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Vancouver gridlock costs commuters 87 hours a year, study shows

Traffic slows on Highway 1 eastbound near Kensington Ave. during the afternoon rush hour in Burnaby, B.C., on Monday June 2, 2014.

DARRYL DYCK/The Globe and Mail

A new survey has validated the exasperation of Vancouver drivers trapped in rush-hour traffic: The city has been dubbed the most congested in Canada.

The authors of the study have previously raised concerns about traffic in the West Coast city, prompting skepticism of those earlier findings by Mayor Gregor Robertson. The mayor, likely to face questions around transportation issues as he seeks a third term in November, wasn't available Monday to comment on the most recent study.

TomTom, which produces GPS technology, says in the survey to be released Tuesday that the average Vancouver driver experiences 87 hours of delay time a year based on a 30-minute daily commute.

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According to the index, the Canadian cities falling behind Vancouver, in order, are Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Calgary, Quebec City and Edmonton.

Over all, the survey suggests traffic congestion is worse on secondary roads than main roads. It also says commuters around the world are spending an average eight working days stuck in traffic each year.

In Vancouver, the most congested day was Nov. 15, 2013, according to the survey.

The survey, says TomTom, is conducted by tapping travel-time information from customers using TomTom GPS devices. Over all, the company is measuring travel in 180 cities globally.

There were no Canadian cities in the top 10 most congested cities in the world, but the eleventh was none other than Vancouver. The other six Canadian cities that TomTom measured ranked in various spots among the top-100 list. Toronto was at 32, Ottawa 40, Montreal 44, Calgary 67, Quebec City 69 and Edmonton 85.

TomTom president Jocelyn Vigreux got a first-hand look at Vancouver traffic on Monday.

Upon flying into British Columbia from Boston, where he lives, the executive took a cab to his hotel on the city's waterfront. He said, in an interview, that it was his first visit to Vancouver.

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"I found the traffic no worse or less than what I expected or what I was used to," he said. "Today, at this moment in time, it wasn't bad."

But Mr. Vigreux said that he was sticking to the findings of his company's survey about congestion in Canada's third-largest city. "The data from Vancouver drivers shows there is a traffic-congestion issue in Vancouver. My experience is not relevant."

Mr. Vigreux said it was not his responsibility to speculate on what the particular problem was with Vancouver traffic, adding nuance to the findings of the survey. "What we are doing through this very comprehensive project is to define what the situation is," he said. "Figuring out 'why?' is quite certainly not TomTom's responsibility."

Informed of the aspirations of the mayor to build a $3-billion transit line across the city to the main campus of the University of British Columbia, Mr. Vigreux said transit can help ease congestion as well as systems that direct drivers to use less congested routes as they go about their travels.

Mr. Robertson has acknowledged that Vancouver has traffic issues, but nothing nearly as serious as such large U.S. cities as Los Angeles or Seattle.

He has said Vancouver needs to improve transit to deal with traffic issues.

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In April, 2013, TomTom announced that Vancouver ranked second among North America's most congested cities after Los Angeles, but ahead of Honolulu, San Francisco, Seattle and Toronto, sitting in sixth place. Montreal was the only other Canadian city on the North American top-10 list placing 10th.

TomTom, founded in 1991, is based in Amsterdam. It has about 3,000 employees.

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About the Author
B.C. reporter

Ian Bailey is a Vancouver-based reporter for The Globe and Mail.  He covers politics and general news. Prior to arriving at The Globe and Mail, he reported from Toronto and St. John’s for The Canadian Press.  He has also covered British Columbia for CP, The National Post and The Province. More


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