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Week in review: June 24, 2017

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Consultations, feedback, and events

Transit

On Tuesday, the Region announced that the second ION vehicle was not ready to be received due to issues that need to be fixed, and that delivery was being delayed from late June to late August/early September. Bombardier maintains that the rest of the vehicles will be delivered on-schedule, and on-time for service opening next spring, but confidence in the manufacturer is threadbare at this point.

The Region is upgrading more bus stops this summer, with 70 new concrete pads, 39 new transit shelters, electrical connections (real-time displays?) for 90 bus shelters, and 100 bike racks. Many of the improvements will be along the iXpress routes, the Hespeler Road corridor, or integrating GRT buses with ION trains.

Is the province’s plan to look at hydrogen-powered trains instead of overhead wires for GO trains full of hot air? TVO’s John Michael McGrath seems to think so. But Toronto Star columnist Tyler Hamilton sees promise in the concept, particularly for its use of Ontario-grown technology. Kitchener Post columnist cautions agains the “made-in-Ontario” approach, reminding of how the now-ailing Scarborough RT was forced to use “local” new technology instead of proven light rail.

  • Lyft isn’t reinventing city buses. It’s undermining them (Slate)
  • Public transit agencies take a lesson from Uber (WSJ)

Vision Zero

Kitchener is buying some new speed radar display signs in an effort to slow traffic. They’re also looking into installing ‘flexi-pole delineators’ in the middle of roadways, often alerting drivers to speed limits or school crossings.

Global News conducted an investigation into how light and infrequent meaningful penalties are for drivers who kill or injure vulnerable road users. When interviewed, Ontario Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca suggested changes were coming. Meanwhile, the province hosted a vulnerable road users symposium in Toronto this week, but judging by the victim blame game for school kids they unveiled there, it’s not clear how seriously they’re taking the issue of unsafe roads.

Cycling and trails

The Region is completing small trail infill along Bridge Street, from Northfield to a path to Wissler, and along Westmount between University and Conrad Grebel University College. The work is expected to be completed by this fall.

The Region is closing the Spur Line Trail the night of Monday June 26 to spray the rail corridor with herbicides. The trail re-opens the next day at 10am.

  • Let’s go Dutch: Intersections (Raise the Hammer)
  • Bike Share Toronto hits ridership record (The Star)
  • In NYC, bike share is faster than cabs where it matters (CityLab)
  • Downtown Vancouver BIA moves from disapproving to supporting cycling (CBC)

Land use, affordability, and parking

Great things happening in Waterloo Region are being repeated elsewhere. As with Northdale in Waterloo, the Vancouver area suburb of Moodyville was upzoned with neighbourhood support, allowing 2000 units where 300 homes existed previously. In San Jose, Google is locating new offices near intercity and frequent transit, much like they have in downtown Kitchener.

  • How America’s ever-longer commute reflects its affordable housing crisis (Curbed)
  • You can’t judge housing affordability without knowing transportation costs (City Observatory)
  • Downtown parking crunch can be solved without adding lots of parking (Streetsblog)

The end of cars?

  • The science is clear: more highways equals more traffic. So why are DOTs still ignoring it? (Streetsblog)
  • To fight climate change, cities need to battle cars (CityLab)
  • Toward car-free cities: Stockholm shows the sometimes-bumpy road to congestion charges (TheCityFix)
  • Carmageddon is coming (Future Crunch)
  • Subsidizing electric cars is inefficient and costly (680 News)

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Week in review: June 17, 2017

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Consultations, feedback, and events

Transit

A report from the Rapid Transit team summarizes the results of the public consultations for Stage 2 light rail into Cambridge. Staff will be taking extra time to consider new alternatives and the feedback, and will host an additional third round of consultations early next year. While its important to get the route right, delays in planning mean other communities like Ottawa and Montreal are passing us by in receiving federal funding for their rail expansions. Another concern is that staff will now be considering operating light rail within mixed traffic in tight sections – which could strip light rail of one of its primary advantages.

