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Week in review: December 11, 2017

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Consultations, feedback, and events

Cycling

Following the release of 2016 census journey to work data last month, more ink has been spilled on what to do about stagnant local cycling mode share numbers. Mike Farwell set aside his recent cycling antagonism to put forward a surprising column that asks how we can make our cycling investments more strategic. James Howe and UW planning professor Brian Doucet respond to other commentary to call for physically separated cycling infrastructure and point out that the important differences between Waterloo Region and bike-friendly places like Amsterdam and Copenhagen are the result of political choices (that we can change!), not geographic luck.

Fortunately, the winds of change may be blowing. The Region hopes to replicate the recent successes of the Calgary and Edmonton downtown cycle track pilots with a separated bike lane pilot of its own around Uptown and Northdale. Consultations on the pilot take place December 12 and 14.

The province has also announced $4 million in funding for cycling infrastructure this year for the Region, the cities of Cambridge, Kitchener, and Waterloo, and Wilmot. The money comes from revenues from the province’s carbon emissions cap and trade program.

  • New design guide signals the way to more inclusive bike planning (NextCity)
    • Designing For All Ages & Abilities (NACTO)
  • 12 reasons cycling will continue to soar in popularity (EcoWatch)
  • Canada, it’s time to adopt a national cycling strategy (Canadian Cycling)

Transit

Light rail vehicle 504 has now arrived in Waterloo Region:

Light rail costs have increased by $50 million, due in part to Bombardier’s delays and construction variations. Fortunately, increased provincial support, new development charges, and project contingencies mean property taxes shouldn’t be affected. The Region also hopes to be able to go after Bombardier for costs associated with their delays.

Kitchener-Waterloo MPP Catherine Fife successfully brought forward a motion last week to have the government give specific financial and timeline commitments for two-way all-day GO service to Waterloo Region.

  • All-day 2-way GO feasible by 2024, but only if well-funded: transit expert (CBC)
  • Intercity bus service in desperate need (Kitchener Post)
  • Rural areas need transit options, too (The Record)
  • Transit decisions must remain local, former city planner says (The Star)
  • ‘Growing pains’ for new fare boxes on buses (The Record)
  • Cities must prepare for integrated transit future, experts warn (The Star)

Walking

The Social Development Centre Waterloo Region has shared presentation boards from Kitchener’s consultation on the Traynor-Fairway pedestrian connection. Staff appear to be favouring a level crossing solution. Feedback is due December 22.

  • Galt pedestrian bridge decades in the making (The Record)

Land use

  • Plan would radically transform Kitchener’s Rockway area (The Record)
  • Without even a train on the tracks LRT has grown development by $2.1B, says Region of Waterloo (CBC)
  • The OMB reform bill gives cities more planning power. Is that really a good thing? (TVO)
  • Waterloo Moraine among areas that could be added to Greenbelt (CTV)
  • Council looking at how much it charges for density bonusing and where the money goes (Waterloo Chronicle)

Road ahead

  • 3 policy fixes that could dramatically reduce transportation emissions (Streetsblog)
  • For politicians, congestion pricing is an exercise in delaying gratification (Streetsblog)
  • Generation Z may not want to own cars. Can automakers woo them in other ways? (NPR)
  • Why the future of active transportation depends heavily on automated vehicles (Driverless Cities)

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Week in review: December 4, 2017

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Consultations, feedback, and events

Making sense of the census

Non-driving mode shares for Waterloo Region 2006-2011On Wednesday, the final results of the 2016 Census were released, including commute to work information. For transit in Waterloo Region, it was good news: the share of commutes to work via transit continue to grow steadily, in spite of overall GRT ridership numbers being down from a peak in 2013. This confirms Regional planners’ theory that much of the post-2013 decline in ridership came from the school boards switching to using yellow buses for high school students. The climb in transit share and relatively steady share of car trips as passengers also seems to poke holes in the theory that people are being lured out of buses by ride-hailing services like Uber.

For cycling and walking, the news wasn’t as great – these modes are used for getting to work at about the same rate as in 2011, while other cities like Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal, and Calgary made huge gains in cycling mode share. Some local media personalities questioned whether recent cycling infrastructure investments are worth it if we’ve seen little net movement in mode share over the last two decades.

Map of cycling mode share in Kitchener and Waterloo

Cycling to work for Kitchener and Waterloo remains concentrated in central areas – newer suburbs may be cycling-hostile in their design and distances to places of work.

