Tuesday evening, the City’s Environment, Infrastructure and Transportation Policies committee (EITP) was faced once again with the Transportation Master Plan update which, after some hours of public input and committee discussion at the EITP April meeting, had been deferred to their May meeting.
The committee’s second stab at the report began with a brief introduction from Director of Engineering Mark van Buren. He stated that at the public meeting on the KTMP update (held April 14), the comments from the public and questions from councillors mostly fell into four categories:
- the needs justification for the WSE and its potential environmental impacts (including cultural, social, etc.),
- the modelling done for the TMP,
- the mode share targets and the cost/benefit numbers for transit, and
- the financial assessments, such as the apparent underfunding of active transportation.
Van Buren also said that staff is willing to treat the TMP update as a draft and make revisions to it, then bring it back to EITP in a few months. Ultimately, the committee voted to defer the report to September. Jim Keech (Utilities) said that there will likely be an information report brought to EITP in June, and the committee can make sure at that time that staff aren’t overlooking any desired changes.
Committee members had a lot to say after Van Buren proposed that the report be treated as a draft. Richard Allen was concerned that the delay might affect the timing of the work on the Active Transportation Master Plan, and was assured that it wouldn’t. Rob Hutchison brought up the population projections and his suspicions that Kingston may be overbuilding for an aging and declining population (predicted to peak in the 2030’s). He also wondered what the poor ‘level of service’ (congestion) measurement means in terms of time: does it represent a two or three minutes delay? Is that worth spending millions?
Peter Stroud remarked that Van Buren’s list of four topics is a good start but is not exhaustive list; Stroud has other concerns too. Staff responded that they had been taking notes throughout the discussion, and would welcome emails about specific items from committee members.
Jim Neill asked staff about the classification of some roads in the area of the proposed WSE. Is Montreal St. South of Railway an arterial or a collector? What about Rideau St.? If roads are functioning as one type but labelled as another, does that affect the needs justification for the WSE? (Montreal St. is arterial from the 401 to Railway St. and collector from Railway to Brock: Rideau St. is deemed a local road from River St. to Barrack St., and arterial between Railway and River).
Jeff McLaren, though not a member of the committee, was in attendance and permitted to ask questions. He wondered if screen-lines were the only justification for the environmental assessment for the WSE, and if raising the acceptable level of congestion (LOS>1) would still trigger a recommendation for a new road. Might it encourage commuters to favour other modes of transportation? The consultant’s response was that LOS greater than 1 represents gridlock, which would affect many other roads in the area. Building a road is recommended after all other methods of reducing congestion (demand management, transit etc.) are considered. Even if more people will be taking transit, the population will be larger, so the transit mode share may stay the same or even go down. As Kingston grows, she said, we will need new roads.
Regarding the proposed targets for active transportation and transit use, Van Buren stated that there are two important words in the report: ‘aggressive’ and ‘realistic.’ He maintained that the targets are both. He reiterated that other means of reducing congestion had been looked at before considering new road infrastructure. Sheila Kidd (Director of Transportation) pointed out that a functioning road network is needed for transit too.
I think we can consider the outcome of this meeting another step in the right direction. Staff seem to have been listening to councillors and the public, and have promised to work with the consultants that wrote the KTMP update to make changes to that report. The councillors who oppose the WSE are determined to come at the issue from every angle they can find. And we have a little more time to do whatever we can do.
— Anne Lougheed