By Craig Curtis
The City’s 2012/2014 Strategic Direction includes the following policy direction for transportation and movement: to design for and facilitate integrated movement; to create viable alternatives to single occupant vehicle travel in our transportation network and to facilitate transportation choice as the City grows in the most economic way.
As cities grow changes in the modal split are inevitable and integrated planning of all modes of transportation becomes more important.
Those cities that look ahead and plan for this change are in a better position to manage the change in the most economic and environmentally sensitive way.
With the help of a nationally-renowned consultant group, the City has developed a policy document for integrated movement entitled ‘The Mobility Playbook.’
This document outlines a series of strategies by which change can be facilitated.
These are: put pedestrians first, create a balanced network, tie land-use and mobility together, make transit part of the journey, connect the trails and nurture a culture of change.
It must be noted that each of these strategies are aimed at providing choice of mode and are in no way regulatory in nature.
The goal is to provide a win-win situation for all modes through careful planning so that any form of transportation is not inconvenienced by another. This can only be achieved if planning is done well in advance of development.
The six strategies or ‘plays’ as they are referred to in the report may be briefly summarized as follows:
1.) Put Pedestrians First: Red Deer has an extensive network of walking trails. However, in many cases, these do not effectively link up with the places where people live. There is also limited walking provision in neighbourhoods. The downtown leads the way in terms of creating an attractive pedestrian environment. The plan recommends the creation of or improved pedestrian linkages and walkable hubs in local neighbourhoods.
2.) Create a Balanced Network: Vehicles play a critical role in moving both people and goods in Red Deer today. Driving will continue to play a key role in the transportation system. The plan recommends the planning of a hierarchy of different kinds of streets ranging from higher speed roads for vehicle traffic to lower key roads which encourage a more diverse mix of transportation modes.
3.) Tie Land Use to Movement: Land use planning can facilitate integrated transportation through the planned location of higher density areas with public transit. The plan recommends that neighbourhood design standards be amended to locate areas of higher density where they support public transportation to achieve this goal.
4.) Make Transit Part of the Journey: The present transit routes provide extensive coverage at the expense of directness. Current bus routes take circuitous routes that lengthen journey times and discourage increased transit usage. The plan suggest that routes be modified to be more direct and that the system operate with greater frequency.
5.) Connect the Trails: The plan proposes that the current recreation trails be connected into neighborhoods through a network providing better connections for pedestrians and cyclists.
6.) Nurture a Culture of Change: The plan proposes that Red Deer initiate a campaign for active living which encourages a change in the modal split between pedestrians, cyclists and vehicle users. This will require community involvement and partnerships with various departments, sections and organizations.
The Integrated Movement Study involved hundreds of residents and thousands of comments were received through events, presentations and surveys over a two-year period.
The final recommendations and vision in the Mobility Playbook was put out for public comment through feedback forms and an online survey.
The analysis of results undertaken by Global Research showed that 85% of respondents were either favourable or neutral in their response to the overall direction and vision. The vast majority of respondents who agreed with the vision supported providing a more balanced provision of mobility options including cycling, walking, transit and cars.
However, it was noted that while initiatives were supported for new areas, improvements in existing areas should use additional space and not be taken from existing road space.
City council adopted the Mobility Playbook in May and it will form the framework for detailed transportation planning and development over the next decade.
City council’s direction is similar to that being followed by many cities across Canada and North America.
With Red Deer’s dramatic growth the city is projected to double in 20 years. It is important to ensure that we develop a transportation system that is economical, environmentally responsible and encourages healthy and active lifestyles.
Craig Curtis is Red Deer’s City Manager