Last night Waterloo City Council adopted its first Transportation Master Plan (TMP). The plan aims “To develop a coordinated and integrated transportation system that provides realistic travel options to the auto, thereby creating a City that is truly accessible to all”. To that end it includes a decrease in emphasis on motor vehicle traffic from historical practice, and an increase in focus on walking, cycling, and transit. It sets out the high costs of maintaining an expanding road network as unsustainable, and makes clear that congestion should not always result in road widenings.
The TMP is an overarching document that sets out the city’s direction for the transportation system, and which should guide concrete projects. The plan is in alignment with the Regional Transportation Master Plan. The Region of Waterloo is responsible for transit and most arterial roads and transit, whereas the cities are responsible for the rest of the street network, including off-road paths.
Several delegations spoke in support of the TMP’s recommendation for the city to phase in municipal snow clearance. Prof. Jeff Casello spoke regarding the importance of ensuring that land use is planned together with transportation; he said that the city’s TMP is cutting-edge for North America. Speaking on my own behalf, I asked Council to consider 30 km/h speed limits on some residential streets and physically separated cycling infrastructure based on Dutch best practice.
Yesterday’s motion was to approve the TMP in principle, and to approve the report’s “non-cost action items” (p. 143 of the packet). All policies will still be brought to Council individually, and anything that requires changes in budget will have to be its own battle. The motion was opposed by Councillor Mark Whaley, who suggested the plan is “too visionary”, that municipal snow clearance of sidewalks is too expensive, and that the plan would languish on a shelf. Other councillors and staff indicated that many portions of the plan do not require a change in budget, but rather in priorities, and that there are also substantial costs to not implementing the change in transportation focus. Councillor Jeff Henry spoke of the devastating impacts road widenings can have on a neighbourhood, and of the importance of considering the kind of city we want to live in. The TMP motion passed with the support of the rest of Council, with only Coun. Whaley opposed.
The short-term (0-5 years) non-cost items that will be completed are: integrating the TMP into the new Official Plan, adding Transportation Demand Management (TDM) incentives into the development process, and providing annual TMP reports to City Council.
The plan recommends hiring an Active Transportation and TDM coordinator in the next budget process. It also proposes to add $100,000 per year over five years to the city’s snow clearing budget to phase in increased (and prioritized) sidewalk coverage.