5 worst commutes in Canada

Michael Small
Yahoo! Autos Canada
September 13, 2013

Last year when it was revealed that three of the five worst traffic cities in North American belonged to Canada, a light was shed on something most Canadians already knew: commuting in this country can be a blood-boiling, hair-pulling experience.

The study by TomTom, an Amsterdam-based manufacturer of automotive GPS system that created a “congestion index” that ranks high-traffic cities across the globe, listed five Canadian cities in the top 20 [Vancouver, pictured above: #2; Toronto: #9; Ottawa: #10; Montreal #12; Calgary #16).

            —Canada's most dangerous intersections
            —Canada's most dangerous cities for cyclists
            —Most dangerous music on Canadian roads? Rap, reggae

But for the drivers who crawl along, bumper to bumper, every single day, the rankings are much too general– these daily slogs can inspire nemesis-levels of hate in commuters. Let’s highlight some of the worst commutes in Canada, and identify what makes them so harrowing.

Halifax's Armdale Roundabout

The Armdale Rotary roundabout actually predates modern traffic. Designed post WWII, the Rotary was only ever meant to handle 5,000 to 20,000 vehicles. More than half a century later, 60,000 vehicles, received from five different directions, lurch through the roundabout daily.

Up until 2006, motorists obeyed the “yield and proceed” rule, which led to logjams hundreds of metres long. When it was converted into a roundabout, vehicles in the traffic circle have right of way, with those entering having to wait for an opening before sneaking in. While traffic levels have improved with the conversion to a roundabout, the Armdale Roundabout continues to be a source of headaches for Haligonians. 

Montreal's Autoroute Décarie

Sure, commuters (or survivors) of this sunken highway will lament about the wearisome rush hour commutes, but heavy traffic is just one of their frustrations. The safety conditions of this infamous highway are constantly in question, with exposed reinforcement steel and crumbling infrastructure a constant and safety concern and eyesore.

In 2000, a section of overpass in Laval collapsed into the roadway, killing one and injuring two when vehicles were crushed underneath the structure. And don’t forget about the flooding! In 1987, harsh weather conditions transformed the Décarie into a river, leaving over 300 vehicles flooded and abandoned (one man drowned and another was killed by electrical wire). In 2005, another bout of intense rain flooded the expressway after sewers became overtaxed. 

Toronto's Don Valley Parkway

Dubbed the Don Valley Parking Lot because of its constant state of congestion, ‘The Lot’ is the only North/South expressway into Toronto’s downtown core. Designed to accommodate 60,000 vehicles daily, some sections of the highway hit over 100,000 vehicles on a regular basis. Instead of rush hour, the six-lane highway sees traffic night and day. Combine the 24-hour traffic with limited shoulder space and blind curves, and you’ve got one of the worst commutes in the country, regardless of the time of day.

Calgary's Deerfoot Trail

This 50-kilometre stretch of freeway sees traffic of up to 158,000 vehicles a day in certain sections. In the first six months of 2012 alone, there was an average of 2.9 collisions every afternoon between the hours of 4 and 6 pm, causing traffic jams at the peak of afternoon rush hour.

Trent Bancarz, a spokesman for Albertra transportation, told the Calgary Sun that Deerfoot sees 40,000 to 50,000 more vehicles than it is capable of facilitating. A suffocating two-lane bottleneck at one section of the highway is the most glaring example of traffic frustration.

Vancouver's Port Mann Bridge

Even a completely new $3.3 billion bridge cannot save Lower Mainland drivers from a nightmarish commute. The recently opened 10-lane megabridge, second longest cable-stayed bridge in North America and the widest bridge in the world, was built to ease rush hour traffic that caused hour-long commutes for drivers coming from the surrounding suburbs heading into Metro Vancouver.

Open only for a few months, the bridge has already faced two cold-weather catastrophes: insufficient de-icing practices have seen chunks of collected ice (snow bombs) on bridge cables plummet onto unsuspecting cars below, as well as a recent 40-car pileup due to black ice.