Sidewalk Infill and other Pedestrian Improvements get a Little Election Year Funding.

Some good news on funding of sidewalk infill from City Council’s Standing Committee on Transportation from the last two meetings: council has proposed allocating just over a million additional dollars to Active Pedestrian Controlled lights, sidewalk infill construction and other city walkability improvements.

Being an election year (thinking cynically), the councilors decided to raid the Traffic Safety Reserve fund (money from traffic cameras) to increase already existing funding to smaller pedestrian improvements such as crosswalks and curb extensions as well as allocating some money to the capital budget item for building sidewalk infill.

The big-ticket pedestrian items:

2016 proposed pedestrian safety improvements
2016 proposed pedestrian safety improvements
Pedestrian Crossing Control 2016
Proposed Pedestrian Crossing Controls 2016 (Top 4 funded)
Sidewalk Infill Construction List for 2016
Proposed Additional Sidewalk Infill Construction List for 2016

Some thoughts:

  • The list of sidewalks to build is taken from a ‘priority list’ generated from Neighbourhood Traffic Reviews where at least the first priority is given to streets that are adjacent to schools and parks. How that priority list is further refined into the streets and neighbourhoods that got funded projects this year is not clear and probably involves some political calculus. Varsity View and Mayfair/Kelsey-Woodlawn had many requests approved and Haultain had none, for example.
  • It’s also not clear how this sidewalk infill priority list will differ from the sidewalk infill priority list contained within the yet-to-be-adopted Active Transportation Plan. Another issue with generating the list from Neighbourhood Traffic Reviews is that many areas have not had their reviews performed, making the infill list incomplete, and heavily biasing the improvement funding towards neighbourhoods that had their reviews earliest.
  • Priority lists of any sort are somewhat moot at this point in any case. Council has used all normally budgeted money for 2016 and 2017 as well as the one-time build-up from the Traffic Safety Fund to fund the listed work. In addition, earlier in the year there was $150,000 taken from the Active Transportation implementation fund allocated for sidewalk infill already in the budget (see below for list of projects) but it’s unclear if that money is budgeted in the future. Sidewalk infill needs are estimated to cost $4.2 Million 2016 dollars, and that’s just for the neighborhoods that have had traffic reviews. The real figure is probably twice as high. At $150,000 per year in the best case the holes in the walking network will take a long time to fill.

Already approved sidewalk infill in 2016.
Already approved sidewalk infill in 2016.

However, it’s nice to talk about funded pedestrian improvements, hopefully this will be the first of many such announcements in the coming years.

The Best Laid Plans…

The Kelsey-Woodlawn/Mayfair Local Area Plan, released last year, did a nice job capturing the needs of pedestrians in those neighbourhoods. The plan is full of great ideas, from sidewalk construction for the well-used routes around the SaskPoly parking lot and St. Michael’s school just off 33rd to traffic calming around area parks to ensuring that a pedestrian walkway is part of the proposed overpass at Airport Drive and Circle.

"The Full Saskatoon" a street with a park and a school but no sidewalks.
“The Full Saskatoon”: Alberta Avenue from 36th to 33rd; a park, a school and no sidewalks.

However, PDF documents full of good intentions have a hard time in Saskatoon instantiating themselves into physical changes. The Mayfair LAP itself talking about the impressive sounding ‘Priority 1 List’ of streets that need sidewalk installation, but sidewalk installation has no funding in the City’s budget, making any tiered designation farcical.

Another example of this disconnect between documents and reality happened recently when the City announced that the recently purchased rail line behind the Legion near 25th would be converted into a parking lot. This area was part of the proposed greenway areas in the North Downtown Master Plan. With the NDMP not anywhere near implementation this is not the worst idea in the world but it shows how long the cycle is to get any sort of pedestrian improvement finished, if ever.

North Downtown Linear Rail Trail Plan
North Downtown Linear Rail Trail Plan
North Downtown Linear Trail Plan Reality
North Downtown Linear Rail Trail Reality

 

Calgary Arcadia

Name a recent positive trend in walkable urbanism and Calgary’s politicians and planners are right on top of it. The city released their Complete Streets plan in 2014, forcing all new and retrofit road construction to be designed for safety and convenience for all traffic modes. While not yet reaching the standards required by Vision Zero Initiatives this plan was a great step forward and included actual bylaws to enforce the city’s vision.

Peace-Bridge-3
Calgary’s Walk/Bike Peace Bridge over the Bow River

Last month, Calgary followed up on their Complete Streets plan by releasing the new Pedestrian Strategy Report. This is a fantastic read on the current state of pedestrian-focused design in North America and lays out clear goals for Calgary to increase its walk share from 11.7% currently to 15% by 2025. The city will get there by first focusing on safety changes and small capital projects in the existing pedestrian network: mid-block crossings, lower residential speed limits and building sidewalk infill.

This plan is a great example for what our own city’s Growing Forward Active Transportation plan should look like and also serves as a great primer for getting up-to-date on the latest in walk-centered urbanism. Calgary has always been an aspirational model for Saskatoon, let’s follow their lead on making walkable urban design a priority.

Plus Calgary is building a fricking Circle Drive for trails!

greenway-map
Rotary-Mattamy Walk/Bike Trail Encircling Calgary

If you are interested in this issue, or others surrounding walking in the city of Saskatoon, contact us via e-mail or Twitter.

The Active Transportation Plan and Filling Saskatoon’s Sidewalk Gaps

The release of the City of Saskatoon’s draft Active Transportation Plan in the fall highlighted an important issue in Saskatoon: the lack of sidewalks on many streets. Saskatoon has historically relied on the lead developers of neighbourhoods to provide sidewalk construction.

Saskatoon's existing sidewalk network.
Saskatoon’s existing sidewalk network.

If the sidewalks didn’t get done when the neighbourhood was first developed, the city considered the situation a fait accompli rather than a missing piece of critical transportation infrastructure. Some streets have been without sidewalks for decades, even those that are on major school and commuter routes.

The neighbourhoods with the most missing sidewalks are almost all within Circle Drive and on the east side: Buena Vista, Nutana, Exhibition, Haultain and Holliston all have large numbers of sidewalk-less streets, while King George, Riversdale and large parts of the various industrial areas have the same issues on the city’s west side. Even many of the newer areas in the city such as Stonebridge and Arbour Creek have sidewalks on one side of the street only.

Luckily, and hopefully, the stars may be aligning for some concrete action on this unfortunate situation. The final draft of the Active Transportation Plan is supposed to be in front of city council by the fall and the new federal government has promised a mutli-billion dollar ‘green infrastructure plan’. What better way to move Saskatoon towards a safer, higher-quality, lower-carbon transportation network than finally filling in the gaps in the city’s sidewalk network?

If you are interested in this issue, or others surrounding walking in the city of Saskatoon, contact us via e-mail or Twitter.