Providing Transportation Options
Good transportation is about access and mobility. A well-designed, complete community enables convenient access for residents to their activities, connecting housing to work, recreation, retail services and other amenities. Mixed-use zoning allows a blend of land uses within the same neighbourhood, increasing the viability of walking and cycling trips.
Conventional development patterns have typically relied on single-use zoning models and low density, sprawling neighbourhoods not economically serviced by transit which lead to segregation and car dependence. This model puts a significant portion of our society at a disadvantage: elderly people who no longer drive or own a car; people who cannot afford or choose not to own a car; and youth.
Road infrastructure and parking lots are expensive to construct and maintain and have environmental impacts from runoff. As traffic congestion increases, there is increasing pressure to build more roads or widen existing ones. As many examples around North America have shown, increased road capacity only leads to increased traffic, driving and their impacts.
The development of healthy, complete communities begins with a careful consideration of the interaction of land use and transportation.
Municipal Transportation Planning
Incorporating transportation plans into official community plans is key to ensuring legal weight. Municipalities can implement a number of sustainable transportation policies:
- Traffic Calming Traffic calming can be achieved through lower speed limits, texturized pavement, traffic circles and diverters. Works best on a comprehensive area wide process so that traffic does not simply diverted from one neighbourhood to another.
- Transit Priority Transit priority measures such as bus only lanes, queue jumpers for buses, bus activated traffic signals, bus bulges (curb extensions on the sidewalk that allow buses to load people without pulling in and out of traffic). These measures in increase the competitiveness of buses compared with cars. Transit infrastructure such as well-marked bus stops, bus shelters and maps help make transit convenient and comfortable.
- Cycling and Pedestrian Infrastructure Bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure including bike lanes and paths, cyclist and pedestrian activated traffic signals, continuous sidewalks that are well lit at night, well-marked crosswalks at every intersection. Urban design can encourage walking with wide sidewalks, stores that face the street with awnings over the sidewalk, street furniture and public art.
- Parking management Most zoning bylaws stipulate minimum parking requirements for new homes and businesses. Free parking provided at shopping centres, businesses and on-street encourage automobile use. The actual cost of “free” parking is hidden in development costs, which in turn is reflected in unit costs, and prices of goods and services. Municipalities can reduce minimum parking bylaws or eliminate parking requirements altogether and provide bicycle parking, transit facilities, car-sharing opportunities or even green space instead.
Regional Transportation Planning
Regional roads and transit are under the jurisdiction of regional districts, authorities or provincial bodies. In Greater Vancouver, transit planning and funding are the responsibility of the Greater Vancouver Transportation Authority or other wise know as Translink; and in Greater Victoria, the Greater Victoria Regional Transit Commission. Transit services in other communities are provided by BC Transit with agreements with each local government..
Sustainable transportation policies must be planned and implemented at the regional level. They must also be coordinated with land use planning, housing and economic development strategies. Regional districts can:
Adopt regional growth strategies that specify “settlement patterns such identified growth areas which minimize use of automobiles and encourage walking, bicycling and the efficient use of public transit; the efficient movement of goods; reducing and preventing air pollution.”
Develop regional transportation plans, such as the Strategic Transportation Plan adopted by the Greater Vancouver Regional District board.
Provincial Role in Transportation
The provincial government is responsible for highway planning and funding, as well as for a province-wide, multi-modal transportation strategy (including ferries). The Province administers BC Transit, BC Ferries, BC Rail
Smart growth and transportation advocates can do a lot to help achieve livable communities through more sustainable transportation.
Ensure sustainable transportation policies are included in Official Community Plans and neighbourhood plans.
Lobby regional districts for a regional growth strategy that includes a regional transportation strategy.
Advocate for better transportation choices such as increased transit service, transit priority measures, bus shelters and schedules, and improved pedestrian and cycling infrastructure.
Ensure Official Community Plans include compact and mixed use zoning by-laws.
Check that capital budgets provide sufficient funding for sustainable transportation projects.
Encourage municipalities to implement transportation demand management strategies that support alternative transportation and discourage car use, e.g. increased parking taxes that go towards sustainable transportation infrastructure.
Smart Growth BC's Transportation Policy
Better Environmentally Sound Transportation (BEST)
Victoria Transport Policy Institute
West Coast Environmental Law