The Week’s News

It’s Committee week at the Region, which means lots is happening. But first, two other things. Our almost-monthly pub night is tomorrow evening, and you should join us!

Today, the Ontario Coroner’s Office has released its Cycling Deaths Review (HTML / PDF). I have not read through it yet, but it is supposed to claim that all the cycling deaths it looked at were preventable. It also recommends a mandatory helmet law for everyone, which is deeply problematic if the goal is making cycling a safer and larger part of the transportation system. We’ll have more on this later.

Tomorrow is Committee day for the Region of Waterloo. Agendas are always posted here at around 4pm on the preceding Friday. Typically, most issues and reports go to initially to the appropriate Committee, where motions are made, to be finalized at the full Council meeting on Wednesday of the following week. (See Council agendas.) As the standing committees are currently composed of all the councillors, the decisions are effectively made at the committee level, with rare exceptions.

At Administration & Finance, the Region is poised to begin charging its employees the costs of parking at offices where parking is valuable or within/near the urban growth areas. The fees would be phased in 25% per year, starting a year from now.

The Region is beginning its budget process for 2013 already. Budget Committee will meet, and the initial proposal for the budget includes the annual increase for the Regional Transportation Master Plan (including LRT), cost reductions to bring down the base budget, and the implementation of smart card technology on the GRT fleet.

Planning & Works is where most transportation issues are dealt with. One of the items is the reconstruction of Northfield Drive between Davenport Road and University Avenue. Many alternatives are considered, but the “preliminary preferred” one includes road widening (of course), sidewalks / multi-use paths, and on-road bike lanes. There will be a public consultation centre on Thursday, June 28, from 5pm to 8pm at 550 Chesapeake Drive in Waterloo. There will also be a comment period where you are welcome to suggest alternatives to widening, and better cycling infrastructure than on-road bike lanes.

As an aside, the issue with all these 20-year traffic forecasts that lead to widening recommendations is that they assume traffic will continue to grow as it used to do. Traffic is no longer growing in this way of its own accord. But if we keep building bigger roads, we will induce demand for more driving and make streets less friendly for other uses.

Consulting work is planned to evaluate the market for various potential uses at the King/Victoria transit hub, in advance of a public-private partnership to develop the site. It’s being planned as a high-density mixed-use development, not at all just a train and bus station.

The Region has determined it needs more land for the LRT at Central Fresh Market in midtown Kitchener, and plans to begin expropriation proceedings to make sure it has the land in time. It’s pretty clear that further land takings will involve demolition of the current building.

There is a staff recommendation to add the Region’s LRT vehicle requirement to Metrolinx’s existing order with Bombardier, and to return to Council with a contract. This is in lieu of lumping the vehicle procurement into the rest of the construction and operation contract, and seems to be a prudent way to get vehicles on time and at a reasonable price. One interesting aspect is the proposal for joint pilot testing of vehicles with Metrolinx, on the Waterloo Spur. Waterloo Region’s LRT is planned to be in operation by 2017, which is earlier than any of Metrolinx’s LRT lines for Toronto.

The Region will host the 2014 annual meeting of the Canadian Institute of Transportation Engineers. Hopefully it will use this as an opportunity to develop some better cycling infrastructure and be able to show that off to engineers nationwide.