Patience key to solving traffic woes

I don’t want to admit it but I’m one of those drivers who gets annoyed by a slow cyclist inconveniencing a lane of car traffic.

I don’t want to admit it but I’m one of those drivers who gets annoyed by a slow cyclist inconveniencing a lane of car traffic.

“His inability to bike at a decent speed is adding 30 seconds to my motored commute!”

It’s an inconsiderate, selfish way to drive, but I’m not alone in my actions. Most drivers are egocentric, and it’s the reason the transportation issues plaguing the Capital Region are far from resolution.

Sure, we’ll let our fellow motorists merge into traffic, but if we don’t get that thank-you wave…

During the November municipal election, I chatted with many a politician (and would-be politician) about how they want to make our transportation network – involving drivers, cyclists, transit-users and pedestrians – a more fluid system.

Most appreciable solutions revolved around transit improvements: creating bus and high-occupancy vehicle lanes, increasing service levels, providing incentives to take transit, and building that billion-dollar light-rail project from downtown to the West Shore.

But where do we begin? It has to start with planning things out at a region-wide level, because our current system isn’t working.

We need a regional transportation authority, likely at the Capiital Regional District, where 13 stakeholder municipalities have a say.

This will give us a comprehensive look at each community’s problems and the best possible solutions, given how the multitude of other issues are set out to be managed simultaneously.

The key to this plan is setting both short- and long-term transportation goals.

If some of the region’s recent infrastructure projects are any indication (a new Blue Bridge; a new Craigflower Bridge; upgrades and widening of the Island Highway), car travel is forecast to be here for a long while.

We can’t throw all our attention (and money) at rapid transit and expect the roads to change overnight. A line along the Trans-Canada Highway isn’t going to make a noticeable difference in the number of vehicles headed to the University of Victoria on any given day, or how many Gordon Head residents use Shelbourne Street to drive downtown.

That’s because it’s only one part of a very large puzzle that won’t be finished for decades to come.

This puzzle will ultimately include pieces of rapid transit that serve the Swartz Bay ferry terminal, Victoria International Airport, UVic, and CFB Esquimalt. But these pieces are still years away from the planning stages.

The long-range solution also includes more bike lanes and trails, improved sidewalks and pedestrian environments, and probably even better roads for those who will still use their cars.

Short-term goals are more difficult to pinpoint and solve quickly – but work needs to be done collaboratively so all municipalities are moving in the same direction.

That’s what a comprehensive transportation plan looks like.

When the complete puzzle is built, most if not all Greater Victorians should be able to get to their destination faster, cheaper or easier than they would if they drove themselves.

But patience, for the time-being, is key.

The current LRT system being floated around won’t even be built until 2019 at the earliest.

Even as a Gordon Head resident who won’t use the first phase of the LRT line, I won’t complain when a gas tax is implemented, or more of my property tax is directed toward financing light rail along the Trans-Canada Highway instead of closer to my home.

That’s because I know I have to be patient. My neighbourhood will eventually be served by rapid transit, but it has to start somewhere — and Gordon Head, Esquimalt, Sidney, Oak Bay all drew the short straw.

Until that time I will probably continue to drive to work and I’ll probably continue to get annoyed by the cyclists hogging my lane.

But I am trying hard to be a more patient road user. Because patience is the only thing that’ll help the region get from A to B in the smoothest way possible.

Kyle Slavin is a reporter with

the Saanich News

kslavin@saanichnews.com