Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

How to fill potholes

First, make rapid transit truly rapid

  • Print
Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Ottawa, Hamilton and Kitchener face the same infrastructure challenges as Winnipeg, but their leadership believes the solution is not a choice between conflicting priorities of transit spending and road repair.

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES Enlarge Image

Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Ottawa, Hamilton and Kitchener face the same infrastructure challenges as Winnipeg, but their leadership believes the solution is not a choice between conflicting priorities of transit spending and road repair. Photo Store

The people of Winnipeg have become a tired and irritable bunch. They have endured the worst winter since the invention of the automobile and now are living through what might be the worst spring for potholes since they started making roads for those vehicles.

It's understandable then, that as city council was presented with the details of a $590-million plan to complete the city's first leg of rapid transit, the public, politicians and media all wondered aloud if the money would be better spent filling that proliferation of potholes.

As we yet again get dragged into the quagmire of a 60-year-old rapid-transit debate, every Canadian city Winnipeg competes with for investment, immigration and tourism has been lining up to announce their long-term commitment to rapid-transit development. Vancouver is currently constructing a $1.4-billion expansion to its Skytrain system, Calgary and Edmonton have announced billion-dollar additions to their existing networks, Ottawa will be investing $3 billion over the next 10 years and Hamilton and Kitchener are both building new light-rail systems.

Most of these cities face the same infrastructure challenges as Winnipeg, but their leadership believes the solution is not a choice between conflicting priorities of transit spending and road repair. Rapid transit is seen as a complementary strategy that addresses the root causes of infrastructure deficits, helping to make road-maintenance budgets more sustainable, in part by reducing private vehicle use and in turn road wear and capacity demands.

In Winnipeg, as in most Canadian cities, the challenge of increasing bus ridership is faced with overcoming a negative public image. The American organization Walkscore.com recently listed Winnipeg as the 12th most transit-friendly city on the continent (fourth in Canada), yet this stigma still widely exists here. Investment in rapid-transit systems that are modern, efficient and accessible have the ability to transform these perceptions, making it attractive to a broader market.

To reach levels of transit ridership that have a measurable effect on the number of cars on the road, the personal benefits of transit use must be widely seen as outweighing the convenience of a private vehicle. The most important driver of transit patronage is reduction in commute times. Only the increased speed, reliability and capacity of a fully established rapid-transit network can achieve this result. The ancillary costs of driving -- including fuel, parking, insurance and even car ownership -- then help establish transit use as a desirable option. When this intellectual threshold has been crossed by the general public, cities begin to see changes in commuting patterns and traffic volumes that can reduce the cost of road construction and maintenance.

In the battle against infrastructure deficits, rapid transit's greatest contribution can be as a strategic city-planning tool that guides infill growth and combats urban sprawl. By promoting increased density and a more compact city form, the need for new suburban road construction is diminished, and distances and traffic levels are reduced.

The planning strategy exploits the attraction of rapid-transit stations to development opportunities within existing areas of the city, rather than on the suburban fringes. Commercial and residential properties within walkable distance of each transit hub become desirable and experience a significant increase in value. This demand encourages private investment on these properties and drives higher density infill growth in a process called transit-oriented development (TOD). A symbiotic relationship is established as the demand for adjacency to transit stations increases density, which in turn increases ridership and profitability of the transit system.

In some cases, entire new neighbourhoods are constructed this way. Cities such as Calgary and Ottawa have leveraged their rapid-transit development into significant economic growth, luring private investment that is many times greater than the public contribution.

The attraction to the development opportunity along rapid-transit lines can be seen even with Winnipeg's half-completed single route, as several TOD developments are currently under construction or on the drawing board. As these projects progress, however, enforcement of the TOD design guidelines established in the planning document Our Winnipeg will be critical to leveraging the greatest return from the public investment.

Successful examples of TOD across North America all incorporate specific physical design elements necessary to encourage alternate transportation and maximize transit use. The goal is to create high-density, complete, urban communities, with a connected street network that considers pedestrians first. Buildings are typically located at the sidewalk edge, oriented to the street and public spaces. Diversity is promoted with a range of housing types and commercial activities that are intertwined with the residential population in mixed-use buildings on mixed-use streets.

Unsuccessful TOD often digresses into segregating residential, commercial and retail zones on different areas of the site, surrounding them with asphalt parking lots like a traditional suburban retail centre. Without creating a true walkable urban neighbourhood, the result is generally a car-oriented development adjacent to a transit line, often acting more like a suburban park-and-ride. These areas rarely achieve the lifestyle shift that reduces reliance on the automobile, resulting in lower real estate demand and a failure to capitalize on the unique opportunity to leverage its proximity to transit.

Cities without rapid transit often debate its value for years before moving forward, but those that have built it invariably realize its benefits and rush to expand and build more. Successful transit systems can be leveraged into significant economic growth while reducing pollution, improving public health and quality of life.

With a growing economic disparity in Canadian cities, transit can also enhance social inclusion by improving mobility and providing greater access to employment, education and cultural facilities for all citizens. Most importantly, rapid transit can play a central role in promoting density and economically sustainable urban growth, so we can finally afford to fill all those potholes.

 

Brent Bellamy is senior design architect for Number Ten Architectural Group.

bbellamy@numberten.com

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 21, 2014 C10

History

Updated on Monday, April 21, 2014 at 6:35 AM CDT: Replaces photo

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

The greening of Elphaba the Wicked Witch in Wicked

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A baby Red Panda in her area at the Zoo. International Red Panda Day is Saturday September 15th and the Assiniboine Park Zoo will be celebrating in a big way! The Zoo is home to three red pandas - Rufus, Rouge and their cub who was born on June 30 of this year. The female cub has yet to be named and the Assiniboine Park Zoo is asking the community to help. September 14, 2012  BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
  • Marc Gallant / Winnipeg Free Press.  Local/Weather Standup- Catching rays. Prairie Dog stretches out at Fort Whyte Centre. Fort Whyte has a Prairie Dog enclosure with aprox. 20 dogs young and old. 060607.

View More Gallery Photos

About Brent Bellamy

Brent Bellamy is senior design architect for Number Ten Architectural Group.

bbellamy@numberten.com

Poll

Do high-profile endorsements for political candidates influence your voting decisions?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google