Also in Tuesday’s Planning and Works agenda are updates on the MobilityPLUS business plan and EasyGO fare card. New fare cards are expected to be issued in August, and users will be able to register them at a new web portal with the awkward URL https://grteasygofarecard.ca

In intercity-transit, the province announced the launch of its Transit Project Assessment for electrification of core GO train routes. For the Kitchener corridor, electrification would stop at Brampton, but also announced was a feasibility study for hydrogen-powered trains, which would allow for many of the benefits of electrification without requiring wires. While this sounds great, it’s an idea the province first considered a decade ago, and a commercial vehicle is not yet available.

  • Heated LRT stations are not wasteful. They’re a brilliant idea (The Record)
  • Bombardier streetcars likely to miss reliability target (The Star)
  • In sprawling areas, can a bus become anything other than a lifeline to the poor? (Streetsblog)
  • Talking about transit effectively (TransitCenter)

Cycling and trails

On the blog, we shared our concerns about the staff preferred options for an Iron Horse Trail to transit hub active transportation connection as involving too much on-street facilities and insufficient path width along Park Street. Meanwhile, the Region is selecting a consultant to lead the segregated bike lane pilot that will build a protected bike lane network within one of Waterloo, Kitchener, or Cambridge. The Region is also considering multi-use pathways along portions of Westmount and Victoria (public consultation is June 27).

On King Street, shock and dismay at the paved shoulders parallel to the ION tracks, that are just wide enough to look like bike lanes, but disappear without warning near intersections. The failure to implement these as real bike lanes represents a serious failure as part of the ION planning process.

Vision Zero

  • Elderly Kitchener man hit by car, thrown from scooter, suffers head injuries (CBC)
  • Distracted driving has killer consequences (Waterloo Chronicle)
  • “You cannot talk fatalities down” (Spacing)
  • Children can’t detect car speeds over 32 km/h (Price Tags)
  • Cities are trying to end pedestrian deaths. New data suggests they’re making progress (Governing)

Land use and parking

In Uptown Waterloo, a new mixed-use residential tower is proposed with fewer parking spaces than units. Progress! (Read the traffic impact report where the developer suggests a 41% reduction in parking requirements.)

  • Parking reform has big implications for sustainable transit – and for ride-hailing too (Streetsblog)
  • Density without demolition (CityLab)
  • Oslo’s car ban faced backlash. So it banned parking (Guardian Cities)
  • The hidden ways that architecture affects how you feel (BBC)
  • Lefty cities say they want to fight climate change but won’t take the most obvious steps to do it (Slate)

The road ahead

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Blazing a trail or blasé signed routes?

You get what you pay for. It’s a pithy saying, but it holds a lot of truth – if you’re not willing to invest enough to make something work, it most likely won’t.

The phrase has significance to the proposed trail connection between the Iron Horse Trail and the future transit hub at King and Victoria. If costs become the sole focus in planning, this trail will not attract people to walk and bike along it to get to the hub. Unfortunately, that may be the road we’re going down, literally.

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Week in review: June 10, 2017

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Consultations, feedback, and events

Vision Zero

In a victory for sidewalk infill policy, Regional Council declined this week to cancel plans for completing a gap in the sidewalk on Westmount Road, to which fronting homeowners were objecting. A pedestrian crossover – an unsiganlized crosswalk where people walking have the right of way – is planned for Victoria Park at a busy crossing. And Kitchener’s new neighbourhood-led traffic calming program is now on the city website.

  • Achieving zero traffic deaths and a quieter trauma room at Sick Kids (The Star)
  • Can algorithms design safer intersections (Streetsblog)
  • NACTO wants to find out how cities can design better streets, faster (Streetsblog)
  • London and the mainstreaming of vehicular terrorism (CityLab)

Climate (in)action

Climate Action Waterloo Region has published its 5 year progress report. As we noted last week, transportation emissions have grown instead of shrunk, accounting for half of our carbon footprint. Climate Action is hosting an event to discuss the report and kick off a series of public engagements on June 22.

