Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Transportation Master Plan. (How exciting!)

According to Blade Runner, filmed in 1982, we will have colonies on other planets and androids so perfect as to be "more human than human" by the year 2019 -- only 8 years from now. Think about it: that's when Hugh McFadyen was planning on balancing the Manitoba budget. In fact, in the movie the 'Nexus 6' model of replicant has already reached the end of its 4 year life span, meaning in only 4 years we will be building these 6th generation bots that are so advanced that you can have sex with them and make them breakfast without even knowing they aren't human.

People, I think, have a tendency to believe things will happen faster than they really will. Sometimes things do progress quickly ... for example: in 1918 we were flying biplanes in WWI, and less than 30 years later we had jet airplanes and nuclear weapons. In other cases the pace of progress disappoints. Which brings me to the point of this post ...

The City of Winnipeg has unveiled their $1.25 million Transportation Master Plan. There are two major components to the plan: a $2.7 billion rapid transit initiative, and $2.1 billion in road improvements. Sorry: "improvements". All of which is to come to fruition (did I really just use that word?) in a mere 20 years. (The active transportation component is mostly window dressing and can be discussed separately some other time.)


To me, road improvements would involve making existing roads better. Maybe I misunderstand the term, because the focus of the "improvements" in the Master Plan mostly involve adding miles of new roads on the periphery of the city, sucking more infrastructure money away from the populated areas of town. I personally would call this "facilitating sprawl", but what do I know?

There are plans to widen Kenaston and St.Mary's, which will help. Otherwise, the focus is on building a ring road network inside the perimeter highway and around CentrePort. This plan is a component of the overall OurWinnipeg plan. In the Our Winnipeg plan, there is a map that identifies key "Regional Mixed Use Centres" and "Major Redevelopment Sites". For giggles, I decided to plot these destinations on the map of road improvements from the Transportation Master Plan -- green circles for Mixed Use Centres and yellow rectangles for Redevelopment Sites:

Virtually all of the road improvements on the map lie outside of the key urban areas identified by the City's own visionary document. We are building a web of roads around the city while the roads in the city that people use everyday get more cluttered and dangerous. Supposing we could actually get our hands on $2.1 billion for road improvements, I propose fixing some of the poor planning of the past, rather than just saying "oh well, what's done is done .. let's build more roads!"

I'll give you an example: Fermor @ Lagimodiere is a busy intersection and a dangerous one, ranking #2 in the city with $5.9 million in bodily injuries in an eight year span. . Instead of spending $80 million building an extension of Bishop Grandin to Fermor, why not spend the money fixing Fermor @ Lag? There is plenty of room for an overpass, ramps, merge lanes or whatever. But no. Instead we will build a redundant road through a field, resulting in 3 dangerous and annoying intersections where before there were only 2.

I looked for answers at the Master Plan Open House today . The guy I was talking to explained that the purpose of the Bishop Grandin extension was to provide access to the Sage Creek and Southlands neighbourhoods, which makes no sense at all for reasons I'll explain in the comments to save room up here. I had it out with this guy over all kinds of road-related things, but generally related to poor planning and creating a sprawling network of roads. He scoffed at the idea that developers should or would pay for proper infrastructure. My response: if there is demand for another 10,000 houses or a sprawling retail development, the developers will pay what it takes. There is no need to encourage faster sprawl by cutting corners on infrastructure, and by building new roads in the middle of farm land.


A lot can happen in 20 years, but apparently not rapid transit in Winnipeg. I don't even know when the rapid transit planning started, but in the last decade all we've accomplished is a partially completely 3.2 km piece of pavement for a yet-to-be-determined mode of transportation. I was not encouraged by the sign board at the open house that said the SW Rapid Transit Corridor was expected to be completed "Before 2031". What, is Sam planning on running for mayor another 5 times?

I certainly support its development, and I have no initial complaints about the proposed routes in the plan -- except the maybe it will maybe it won't .... But it will ... jog in the SW transit corridor away from Pembina highway into the controversial proposed new development. But let's be realistic: we just came off a decade of economic growth, budget surpluses, and increasing transfer payments, and we got nothing done. We are now in a period of slow economic growth and massive budget deficits. How will we get money for this? If comes down to a choice between rapid transit and new roads, I fear new roads will win out. After all, we at least know what kind of roads we're going to build, and there's less resistance to building them given that most are in the middle of nowhere.

