Active Transportation and the 2019 Saskatoon City Budget

Click to see the text of our budget request

Active transportation (AT) is a great way to make connections in your community, as well as to improve your health. Research shows that investments in active transportation infrastructure and supports provides a suite of benefits, including reduced injuries, improved health, and reductions in carbon dioxide and other combustion-based pollutants. Through savings in health care, and with an appropriate cost on carbon, these investments provide a high benefit-cost ratios; this means that by encouraging and facilitating active transportation, the City can improve the lives of its citizens, reduced its overall greenhouse gas emissions, and also save money in the long-run.

Parks and natural areas can be a vital part of an active lifestyle. For example, the Meewasin Trail System offers a beautiful and well-maintained year-round trail for active transportation. The province recently rejigged funding for the Meewasin Valley Authority, leaving it at-risk for chronic under-funding. As providers of cultural, environmental, and transportation connections to the city and its riverine neighbourhoods, we recognize the importance of a well-funded MVA in supporting our connection to the river valley, and in maintaining our pathways.

In November, City Council was set to task to allocate funds and set priorities through the budget process. As advocates for pedestrians and active transportation, Walking Saskatoon submitted a call for Council to increase funding for the Active Transportation Reserve, used for the implementation of the Active Transportation Plan (ATP), as well as to fund a full time manager position out of the Operations budget (you can find the link at the top of this post).

Currently, the manager is paid out of the implementation budget from the AT reserve fund, leaving little for actual implementation. At current funding levels, implementation is constrained to low-hanging fruit, and will never achieve meaningful gains and progress towards implementing and seeing in full the benefits of an active transportation city.

At the vote, motions were introduced to reduce ATP phase-in funding down to $0, and also to reduce MVA funding to $0 (see item 6.14.2, motions 13+14 at this link to see how Councillors voted). Our thanks to Councillors who voted against these motions, which were defeated, at least preserving current funding levels and providing some security to the MVA moving forward. We continue to advocate for a more equitable distribution of city resources and funding towards pedestrian-related infrastructure, safety, and monitoring.