Anyone who drives during peak commuting hours can attest that our road infrastructure is under strain. With single-family homes being built in sprawling neighbourhoods and an increase in population – congestion as at an all-time high. Psychology studies have shown us that the longer a commute, the less happy residents become. The majority of our roads can’t get wider and our citizens have said they do not want their tax dollars used to build new infrastructure – instead improve what we have. I am listening!
We have to find new ways for residents to get around within our community. Planning is key. Future land use planning must focus on core urban neighbourhoods so that transit, cycling and active transportation is a reasonable option. We also have to work to change our mindsets and our behaviors. A recent City of Kelowna staff report reveals that 59% of the trips Kelowna residents make are short enough to walk or ride.
13% of the overall Infrastructure Investment, or $132,000,000 over 10 years, has been dedicated to transportation. If we are able to reduce road use by 3-5% our current assets could be enhanced and upgraded rather than rebuilt completely.
Our transit system is broken and outdated. It is not reasonable to expect someone to use a mode of transportation that may or may not show up. Additionally, it’s important to know from a planning perspective peak ridership times, potential traffic congestion routes and overall usage data. Once we have hard facts and arm our residents with the ability to plan appropriately we can refine the transportation system. Again, this is an asset that already exists and new technology can assist planners in making our public transportation system more reliable and effective.
Think about cell phones and how far the technology has come in 10 years – it would be safe to say that the technology of transportation will see a similar shift some 10 years from now. We need to make way for the evolution of self-driving vehicles and nurture the growth of electric vehicle options. Ride share programs like Uber Pool where 2-4 riders share one vehicle could be an excellent way to service outlying areas without increasing the number of single occupancy vehicles on the roadways.
There is no debate that with the increase of population and residents driving the demands on our parking infrastructure increases dramatically. We’ve been conditioned by society that driving is our right and have been spoiled by ultra-low parking rates throughout the city. For example, the projected cost to upgrade our downtown parkades in 2025 is $7,700,000 with the primary driver being growth. We will need to look at a ‘pay for use’ program that will appropriately fund the future use of these assets again, similar to the ‘Airport Improvement Fee’ many of us incur when we fly.
Urban centered parking is also reduced by resident’s ability to complete daily tasks within the community that they live. When development is strategically engineered near transit and city centers the requirements for parking stalls could be decreased to enable developers to build more units to reduce overall end user costs and increase the overall inventory. Within rental developments, it has also been proven that a majority of residents simply don’t have a car or drive. By placing rental buildings in urban centers walkability is increased and the need for parking is decreased. As an example, the rental buildings at UBCO have parkades that sit empty all day since the majority of residents walk to campus.
We must be realistic in terms of funding for our transportation infrastructure. It is VERY expensive. When we can maximize efficiency of what we already have everybody can win. This isn’t a matter of taking keys away – it’s the matter of creating an array of transportation solutions for those who choose to use them.