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Canadians lose between $2.3B to $3.7B a year because of growing urban traffic

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TORONTO (CP) _ Worsening urban congestion is costing Canadians billions of dollars a year and the waste is likely to compound with a growing population, more cars on the road, and the urbanization of towns, according to a new Transport Canada study.

The study is the first national analysis of congestion and estimates the cost of bad traffic in Canada's nine biggest cities _ Quebec City, Montreal, Ottawa-Gatineau, Toronto, Hamilton, Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver _ is between $2.3 billion and $3.7 billion a year.

More than 90 per cent of the waste is the value of time lost in traffic, seven per cent is the cost of fuel consumption, and three per cent is associated with increased greenhouse gas emissions.

``The results show how costly congestion is, but they also show just how much more we need to do to understand it. And let's be honest, we all contribute to this problem,'' said the new federal Transport Minister Lawrence Cannon, who was speaking at a transportation summit in Toronto on Wednesday.

``We drive to the video store when we could walk. We drive to work when we could take public transit. We even drive to the gym when we know we should bike. So we all need to be part of the solution.''

Not only does heavy traffic waste time, congestion on the roads is especially damaging to the environment and adds to gas bills because a vehicle travelling at 20 km/h operates less efficiently and spews more pollution than when it is moving at 60 km/h, the report states.

And as expensive as today's driving conditions are, they are likely to get worse.

With the national population expected to rise by .75 per cent annually until 2020, car ownership growing at a greater rate, and urbanization changing the landscape of the country, congestion is projected to get increasingly heavy.

Cannon said his ministry has already committed $1.5 billion to new projects _ including $385 million for GO Transit improvements, $350 million for the Toronto Transit Commission and $50 million for York Region transit. But, he said, no new money is on the way to combat congestion.

``We're open to discussion but I do not want to commit an amount to a specific project,'' he said when asked if the federal government would fund a Toronto subway extension or any other new investments.

Cannon said the study is progress and has compiled important data that could help urban planners come up with better solutions and a better quality of life.

Growing congestion doesn't necessarily mean a need for more roads and could be solved with better transit, he said.

``We must ... keep in mind the important link between transportation _ particularly transit _ and quality of life issues,'' Cannon said.

``I'm thinking here about ensuring easy access to work or school, to affordable housing, quality day care or the theatre district. By recognizing the importance of transit in a city's way of life, we can create stronger, more inclusive urban communities.''

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Canadians lose between $2.3B to $3.7B a year because of growing urban traffic
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