Our cities need to understand the extent of the problem that uncleared sidewalks pose to mobility and safety in winter. Unfortunately, the things they focus on give about as much clarity as a blizzard.
Nearly two years after City Council’s request, Kitchener staff have finally brought forward a report on winter sidewalk clearing. Their recommendation?
Do nothing. (more…)
The Region of Waterloo has now passed its budget for 2016. You may have seen headlines in the news about a bus to Hanson Ave, a discounted bus pass for Conestoga students, and discounted passes for refugee children, not to mention the ongoing light rail construction.
But there’s more happening in this year’s budget. Here are a few things we find in the Grand River Transit budget:
- Introduction of electronic fare cards this year to replace tickets and passes
- Installation of transit priority measures to keep buses on schedule
- Relocation of the Cambridge Centre bus terminal to Hespeler Road to make ION aBRT more direct in 2016
- A new bus garage will be built near Northfield and University to help GRT deploy buses to Waterloo routes
- New stop platforms and shelters in 2017 for the future Ottawa iXpress
- A new bus terminal at the University of Waterloo ION stop, to be completed in 2017
- Realignment of the Fairway bus terminal and improvements to Conestoga Mall terminal’s pedestrian connections to integrate with the ION stops, to be completed in 2017
- A new bus terminal at the future Block Line ION stop in 2017, where the 201 iXpress will likely begin and end its route
The GRT capital projection includes costs for facility renewal at Charles Street Terminal up until 2020, giving us an idea of when planners anticipate the terminal’s functions will be fully transferred to the Victoria Multi-modal Hub.
For active transportation, about $15 million is projected to be spent on cycling facilities in conjunction with planned road rework projects over the next five years. An additional $12 million will be spent on new sidewalk construction, both as part of road rework and separate projects. For 2016, about $4.4 million will be spent on cycling and walking, coming entirely out of development charge reserves rather than property taxes. Projects anticipated for 2016 include multi-use paths along Franklin in Cambridge, protected bike lanes for Manitou Drive in Kitchener, and sidewalk infill on Westmount between University and Columbia.
After many years of planning, the City of Waterloo will be making a decision on the future design for Uptown King Street on May 25. The recommended design includes wider sidewalks with more space for seating, trees, and other amenities, improvements to the road design to make driving better, and, for the first time in Waterloo, protected bike lanes separated from traffic by raised curbs and parked cars.
To celebrate this milestone for Uptown, and to support the recommended design, the Tri-Cities Transport Action Group and WaterlooBikes.ca are organizing a community bike ride through Uptown Waterloo. We’ll be gathering in the Public Square around 5:45pm on May 25, and bike up King Street where the protected bike lanes are proposed, circling back to City Hall to join the council meeting beginning at 6:30pm.
The proposed design has lots of support – from staff, elected representatives, many of the Uptown businesses, and over 1000 petitioners, and is further encouraged by a study of travel modes and spending habits in Uptown. However, the more encouragement City Council receives for this project from the community, the more likely they will be to continue expanding the active transportation network with infrastructure of this high level of quality.
We hope to see you in Uptown next Monday.
Photo credit: Paul Krueger on Flickr
When I read the article this morning on our new Mayor’s viewpoint on sidewalk clearing, I was very sad. Two very crucial points stood out for me.
Whether or not our Council decides that clearing sidewalks is right for our City, or if building a new arena is the answer, or investing more into the economy or the arts, these decisions cannot be decided upon by the costs of the LRT. I feel a sense of deja vu, back to the RIM Park days when our City Council was held hostage to the RIM Park financing costs and were reluctant to move forward on any other spending for fear of the public backlash.
Trust me, I know that Council should always consider spending and how it will affect the tax payer, but it should not, and cannot be the only consideration.
The second point that stood out for me, was the Mayor’s comment that we can’t move forward because there is little public interest. The following is from the City of Waterloo’s own Transportation Master Plan:
‘From a Complete Streets perspective and developing a “City that is accessible to all”, there is a fundamental need to ensure that public sidewalks are accessible to all through timely and consistent removal of snow and ice. Winter maintenance has been an issue raised by the community under this TMP and the number one issue raised by the Grand River Accessibility Advisory Committee.
Expanding the City’s current sidewalk snow clearing program would promote and enhance safe and accessible pedestrian movement, encourage greater pedestrian and transit use and help make the shift to alternative modes of transportation. This would ultimately reduce the negative impacts and costs to widen more roads and intersections. A phased approach to implementing an expanded program would assist in the budgeting of this program, therefore the focus would be on higher
pedestrian and transit routes. Recommendations of this TMP include reviewing current city practice to identify efficiencies in service, an increase in the existing sidewalk snow clearing program of $100,000 per year over the next five years, subject to the 2012-2014 budget process, and develop a mid to long term strategy to expand the program where necessary. ‘
4 years ago, public input showed that clearing sidewalks mattered and should be considered in order to make our city more accessible. And that public interest, as far as I can see, has only grown in the last four years. not waned. It is an important piece for accessibility when we live in Ontario, and snow is a reality for upwards of 5 months out of the year.
