Travel Demand Myth

Brent Toderian @BrentToderian

“One thing we know for SURE — building & widening highways ALWAYS succeeds in helping sell more cars, gas & suburban sprawl; burning more public budgets; & increasing GHG emissions. So if THOSE are your goals, it’s the perfect thing to do.”

Just don’t expect it to reduce traffic.


There has never been sufficient traffic demand to justify a controlled access highway to connect highway 400 with highway 404 north of Highway 9.  This was acknowledged in the original Environmental Assessment Study.  It can also be deduced in the current Class EA Study.  The decision to build a controlled access highway was simply a policy decision based on provincial government mandated population growth targets for York and Simcoe Regions.  The belief that population growth requires new highways was prevalent in the early 90’s when there were no alternative public transit and local or work from home capabilities.  Ontarians now have these options. 

Today with these options available and demand for housing outstripping supply, there is no need to entice buyers with incentives such as a nearby controlled access freeway.  There are ample buyers who are quite happy to live in these locations and either rely on public transit, work locally in jobs that will be created, or work from their home offices.  Given that the Bradford Bypass is only 16 km long, it is likely that the average resident is no more than 8 km from either Highway 400 or Highway 404.  Using local / regional roads to commute to either highway is not a huge inconvenience.  

Cole Sherman’s Highway 404 / 89 Overview Study (1989) found that the bulk of the demand for a link between Highway 400 and what is now Highway 404 was for travel from Barrie to the GTA.  Most of this demand is now addressed by the Barrie GO Train. Cole Sherman also said that any such link should be located as far north, close to Cooks Bay, as possible so as to address out-of-the-way travel between Barrie and northern locations east of Cook’s Bay such as Keswick and Brechin.  


However, “if MTO builds it, they will come”, thus driving up the costs of housing in these areas.  That’s precisely what the developers in the area are banking on!

The Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition and Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition have co-authored an excellent article called The Bradford Bypass – Clearing the Air.  It includes an informative section on Induced Demand.  It is well worth the read.


Induced demand is also clearly shown in MTO’s PIC #1 slide 5. CONSIDERATIONS FOR THE BRADFORD BYPASS PROJECT.

Their traffic congestion maps clearly show that the Bradford Bypass will create more traffic in the South Lake Simcoe region, particularly on Highways 400 and 404. If today’s commuters knew that the Bradford Bypass would, aggravate rather than improve, their commuting times, they would likely join us in opposing this inappropriate highway.

For ease of reference the key traffic impact zones are highlighted in blue rectangles.   


MTO’s consultants did not provide a legend for these maps nor did they provide any factual information.  

Our guess at is:

Green > Good 

Yellow > Acceptable

Orange > Not so nice

Red – 401 at Yonge St during rush hour

The Blue rectangles are to draw your attention to increased congestion that would result from this new controlled access highway.