Transportation (Not Just Automobile) Planning

16 11 2008

Since the cold weather has finally started to settle in around here I’ve started giving in, getting off my bike and switching to transit for most trips. A recent experience I had with transit underscored for me the problems we create when we plan for cars first and everything else a (distant) second.

Waiting for a bus after getting off the LRT, I became convinced that it had gone by shortly before I got to the stop. I get a little impatient in cool weather, so I decided to walk to the next bus stop for something to do and to keep myself warm. This turned out to be a bad idea.

114 Street is now a pedestrian head-ache as a result of LRT construction.

114 Street is now a pedestrian head-ache as a result of LRT construction. There is no sidewalk on the west side and the signal at 78 Ave makes you wait 2 minutes before it changes.

Extension of the LRT has necessitated some rejigging of the transportation functions along 114 Street. The casualty, however, has been pedestrian movement. Although bus stops remain on the west side of 114 Street, sandwiched between the LRT line and the roadway, the sidewalk has been stripped out. North-south pedestrian crossing at University Ave has also been restricted. This means that in order to reach this southbound bus stop from the north, a pedestrian must cross twice at University Ave then again at 78 Ave. Factor in a 2-minute change cycle for the pedestrian-activated signal at 78 Ave and you have a recipe for pedestrian frustration.

It turned out I hadn’t missed my bus at the previous stop. I discovered this when it sailed by me while I was waiting interminably for the 78 Ave signal to change.

Okay, so not all bus riders will be coming to this bus stop from the direction I was coming from, and you might argue that I created the problem myself with my impatience. But it is troubling to me nonetheless, because it seems to me that the imperative of automobile convenience is at work here. LRT extension has complicated left-turning at University Ave, and pedestrians also complicate automobile movements. Since LRT cannot be removed from the scenario and cars are sacrosanct, unimpeded pedestrian access bites the bullet. Considering that every transit trip begins and ends on foot, this seems like a poor choice.

People complain about traffic all the time, but rarely identify their own complicity in the problem. If you are a driver, traffic is not an external problem: you help to create it. Transit, cyclists and pedestrians take up a lot less space, thereby reducing congestion and, ironically, making it more pleasant to drive. So maybe if we make it a little bit less convenient for people to drive by planning for walking, cycling and transit first, it will actually improve things for drivers in the long run.

Well, that may be too much to hope for…

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