By Terry Martins, P.Eng. – Asset Management, Partner and Sam Sidawi – Chair of Asset Management Ontario
Another day, another drive, another battle with traffic in Southern Ontario.
It’s 4 p.m. on a Friday, and I’m driving through Port Credit, a popular lakeshore area in Mississauga, Ontario, that is bound by adjacent property, down to two lanes in each direction. Ten years ago, I remember Port Credit traffic was terrible. In 2023, it’s twice as bad. Construction cranes dominate both sides of the road. What will traffic look like after the City of Mississauga adds thousands of condo units along the lakeshore? Transit and alternative modes of transportation are the only options for this community – and for many other areas across the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). What’s the answer?
In this blog, I’ll explore how Asset Management (AM) can help solve one of the biggest challenges facing communities in Southern Ontario: Traffic.
How will communities like Toronto and Mississauga handle additional development when they already have traffic-congested stressed core areas? More homes equal more people. More people equal more cars. More cars equal more traffic. Transit and active transportation networks are options for these intensified areas. Initiating these alternatives is a big ask, which alone stresses city engineers to design and build. But it doesn’t stop there. Once in place, you’ve got to figure out how to operate, monitor, and maintain these complicated networks amongst constantly changing factors and conditions.
That’s where Asset Management can come into the picture. We develop the practices to make sustainable solutions, including around traffic flow. Asset management considers all the factors (asset condition and performance, customer expectations, level of service, costs, etc.) involved with how organizations (in this case, cities) can maximize the relationship between investments in assets versus the service provided to their customers.
Think about transit. You’ve got a complicated network of fleet, bus stops and stations, routes and schedules, changing traffic and weather conditions, all on top of changing communities as development continues. What could go wrong? If a bus breaks down, it throws a wrench into your entire schedule and upsets your ridership. Do you simply maintain the status quo and hope for the best. Asset Management says instead, “what’s the ideal and most sustainable solution based on what you can afford?”
Asset Management professionals review and analyze the many different elements involved in maintaining and optimizing services provided by these physical assets, such as buses providing transportation services on a transit route. In addition to good maintenance practices, good AM practices will drive rehabilitation and replacement of your fleet to minimize downtime, while balancing costs. Your AM practices will find that sweet spot between the cost of owning and operating your fleet versus the reliability of these assets to stay on the road and move people.
Another challenge is our constantly growing and changing communities. As an example, what happens when customers don’t have access to bus stop locations and bus schedules/frequency they need? Take my Port Credit example: suddenly there are thousands of new condos driving the need for more buses and more bus stops. Good AM will monitor changes in population and demographics, ridership counts, average daily traffic, schedule delays, and other key factors, to identify and make informed decisions on how to maintain performance, to include more buses, increase service, add additional stops etc. Your transit needs are always a moving target because your community is not static. Good AM practices will continue to monitor these factors and drive decisions that get the best performance from your transit assets and network, the best ridership service and experience for your customers, at the right price that is sustainable.
The same approach to planning and research applies to active transportation networks, which aim to move commuters from cars into any form of human-powered travel like walking and cycling. Like transit alternatives, there are several factors that can impact performance. As traffic and road conditions changes, good AM practices will monitor these, and analyze levels of service (LOS), which will drive the appropriate spend on infrastructure. For example, people stop riding bikes on roads with potholes. Your AM practices should monitor and maintain minimum safety and performance standards on these routes. AM practices also assess and assist in locating, designing, and maintaining the pedestrian and cycling infrastructure needed in these intensified areas, like sidewalks, crosswalks, and cycling lanes.
Sustainable asset management recommendations must consider financing. Cities are experimenting with a variety of costing models aimed at encouraging people to use transit and get cars off the road. Varying models are being investigated, such as free ridership for students on weekends and after hours on weekdays. These initiatives help drive participation but come at a cost. Your AM practices will help review the impacts of these initiatives and develop long-term financial strategies that are sustainable.
Yes, traffic is a big challenge, and creative solutions are being developed in Southern Ontario. For these solutions to be sustainable, asset management is key to monitoring and adapting these systems so they can continue to be effective in these constantly changing communities. Asset management will help maintain solutions to provide an environment for safe, reliable, and environmentally friendly transportation and traffic management. And that ultimately supports more livable and resilient communities.
Join GM BluePlan, GEI, and AM Ontario at the IAM Conference in Toronto from Oct. 23 – Oct. 25, 2023 as the world’s leading AM professional tackle these and other issues impacting our communities. For more information, check out amontario.ca or reach out to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.