Tag Archives: city of waterloo

A Better Vision for Car Free Sundays

Recent media coverage has been particularly critical of Waterloo’s Car Free Sundays, despite being hailed as a huge success when they were held last year. To counter this negativity, I want to cast a bigger, better vision of what Car Free Sundays could be. Based on my personal experiences from last year, here is what I’d like to see:

  1. Increased hours. A 4 hour time slot (which includes set-up and tear-down) is far too brief to enjoy the diversity of events offered as part of Car Free Sunday. Last year, my wife and I found ourselves rushed to leave church, eat lunch (more on this later), and then find our way to Uptown by bike and participate in many of the activities before things were packed up and put away. Increasing the hours would allow more people to find time to enjoy these events.
  2. Greater frequency. My wife and I tried to invite several friends to join us last year, and many had made other plans on these weekends. Kitchener’s single participation was spoiled by sweltering heat. Making Car Free Sunday more frequent and regular, to say, every one or two weeks, would give more opportunities for success. It would foster a greater sense of community to be able to see each other face to face out on the street more often, and hopefully inspire more cultural change. And nobody would be caught off guard or late for church if they could regularly expect King Street to be closed and plan their commutes accordingly.
  3. Food! You can’t host an event that covers lunch hour and not have something to eat! It was a major oversight last year that there weren’t many food vendors brought in. Where were the chuck wagons that surround Columbia Lake every Canada Day? I would like to enjoy food from all cultures, not just from Uptown’s one hot dog cart. (Arguably a culture all unto itself!) Selling food permits would also be a great way for the cities to recoup some of the costs.
  4. More participation from community groups and businesses. Clubs, churches, and other organizations often relish opportunities for exposure to their community. Many churches today are coming to grips with the fact that they sometimes need to sacrifice a few of their Sunday morning services to interact with those who’d never pass through the church’s doors on their own. It’s a good opportunity to connect with the community in a visible way.
    Businesses in Uptown could take greater advantage of the event with sidewalk sales and sponsorships. Care would need to be taken so that this isn’t overdone – it would harm the ‘do-it-yourself’ spirit of the event if it were to become overly commercialized. We should continue to invite local artisans to set up tables to promote their work.
  5. Reduced police presence. One of the most expensive aspects of last year’s Car Free Sundays was the presence of a police officer at every intersection. We don’t post an officer on guard every time we close a street for construction. I’m sure motorists can figure out on their own not to drive down a barricaded street.
  6. Promotion. A lot of friends we talked to had never heard about Car Free Sunday, but might have been inclined to go had they heard about it ahead of time. Perhaps put up road closure signs like they do for days or even weeks in advance of construction. This would also have the added benefit of alerting Sunday drivers to plan an alternate route or choose to bike instead.
  7. Encouragement for our representatives who are investing in healthy lifestyles, community, and civic pride. Our governments invest hundreds of millions of dollars locally on car-centric infrastructure that isolates us from each other. There should be no stigma for investing a comparably paltry couple thousand on promoting and celebrating a healthier lifestyle and future. As citizens, we should be open about supporting and thanking representatives who have the courage and vision to make these investments, and urge them to complement these events with more permanent active transportation infrastructure.
  8. Name changes if necessary, but only with good reasons. Arguing that “Car Free” isn’t inclusive is a bizarre twisting of reality. Clearing away the cars makes King Street a level playing field for everyone to enjoy equally. Contrast this with “Cruising on King,” where we exclude everyone from the street except those with pre-emissions standard automobiles. (Ironically, Cruising on King often gets held up as an example of how a successful event is run.) This isn’t to say that we might not want another name that promotes Car Free Sundays better. But we shouldn’t walk on eggshells, pretending that having King Street briefly free of cars is a bad thing.

I think last year’s Car Free Sundays were a fantastic start. But I want to see them be made better and become ingrained into our local social and cultural fabric. I want to be able to continue to enjoy Car Free Sunday for many years in the future, long after the canard of the “war on the car” has been put to rest.

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Statement Regarding Uptown LRT Routing

Below is the TriTAG statement Duncan Clemens presented tonight to Waterloo City Council, prior to its deliberation about the Region’s preferred approach to LRT routing in Uptown Waterloo. We will present a similar one tomorrow at Waterloo Region’s Planning & Works Committee meeting.

Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you tonight about what has been a lengthy process. We congratulate other members of the community who have also come tonight to add their voice.

The Tri-Cities Transport Action Group is pleased that the Region of Waterloo has taken the time necessary to carefully explain the Uptown Waterloo routing challenges to the public in its September 27 meeting. This process of engagement was good for the community, and we hope to see more of it as the detailed system design commences. Doing this kind of consultation helps the public take ownership of what will in 2018 become their rapid transit system.

The preferred option helps to address new development in the quickly-growing area of Waterloo surrounded by the new station at King and Allen. In addition, moving one of the two platforms of the station at Willis Way next to the Public Square encourages people to use Waterloo’s main public space and its surroundings. The use of the spur line and the station platform adjacent to the square will allow for the preservation of surface parking on King, traffic flow on Erb, and is truly a best practice in placemaking. The routing will enhance a square that is already a resounding success for the City of Waterloo.


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Are The Best LRT Options for Uptown Waterloo the Ones Not Being Considered?

Last week’s Planning and Works agenda (PDF) had an update on the Rapid Transit project, and the RT Team has also released a summary of public comments from the September 27 Uptown LRT planning workshop held at Knox Presbyterian Church. Kudos to the Rapid Transit team for attempting to organize what was discussed by 24 distinct groups over the course of three one-hour meetings into a very big, rather unwieldy set of tables.

This meeting was good for the community. LRT through Uptown Waterloo is a pretty contentious issue, because everyone is scared of how it will change the landscape. This meeting did a good job of explaining why the Rapid Transit team selected its preferred option — but didn’t present all of the alternatives available, just the ones being considered by the Rapid Transit team.

With that in mind, TriTAG has produced two additional alternatives for Uptown Waterloo LRT routing that would have no impact to the Waterloo Public Square ice rink, wouldn’t require any buildings to be destroyed, would impact road traffic less than many of the presented options, and would improve the user experience of transit customers in Uptown Waterloo. (more…)

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City of Waterloo Adopts Complete Streets Plan

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.

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Uptown Waterloo streetscape input

As covered in local media, the City of Waterloo and the Region of Waterloo are currently working on redesigning King Street between Erb and Central Streets in uptown Waterloo. This is a street that is arguably working poorly for all users — on foot, on bicycle, and in motor vehicles.

Last week there was a public information centre to solicit feedback on the several alternative street cross-sections that are being considered. All the information and panels presented there are now available. Please check them out and fill out the city’s survey by January 5, 2011.

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