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New study challenges belief that more roads mean more traffic

OTTAWA, Ont. -- A new study by the Conference Board of Canada is challenging the view that expanding roads and high...


OTTAWA, Ont. — A new study by the Conference Board of Canada is challenging the view that expanding roads and highways leads to more traffic and greenhouse gas emissions. Conference Board officials say their research shows that building roads and highways at a rate that matches the growth in the driving-age population does not significantly increase road usage by motorists.

Where people live is the most significant factor in determining how far they drive. A major part of the solution to Canadas transportation challenges is more dense urban development, so people live closer to their workplaces and the services they use, said John Roberts, director, environment and energy.

The report, Build It and Will They Drive? Modelling Light Duty Vehicle Travel Demand, says that, in addition to population density, measures such as congestion tolls (similar to those in London, UK) have a greater effect on driving habits than limiting construction of roads and highways.

The study is unique for three reasons. Officials say it is the first in Canada to test for evidence of whether new road construction causes Canadians to choose to drive more.

In addition, the study incorporates socio-economic factors into the analysis. These factors include: the share of Canadians residing in urban areas, vehicles per person of driving age, population growth, real per capita disposable income, established driving habits and the price of gasoline relative to the price of local transit.

Finally, the study is the first public analysis of personal vehicle use to incorporate data from the new Canadian Vehicle Survey. Light-duty vehicles refer to those primarily used for passenger transport, including all cars, minivans, sport-utility vehicles and small pickup trucks.

The report is available at www.e-library.ca.


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