Travel times for Kelowna commuters increased 2 1/2 minutes between 2008 and 2018, city council will hear on Monday.
Rising traffic congestion, while frustrating for some drivers, should also be taken as evidence of economic prosperity, a report to council states.
“Increasing congestion levels are often a sign of a growing, vibrant and economically productive city,” Mariah VanZerr of the transportation department writes in the report.
“In fact, traffic levels often become heaviest when the economy is booming and notably decline during a recession,” she writes. “As such, one way to view traffic congestion is a sign of prosperity and economic success, rather than a wholly negative phenomenon.”
However, since nobody really enjoys being stuck in traffic, the city is developing a new transportation plan to try to minimize the growth of congestion.
Initiatives include promoting greater use of transit and cycling, and building up residential density in established areas so more people can live closer to work.
Building new roads or widening existing ones should be given lesser importance, VanZerr says, because of the cost involved and the impact on neighbourhoods.
“The cost to widen a major road in the core area is estimated at $26 million per kilometre, but it could be much higher where impacts to adjacent properties are significant,” she writes.
“This means that substantial tax increases or new sources of revenue would be needed to try and build our way out of congestion,” VanZerr says.
In 2016, it took the average Kelowna commuter 18.1 minutes to drive to work. This was comparable to the driving times experienced by commuters in cities such as Kingston, Ont., and Trois Rivieres, Que., cities of similar size to Kelowna.