The bottom line is that if we really want to make rapid transit happen, we need determined and decisive leadership, both within the City of Winnipeg and the Province. Place your bets now. While we can put together glossy $1.25 million transportation plans, the sad reality is that I'm more likely to have my Nexus 6 sex bot order filled before we have anything close to efficient transportation infrastructure in this town.


cherenkov said...

Right, so here's the thing about the Bishop Grandin extension: both neighbourhoods already have access to Lagimodiere via controlled intersections. If they need another way out for safey reasons, you can connect the two with a road rather than separating them by a major thoroughfare, or connect them to Plessis.

This new extension will create a new dangerous intersection with Hwy 1, where highway-speed traffic will be brought to a stand-still. This is something we should be getting away from, not creating more of. Plus it will necessitate another rail crossing, and a new major intersection with Plessis, in addition to the new intersections with Sage Creek and Southland Park. That's a lot of traffic lights, Bud, and for not much gain.

Graham said...

This is IKEA all over again. Remember the traffic plans for IKEA? Flashy panels at open houses with traffic engineers being grilled over the silliness of increasing the capacity of the road AND putting up more traffic lights?

You're 100% right, if they can put an underpass at Rothesay in NK they can build a flyover at Lag/Fermor.

I'm sure Winnipeggers will look forward to stopping yet once more on our perimeter highway as well.

If our planners and such are getting a bad rap, they're doing a great job earning their reputations. Looking forward to 2031...what will transportation really be like? We assume things will continue forever the way they are. Do they - really - think that by 2031, a) gas will be $1.20/l or b) we'll all have electric cars?

Waverly West is bad enough...factoring this Fermor/Bishop/Lag stuff into the Sage Creek sprawl just compounds our love affair with suburbs and all the wonderful things that come with it.

I looked at the open house on this transportation plan a few months was crap then, I think it's crap now. There's not a lot of things to applause in these plans. More of the same old, same old.

ekimsharpe said...

from the conversation i had with one of the planners there, i got the feeling that this guy was working in a climate where he was afraid to push too hard on transit and active transportation for fear of not being taken seriously. as if good city planning was some subversive leftist plot to deny suburbanites the right to drive.

like you pointed out, until there is some leadership on this issue we're up shit's creek. the tmp does not bode well for this city's future.

cherenkov said...

I talked to the guy about IKEA too. Saying "we can't afford it" is a cop-out, but that's his excuse. Inept leadership is a big factor, but the planners should be putting out smart urban design and if council shoots it down so be it. It's a shame if they feel they can't do that, but explains a lot.

Reed Solomon said...

The inner ring road is important to centreport is it not? I'm in favour of it

As for rapid transit, I wish we weren't so fixated on buses and subsidizing new flyer, but whatever. Just do it. My nikes are getting worn from the walking. (I don't really wear nikes)

Still I do agree that there is a peculiar culture in the planning department that is not healthy for this city.

One Man Committee said...

The first step to overcoming an addiction is admitting that you have one. The City of Winnipeg is not there yet when it comes to sprawl and growth-for-growth's-sake.

There is still a mentality in this city that road congestion is a problem that can only be solved by throwing money at it and building more roads - suburban roads and expressways are an article of faith, while transit improvements (including rapid transit) are just a frill for the hippies and poor people. Of course, that line of thinking is only going to make the infrastructure deficit bigger and bigger.

Anonymous said...

What I find hilarious is how it is always the same people whining about rapid transit. The hard fact is that we don't have the population to justify the 2 - 2.5 Billion it would cost to build a true rapid transit network.

mrchristian said...

When reading through some of the plan I, too, noticed that improvements = brand new new.

It certainly puts a kink into the half hearted argument made by the mayor that the city and feds need to pony up more cash for infrastructure renewal when all you truck out are multi-million dollar, shiny new infrastructure projects to spend it on.

cherenkov said...

@Reed: That's what Centre Port Canada Way is for. I don't think the rest of the new roads are necessary for that. Get the trucks out to the Perimeter and let them go. The guy at the open house tried to argue that there would be tons of traffic from people working at Centre Port, but really? That much?

@OMC: I'm tempted to rewrite some Robert Palmer lyrics ..

@Anon: I agree we may not be able to justify the whole kaboodle yet, but certainly the SW line should be built asap. That's what I'm whining about. It should have been built years ago.

@MrC: good point

Anonymous said...

LOL 2031 to complete a bus route to a suburb. Fcken eh Winnpeg.

And Centreport, lol, what a joke. Weez got swindled.

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