#311 – Claiming the smaller space

Traffic congestion will only get worse in our cities. Solutions are needed now.

As Nancy Irwin mentions in her column ‘As The Wheel Turns’ this issue, the City of Toronto is moving toward no longer providing free parking for motorcycles in its downtown area. This doesn’t seem to be the right way to go but it is a tough sell, pardon the pun, to supply something for free when it is obvious that people will pay for it when not given an option. And then there is the perception that some are getting a free ride while others are not that always ends up irking the public even if it’s for the “greater good.” The reasoning and logic behind free parking was a good one. There isn’t enough parking for all the cars on the streets so why not try and get some of those cars to turn into motorcycles and allow four motorcycles to fit into the space of one car? If you have walked around downtown Toronto—particularly south of Front Street—it seems a new 40-story condo building is going up monthly. Are all those new residents going to have cars?
Perhaps Toronto City Council was concerned about the arrival of the Polaris Slingshot but they could have been spared their anguish now that a move is underway in the US that may spill over into Canada—the Slingshot may soon be considered an “autocycle” rather than a, err, motorcycle. No free parking for you!
The premise that more people riding motorcycles will lower congestion seems sound. Look at large Asian cities where two wheels are the favoured form of transport. In North America the idea is gaining traction. California allows lane splitting on highways because motorcycle traffic can continue flowing when the traffic around them is in what appears to be endless gridlock.
Other states have also recently put forth measures that may eventually allow for lane splitting. Washington State is one of them. If you have ever driven in Seattle you will realize that anything at all that will help traffic flow better would be beneficial. Heavy traffic is supposedly one reason Boeing moved its long-time corporate headquarters from the Emerald City.
What is a better solution to urban congestion? Rather than provide free parking to motorcycles how about charging everyone who wants to drive their vehicles into the city centre? This is what London does. There is no doubt that the idea will find a receptive ear in other densely populated areas. Vancouver is about to have a referendum regarding a sales tax increase to pay for better transportation services. The fact that there is a congestion issue in Vancouver is obvious and you will probably not find a single person in Vancouver who rides or drives that will tell you that congestion is not a problem. The idea of motorcycles solving that problem doesn’t seem to be high on the list of answers. Vancouver’s core is about to be surrounded by a ring of toll bridges even though some say there should be a least one way to get into the city free of charge. Pay for the convenience of a faster or more direct route, but how about a motorcycle?
From a very local point of view, BC Ferries, our link off Vancouver Island should we wish to ride in the traffic of Vancouver, has been raising ferry fares consistently for years. The problem is, as the fares rise, ridership drops. Sure, as a motorcyclist you can get off the island for less than the price of a car—$42.90 for you and your bike as opposed to $69.50 for you and your car. For the vehicle alone a motorcycle is half the price of a car. Do two motorcycles equal the space of a car? Usually not. It would seem that the answer would be to get more riders on the ferry at a lesser cost particularly at peak hours as there would be more room for those cars—and Slingshots.
As traffic gets worse there will be more ideas coming forward to address the situation. None of them are going to be cheap and, unfortunately, as Nancy notes, even some of the sound ones will get dropped.