2019 saw the release of the City of Saskatoon’s ambitious Climate Action Plan to much celebration and controversy amid questions about where 19 billion dollars(!!) of money was going to come from in a city that won’t even fund a $2.2 million dollar bike lane.
Deja vu? 2016 saw the release of the City of Saskatoon’s ambitious Active Transportation Plan to much celebration and controversy amid questions about where 250 million dollars(!!) of money was going to come from in a city that won’t even fund a a $2.2 million dollar bike lane (or fund the city’s previous cycling master plan as discussed in the above linked article).
Deja vu Deja vu? 2014 saw the release of the North Downtown Master Plan that would see an multi-use-path and greenway built parallel and above to the CN rail line in North Industrial. Much celebration, controversy, $130M(!!) of city money, blah blah and etc…
Not a fan of the big project plans? Maybe the Neighbourhood Traffic Reviews are more your speed. How about the Climate Adaptation Strategy? There is certainly no shortage of planners, glossy reports, public meetings and consultants over the last several years detailing utopian urban futures on paper.
However, despite all of these great plans for green infrastructure, essentially no money has been spent on actually building any of it. The Active Transportation plan has a small implementation budget, which this year went mostly to a new bicycling bylaw, as do the Neighbourhood Traffic Reviews, but they are a few hundred thousand dollars a year at most, orders of magnitude less money than detailed in the various plans.
Even more damning is that less money is spent on implementing the capital projects detailed in the plans than on developing the plans themselves. Active transportation infrastructure has an incredible return on investment: every vehicle trip that gets converted to an active transportation trip means less civic spend on infrastructure, less provincial spend on health care costs, fewer carbon emissions and less carcinogenic small-particulate matter poisoning Saskatoon citizens.
The amount of money it takes to get these benefits is tiny: the cost of walking infrastructure projects is measured in the thousands of dollars and huge improvements could easily be funded out of the budgets of these endless and futile planning cycles. There are many idealistic city employees and elected officials who believe in the value of active transportation and green infrastructure: it’s time for them to stop imagining never-to-be-realized futures and start improving the present.