New app unveiled to measure impact of reduced speed limits in Edmonton

City councillor Aaron Paquette hopes a new browser app will solidify support for slower speeds on residential roads.

The Estimated Time of Arrival Tool allows Edmontonians to plug in an address, destination, date and time to see an estimated travel time, and how that might change if speed limits were reduced.

"What most people are finding is that it's a matter of a minute or less," Paquette said on Thursday. "And so if the difference is 30 seconds put onto your commute time, is it worth that 30 seconds to know that even one life a year is saved? And I would say most Edmontonians are going to say it's worth it."

Paquette said if a vehicle going 30 km/h hits a pedestrian, nine times out of 10 serious injuries would be avoided. At a speed limit of 50 km/h, that proportion would be reduced to three out of 10.

"So what we're doing is, we're increasing the likelihood of people surviving or avoiding serious injury in the event of a collision," he said.

Last March, city council's community and public services committee requested a draft framework to consider changing the limit from 50 km/h to 40 km/h.

In May, councillors requested draft bylaws asking for a two-tiered approach — 40 km/h on residential roads citywide, and 30 km/h on residential roads in core neighbourhoods.

Emily Fitzpatrick/CBC

Speed zone changes will be debated at the community and public services committee on Feb. 26.

Paquette said he had the browser app developed because the public was "rightly concerned" about how the changes would impact their commute. 

He said the cost of developing the app was low because the tools — Google Maps and the city's open data — already existed.

'Recipe for disaster'

Counc. Jon Dzaidyk said there is a good case to be made for reducing speeds on certain roads that are narrow, or where site lines are compromised. But the approach should be nuanced.

"The idea of having staggered speeds different in the core and different outside the core would be confusing for drivers and likely lead to unsafe conditions," Dzaidyk said. "We don't have a defined boundary that's readily apparent to people entering or exiting the core. And when one road that's designed to accommodate traffic at 50 or 60 km/h but it's posted at 50 then drops to 40 and then maybe 30 a block later — that is a recipe for disaster."

He said the fluctuation in speeds would require thousands more signs to be posted, which would cost millions of dollars, though that's a secondary concern.

"But what concerns me about the signs is actually the proliferation of them causes further driver confusion and unsightliness," Dzaidyk said.

Paquette said there are also other benefits that come with reduced speeds.

City of Edmonton

"You get better stopping speed. A community feels safer," he said. "You get less short cutting through residential areas because it's no longer an attractive option. And in general you just get a community that people want to actually be outside in."