Week in review: August 20, 2016

Consultations and feedback deadlines

ION light rail

From the TriTAG blog, Mark highlights the barrier the light rail track and fencing has created between the Traynor-Vanier community  and nearby retail and grocery stores. The City of Kitchener will be leading a study, in partnership with the Region, to determine what’s needed for pedestrian access, according to Regional Councillor Tom Galloway.

Record reporter Johanna Weidner investigates the impact light rail construction has had on Grand River Hospital:

“While the hospital does hear from some visitors about the frustration of trying to navigate construction to get there, it’s not keeping anyone away.”

Francis Street is scheduled to re-open. Meanwhile, assembly of the tile patterns has begun on the anchor wall at the Willis Way platform, and pictures of the Flexity Freedom light rail vehicle prototype in assembly have been sighted.


On Wednesday, the Regional Licensing Committee met to discuss the upcoming taxi bylaw, which would open the door to a greater variety of services, such as Uber or RideCo. Key decisions made include favouring GPS tracking over in-vehicle cameras for ride-sharing services, per-trip instead of per-vehicle licensing fees, and  a special fee in lieu of providing accessible services (which would be applied towards subsidizing accessible taxis). Rules concerning decals to identify taxis and ride-sharing vehicles remain to be determined. Taxi drivers were less than pleased with the result.

Two reports appeared this week concerning the role of ride-sourcing in providing transit in the GTHA. One was commissioned by Metrolinx for its Regional Transportation Plan review and the other developed by the Mowat Centre. Both identify the opportunity for ride-sourcing to provide greater access and “first and last mile” service in low density areas that are difficult to serve cost-effectively with transit, but raise concerns ride-sourcing could introduce regarding social equity, accessibility, congestion, and broader regional transportation goals. (In last week’s report on Grand River Transit planning, ride-sourcing services were listed as a possible solution for certain low density, circuitous street patterned areas.) But transit planning expert Jarret Walker pours cold water on the idea that ride-sourcing or microtransit could ever replace fixed-route transit services entirely, with economics and basic geometry.

Land use

Friends of the Greenbelt call for a moratorium on urban boundary expansions within the Greater Golden Horseshoe for two years, until population growth projections can be updated with the latest census data. (The report was written by former Waterloo Region director of planning Kevin Eby.) Metrolinx published a background study on demographics, the economy, and land use, highlighting developments in Waterloo Region on several occasions despite a primary focus on the GTHA.

In the US, a new study was published showing that parking costs the average renting household an extra $1700 per year. Even carless households paid an average $621 per year extra thanks to parking requirements in zoning bylaws:

“Minimum parking standards create a major equity problem for carless households. 71 percent of renters without a car live in housing with at least one parking space included in their rent.”

The blog Market Urbanism is calling for the abolishment of parking requirements in LA.

Strong Towns member Richard Bose writes about how its not enough to merely run transit through car-dependent poor communities – better development patterns are needed to ensure housing and destinations are closer together, creating densities supportive of transit.

Walking & bicycling

Toronto Centre for Active Transportation (TCAT) published their survey of Complete Street practices in rural municipalities, highlighting the Blair Road cycle track in Cambridge and the Church Street bicycle lanes in Elmira. Record reporter Jeff Outhit interviewed Chris regarding pedestrian rights of way at crossovers and roundabouts. And the province announced construction work on Shirley Drive will include bike lanes and sidewalks, in addition to the $11M widening that’s being done in preparation for the inevitable Highway 7 to Guelph.

Meanwhile, Calgary published highlights of its downtown cycle track pilot, noting that cycling trips are up 40% over last year.

Big data

Joe Cortright of City Observatory writes on the limits of data-driven approaches to planning – that our priorities can be skewed by what we have already measured. Our municipalities and governments have reams of data and metrics about traffic capacity and flow, but few to evaluate the quality of walking or cycling. Merely counting people walking or cycling may not reveal much about latent demand in environments that are hostile.

Our use of data is subject to what we call the “drunk under the streetlamp” problem: An obviously intoxicated man is on his hands and knees on the sidewalk, under a streetlamp. A passing cop asks him what he’s doing. “Looking for my keys,” the man replies. “Well, where did you drop them?” the cop inquires. “About a block away, but the light’s better here.”


Local officials were at the Association of Municipalities Ontario conference this week, and spoke with the provincial Transportation Minister and opposition leaders about transit issuesRevenue tools to help municipalities pay for transit and other services were also raised.

Move the GTHA released a report on the state of transit investments, finding that only half of planned transit expansions will be completed unless new money is committed. The report was timed to coincide with Metrolinx’s consultations on the next Regional Transportation Plan.

Transit ridership is up 6.8% for Houston, after changing its routes last year from a hub-and-spoke network to a grid system with more frequent routes.