most comprehensive to date on the Gardiner issue and used the most current available data regarding traffic flows in the area studied (Gardiner Expressway East from Jarvis St. to Logan Ave.).
There are about 2400 commercial vehicle truck trips per hour operating in the study area during peak periods. Further disruptions to this traffic could seriously impact the ability to deliver or pick up goods into or out of the city, says the coalition. The study finds that removing the Gardiner would mean a “best case scenario” increase of at least 10 minutes to eastbound travel times – worsening in the event of a collision, road closure or inclement weather. The study also indicates there would be a resulting ripple effect, forcing commuters and delivery vehicles onto already congested routes such as the Don Valley Parkway and Richmond Street.
“Trucking is a critical service to downtown businesses. Further disruptions to commercial operations will lead to increased costs of downtown goods and services as well as possible transportation supply shortages should carriers decide to opt out of the downtown market,” said Stephen Laskowski, senior VP of the OTA, who points to other major cities where downtown congestion and lack of traffic capacity pushes the cost of doing business out of reach for certain operations.
“The trucking industry is currently experiencing a capacity crunch as a result of an acute driver shortage. So, do fleets and trucks drivers begin treating downtown Toronto as they currently view deliveries in cities like New York – markets carriers increasingly avoid because drivers refuse to deliver there and there’s better, hassle-free customer options elsewhere as trucking capacity becomes tighter? It’s unfortunate if the removal of the Gardiner East without the vital hybrid option being put in place creates a New York City-type scenario for transportation providers in this city.”
Meanwhile, the proposed removal option of the Gardiner is based on assumptions that a Downtown Relief Line, Broadview Extension and the Waterfront East LRT are imminent (but in reality they have yet to be funded by any level of government). Contrary to other research which assumed this catalog of prospective transit projects could eventually mitigate the traffic impacts of removing the Gardiner, the UofT study instead took into account only the potential impact of approved or imminently funded projects. Its conclusion was that potential road and transit improvements in the absence of the Gardiner East would have little, if any, impact on mitigating future demand of vehicle traffic.
“We are certainly supportive of the beautification of Toronto and opening up the waterfront and port lands, but it’s important for the well-being of the city’s economy and for traffic safety that we move ahead with these projects by choosing the least disruptive option available,” Laskowski said.