Thursday, 2 October 2014

A moving experience


The experience of our city is a collection of places: where we live, where we work, where we play, and where we learn. Each one demands an important part of our time. Getting between these places takes time, too, and that time can often be frustrating.

We need to increase safe and efficient options to get around our city. Making it easy for both people and goods to get where they’re going will improve quality of life for Londoners and help business and culture flourish.

To make sure our transportation network functions well, we need to consider all modes of travel and the people who use them: walking and using mobility aides; cycling and active transportation; local and regional public transit; and commercial and passenger vehicle traffic. The more single-occupancy vehicles we get off the road, the better it is for all travellers: reduced traffic congestion benefits everybody on the move, so that those who still need to drive can get around efficiently, too.


Each of these is a huge topic on its own, and the subject of all kinds of study. I’ll get to a few specifics below, but the most important thing when approaching transportation is a philosophy of giving weight to each. The London Plan does this well: pedestrians can’t be just an afterthought, and neither can cars. Each system needs to work well for the ones who use it.

Here are just a few of the ways for London to improve transportation. 

Walking and mobility devices

  • Plan new neighbourhoods to be walkable. We know that walkable neighbourhoods lead to healthier and more engaged residents. The city’s planning process should favour grid patterns and mixed uses (i.e. some commercial spots in residential neighbourhoods) for new areas.
  • Give people more time to cross the street. Extending signal times at busy pedestrian crossings by just a few seconds can make a big difference in how safe people feel crossing busy streets, especially elders and people with physical disabilities. It can also help people catch their bus on time. I’ve heard from Ward 6 residents time and time again about trouble crossing at Oxford St. and Cherryhill Blvd. and at Sarnia Rd. and Sleightholme Ave., and this is an unacceptable situation.
  • Increase accessibility on our streets and sidewalks. Add more accessible pedestrian signals and cut curbs. This allows people to more easily cross roadways, particularly if using a stroller, a walker, or a mobility device.

Cycling and active transportation

  • Increase dedicated space for cycling, to increase safety. Properly-designed cycling lanes, in a planned network, will increase safety and comfort for both cyclists and drivers. New cycling lanes can either be segregated from vehicle traffic, or along parallel routes where traffic volumes or space on the main road make that a better option.

Local and regional public transit

  • Overhaul London’s bus routes. The radial pattern we have now makes it easy to get to and from downtown, but hard to get anywhere else. We need a grid system with express cross-town routes and connections that service neighbourhoods. This will make it easier to connect between routes and get to all corners of the city, including commercial and industrial areas so that workers can get to their job quickly and on time. (Don't miss out on London Transit's survey, closing October 12th:  https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/letstalktransit)
  • Invest in rapid transit. Yes, this will mean a serious investment, whether it’s bus rapid transit or some other system. This is crucial if London wants to be a functional mid-size city in the 21st century. We need to plan not only for where we are today, but where we will be in the future. The provincial government is partially funding rapid transit in Waterloo Region, Hamilton, and Ottawa. London should present a solid, comprehensive rapid transit plan as soon it is feasible to seek this kind of investment in our own community.
  • Foster regional transit. Right now, all trains and busses lead to Toronto. The city should work with the province and with other municipalities to establish regional connections, making people have options to travel to nearby cities and towns. As the major city in Southwestern Ontario, London can and should play a lead role.

Vehicles

  • Scrap the overnight parking ban. Londoners should be able to have family and friends visit without worrying about parking. This will require further discussion with city maintenance staff, but it’s doable. Several other communities of comparable size ban overnight parking during declared snow events only.
  • Establish more carpool and park-and-ride lots near our major highways, at the edges of the city, and on the edges of the core.
  • Improve road safety. Adding facilities for pedestrians and cyclist will help improve security for drivers, too. Other ways to increase safety include: restricting right turns on red lights in areas with high pedestrian and bicycle traffic; adding advanced-left signals when entering or exiting a major artery (such as needed at Wonderland  Rd. and Beaverbrook Ave.); and considering pedestrian bridges across wide, high-traffic roads.

Of course, these aren’t the only things to consider when it comes to London mobility and transportation. As I said, it’s a huge topic. Most importantly, we need to make sure people can get around using multiple modes of traffic, and that they can get to any corner of the city efficiently. As your councillor, I will make it a priority to keep London connected.