More will have to be said about the apparently interminable EITP meeting in which I am still sitting, but to start with, here is the text of the delegation I presented at the beginning of the meeting so many hours ago. I hope we will all get a chance to insist that Kingston has no excuse to come up with a public transit target lower than the actual current use of public transit on average in Canadian cities.
Councillors, Staff, and Members of the Public –
I am speaking this evening on behalf of WellingtonX, an organization which as you know is dedicated to stopping the Wellington Street Extension.
I would like to note, however, that we are not just against the extension because it is “in our backyard.” We are against it because it represents an approach to urban planning and land use and traffic management that we find highly problematic. We are against it because it prioritizes people in cars over people on foot, on bicycles, or in buses.
This is why we are engaged with discussions about the Transportation Master Plan.
We have had a chance to read some parts of the new draft of the TMP over the holiday weekend.
The staff report that introduces the draft says that “key changes” are limited to an executive summary, a Q&A section, and some more technical and financial information. That doesn’t sound like a revision to me.
Staff have not offered any list or tracking of changes between this draft and the previous one. In a document of this length, I would say that this, combined with the release of the report on the Friday before a holiday weekend before a Tuesday meeting, amounts to obstruction of public engagement.
But we have noticed some changes. For example, the new draft explains the Secondary Planning process for the Old Industrial Area and Inner Harbour. This is appreciated. We do remain unclear about why an updated EA is still considered necessary, given that the secondary plan might develop alternatives to the WSE, and in that case we do not see why an EA update for the WSE would be suitable.
We also acknowledge the long list of questions addressed in the Appendix. However, we are discouraged and perplexed that the public input does not seem to have resulted in changes to the content of the Plan itself. An appendix of answers, mostly justifying the earlier draft, does not in our view constitute serious engagement with committee and public concerns.
We notice too that the public transportation targets have not changed since the spring. It was these more than anything else that was the focus of public concern at that time.
In defending these unchanged targets, the report says that we are not out of line with Belleville and Barrie (116). Now Belleville and Barrie are perfectly nice towns, but why do the authors of the report not consider actual and target transit use in other cities? In Ottawa, morning peak transit use in 2005 was 21%. Ottawa’s goal for 2031 is 30%. Guelph has a target of 15% by 2031. Same for Waterloo. I wonder why the particular cities in the report were chosen. I hope it is not just that they make Kingston look good, with its 9% target. According to Statistics Canada, 11% of Canadians used public transit to get to work in 2006. The figure for Ontario was 12.9. Let me reiterate: Kingston’s goal is 9%. What gives?
I would like to touch briefly on the issue of public trust in consultations, raised at the April public meeting hosted in this chamber. There is a widespread perception that staff is not listening to public concerns, and is not following today’s predominant planning trends that really foreground active and public transit. The public and council are asking you to inhabit a different vision, not just to tinker with a few things. We are wondering if you are listening, and if not, why not. The Plan claims it aims to get people out of their cars, and yet the policies it proposes do not do this. It claims to be a revision, but little appears to be changed. We wonder how committed is the city, really, to the promise of Open Government?
I could go on but my main point today is to ask the committee to defer this report so that they and the public may digest and understand it better. I also ask the committee to ask staff to provide a version of the plan that shows where changes have been made.
I think, or at least I hope, that Kingston can do better.
— Laura Murray
with research by Anne Lougheed, Sayyida Jaffer, & Roger Healey