In the promo for the summit, Ward 1 Councillor Melissa Durrell said, "When I was going door to door campaigning during the election, traffic was the Number One concern." Kudos to Melissa for holding the summit.
But. Big but.
The summit started with city and regional employees giving some presentations about the context. They described the Waterloo city Official Plan, city and regional Master Transportation Plans, the Complete Streets initiative (that's what is causing all our "roads on diets"), and the provincial Places to Grow plan that legislates intensification in Uptown Waterloo (among other areas). Everything they said emphasized that cars are not the priority; bikes and public transit are the priority.
Then we got into the summit, which consisted of four questions:
- How might we support Waterloo's desire to become a bike, pedestrian and public transit-friendly city while recognizing the significance of the car?
- How might we handle the increase in traffic while maintaining a neighborhood feel?
- How might we reduce the number of parking spots available while maintaining a strong, vibrant economy?
- How might we create safe streets while still enabling access for traffic?
There were no questions about how we're going to cope with the new traffic generated by the thousands of new residents who will move into the condos that are currently being built, many in a small area around King and Allen.
There were no questions about how we will cope with the huge impact LRT will have on Uptown traffic. John Shortreed estimates that the LRT will cause King Street to lose 60% of its capacity. He estimates that Weber can only take part of the load. Where will the other cars go? (Sidestreets.) I don't know if John has estimated the loss of capacity caused by the LRT on Caroline, but I do know that rush hour traffic is already heavy heading north on Park, jogging along William and continuing down Caroline. The Bridgeport-Caroline intersection is already very busy at rush hour, and the LRT will make it a total mess.
It seems that there is no awareness of the real traffic issues in Uptown, and no desire to fix them. What really slays me is that all these politicians and city employees who are fixated on "walking, biking and rollerblading" and who hate providing infrastructure for cars - they all have cars.
I am not an enormous proponent of the car. I never had a car when I lived in Toronto, and didn't buy a car till I was 40 (and even then, only because it was required for work). I wish Waterloo was designed in such a way that one could live conveniently without the hassle of owning a car. But it ain't. And I want my government to be based on reality, not ideology. This isn't a trivial issue. The health of the every aspect of the Uptown depends on getting this right.