Okay summer is now officially over and we’re into the fall season. It’s been a few weeks since we unwillingly put away our flip flops in exchange for a pair of loafers and dress shoes. As the tans begin to fade, some of us are turning a different shade of red as we deal with all the traffic mess on our streets post Labour Day.
If you are a regular commuter in Metro Vancouver, it’s hard to miss how post-holiday traffic patterns in our region are vastly different than what we experienced when school was out. With our universities and K-12 school system in hiatus, there was suddenly a lot more elbow room on the roads.
So what gives? Can it really be that the re-opening of our school system in September has that much of an impact on producing traffic congestion? It certainly would appear so.
If the return to school itself weren’t bad enough, consider the fact that parents have the option to send their kids to schools miles outside their catchment area. All of these lengthy commutes add to the overall level of gridlock.
Visit almost any school in the Vancouver School District at about 8:30 am if you want to see what I’m talking about. At some of the more “popular” west side schools; it is a virtual traffic gridlock as hundreds of parents in their SUVs drop off their kids each day. I have no doubt a significant portion of those vehicles are students being driven to school from well outside the local neighbourhood.
I simply can’t imagine the carbon footprint of a policy that allows kids living in Vancouver’s eastside to get driven to and from University Hill elementary each day. Yet school boards are powerless to do anything as the decision to eliminate the catchment area policy came from the Province.
With traffic gridlock a virtual fact of life when school is back in session, is there a way for us to get out of this mess we’ve created? Some policy wonks believe that year round schooling might help. However, I just happen to think that will only serve to increase the amount of traffic on our roads in July and August.
I think what is needed is some ingenuity and innovation regarding the way we plan our cities. If we do it right, we should be able to get more kids walking to school each day. The net positive effects to our health care system could be enormous.
The million dollar question is how do we do it? What policy levers do city governments have to reduce the post-labour day traffic chaos on our streets? If you have any ideas, please feel free to leave a comment and participate in the debate.