This post is from a regional perspective in light of recent debate that the Capital Region Board had on the subject.
There are many ‘urban planning fixes’ that big cities utilize, out of necessity, in order to curb behaviour. One such tool is High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes. Sometimes there need to be rules that, when obeyed, make the driving experience better for everyone. Some times…
Typically, such tools are required when overcrowding is the norm: when we are running out of space, and when there are more people than room. This is currently not the case in the Edmonton area. We have plenty of space.
Recently, I was quite surprised to hear that the regional municipalities of Edmonton (the Capital Region Board) think that congestion on Highway 2 from Edmonton to Leduc is so jammed that we need to start rolling out a carrot-and-stick HOV approach. We need to punish those who drive solo—by prohibiting them from utilizing the whole road’s capacity? Sorry to those households in which only one member works in Nisku. If you want to move anywhere near the speed limit, you’ll be forced to bond with another person who lives and works near you. You’ll likely have to adjust your routine. Hopefully, you’ll like the same radio station. Personally, my morning commute allows me to relax and think about the day ahead of me. Oh, and I hope you weren’t planning on stopping for groceries, or going to the gym, on your way home.
So why are HOV lanes being contemplated for the Edmonton area? The official answer, apparently, is that we need to start making changes because the population of the area will double in thirty years…
And it is just going to sneak up and blindside us, they argue—unless smart people tell us how to live, now. In 2046, everything will be a mess if we don’t start cramming together, they say.
Most politicians appear to be in favour of this. The only lukewarm criticism of the proposal, from what I can tell, came from the mayor of Fort Saskatchewan, Gale Katchur, who said, “I am not opposed to HOV lanes, but I see it as a future initiative.” Given that there was only one dissension on the committee proposing the lanes, I fully expect that the pilot project will go ahead. And then another will pop up. And then another.
Although I was not privy to the committee discussions, I feel that in the Edmonton area, there is a sense that we are not trendy unless we are doing exactly what New York City or Toronto are doing. Well, those cities have different challenges. It is okay for Edmonton to be Edmonton.
Why can’t we accept that one of the perks of living on the prairie is that we have a different landscape? Instead of studying HOV lanes, could we not study increasing the speed limit, or even adding more lanes to Highway 2?
I would be remiss if I did not mention the under-utilized lanes on 97 Street (between the 118 Ave and the Yellowhead) which are HOV at certain times of the day. If anything, those are just serving as cash-collectors for the cops. I support the removal of the HOV designations on 97 Street as the road isn’t that backed up that they are needed. During rush hour it is jammed only because a portion of the road is artificially partitioned. With all lanes open, the buses would still move with ease. Headaches for all would be lessened.
If you liked this post, please consider reading one of my novels. I write on a variety of topics. The broad themes of my fiction include individualism versus collective thought, and the importance of culture and identity in society. I sometimes use humour as a tool. I sometimes use pity. Sit back, click, and enjoy.