Elsewhere, John Lorinc questions Toronto’s climate plan’s dependence on a hypothetical sudden surge in electric vehicles and expectations of only modest emission reductions due to transit use. And Joe Cortright takes governments to task that claim support for the Paris Agreement but undercut their own efforts by building or widening roads and highways.

Cycling and trails

On the blog, we shared how Kitchener is considering ‘advisory cycling lanes’ for narrow portions of Krug Street. Meanwhile, the Iron Horse Trail through Victoria Park is getting some long-overdue lighting to improve safety when the trail is widened this year.

Transit

Kitchener Post columnist James Bow argues that GO Transit should take over more of our intercity bus routes from private carriers, and do a better job of it.

  • “Give Mrs. McG her bus stop”? Reasons to pause (Human Transit)
  • The future of European transit: driverless and utilitarian (NY Times)
  • Pity the poor operator: success and failure in subway systems (Spacing)

Parking and land use

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Krug Street: how to make the most of limited space

Krug Street is an important piece of Kitchener’s Cycling Master Plan. It’s one of the precious few roads that crosses the Conestoga Parkway that doesn’t have dangerous on or off ramps, and doesn’t carry heavy traffic. Portions are currently being reconstructed, and with that work comes the opportunity to integrate cycling facilities on the street.

However, Krug can be quite narrow in places, as little as 8 m in some blocks, which doesn’t have room for full bike lanes and car lanes wide enough for buses to pass. Widening the roadway has been ruled out, as this would remove significant tree cover which improves the safety and walkability of the street.

Advisory bike lanes as proposed by the City of Kitchener
The solution city staff are recommending is to put “advisory bike lanes” on the narrower portions. Advisory lanes would have the full width of bike lanes, but would be dashed instead of solid lines. The middle section of the road would be narrower than two conventional traffic lanes, with no centre line. Motorists would be expected to use the middle section, except when approaching an oncoming vehicle, at which point they would be allowed to pull into the advisory lanes, yielding to people cycling in them. (more…)

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Week in review: June 3, 2017

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Consultations, feedback, and events

Bike Month

June is Bike Month in Waterloo Region. Transportation Demand Management planner Kevan Marshall was on CBC radio Thursday to talk about local Bike Month activities and promote the public consultation for the Iron Horse Trail to transit hub connection coming up June 6 at the Tannery. He also highlighted TriTAG’s efforts to map cycling infrastructure projects taking place this year.

The Ontario government announced $42.5 million dollars this year in support of municipalities building commuter cycling infrastructure. The program would fund up to 80% of cycling infrastructure projects. The province has also revamped its cycling website.

Meanwhile, Waterloo has published their bi-annual active transportation report and approved new bike lanes for Lincoln Road.

  • Attempting to gauge the impact of “near-miss” incidents (Streetsblog)
  • ‘Landmark’ study from Seville shows immediate results from bike network (People for Bikes)
  • Ottawa discovers bike lanes next to sidewalks instead of painted on roads could save millions (Ottawa Citizen)

Transit

GRT fares are set to jump again in July. On Tuesday, Regional Council will consider increasing the Wilmot bus pilot service to include more early and mid-day trips, thanks to additional funding from the province.

The Region has come to a settlement with the local developers over new development charges to pay for transit infrastructure. The agreement would shave $100 off the cost for a house, but the difference would not be shouldered by taxpayers, rather costs would be accounted for over a longer period of time.

  • Good intentions, bad design make Highway 7 rapidway a jumble of contradictions (Toronto Star)

Vision Zero

Kitchener has approved its neighbourhood-led traffic calming program. Residents will be limited in what tools they have at their disposal, and will still be required to pass a high threshold of neighbourhood support, but this may take a bite out of the city’s 175 street traffic calming backlog.

On Tuesday morning, the Regional Planning and Works Committee will consider a staff proposal to infill sidewalk on Westmount between Union and Forsyth. Its a proposal that has strong opposition from fronting homeowners and strong support from people who walk the street.

