Commercial vehicle movements and their links to regional structure

Unfortunately, no equivalent to the TTS person-travel data exists for intra-COZ goods movements,23 and so an empirically-based discussion of goods movements within the Central Ontario Zone is difficult to construct. However, it seems clear that there is a tremendous amount of goods movement and service delivery occurring throughout the Central Ontario Zone, during most of the day, encompassing a wide variety of origin-destination combinations. Because most goods movement and service delivery occurs by truck or van, these movements contribute to overall road congestion levels, and, in turn, suffer productivity losses caused by this congestion. This type of transportation consists of three types:

  1. Trucks passing through but not stopping in the Central Ontario Zone. These movements contribute to the Canadian economy as a whole but not directly to the Central Ontario Zone economy. They do, however, contribute to roadway congestion levels.
  2. Import/export movements between businesses in the Central Ontario Zone and other economic regions in North America. Given the strong export base of the Central Ontario Zone, these movements are essential to the economic well-being of the region. They both suffer from and contribute to higher congestion levels.
  3. Movements of goods and services from origins to destinations within the Central Ontario Zone. Service delivery movements include private vehicles (such as plumbers making house calls), delivery vehicles (such as couriers), municipal service vehicles (such as garbage trucks), and other business-related travel not captured by TTS-type surveys (for example, the TTS does not attempt to capture all calls made by salespersons, nor does it completely capture other work-based trips for business purposes).

From a land use or urban design perspective, probably the most important impacts of commercial vehicle movements include the following.

  • To the extent that commercial traffic increases congestion on Central Ontario Zone highways (most notably the 400-series highways) and other roads, they affect access by Central Ontario Zone residents and businesses to these roads. This, in turn, might influence land development decisions and/or location choices of households and firms.
  • Building or expanding highways to accommodate freight movements will change access to roads for personal travel (unless such new facilities are restricted to trucks only). Again, this can influence housing and other land use and location choices unless strong land use control measures are implemented. Historically, the construction of Highway 401 provides a classic example of this effect. Originally billed as "the Toronto bypass" and designed largely to provide a route for through-traffic around Toronto, the highway instead facilitated the development of much of the GTA's current urban structure and has become the central artery for much of the GTA's travel, both person-based and freight. More recently, Highway 407 has had a similar effect on land development and travel patterns in York Region and elsewhere in the Central Ontario Zone.
  • The parking and loading/unloading requirements involved in urban goods deliveries and service calls can result in significant losses of road capacity if these activities occur on the street. Thus, an important consideration at the level of actual building and street-level design is to provide appropriate off-street parking/loading-unloading facilities in order to minimize congestion impacts and productivity losses due to on-street parking of commercial vehicles.
  • Manufacturers and other export/import oriented businesses generally need convenient access to major highways, and so will naturally try to locate near highways, particularly highway interchanges. These activities tend to be fairly extensive in their land requirements, and, as a result, generate very low-density, highly auto-based employment centres that are not easily serviced by transit (if they can be cost-effectively be served at all).

From the perspective of this paper, this last point may be the most important. In particular, it highlights one of the many difficult aspects of the land use-transportation design problem. Although one might wish employment centres to be constructed in a dense, centralized fashion to facilitate high-quality, cost-effective transit service, for many businesses, current (and foreseeable future) production methods and business practices dictate a land development pattern that is dispersed, low-density, and inherently road-oriented.

Further, while alternatives to automobile transportation may exist for some commercial vehicle movements in some areas (such as using bicycle couriers or using transit to get to business meetings), the need to transport bulky items (from toolboxes to sample cases to heavy equipment), dispersed origin-destination travel patterns, and tight timelines require a heavy, if not total, dependence on trucks, vans, and cars to accomplish these movements. Thus, one can argue that from an urban design perspective, the challenge is primarily one of building an urban area to minimize commercial vehicle trip lengths and the congestion caused by these movements, rather than to facilitate the diversion of these trips to other modes of travel. This clearly represents a contrast to the case of personal travel, in which modal diversion is both a much more viable and a much more necessary component of the overall design problem.

23. As opposed to "NAFTA"-type freight movements between the COZ and the US border or other economic regions with which the COZ trades, for which good data exists. An ongoing intra-COZ goods movement data collection program similar to TTS in nature would be a cost-effective contributor to COZ transportation policy analysis, but, to date, this proposal has not been acted upon.