A GPS device manufacturer recently published a ranking of the most congested major cities in North America and Europe based on the speed of automobile travel during peak travel time versus non-peak travel time. Canadian headlines drew attention to Vancouver's ranking as the worst in Canada. Toronto ranked 9th in North America.
Measuring congestion is more complex than simply measuring one variable. A congested route for automobiles may be efficient for other modes. Furthermore, cities with motor-vehicle traffic congestion during ‘peak hours’ may be investing more in cycling, transit, and pedestrian infrastructure and improving travel times for these modes. Vancouver, lauded as one of the most sustainable cities in Canada, is a case in point of this.
Last year, researchers at the University of Toronto released a report finding that expansion of the U.S. Interstate would result in more vehicles. A 2012 research paper by Todd Litman of the Victoria Transport Policy Institute shows how roadway expansion comes at the expense of other modes and can increase long-term transportation costs.
Creating a network of Complete Streets helps improve congestion by reducing the demand for driving while encouraging other modes. But the reality is that the great cities around the world that people love to live in or visit are not typically characterized by high levels of free-flowing motor vehicle traffic.