Sudbury roads director predicts a more pedestrian, cyclist friendly city by 2031
New draft transportation study meant to serve as 'groundwork' for future transportation policies
A new plan envisioning how people in Sudbury, Ont., will be getting around their community for the next 15 years has been released and — for the first time — it focuses on active transportation.
"The former transportation plans for this city only considered motorists," said the city's director of roads and transportation, David Shelsted.
"This plan here specifically goes beyond motorists, looking at cycling and walking."
The draft transportation master plan is an update to a 2005 study. It includes a long list of recommendations on how the city can support sustainable travel, such as providing bicycle parking facilities at public buildings, developing a comprehensive approach to encourage students and employees to walk or cycle, and installing cycle tracks in the long-term.
Laurentian University associate professor in the School of Environment, Charles Ramcharan, has gone over the suggestions. While he is encouraged by the city's emphasis on the importance of active transportation, he wonders whether there will be sufficient change to influence the way people get around.
'Very clear that their priority is cars'
Ramcharan is also concerned about the large number of road projects that are outlined in the report. They include the widening of Municipal Road 35, the Kingsway and Barry Downe Road. Larch Street may be extended to connect to Lorne Street. The need to improve access to Laurentian University is also identified with proposed solutions being the widening of Ramsey Lake Road or extending South Bay Road.
"When you get to that section, it kind of goes back to just building bigger roads and so it's very clear that their priority is cars." Ramcharan said.
"We don't even have a rush hour. We have rush minutes. But it seems to be a priority for the city to reduce even that little bit of time."
Shelsted insists the master plan is not solely intended to relieve congestion on the road network.
"A big part of it is the safe movement of goods and material so it's safety of pedestrians, cyclists and motorists, Shelsted said.
Where is the storm water strategy?
Another question Ramcharan has is why the study lacks a strategy for how to deal with storm water. He said he would like to see the city implement a requirement to capture rain water.
"If you don't do it now, you're going to have to go back and redo it later on," Ramcharan said.
"So if I could speak to the people involved, I'd ask them to think about this in a more longer term strategy."
The city received $2.3 million from the provincial government earlier this year to study storm water management.
So far, consultants have been hired to study the Ramsey Lake watershed, according to Shelsted. He said there are plans to host an open house on the issue before the end of the year.
'A more active network of people moving around'
Meanwhile, a new active transportation co-ordinator will start working for the city next month to develop plans centered around cycling and pedestrian infrastructure, Shelsted said. He also added that funding is coming for a public transportation master plan.
"It is my belief that we will see a more active network of people moving around and higher occupancy vehicle loads," Shelsted said.
"We've started the groundwork for several policies within this [transportation plan] that will allow us to evolve our community to make more complete streets, to implement travel demand management, to put in more sidewalks."
Shelsted will present his transportation blueprint to council next month. If it is accepted, the public will have 30 more days to comment on the proposals.
The document will then be finalized and become a background study for the city's new official plan.
The transportation master plan is expected to be updated every five years.