November 14, 2015
Dear Mayor and Councillors, City of Kingston
I am writing to ask Council to reject the latest Kingston Transportation Master Plan (KTMP). It lacks vision and is headed down the wrong road.
I have three main concerns:
1. The KTMP further encourages car‐oriented sprawl without evidence to support this kind of development pattern. Cities around the world are embracing more visionary plans that encourage more compact, pedestrian, bike and transit- friendly urban form. Take Calgary, for example, once known as one of the most sprawling and unsustainable cities in Canada, it now has ambitious plans to increase the share of trips without the use of the car.
2. The KTMP puts millions of dollars into new and widened suburban roads, again without sound evidence supporting the need. In fact, as the plan acknowledges, Kingston will grow very slowly in the next eighteen years and is predicted to see a population decline after 2033. This is a concern. The very modest growth that will occur will mostly be in the downtown area as more seniors and students look to live in multi‐story units. There will be receding demand for single-family detached homes. Recent research on Kingston by the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) and the Conference Board of Canada confirms these trends. The recent Conference Board Report on Kingston also notes that much of the modest growth in single‐family homes is expected to be outside the city limits as families are attracted to the lower costs in The Township of South Frontenac and Loyalist Township. Building big road infrastructure provides the illusion of growth but the demographic evidence does not support it. We just seem to be moving people around in a more sprawled‐out development pattern.
3. The KTMP is also very unambitious with respect to active transportation. As others have said before, our comparator Ontario cities have much more aggressive targets to increase trips without the car: Guelph and Cambridge are two examples. Outside Canada, there are many examples of places that have turned their city economies around with forward-thinking transportation plans. Portland, Oregon is consistently ranked as one of the most livable cities in North America. In the 1970s Portland was a city in decline with a car‐oriented development pattern; now it is one of the most desirable cities to live with a population and employment boom. Many attribute the decision by Council in the 1970s to reject a consultant report to spend money on freeways, and to instead inject millions into active transportation, as a reason for this livable city reputation. In Copenhagen – a cold climate city – over 35% of its citizens commute by bike. But like Portland in the 1970s, Copenhagen was a car‐oriented city and the modal share of bicycles was at 10% (similar in fact to what it is today in Kingston). Copenhagen is now on track to raise its modal share of the bicycle to 50% of commuter trips by 2025. Contrary to popular myth, Danes are not naturally more interested in biking than us, but because that city made explicit policy decisions over 30 years ago to invest in proper bike paths and transit over auto infrastructure, people responded accordingly.
In sum, we need to do better. We must do better. Kingston strives to be “the most sustainable city in Canada”. Rather than spend time making up slogans that no one takes seriously, let’s put 0ur words into action and ask for something greater, something with vision, and something that will make us proud to call Kingston our home.
Thank you for your work in public service and for taking the time to read this letter.
Dr. Betsy Donald
Department of Geography and Planning