Tag Archives: king street

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.

Read More »

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.

Read More »

King Street West: An Incomplete Street

Pedestrian friendliness isn’t always something that can be measured. Many streets in Kitchener-Waterloo lack sidewalks, but other streets, even those with sidewalks on both sides, remain hostile to pedestrians in more subtle ways. To see whether or not a street truly welcomes and respects its pedestrians, you need to get out and walk.

This post serves as a photo-document of a pedestrian trip from the northwest end of downtown Kitchener along King Street West to the Waterloo border. I live near this route and walk it frequently. This stretch of King Street is the first of Kitchener’s mixed-use corridor zoning areas, which aim to shape development to support higher-density, pedestrian friendly streets with a mix of complementary uses. Over the long term, Kitchener’s planners hope that the mixed-use zoning will help bring vitality to the street. In the short term, what is holding King Street West back? Let’s go for a walk and find out. (more…)

Read More »

Field Report: King Street Car-Transit Modal Split at Kitchener-Waterloo Border

In a 1999 paper, Weyrich and Lind argue that judging transit in North America by overall transit modal share is misleading, as most of the urban population is either not served by transit or served poorly. They suggest it is more appropriate to consider transit usage on transit-competitive trips. In light of this, I decided to investigate the modal split between transit and private vehicles on a transit-competitive corridor in the Region of Waterloo.

The proportion of overall trips in the Region of Waterloo taken on transit is perhaps 4%. But what about corridors with frequent transit?

There is really only one such corridor in the entire region – King Street in Kitchener-Waterloo. Between the Charles Street Terminal in Kitchener and University Avenue in Waterloo, Route 7 buses can be counted on to appear every 8 minutes or better from morning to evening. In addition to the 7, the iXpress route also runs along the same corridor, with 15 minute service. No other corridor has service better than every 12-15 minutes.

So on the morning of Monday, November 23, I set up on King Street right at the Kitchener-Waterloo border (between Union and Mt. Hope streets) with a clipboard and a video camera, and recorded trips between 7:30 and 8:30 am. It was overcast and foggy, with temperature between 1°C and 4°C. At the time I recorded all non-motor-vehicle trips, and the number of people on each Grand River Transit bus. GRT buses have 35-40 seats, but people rarely use all seats, so a bus with some standees can be expected to have around 35 people. Crush load is around 70-80 people. I used these figures to estimate the number of people on each bus as a multiple of five.

I counted other vehicles afterward on video, with one category for private vehicles (motorcycles, cars, and light trucks that weren’t obviously commercial) and one for all other vehicles. These included work vans, taxis, delivery trucks, transport trucks, dump trucks, and non-GRT buses, with a few one-offs.

Read More »