  • Cyclist airlifted to hospital after crash in Kitchener (The Record)
  • Frustration mounts after 10 year old’s traffic death (The Record)
  • Ghost bike serves as memorial for small Toronto boy killed last week (The Record)
  • Blaming people for wearing black wins the prize for anti-pedestrian idiocy (Streetsblog)
  • Study: ignorance of the law leads to road rage against cyclists (Planetizen)

Climate change

Climate Action Waterloo Region has begun presenting its five year progress report  on emission reductions to local councils. It finds that transportation emissions have increased by 5%, now consuming just under half of this Region’s carbon footprint. The report to councils directly calls out “low political will when seeking to implement new actions or expand existing actions” as a challenge for reducing transportation emissions.

TriTAG maintains that if our municipalities want to see progress on this front, whether it be for the sake of climate, congestion, public health, or a high quality of urban life, we need to get serious about altering the incentives around transportation choices.

Land use

The Record celebrates the success of ION light rail in attracting new development to the central transit corridor, well in advance of service opening.

Kitchener is proposing new changes to its zoning bylaws that would encourage bigger porches, smaller driveways, and fewer garages for more liveable streets.

  • Keeping families downtown will take hard work, amenities, experts say (CBC)
  • Curb commercial sprawl to attract talent: report (The Star)
  • Make the suburbs walkable by allowing homes to convert into businesses (Torontoist)

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Week in review: May 27, 2017

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Consultations, feedback, and events

More on high speed rail

Reactions to the province’s high speed rail pledge abound. Brampton advocates feel left out by a train that would pass through but not stop in their city, and worry about its impact on future regional express rail service. Other transit advocates like Sean Marshall and Steve Munro propose improvements to existing tracks and services first.

Toronto Star columnist Martin Regg Cohn explains how the high speed rail focus has switched from Toronto-Montreal to Toronto-Kitchener-London because only the latter might have the economic potential to support it. Michael Schabas, author of the province’s 2014 high speed rail study agrees, and adds that the volume of trips on the corridor would give trains the frequency they need for success.

Intensification and development

As the New York Times touts transit hubs as the next big thing in real estate development, the Region seeks developers to help build its multi-modal transit hub in downtown Kitchener.

Outside the core, the financial unsustainability of sprawl could be getting worse, as big box stores appeal their property value assessments, leaving municipalities on the hook to refund property taxes retroactively. Beyond the initial shock, this could mean low-density retail, already costing our municipalities more in terms of infrastructure and subsidies for services like transit, would be pulling even less of its own weight.

TriTAG member Michael Druker recommends up-zoning entire neighbourhoods, as was done in Northdale, as a means of building community buy-in to intensification and spreading out development pressures. Meanwhile, Globe and Mail columnist Doug Sanders decries the uniquely Canadian bias against condo and apartment living, arguing we need more families living in multi-unit dwellings to escape a housing crisis.

  • Obsession with home ownership driving affordability crisis, report finds (The Star)
  • How builders, city planners are trying to create more family-friendly condos (CBC)
  • Doing something real about gentrification and displacement (Dan Savage)
  • Gentrification, for better and worse (Todd Litman)
  • Parking & Prejudice & Zombies: the misunderstood importance of parking in an autonomous future (SafeSelfDrive)

Vision Zero

  • A near miss: how cities are misinterpreting the safety of streets for bicyclists and pedestrians (SSTI)
  • Street fight: Vancouver engineers get more power with bylaw change (Metro)
  • Hi-viz clothing has no impact on driver passing distances (Cycling Today)

Gender and transportation

Cycling

Transit and ride-sharing

  • The receding fantasy of affordable urban transit “to your door” (Human Transit)
  • Uber wants in to public transit. Cities should proceed with caution (Macleans)
  • Unless we share them, self-driving vehicles will just make traffic worse (Vox)

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Week in review: May 20, 2017

This week: major announcements from the province, including the Ontario Municipal Board, intensification, and high speed rail.

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Consultations, feedback, and events

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Week in review: May 13, 2017

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Consultations, feedback, and events

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Week in review: May 6, 2017

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Consultations, feedback, and events

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