It’s worth noting two major factors at play here: the lack of a coherent all-ages-and-abilities cycling network, and suburban sprawl. Our cycling network is largely a patchwork of disconnected and all too often, poorly designed facilities. Our cities and Region maintain their own separate plans for facilities on their own roads, and new facilities have often only been added or improved as part of existing road work, rather than in a systematic way to build out a network. (On this front, the Region’s segregated bike lane pilot shows promise.) Our growing urban boundaries (only recently have we begun to develop more in our cores than at the fringes) mean that destinations are harder to reach by bike. We have been literally moving the goalposts further and further away – it’s amazing we’ve been able to keep pace at all.

The Saturday’s Record editorial remains confident that light rail will continue to boost transit ridership, even as it misunderstands some comments about parking made by TriTAG member Mike Boos to their columnist. If we want to enable more people to shift habits, we’ve got to change the incentives for driving and parking everywhere, not just in our downtowns.

Editor’s note: we should also bear in mind the census numbers we have are limited to commutes to work. In 2011, trips between home and work accounted for less than 30% of all weekday trips taken in Waterloo Region.

Transit

Despite being promised more light rail vehicles by Thanksgiving, the Region still only has possession of two cars. Bombardier will be hosting a media event this week in Kingston, where they apparently will give reporters a ride on our third train. We’re not impressed: if Bombardier wants to show the world how capable they are of building light rail vehicles, they should deliver them as promised. Thankfully, train #4 is apparently getting ready to come our way soon.

Following the provincial Tories’ plan to take over the subway system, the Toronto Board of Trade proposed merging all transit systems in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area, and Waterloo, into one big ‘Superlinx’ network. The idea has been dismissed by local leaders, and by researchers, planners, and commentators.

Greyhound has announced cuts to trips between Kitchener and Guelph. Sean Marshall looks at the sorry state of Ontario’s inter-city bus system.

Cycling

Public consultations for the Region’s separated bike lane pilot take place December 12 and 14. The Region appears to be favouring the area enclosed by the Waterloop trail system as the initial pilot, which includes parts of Uptown, Northdale, Laurier, and the east campus of UW. But with the Region’s scoring system showing this neighbourhood as neck-and-neck with downtown Kitchener, we have to ask, why not do both?

The latest local cycling facility screw-up takes place on Glasgow in Kitchener, where speed bumps have been placed over the bike lanes. We get that the city wants to remove the incentive for cars to drive into the bike lane to avoid the speed bump, but there are better ways to achieve this. Meanwhile in Waterloo, Uptown King Street has reopened to fanfare, but the much-anticipated protected bike lanes have been hogged by drivers and their parked cars.

  • What makes a city great for cycling (Momentum)
  • London’s protected bike lanes move people 5 times more efficiently than car lanes (Streetsblog)
  • What will it take to close the gender gap in urban cycling (Fast Company)

Vision Zero

  • Someone fixed a dangerous Toronto intersection with a bunch of leaves (BlogTO)
  • Advocates slam city’s ‘pay as you go’ road safety plan (The Star)
  • A system of safe, human-centred streets (Strong Towns)
  • Streets wide shut – a principle for urban streets (Transportist)

Land use

Kitchener is planning to spend $10 million on a new downtown parking garage for roughly 500 cars in the next decade. That’s $3.9 million more than it plans on spending on its Cycling Master Plan over the course of more than 20 years.

  • To reduce pollution, London will outlaw parking construction (Streetsblog)
  • Portland’s parking-policy successes will get a go now in California (MobilityLab)
  • Manulife plans 25-storey building in downtown Kitchener parking lot (CBC)
  • How Kitchener should grow up (The Record)
  • Creating streets people can identify with (Urban Land Magazine)
  • Who’s to blame for drive-to urbanism (Streetsblog)

The road ahead

  • Congestion pricing was unpopular in Stockholm – until people saw it in action (Streetsblog)
  • Uber and Lyft should pay for the streets (CityLab)
  • Plan to curb solo drivers in Cambridge (CTV)

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Week in review: November 27, 2017

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Consultations, feedback, and events

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Week in review: November 21, 2017

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Week in review: November 13, 2017

How the Region isn’t pursuing Vision Zero, ION trains on the move, new trails, and more in this week’s review.

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Consultations, feedback, and events

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Week in review: November 6, 2017

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Consultations, feedback, and events

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The myth of a distracted walking crisis

On Monday, Etobicoke Centre MPP Yvan Baker unveiled his private member’s bill, the “Phones Down, Heads Up Act,” which would impose fines on pedestrians who crossed the street holding a mobile device. It’s the latest in a series of so-called “zombie walking” laws intended to crack down on the alleged scourge of “distracted walking.”

In any legislation intended to alter behaviour, three questions should be asked. First and foremost: is the issue actually a problem? Second, will the proposed measures actually work to address the issue? Finally, would the measures have any other consequences that should be weighed against the assumed benefits? (more…)

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Week in review: October 30, 2017

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Week in review: October 24, 2017

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Week in review: October 16, 2017

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