Friday, April 5, 2013

Nanaimo Tees Up the Next
Wasteful, Neighbourhood-Destroying Roadbuilding Project

Second only to the Island Highway, Bowen Road is another destructive, dangerous, neighbourhood-killing arterial stroad. This latest project brings to something approaching $20 million spent or to be spent on Bowen Road to address "congestion" at two intersections. Nanaimo seems to think it can be the one city in the world that can road-build its way out the problems created by the car. You may not be surprised to learn that this approach has produced no evidence of its efficacy. This first graphic identifies the problems as perceived by the Traffic Engineers: collisions, congestion, access, volumes, configurations:

In the second graphic the solutions brought to these problems are identified as "Planning Process Outcome". Problems that were concentrated on Bowen Road will be happily dispersed across the neighbourhood where they will apparently disappear. 

I asked City Councillor George Anderson, Chair of the Transportation Committee which is currently quarterbacking a Transportation Master Plan for detail (cost, maps, rationale, part played in the Transportation Master Plan etc) of the Boxwood Road / Bowen Rd project. He received and relayed this response from staff: (emphasis mine)

"Bowen Road and Northfield Road are arterial roads in the City network. The intersection of Bowen / Northfield has the highest collision history of any City owned intersection and is one of the most congested. The attached maps provide good information.

This project is intended to provide a long term solution to safety issues, traffic growth, access configurations and property development issues in the surrounding area.  The project will support the development of the surrounding area as an urban neighbourhood and mixed use centre that supports the needs of pedestrians, cyclists and public transit.  The main component of the plan is the development of an additional network link to reduce the demand through the Bowen / Northfield intersection. 

The Bowen Northfield intersection was identified for improvement in the late 90's. Since that time the City has monitored traffic volume and flow and has had design input sessions with businesses and residents in the area

The current cost estimate for design and construction of this project, which includes the Boxwood Road Connector and Northfield Road Improvements, is $6.9 million and this is almost entirely funded through Development Cost Charges. 

The current timing has the project construction scheduled for 2016 in the 5 Year Financial Plan. 

This project was determined to be a priority before the Transportation Master Plan process was initiated and significant money has already been spent to move this project forward. However, the Transportation Master Plan will consider the priority and scope of this project along with other Transportation Projects. "

If you haven't already, pause and think carefully about the second paragraph in the Traffic Engineers' response. Road-builders are going to create an "urban neighbourhood and mixed use centre that supports the needs of pedestrians, cyclists and public transit." This is of course terrific news if you happen to think they have any idea what they're talking about.  They just need one more "network link to reduce the demand" and we're the next Copenhagen. Some days you just fear for the English language.

Here's Peter Ladner commenting on Frances Bula's blog:

"Let’s put ALL the transportation projects into one pile, not just the transit ones. Let’s assume transit had as easy and unquestioning access to provincial money as highways and (some) bridges. Then let’s evaluate each project by agreed-upon criteria (people moved, capital costs, operating costs, economic impact, congestion reduction, health costs, environmental impact, land use impact, goods-movement, impact on other modes…) and prioritize the ones that rank highest. ... Remember, there’s just one taxpayer."

Note Ladner mentions people moved, not cars. I think he needs to accept that congestion reduction is an illusory goal. You can't road-build your way out of congestion. His criteria  cover important ground here but importantly, he misses the harm or benefits to our neighbourhoods.


Frank Murphy said...

Email thread with Councillor Anderson:

Subject: Re: Master's in Community Planning at Vancouver Island University
Date: 25 April, 2013 12:18:04 PM PDT
To: George Anderson

Yes I would George and thanks for the invitation. Perhaps we could also include your colleague Councillor Greves. (I had a timely encounter with him yesterday as we stood at that dangerous and unpleasant intersection at Commercial where the Island Highway cuts our downtown in two.)

Let's try to organize something for next week. In the meantime some thoughts/questions, and a I guess somewhat formal request.

Can you let me know the process by which the consultant Urban systems was chosen to work on the plan?

I'm curious if the Economic Development Corporation and the Downtown BIA have submitted position papers or if they have been requested to do so.

I'll be asking about the involvement of the Chamber's Successful Cities initiative. Wally Wells is away on holiday, back in a couple of weeks but I'll send Dave Witty a note… Have you had input from the Chamber?

And the request: the ideas and research I can and am happy to contribute to the planning process are sourced from a number of high profile individuals and organizations. Central among them Strong Towns, Project for Public Places, 8-80 Cities, Brent Toderian, Gordon Price, Gehl Architects, Ken Greenberg and others. The ideas and research that these people and organizations have developed needs to be included in the Transportation Master Plan process in a more official capacity. I'm requesting that you make inquiries into cost and availability of bringing in an additional consultant body to the process. A suggestion would be to start with Brent Toderian's consulting firm Toderian Urban Works. I know Brent is interested in and enthusiastic about Nanaimo. I believe he's currently working in Calgary. I'm calling for the involvement of proven city-builders to add needed perspective to the planning process.

Thanks again for the invite and I look forward to talking with you more and soon —


On 2013-04-23, at 8:04 PM, George Anderson wrote:

Hi Franks,

Two things

I did receive this from Professor Shaw at VIU, thank you for forwarding it to me though. As for bringing it downtown I don't believe that would happen as VIUs master plan does include any development for the campus in downtown Nanaimo. Which I think is unfortunate. Viu is going on the model that UBC and SFU have. But who knows things in there master plan may change.

Secondly, you have brought several issues to my attention as Chair of the Transportation Committee and some very good ideas. I was curious if you would like accept an invitation to speak with myself and staff regarding where we are headed with the Transportation Master Plan. Please let me know.



Sent from my iPad

Frank Murphy said...

Update May 6, 2013. Email to Councillors Bestwick, Kipp and McKay

Subject: City Manager's report
Date: 6 May, 2013 1:34:08 PM PDT
To:, "" , ""

Councillors Bestwick, Kipp and McKay —

A quick vote of support for your initiative to reign in the ballooning spending of Nanaimo's Senior Management. I draw to your attention one item in the City Manager's report on Council's agenda this evening:

(Setting aside what I perceive as a "How dare you even ask for spending reductions" tone which probably illustrates no more than my thin skin relative to the hide you folks have had to develop over the years...)

Eliminate Boxwood Connection- $1.4M

This capital project is funded from Development Cost Charges (DCCs). As such, it is paid for by development, not current taxpayers; therefore, elimination has no impact on
taxation. This is a multi-year project with 2013 expenditures for detail design and
preloading. Property acquisition has already occurred. This project is intended to reduce existing and future congestion and accidents at the intersection of Bowen and Northfield Roads which is one of the City's busiest intersections with a high crash incidence.

Mr Kenning seems to suggest there is no cost to the taxpayer for this road project and the services required for the future development areas he refers to. Who will pay for future maintenance repair and replacement is I guess best left for some other Council to wrestle with. The City has already acquired property, we're told and this too involves apparently metaphysical monies that taxpayers needn't worry their little heads about… (Cancelling this project may not impact the 2013 budget but it certainly would future budgets. Liquidating the properties acquired without delay would have a positive revenue impact on the 2013 budget.) Mr Kenning doesn't seem to know that their is a Transportation Master Plan process currently underway and he may not be familiar with the law of "induced traffic" (you can move "congestion" around—at mind-blowing expense—but you can't solve it by road-building (No city ever has.)

But my main point: Mr Kenning asks us to accept as self-evident that a $7 million dollar road project doesn't cost real money because it will be paid for by future growth.

How is that not a Ponzi scheme?

Frank Murphy