Every day we need to get places, whether it is getting around the neighbourhood or the city, we rely on transportation infrastructure. We are not currently doing enough in Kitchener to ensure that transit infrastructure is inclusive and accessible. Mobility should never be a challenge or a danger whether you’re choosing a personal vehicle, active transportation methods, or public transit.
Ensuring we have sidewalks everywhere is important as are proper crossing areas and traffic signals. Walking to school, the corner store, or a bus stop should not be an ordeal. This should be true in both the summer and winter. Just like the city takes responsibility for clearing the roads, I believe we need the city to take responsibility for clearing the sidewalks. This is a matter of safety and accessibility. It is also a matter of fairness, we need to treat pedestrians, cyclists, and cars equally.
Bike infrastructure that connects our neighbourhoods with the rest of the city needs to be a priority. We need protected bike lanes or mixed-used paths on roads that have heavy traffic such as Westmount Road and Homer Watson. We also need to be looking at what other cities are doing for cyclist and pedestrians in their designs of roundabouts. For cycling to be a viable form of transportation we need to build a network that is efficient, safe, and connects to all corners of the city.
We can not approach the transportation conversation as bikes vs cars vs pedestrians. They are all part of a complete system. By taking a holistic approach to roadway design we can use our space more efficiently and work to reduce traffic deaths. Of course, we need to have a system of roadways that is well maintained and that is adequate for the traffic levels that use it; what I want to ensure is that we are building a system that helps us use our roads most efficiently. After all, the more roads we build, the more roads we have to maintain.
Accessible and reliable public transportation has been a big focus for the region of Waterloo for the past few years but Ward 5 remains underserviced and inaccessible. Parts of the Ward are still without weekend bus service. This is something that needs to be rectified. I will continuously be in discussions with regional councillors and GRT to ensure that all of our Ward has access to public transit.
Feeling safe in your neighbourhood is key to building a sense of community. Whether it be children walking to school, someone out for their afternoon stroll with their dog, or neighbours playing road hockey, we need neighbourhoods where vehicles are driving at a safe speed for pedestrians.
The difference between an accident between and car and pedestrian at 60km/h and 30 km/h is significant. According to a WHO report on road safety, the recommended speed for areas where pedestrian and vehicle traffic mix is 30 km/h. The survival rate of pedestrians struck by cars is more than double when the speed is 30 km/h rather than 60 km/h. Too many of our neighbourhoods have speed limits of 50km/h with roads that allow drivers to go 60 km/h. Cities that have adopted 30 km/hr include Munich, New York City, and Zurich. In Canada, the cities of Calgary and Saskatoon are currently looking at making the change. In Saskatoon, the study done by the city found that lowering the speed limit would only add a minute to the average commute. A study earlier this year in Edmonton similarly found that lowering speed limits in residential areas would impact commutes by only a couple of minutes. I believe we need to review not just the design of our residential streets, but also the default speed limit in these areas.
Our neighbourhoods and the city also need to be connected with the appropriate infrastructure. Often sidewalks are missing on one side of the road and end abruptly. On some stretches of new neighbourhoods, they don’t yet exist. We also need to build a comprehensive network of bike lanes and trails that allow for cycling to be a safe option. Not only are active modes of transportation healthy, but they also help us get cars off the road and allow more neighbourly interaction. We must also take care of the bike lanes and sidewalks in the winter. I will push for the city to take on snow removal from sidewalks. This is both imperative for safety and accessibility.
We must also work with the Region to ensure that transit routes get you within a safe distance of your home and are set up in new areas from the beginning. The new developments in my ward have had a slow introduction of transit to the area, meaning that people who move here are car dependent. This also means that everything has to be designed for two car households.
When we plan our cities we need to plan for pedestrians, cyclists, public transit, and cars equally. Crosswalks and bike lanes should be incorporated in plans from the beginning, speed limits and transit routes should be re-evaluated against best practices from all over the world, not just those in the area. Protecting the safety of children walking to school should be a priority from the beginning — we should not have to resort to reactionary stop-gap solutions.
Sustainability is incredibly important to me and I’ve been working on environmental issues for almost 10 years. We need to ensure that the Kitchener is prepared for the impacts of climate change.
Infrastructure is a long-term investment and we need to ensure we are making decisions based on the best data and with as much foresight as possible. For example, our sewer system needs to be prepared for more intense rainfalls. Whenever we build new parts of the sewer system or replace parts of it, we need to ensure the capacity reflects the new rainfall predictions. This is also true for flooding, we need to assess the risks of flooding around the city and implement any preventative measures possible to address this. Key to this, is ensuring we have lots of areas where water can be absorbed by the ground, like parks and other green spaces.
Intense heat is another area we need to consider. The reality of climate change is that we will be experiencing new extremes in terms of weather. One of the simplest ways to address having hotter days is to ensure we have a good tree canopy in the city. Trees and vegetation help to counter the heat island effect often found in cities as a result of the asphalt and other surfaces that absorb the heat. Tree cover can help ensure that our parks can still be enjoyed on those hot days and that your air conditioning cost can be lower. Not to mention they also improve the air quality. Another innovative idea I’ve seen used to combat the heat in the city is to add living walls to benches around the city.
There are plans for new developments in Ward 5 and I believe this provides us with opportunities to build neighbourhoods that are at the forefront of sustainability. This could include ensuring more surfaces are permeable, building smart microgrids and solar panels, and making them walkable/cyclable communities. We must also respect the development boundaries we have set out for the city and region so that we maintain sufficient green and agricultural space around our city.
Finally, the city of Kitchener has committed to a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050. In order to ensure we can meet this target, I want the city of Kitchener to implement a GHG budget. Financial budgets ensure that every policy conversation includes finance; it creates an infrastructure that helps the city plan, and holds our representatives accountable. A carbon budget would create a mechanism that forces us to think about and plan for emissions as a part of every policy discussion. Questioning the environmental cost of our decisions should be as routine as questioning the financial cost.
Municipalities have moved to the forefront of fighting climate change, Kitchener can and should be amongst its leaders.