Innovative approach pays off with major truck movement strategy

Staying on top of Edmonton’s amazing industrial and commercial growth is critical to transportation planners, because if goods and services can’t flow easily on our roads, the impact on our economy can run into many hundreds of millions of dollars.

So the stakes were high when acting senior engineer Howaida Hassan and her Transportation Planning, Policy Implementation and Evaluation team planned an update to the City’s decade-old truck study.

“The City had grown immensely; we needed up-to-date data to help us facilitate optimal truck traffic flow within the City and the immediate surrounding region,” she says.

In the fall of 2012, she and her team radically updated their approach to the survey when they decided not to rely just on trucking company executives and dispatchers for information, and also to consult much more widely with a variety of businesses and community organizations.

“We wanted the usual data that shows us where truck movements originate, what they’re carrying and where they’re destined,” Howaida says, adding “but we also wanted a street-level picture of the challenges that face everyday truck drivers – we knew they had a lot to tell us.”

Fourteen temporary roadside pull-outs were set up on busy truck routes. Truckers were asked to volunteer for a quick written survey, and to answer several questions about the truck driving experience in Edmonton.

All told, 2,300 truckers were interviewed.

Howaida and her team also went on ride-alongs with truck drivers to better understand the challenges they face on our roads.

“It was awesome,” she says, “it gave us a chance to ask about various intersections, truck corridors, traffic light timing issues and more.

“We developed a healthy respect for truckers as skilled people who truly care about safety and courtesy.”

The team also organized an extensive series of public meetings involving trucking firms, community leagues, transportation planners and other interested groups and individuals.

These meetings helped people on opposite ends of thorny issues – like the short portion of the 75th Street inner ring road that’s closed to trucks because of neighbourhood opposition – begin talking about win-win compromises.

“One thing we enjoyed was the positive approach of the trucking industry to neighbourhood concerns. They’re citizens, too,” says Howaida.

The result of this project was Council’s receipt in July, 2014 of the Edmonton Goods Movement Strategy, which contains seven big-picture objectives supported by 35 specific action items.

In general, the survey found significant increases in truck traffic between the northwest and southeast industrial areas, as well as a marked increase between the city and both Calgary and the immediate region. It also showed that the  expansion of the Anthony Henday freeway has improved the movement of truck traffic that is bypassing the city.

The next step is for the Goods Movement Task Force­ representing the City, the trucking industry and communities – to make recommendations about implementing the Strategy’s action items.

Howaida Hassan, team lead on the City’s recent truck study, which led to 35 recommendations to make truck movement easier in Edmonton, employed innovative data-gathering and public consultation techniques.

Howaida Hassan, team lead on the City’s recent truck study, which led to 35 recommendations to make truck movement easier in Edmonton, employed innovative data-gathering and public consultation techniques.

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