Why? Because a big truck, once stopped, as happens during rush hour traffic, takes time to get rolling again. This is not a knock against the driver; it is a fact of life.
I’m on the Gardiner the other day, heading west at about 5:15 p.m., and I find myself trapped behind an 18-wheel transport truck in the middle lane. And when I say trapped, I mean trapped. Now, the Expressway – I use the term loosely – is moving much better westbound these days, ever since they opened up three lanes. But during the morning and afternoon “rushes,” you have to be on your toes because if you are stuck behind a big truck, which isn’t as nimble as a car or light truck, it can be a most frustrating experience.
Why? Because a big truck, once stopped, as happens during rush-hour traffic, takes time to get rolling again. This is not a knock against the driver; it is a fact of life. This then holds up the car directly behind it and before you know it, a long line of cars is being held up. And because traffic is moving at a faster pace in both the inside and outside lanes, it’s chancy to try to change lanes (hello, rear-ender) and move ahead of the truck. So you’re stuck there.
My language can get quite colourful at times like that. But then it hits me: what is that truck doing on the Gardiner Expressway at 5:15 in the afternoon anyway? Do we not have enough trouble with gridlock around here without adding to it by allowing big trucks – transports, dump trucks and other construction trucks – to bottle things up more by just being out there? And it’s not just the Gardiner. Trucks are clogging up the 401 (in particular), 403, 427 and DVP, too. It didn’t used to be this way.
Back in the Fifties, they had truck depots up on the 401 where the 18-wheelers would pull in and their loads would be transferred to smaller delivery trucks. (My goodness, they were progressive back then: they built the Yonge St. subway AND the Gardiner Expressway AND started work on the Don Valley Parkway AND banned transport trucks from going downtown.) Of course, those depots (there used to be one at Kennedy Road, for instance) soon became valuable land as the city sprawl moved north of the 401 and the depots disappeared and were never replaced. Although there would be resistance, the city and the province — and they’re going to have to take on the gridlock problem sooner or later (and I don’t mean tolls: New York tackled it by banning transports from the city and restricting big trucks to particular routes in the vicinity of NYC) — has to do something along the following lines: any vehicle over a certain weight and/or with more than two axles will not be allowed to travel on the 401, 403, 427, Gardiner and DVP between 6 and 9 in the morning and 4 and 7 in the afternoon.
As I have argued in previous columns, public transit is not up to the job once you get outside the GTA and tens of thousands of people have to drive their cars into Toronto to get to their jobs and trucks are impeding their progress. But to do nothing is a non-starter. We have planning people at the municipal and provincial levels earning serious money. Let them earn some of it by investigating and, if not solving, at least alleviating some of these gridlock problems. Getting big trucks out of the way twice a day would be a good start.
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