Tuesday, May 17, 2011

What would your downtown be like today without transit?

Image Credit: http://borgra.wordpress.com

In this excerpt I would like to do a little bit of backwards thinking.  Lets imagine your cities of Edmonton and Calgary without the LRT running through our downtown.  A single LRT train running through either downtown carries up to 500 passengers every 5 minutes from two directions.  In Edmonton the LRT generates approximately 100,000 trips every day.  I acknowledge that not all trips are going to the same location along the 20 km line, however the majority of trips will terminate downtown.  For the purposes of this scenario lets assume that 75,000 of those trips make it downtown. 

Your typical automobile is 4.5 m long by 2 m wide and takes up 9 square meters of space. Lets assume that everyone takes their own car in this scenario (humans are creatures of comfort after all).  This means that you would need 75,000 automobiles in order to replace the trips normally made on the LRT.  If you were to line this many cars bumper to bumper it would ironically fill one lane of highway II between Edmonton and Calgary plus change at 335 km. 

Approximately 45% of our cities are covered with road infrastructure so this includes parking, roads, garages, overpasses, interchanges.  The downtown Edmonton area is approximately 1.5 square kilometers, and approximately 675,000 square meters is dedicated for automobiles.  Of the 675,000 square meters of infrastructure approximately 250,000 square meters is dedicated to actual roadways.  The problem is that 75,000 cars take up 580,000 square meters of room.  This is more that double the roadway capacity in Edmonton's downtown.  You would need twice the area of Edmonton's downtown just to have room for all of the cars that would have normally been seats on a train.  You would need a 67 story block sized building or 27 twenty story normal sized building to provide parking for all of these cars. 

You have to keep in mind that this is all in addition the normal traffic entering your downtown.  You can forget about having any sort of street life, you would need any available land to try and prevent the disastrous daily traffic jams.  Pedestrians would be forced of the sidewalks above, indoors or underground.  You would have massive unsightly twisting overbearing overhead freeways cutting concrete swaths into the sky.  The smog would be greatly intensified, and almost unbearable.  Your stress would never settle as you would be stuck in traffic for hours.

Thankfully this is not the case, several bright people in our cities past saw the value in transit and decided to invest in it.  You have been spared these horrific experiences due to the decisions of your ancestors.  So what can you do next time your councillor decides to invest in transit, well you can show them your support since even if you do not take transit it makes your life easier too.

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