Wednesday, December 4, 2013

And in Summation and Conclusion (ahem)... My Thoughts Submitted to Nanaimo's Transportation Master Plan

Thanks to Nanaimo City Councillor George Anderson, Chair of the City of Nanaimo Transportation Advisory Committee for providing numerous opportunities to submit ideas to the Transportation Master Plan and to meet and discuss them in person.

These are the areas I will be looking to see addressed in the final Plan —

Elimination of all commercial inter-city traffic from the Island Highway and its return to its proper role as a city street in the service of the neighbourhoods it passes through. Speed limit max 30kph as it passes through neighbourhoods. A detailed, objective analysis should be completed on the economic and social impacts of this highway.

Speed limit reductions to 30kph throughout all residential areas. 50kph restricted to a few arterials, and these with narrowed lanes, HOV and bus lanes, cycling infrastructure. A pedestrian friendly environment will follow naturally from these improvements.

Cancelling costly road infrastructure projects like the Bowen/Boxwood project. You can’t solve “congestion” by road building. No city anywhere has ever done it. Time to accept the proven law of induced demand. And related, I would like to see careful consideration given to Development Cost Charges revenues when they are used to justify road building projects. Recognition that they are taxes, not paid by the developer or the builder but by of course… the taxpayer. Are they “new monies” or diverted from elsewhere in the local economy? As taxes do they take their place in the intense competition between civic spending priorities. Are they used to pay for past road building projects and in that regard are they not part of a kind of Ponzi scheme?

The inequity between the municipal taxation yield between the inner city and the low population density suburbs should be recognized and addressed. A one size fits all transportation plan that attempts to cope with decades of poor zoning and land use decisions is, I fear, headed to failure. Cities like Nanaimo need “Inner City Containment Boundaries” in which amenities and infrastructure are commensurate with taxation yields that are four and five times higher per acre than the outlying areas. The suburbs should be prepared to see reduced services and increased taxes. The suburbs should continue to be a consumer alternative for those prepared to pay their costs.

• And finally, I want to submit as formally as possible (by some official protocol in place if required) a request to your Transportation Advisory Committee to require that the Transportation Master Plan be peer reviewed and critiqued. I’ve mentioned earlier SFU’s Gordon Price or former Vancouver Chief Planner Brent Toderian could offer fresh prospective. The organizations working with Red Deer Alberta, as you and your staff and consultant know, Danish architect Jan Gehl and Cities 8-80 headed by Gil Penalosa, would also be prospects. 

Few things will have a greater impact on the civic, social and economic life of Nanaimo than fresh thinking about mobility in a city that has been allowed to develop to four or five times larger in square miles than begins to be sustainable.