Report shows truck diversion resulted in major reduction of traffic in downtown Cambridge

Trucks use McQueen Shaver Boulevard in Cambridge, Ont., as part of a diversion program to keep them out of the Galt downtown core. A report going before regional councillors on Tuesday shows while last year's bylaw has reduced the number of transport trucks driving on downtown Cambridge streets, violations are still occurring. (Cameron Mahler/CBC - image credit)

A new report going before regional councillors on Tuesday shows last fall's bylaw banning transport trucks from downtown Cambridge streets has been effective, but violations are still occurring.

Regional council passed a bylaw to divert truck traffic last fall after a request from the City of Cambridge.

"For decades, literally, we've been asking to remove the trucks from our downtown core," said Pam Wolf, regional councillor representing Cambridge. "Very few other cities have articulated trucks running through their main streets."

The area, Wolf said, is home to many heritage buildings and its narrow streets are "just not conducive to truck traffic."

The opening of McQueen Shaver Boulevard in 2021 provided an alternative route for trucks. While it did reduce truck traffic on downtown streets by about 20 per cent, the city wanted a further reduction, leading to the passing of the bylaw.

"The way we're asking them to go I think adds five minutes, maybe, to their time," Wolf said. "Originally there really was no direct route except through the city, so that's why, obviously, the trucks took it."

Wolf said trucking is important and she understands drivers need to get from point A to point B.

"We do allow local deliveries, and there will still be trucks that are delivering to the different restaurants and businesses in the downtown," she said.

"But what we're hoping to eliminate is the trucks that are driving from basically [Highway] 401 itself to Hamilton or other cities."

And so far, the report shows, that bylaw — which went in to effect last fall — has been very effective. For example, it reduced the number of trucks using Water Street by 56 per cent and Concession Street by 64 per cent.

The numbers include both single-unit and articulated trucks. Data was collected from September 2023 to March 2024.

The full report is available online.

"I think that's excellent news," Wolf said of the findings in the report.

"Now, I still do get a lot of complaints because people are still seeing some of these large trucks driving through the downtown," she added.

"As enforcement by the police continues, and as we improve our signage, I think we can expect better results."

Redesign of downtown streets needed?

The report notes that further steps may help reduce the number of trucks still using downtown streets.

"While the existing signage and ongoing police enforcement resulted in a significant reduction of trucks on downtown streets, the current physical design of downtown streets continues to provide shortcut opportunities for some truck drivers," the report states.

"Aside from continuous police enforcement, the most effective way to discourage trucks from using downtown streets is to envision, plan and implement the redesign of downtown streets that focus more on movement by walking and cycling and less on movement by vehicles."

Wolf noted that construction is scheduled to take place on Ainslie Street next year and Water Street after that, which she said will help change driving habits and reduce truck traffic further.

The report will be presented at the planning and works committee meeting Tuesday morning.