Toronto Traffic Ranks 6th in North America | Traffic Congestion Index

Everyone that lives in Toronto knows that Toronto’s traffic is among the worst in North America. Thanks to the Tom Tom Congestion Index, we now know that Toronto is the 6th worst when it comes to gridlock.

The Tom Tom Congestion Index neatly summarizes traffic information into one, easy-to-read percentage. Basically, they look at regular travel times and then compare those with the increase in time during congested periods. The increase in travel time during peak times is expressed as a percentage and voilà, they arrive at their primary point of comparison.

As you can see in the chart below, North America has a congestion level of 18%, which compares favourably with other parts of the world. However, Toronto, and especially Vancouver, are quite a bit above the North American average when it comes to traffic congestion.
Traffic Congestion in North America

According to a recent article in Canadian Business (The End of Gridlock), traffic is costing cities like Toronto billions of dollars. The economic and social price of traffic is undeniable and according to the CD Howe Institute, it costs the Toronto region between $7.5 to $11 billion a year. With new studies coming out with numbers like that, it is easy to see why politicians like Kathleen Wynne, Ontario’s Premier, are getting very serious about combating the problem.

The province is so serious about solving gridlock (and making some money in the process), that they are going to ram-through new means of taxing motorists in order to make it happen. The idea is that taxes that make driving more expensive will reduce the number of people willing to drive.

Although I do not necessarily agree with the effectiveness of a broad-stroke approach, I am a big fan of some suggestions, such as implementing fees for driving in key areas during peak times. That way you do not affect all drivers (not all of us are directly contributing to the problem — I, for one, commute against traffic, 15 mins door to door), with a focus on those that insist on being at the center of the problem.

What do you think about traffic in Toronto and other major cities? Should we begin taking drastic measures to put a stop to it? Leave a comment below.

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Is Shutting off Your Car Better Than Idling? – Save Money, Gas, And The Environment

shut-off-car-idling-save-money-gas-environmentIn one word: yes. Surprisingly, there are few circumstances when you should not turn off your car.

As it turns out, if you are to be stopped for more than 10 seconds, then you will use up less fuel if you shut off your car. It is inconvenient to shut off your car all the time but apparently it has a very limited affect on your car. You can turn your car on and off all day long and apparently it will do little to no harm to the vehicle and will not burn anymore fuel than idling for the same period of time. In fact, according to a few articles I found on the subject (featured below), idling is just about the worst thing you can do to your vehicle.

I also wanted to take a second to dispel the myth of needing to warm up your car in the winter. Again, as it turns out, this is a fallacy. In the past, cars with carburetors required some warming up to avoid damage to the engine. New cars, however, do not (clearly a carry over of advice from the past). What is surprising though, is that not only does warming up your car waste an obscene and unnecessary amount of gas, it is also worse for your engine in cold weather and can generally wear your car down more than just driving away immediately.

For more details on what I’ve mentioned here, have a look through the articles below and do a Google search for yourself if you still aren’t a believer.

My parents still stick to warming up the car each morning but I’ve long since done away with it and will enjoy the gas savings for the rest of my years.

Stop Idling and Turn Off Your Car

Is An Idle Car the Devil’s Workshop?

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Finding, Comparing and Buying a Used Car in Ontario

finding-comparing-buying-used-car-ontarioI recently went through an intense period of my life where I had to find a new place and a new car at the same time. Hectic, for sure, but I learned a lot. Below is (what I hope will be) your complete guide to finding a good used car.

My new (used) car on the right

The Ontario Ministry of Transportation offers a great guide that goes into detail the principles I will be describing in this article.

Finding the Perfect Used Car

The two best places to start looking for a car are Kijiji and Auto Trader. Each of these sites will list both dealership sales as well as private sales so be sure to identify which is which. Each has its benefits and drawbacks:

With private sales you will likely doing more work to get the car on the road but will get a better price. Also, you have to be sure to have the car inspected to ensure you aren’t getting a lemon – be sure to do your research.

Buying through a dealership is usually easier and should include everything you need to get the car on the road immediately. Also, good dealerships will include some sort of warranty. However, you will have to pay up for these conveniences.

The best way to decide between private and dealership is to compare the two. Look at pricing and evaluate whether or not it is worth the extra $$$ to go dealership. For example, if a dealer car is only a couple hundred dollars more, perhaps you will decide to go that route. In my case, I was able to save approx. $1,500 going private so I went that route.

Comparing Used Cars

Obviously you want to find a deal but do not simply make decisions based on price. Inspect the car thoroughly for damage, ensure you are comfortable with the number of KMs on the vehicle. Look carefully for rust and at the tires as these are some of the best indicators of a car that will have problems.

Try not to fall into the habit of believing everything you hear about particularly brands. While it is true that some brands are statistically more reliable than others, many of these claims are widely exaggerated and often based on one person’s personal experience (just because your Dad had a problem with his Hyundai back in 1996 does not mean you should avoid Hyundai altogether, for example). The being said, be prepared to pay a premium for vehicles considered to be more reliable such as Volkswagen’s, Toyota’s etc.

Getting Your New Car on the Road

Okay, so you have found your dream vehicle – okay, maybe not your dream vehicle, but hopefully something you are happy with – now you need to get it from the seller and get it on the road. Follow these steps:

  1. Get the Used Vehicle Information Package (UVIP), containing all the car’s details, from the seller. This is required for registration.
  2. Pay taxes on it. Feel the hit on your wallet. Be upset. Then remember that we have free healthcare and feel a little better. With the introduction of HST, taxes on used vehicles has gone up to try and make dealership sales and new vehicle sales more competitive.

    Note: you will pay taxes on the price the vehicle was sold to you or the wholesale value, whichever is more. To potentially save money, get the seller to write a lower value on the bill of sale. That way, you may save money if the wholesale value is less than what you would have initially paid.

  3. Pay registration fees & new plate fees if you don’t already have plates
  4. Present proof of insurance (if it isn’t obvious, this means you need to get insurance before you try to register your car)
  5. Present your Safety Standards Certificate (dealerships will usually “safety” the car for you. With private sales, you may be on your own)
  6. Present your Drive Clean emissions test

After doing that you should be free to drive off in your new (used) car! The process is fairly intensive and may take several weeks to complete all the necessary steps so try not to set out to find a new car a couple days before you need it. Good luck and if you have any questions, feel free to post below and I will respond.