British Columbia

Traffic frustration builds as Victoria's 'Colwood Crawl' worsens

The "Colwood Crawl," a nickname for a stretch of Highway 1 near the City of Colwood southwest of Victoria, has become worse recently, according to some commuters.

Vehicles regularly slowed to a crawl on Highway 1 west of Victoria

The morning commute into Victoria from the West Shore can take hours, according to some residents and businesses. (On The Island/CBC)

Rush-hour traffic is sputtering to a near standstill on a stretch of highway leading into Victoria, creating a headache both for those trying to get somewhere, and those trying to solve the issue. 

The "Colwood Crawl," a nickname for a stretch of Highway 1 near the City of Colwood southwest of Victoria, has become worse recently, according to some commuters.

"There has been more delays coming from the West Shore into downtown over the last few days," said Jonathon Dyck, communications manager for B.C. Transit.

"All vehicles are stuck in what's happening — whether you are on the bus or in a private vehicle, the congestion is where it's at."

The traffic pattern was recently adjusted at the McKenzie Interchange — where McKenzie Avenue intersects with Highway 1 in Saanich — at the beginning of the month, as part of a larger construction project to ease congestion in the South Island. 

For families like Brin Morgan's, the commute has gone from roughly a half hour to nearly two. (On The Island/CBC)

Running late

Brin Morgan and her family, who live in Colwood, have seen their morning commute to Victoria stretch to nearly two hours since moving to the area.

The traffic changes at the interchange only made the problem worse, Morgan said, adding that at some points the family car was crawling along at less than 10 km/h on the way to work and school. 

"We were all late for everything," she said.

The frustration isn't limited to the construction on the highway interchange, which began last summer. 

"When we first moved to Colwood about 14 years ago, we could cover the same ground in about half an hour," Morgan said.

"[Now] we're leaving earlier, we're trying to feed the kids in the car and we are more seriously looking at the possibility of moving."

The Ministry of Transportation says the extra congestion last week was not due to the traffic pattern changes.

Some Vancouver Island commuters are calling for specific bus lanes to get fewer cars on the road and faster routes for public transit. (On The Island/CBC)

'Piecemeal' traffic plan

Colwood is far from the only city affected by cars heading in and out of the province's capital — cities like Langford, View Royal and Saanich that are along Highway 1 also get caught up in rush hour.   

"We're well overdue for some significant investments in the lower Island," said David Screech, mayor of View Royal.

He's calling for a meeting with mayors of other affected municipalities and the province.

"[We need] to have some sort of cohesive, holistic regional approach to transportation rather than the piecemeal way that we're doing it now," Screech said.

Options to ease congestion

Encouraging commuters to take public transit is one option Screech recommends but, according to one bus line operator, it doesn't solve the problem at hand. 

"We had a little trial experiment with the city of Langford … trying a commuter bus from the West Shore," said John Wilson, president of Wilson Group of Companies which has several routes across Vancouver Island.

"Everything was positive, everyone enjoyed it, but the problem was it didn't get you into town any faster than taking your own car."

CBC Victoria's On The Island hosted the morning radio show from the road to dig into the commuter chaos. (On The Island/CBC)

He said the "deadhead time" — when vehicles aren't moving and so aren't making money — driving into Victoria is taking a financial toll on bus operators because of the extra time drivers spent idling in traffic and the extra fuel costs.

Wilson is pushing for more bus lanes.

"Having buses that are able to move at a better rate than a personal vehicle makes people want to be on the bus more," he said.

"From a commuter, from a charter and from a transit point of view, that's all positive."

With files from On The Island and Michael Tymchuk