Projecting Transportation Change in Vancouver

Originally posted on the Project Change Film Festival blog.

Easy and convenient transportation is key to Vancouver’s status as one of the world’s most livable and sustainable cities. However, as population and employment continue to grow, transportation needs and trips overall increase. To manage this growth, while maintaining livability and creating a more sustainable city, we need a robust transportation system.

A few weeks ago, I sat down and talked with Neal LaMontagne. Neal is a senior planner with the City of Vancouver, responsible for city-wide and regional planning. This means he’s part of the team responsible for the planning of the entire city. His division focuses on initiative like the Regional Growth strategy, eco-density, and the industrial land strategy.

Recently, Neal joined a team responsible for Vancouver’s Transportation Plan update. This team is made up of representatives from both the planning and engineering departments. This is in recognition that transportation is a city-building activity as much as it is a traffic-moving one.

 Projecting Transportation Change in Vancouver

 

Here is an overview of our discussion:

You’ve talked about the City’s Transportation Plan Update. Can you tell me a bit more about it?

Good transportation systems rely on strategic long-term planning. Vancouver’s Transportation Plan outlines an overall transportation strategy for the city. It sets out a direction consistent both with the regional transportation policy and the principles of the broader city plan. As Vancouver grows and changes, it is important that our transportation planning keeps up.

The existing Vancouver Transportation Plan was adopted in 1997. This plan put transit, pedestrians and cycling at the top of the city’s priorities. Overall, the plan have been successful. Both population and employment in Vancouver grew steadily between 1996 and 2006. This led to a 23% increase in trips to Vancouver. However, because of the re-prioritization, the number of vehicles entering and leaving the city has actually decreased by 10% over the same period! New trips have been by transit, cycling and walking.

We have completed almost all the 76 invitees outlined in the 1997 plan. In addition, we have met or exceeded most of the targets the 1997 plan set—many years ahead of schedule. As such, it is time to update the plan and look towards 2040.

Transportation 2040 is a two-phase consultation process:

  1. The first phase runs from now until mid-July. We’re focusing on gathering ideas for Vancouver residents and commuters. This will offer a high-level view including our transportation successes and challenges to date, best practices and proposed goals. These consultations will form the basis of the draft 2040 Transportation Plan.
  2. The second phase will be from January to March 2012. Then, residents can give feedback on the draft Transportation Plan.

 

To many residents, transportation planning seems dry and boring. Why should we care?

We all share the streets as commuters, residents and businesses. As such, transportation is something that effects everybody on a daily basis. Whether we are commuting to and from work, or school, going shopping, meeting friends or taking kids to hockey practice we are moving through the city. As a ‘complete city,’ Vancouver wants this movement to occur in a sustainable way.

In addition to impacting people on an individual basis (“am I stuck in traffic?”), transportation also impacts us on a city-wide level:

  • It is central to our economy. The ability to move goods and services; and connect people to share ideas is central to our economy growth.
  • It is closely linked to sustainability. If Vancouver is to be the greenest city by 2020, we are going to have to make some movement on how we move.
  • It has a big impact on our public health, especially in areas like air quality, accidents and obesity.
  • It matters in terms of community. Not only by connecting people within community, but ensuring that we keep public space for social interaction and celebrations.

As a general strategy, the City of Vancouver does not plan to expand road capacity. It will need to absorb growth without building new roads. Thus, the city needs to find other ways to absorb the demands of increased people, jobs, and trips without increasing the amount of traffic on our streets. The 1997 plan was able to do just that. The challenge for Transportation 2040 is how can we keep up with the trends of more people walking, more people cycling, and more people taking transit.

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Image from TalkVancouver.com


Projecting Change focuses on individual efforts. How can residents of Vancouver get involved in the process?

The City of Vancouver is encouraging all city residents, commuters, businesses, neighborhoods and industry groups to comment during the Transportation 2040 consultation process. We want to hear people’s approaches, ideas, concerns and where they see opportunities for improvement. The more people involved, the better sense we will have of what Vancouverites want .  this will help us realize our collective goals.

We are at the beginning of this process. Public consultations sessions start this week. There will be one on June 7 at Killarney Community Centre (6260 Killarney St.) from 7 to 8:30 pm. there will be another at the Hastings Community Centre (3096 Hastings St.) on May 26 from 7 to 8:30pm. Hockey fans need not worry, we’ll keep participants updated on games. You can find other public meetings on the Transportation 2040 events calendar.

But you never know where great ideas will come from. So not only do we want a collective discussion, we also want collective brainstorming to come up with unexpected ideas. A great examples of an unexpected idea implemented because of public advice was the Laneway Housing initiative that came out of the EcoDensity consultations.

A lot of the city’s transportation initiatives will be small-scale, incremental and at the neighborhood level. One existing example of this is the city’s Greenways program. This is a project that has really relied on local participation, including neighbors planning their roundabouts and boulevards.

On a larger scale, the more people thinking and talking about transportation—even completely outside of the city’s process—the better. Additionally, the city would like people to try the different ways of getting around the city. If you normally drive, try out one of our bike lanes. If you normally take the bus, try walking along Main St, 4th Ave or Commercial Drive. Ride a skateboard, paddle a kayak, use a scooter. Taking a step outside your normal routine is a great way to get you thinking about transportation in our city.

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Image from TalkVancouver.com

Projecting Change is also about embracing new technologies. How is Vancouver embracing social media?

The home base for public engagement is our interactive website, TalkVancouver.com. We will also be setting up a Twitter account, hosting discussion forums and a Facebook pilot project. Our social media strategy will be dynamic and adapt over time. We are really interests to see how people respond, communicate and interact. We learned a lot from Greenest City and hope to build on that.

For the less technologically inclined, we are still conducting public meetings and getting out to hear from people face to face.

“If you can get 15 people in a room together we’ll come out and have a meeting with you.”

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Image from TalkVancouver.com

What role does an event like the Projecting Change Film Festival play in the City’s efforts?

We need people talking among themselves. An event such as the Projecting Change Film Festival is phenomenal for getting people talking and for people representing their ideas to each other. The more you are talking, the more you are thinking. The more you are thinking the more you’re being creative and coming up with really interesting and provocative ways for us to move the discussion forward. That is a phenomenal benefit.

“Even if were are no in the room, we want people talking transportation. And then we want people talking transportation with us.”

A big part of what the city does is communicate with the public; listening and telling our stores and ideas. We also want to promote a broader city-wide discussion. We want people talking not just about transportation, but about transportation in the context of the type of city we want to live in.

More Information

For more information on the public consultation efforts for the Transportation 2040 update, check out this video below or visit TalkVancouver.com.

 Projecting Transportation Change in Vancouver

Yuri Artibise

Yuri Artibise is an experienced policy analyst, community engagement practitioner and social media specialist. I have a Master of Public Administration degree with over 10 years of public policy research, analysis, and advocacy experience.