Sorry Mayor Jaworsky, it is time for our City to embrace this change.
Janice Moore is the former chair of the City of Waterloo Recreation and Advisory Committee, and a current member of Waterloo’s Active Transportation Committee.
A lot can change in a week or two. When TriTAG set better winter sidewalk maintenance as one of its priorities for the year, seeing political movement on the issue seemed almost beyond reach. But thanks to your letters to councillors, the path has been cleared to real public debate about where our community’s priorities lie with winter mobility.
Here’s a breakdown of the story so far:
On Tuesday of last week, The Record published a column by Professor Alejandro López-Ortiz calling on our cities to plow sidewalks like they do roads. This week, Kitchener Post columnist James Bow also called on Kitchener to investigate offering this service.
After seeing the positive public response to López-Ortiz’s column, TriTAG published its councillor contact form, allowing you to raise the issue with your representatives. Many of you did.
We also searched our past municipal election surveys to remind you of what your elected representatives promised regarding winter sidewalk maintenance.
In response, Mayor Berry Vrbanovic and Kitchener City Council voted to review its sidewalk clearing policy, and reconsider the possibility of plowing sidewalks as other cities like London and Mississauga do. Regular Record columnist Luisa D’Amato praised the move as part of the mayor’s broader approach to governing. Councillor Dave Schnider also invited feedback from the public:
— Dave Schnider (@DaveSchniderKW) February 24, 2015
Meanwhile in Waterloo, Councillor Brian Bourke put out an online survey to gauge public support for changes to sidewalk policy and how to pay for it. At the time of this post, more than three quarters of respondents support the city plowing sidewalks, with nearly two thirds in support of a tax increase of at least $20 a year to pay for it. Councillor Bourke also appeared on the 570 News Midday Show to discuss the pros and cons of the city taking on this responsibility. Waterloo has yet to direct staff to study sidewalk clearing, but it is encouraging to see members of council begin to open up the discussion.
We’ve only just gotten the ball rolling by getting municipalities to consider sidewalk plowing as a possibility. We need to continue to engage with our public officials and help them evaluate the options that municipal staff lay out in the coming months. Please consider taking a few minutes to write to your elected representatives and supporting sidewalk clearing as a Regional priority, so that this story ends with sidewalks that are accessible to everyone.
Last year, we surveyed municipal election candidates on a number of questions regarding transit, walkability, bicycling, and development. Below are what some of our current representatives had to say about keeping sidewalks usable in winter. If you’d like to get in touch with your councillors to talk about winter sidewalk maintenance, you can do so with our contact form.
“As our community ages, and from an accessibility improvement point of view, I am also prepared to engage our community and again look at city-wide snow clearing of sidewalks as a possible future service enhancement.”
– Berry Vrbanovic, Mayor of Kitchener
Democracy isn’t just for elections. Two weeks ago, we told you about how you can help the Region set its priorities for the next few years. But the Region isn’t the only one listening – there are opportunities to engage with your governments at all levels. Below are just a few:
Snowed out sidewalks
Momentum is building for municipalities to clear sidewalks in winter. In yesterday’s Record, Professor Alejandro López-Ortiz made a strong case for snowplowed sidewalks.
You can lend your voice to the growing chorus by contacting your representatives through our councillor contact form. You can also add your support to having sidewalk clearing (currently under the jurisdiction of area municipalities) considered as a strategic priority for the Region through the StratChat forum.
The provincial government is also seeking input as it prepares its budget for 2015. They’ve set up an online forum where ideas for service delivery, investments, and efficiency can be proposed, rated, and discussed.
One idea we’d like to highlight is funding for #CycleON infrastructure. #CycleON is the province’s cycling strategy, but investment in bicycle infrastructure is needed to carry it out.
Other provincial surveys and public input opportunities:
- Lowering default speed limits within municipalities (Ministry of Transportation)
- Climate Change Discussion Paper (Ministry of the Environment)
In early spring, the possibility of protected bike lanes with Uptown streetscape redesign is expected to come to council. Let your councillors know this project has your support with our contact form.
Even more opportunities…
To stay in-the-loop on opportunities to influence transportation-related decisions, you can join our mailing list, subscribe to our calendar of public meetings, like TriTAG on Facebook, or follow TriTAG on Twitter.
Headline photo credit: waldopepper on Flickr, 2012. Licensed under CC-BY-NC.