Smart Infrastructure

First of its kind CAA study identifies Canada’s worst traffic bottlenecks

Driving instructor with checklist
January 11, 2017

OTTAWA, ON – Canada’s top 20 most congested traffic bottlenecks may cover just 65 kilometres, but they collectively cost drivers over 11.5 million hours and drain an extra 22 million litres of fuel per year. These are two findings of Grinding to a Halt, Evaluating Canada’s Worst Bottlenecks, a first of its kind study released today by the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA).

“Traffic congestion is a major source of stress for Canadians. Our study concludes that traffic bottlenecks affect Canadians in every major urban market, increasing commute times by as much as 50%,” said Jeff Walker, vice-president of Public Affairs for CAA National. “Reducing these bottlenecks will increase the quality of life for millions of Canadians, save millions in fuel costs and reduce greenhouse gases, helping contribute to Canada’s climate change commitments.”

Studies show that bottlenecks are the single biggest contributor to road delay, far outpacing traffic accidents, inclement weather and construction. Grinding to a Halt, Evaluating Canada’s Worst Bottlenecks provides data based evidence for decision-makers at the federal, provincial and municipal level to use when making decisions on infrastructure investment and environment policy.  It includes the cost to Canadians of these bottlenecks in terms of lost time, productivity and added greenhouse gas emissions.

How Does Your City Rank?

Toronto placed 10 bottlenecks in the top 20.  Montreal placed five, Vancouver placed four and Quebec City placed one. Other markets such as Calgary, Edmonton, Regina, Winnipeg, Ottawa and Halifax also experience serious traffic delays. Highlights include:

  • Canada’s worst highway bottleneck is the stretch of Highway 401 that cuts across the north part of the City of Toronto. This bottleneck alone costs commuters over 3 million hours of annual delays. In total, five of the top ten bottlenecks are found in the Toronto area.
  • The stretch of Highway 40 into downtown Montreal is the third worst bottleneck in the country, costing commuters nearly 2 million hours of annual delays.
  • Compared with US bottlenecks using a similar methodology, Toronto and Montreal bottlenecks rank among the worst in North America.
  • Although the City of Vancouver does not have non-signalized highways serving the downtown core, stretches of two main arteries (Granville St. and West Georgia St.) are congested enough to fall within the top ten bottlenecks – and produce the slowest driving speeds in the country.

CAA has a long history and dedication to infrastructure improvements. In addition to collecting data-driven information about our roads, CAA cares about what Canadians think of their roads. Through the annual CAA Worst Roads campaign, Canadians are given the opportunity to share their concern about the safety, upkeep or design of roads in their communities. CAA uses the results to engage in a constructive dialogue with municipalities and provinces that often results in improvements. More than 80 to 90 per cent of all roads nominated in the campaign have been or are scheduled to be repaired.

Canada’s 20 worst bottlenecks can be found on pg. 9 of Grinding to a Halt, Evaluating Canada’s Worst Bottlenecks . The study also provides traffic congestion profiles for Halifax, Quebec City, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto GTA, Winnipeg, Regina, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver.


This study collected and analyzed speed and volume data on highways in Canada’s urban areas, provided by mapping and location technology company HERE. These bottlenecks were identified as those stretches of highway that are routinely and consistently congested throughout the course of a weekday, as opposed to stretches that are congested only at limited times of day or days of a week.  CAA retained CPCS, a transportation management consulting firm based in Ottawa, to conduct the study’s research and analysis.

The effects of Traffic Congestion (Report excerpt page 4)

Traffic congestion impacts both the quality of life for individuals and the overall economy. Motorists and passengers give up productive work hours, and precious personal and family time. When trucks are stuck in traffic, the goods they are moving become more costly to businesses and consumers. The lost productivity from delayed passenger trips and freight deliveries harms regional and national economic competitiveness. Along with delays, congestion increases fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. Vehicles idling in traffic consume far more fuel than they otherwise would. And by extension, vehicles emit more greenhouse gases in congested conditions.

About CAA

CAA is a federation of nine Clubs providing over six million Members with exceptional emergency roadside service, complete automotive and travel services, Member savings and comprehensive insurance services. CAA also advocates on issues of concern to its Members and Canadians, including road safety, the environment, mobility, infrastructure and consumer protection.

For more information:  

Kristine D’Arbelles
Manager, public affairs
CAA National
[email protected]