They’re loathed and despised around the world, perhaps by no group more than by the stout hearts who rise each work day to commute to oil sands facilities.
Beating the traffic in the oil sands region means heading out on the road shockingly early, often prior to sunrise and even before local radio jocks get their caffeine buzz on.
Gridlock starts early
That’s because, as noted in a previous OSQAR, the roads in the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo are subject to increasing traffic volumes fueled by boom times. For those venturing north on Highway 63 toward facilities operated by Suncor and other major producers, traffic jams are known to form as early as 5 a.m.
Getting to Suncor’s operations adds to gridlock. Each day, some 3,500 vehicles take the highway exit to our plant gates, which are about 40 km from Fort McMurray. That’s about one-third of the daily traffic volume on that stretch of road, which can take up to an hour or more to travel.
That’s why we’re taking action to trim traffic volumes with the Suncor Transportation Enhancement Project (STEP), which aims to take vehicles bound for our site off the road.
More buses, better routes
While busing isn’t new to Suncor, efforts to make the idea of commuting by bus more desirable are - all in the hope that employees and contractors will leave their cars at home. The plan aims to do this primarily through more efficient transit routes and schedules, which launched in July. For the majority of employees and contractors in Fort McMurray, there is now a bus stop less than 325 metres from their homes.
These enhancements should help improve road safety, reduce air pollutants, and, thanks to bus lanes, cut down on commute times.
Although there are bugs that need to be worked out, the initial uptake is encouraging and bus ridership has increased approximately 20 percent since the new routes and schedules were introduced.
To further reduce traffic on the road, Suncor is also encouraging employees to take the bus instead of using company fleet vehicles for the commute to site.
Regional development plan
STEP supports the region’s development plan, which aims to guide the Wood Buffalo community through development for the next 20 years. The population has already doubled in size over the past 10 years to nearly 100,000. By 2030, the growth plan predicts that there’ll be 230,000 people living in the area.
As members of the Wood Buffalo community, Suncor and other oil sands developers have a responsibility to be part of the solution. Helping to take vehicles off the road is just one example.