Are Traffic Engineers Sociopaths?

pexels ian beckley 2440013

None of them talk about traffic flow as something we value. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not important, it doesn’t mean we don’t value it. It’s just that we don’t value it above all those other values.

And that’s obvious, right?

If we were to ask the average Winnipegger if they are willing to kill someone to save a minute on their commute, or if they are willing to BE killed so someone else can save a minute on their commute, what would the answer be? Of course it would be no. We’re not sociopaths.

Are Winnipeggers willing to double their property taxes to save a minute on their commute?

Should seniors be stranded at home waiting for somebody to drive them to where they need to go so Winnipeggers can save a minute on their commute?

We already know the answers. We know what Winnipeggers value, we’ve put it in our plans.

And yet on that day, we had a report before us that said we valued traffic above all of them, including safety. And if you doubt that, consider that the word “safety” appears three times in this report, whereas the word “traffic” appears 19 times.

And not only is traffic valued above safety, but so is cost: the traffic engineers’ report said they would not support any permanent changes to Watt Street, because it already underwent “rehabilitation” in 2020. This, even though our community says today that it is unsafe.

dozen people die on our streets and thousands more are injured. Every. Single. Year.

If 12 people per year drowned in our city pools, and thousands more were injured, we would want to do something about it. And if the Community Services department said, “Well, you know, unfortunately we can’t support making any changes at this time, because we just renovated the pool,” that would be insane. We would never accept that.

And yet, here we are talking about safety and traffic in that lens. So…are traffic engineers sociopaths?

Well, I don’t think so. This isn’t about specific individuals in the public service. They’re not doing this out of ignorance or out of malice. This is a pattern of thought that has been institutionalized over decades, and not just in the city of Winnipeg, but throughout North America, and throughout the traffic engineering profession.

This is something engineers don’t even realize they’re doing, and it’s something the public doesn’t realize they’re doing. It’s become invisible to us because it’s slowly infiltrated decision-making processes over a very long period of time.

And it’s very clear that it’s happening, because in this same report, in the standard section where public servants must justify how their report’s position aligns with OurWinnipeg policy, none of it actually makes sense, UNLESS you consider, implicitly, that traffic is king.

When it says that their position “is consistent with a transportation system that is dynamically integrated with land use,” and yet we have a business district here with no off-street parking, and a transportation system that does not allow on-street parking during the busiest periods, that is not dynamically integrated.

I mean, it IS dynamically integrated, as much as it can be…without affecting traffic.

And it’s as “safe, efficient and equitable” as it can be…without affecting traffic.

It’s “financially sustainable”… without affecting traffic.

And when—regarding alignment with our Climate Action Plan—they say that preventing our project, meant to make our neighborhood more hospitable to pedestrians, transit users, and cyclists, has “no climate action plan alignment,” that only makes sense if they mean “without affecting traffic.”

You May Also Like