407 ETR: Traffic Management Reduces Environmental Impact of Driving?

When it was free to travel on Highway 407, it was very noticeable how free flowing Highway 401 became. October 15th, 1997, the day people were charged to use the toll highway, it was a retreat back to the 401. Transportation Minister, Al Palladini, drove the toll highway during the morning rush hour with his successor Tony Clement and was quoted as saying, “There’s no question traffic was very light, but once motorists get tired of getting stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic on Highway 401 and other routes, they’ll be back”. This was when we were only paying under $.10/KM. The 407 ETR is now charging more than $.37/KM and a $1.00 trip fee every time you enter the highway. This does not include any kind of video tolls charges, transponder fees or any other fees the company dreams up. People are not flocking to this highway as Minister Al Palladini thought they would and Hwy 401 is more congested than ever.

As a matter of fact, by design, 407 ETR’s traffic management scheme lowers traffic volume on their road way by increasing the cost of tolls and fees to discourage usage. Although that vast majority of commuters choose not to pay the price to travel on this roadway, there are some that say they have no choice but to pay because they would never be able to get to where they need to be without the free flowing nature of Hwy 407.

Those that choose to pay the price to travel on this roadway, here’s something to think about. With the increase in vehicle Kilometers traveled and vehicle registrations in the GTA, this means one thing. 407 ETR will continue to raise the cost of tolls and will come up with more fees to charge you to dissuade some of you from using their roadway. How does that make you feel? You can say my time is worth it, but at what point do you say enough is enough; you’re being exploited?

407 ETR took the helm at the operations of Highway 407 in the year 1999. There was a 39% increase in vehicle registrations in the Province of Ontario throughout 1999 and 2000! The estimated vehicle kilometers traveled has continued to steadily increase since. Despite what Urban Planners dream of… that the trend will be to ditch the car… the cold hard facts say that the trend is that commuting by motor vehicle will increase. As a matter of fact, the United Nations estimates that the transportation and energy sector’s CO2 emissions are expected to increase by 20% by 2040. This includes all the green initiatives we see being implemented. Companies like 407 ETR stand to cash in big time.

Contrary to 407 ETR’s claims, that their traffic management system reduces the environmental impact of driving, the facts indicate that there is no reduction. If anything there’s enough anecdotal evidence to suggest that this traffic management scheme not only relies on traffic congestion to be financially viable, but it causes traffic congestion. The only way to know for sure what kind of impact this traffic management scheme has on the environment is to conduct a proper impact study without interference from 407 ETR.

There’s more to our congestion woes than what a private corporation is trying to cash in on. What role does transit play? My next few articles will explore this.

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