City Council in Brief - April Edition

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In brief, here are two items of public interest that were discussed during the April 2019 City Council meeting. The full agenda can be accessed here

Bus Rapid Transit Routes

As described in the Downtown Active Transportation Network section, the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) plan has been almost ten years in the making. A key element of the Plan for Growth and Active Transportation Plan is rethinking the way in which the City provides transportation options to existing and future residents. As Saskatoon grows to 500,000 people, it will require a variety of transportation options to ensure the safe and efficient movement of people and goods throughout the City. The proposed transit plan focuses primarily on building a BRT system and identifies changes needed to the current transit system to support high-frequency, direct service along the city’s major corridors. For the system to be successful, Saskatoon needs to reconfigure its transit network around the BRT line, and this means fundamental changes in how the transit system operates.

I am pleased to report that City Council confirmed major decisions about the routing of the future BRT project. The following recommendations were approved:

  1. That City Council approve the 1st Avenue option as the north-south Downtown connection for the  Bus Rapid Transit network.
  2. That City Council approve Option 2:  Broadway Avenue Mixed Flow.
  3. That City Council approve the Bus Rapid Transit route network as proposed, including dedicated transit lanes and conceptual station locations and including any decisions on the Downtown and Nutana segment options, which are dealt with in preceding reports.

What does this mean?

  • In the Downtown, this option will implement a BRT route and infrastructure along 1st Avenue. Dedicated transit lanes will be constructed in the centre of 1st Avenue with two centre median BRT stations. One station is proposed to be constructed at the intersection of 1st Avenue and 21st Street and the other at the intersection of 1st Avenue and 23rd Street.
    • The full report and engagement results can be found as agenda item 10.3.1 on pages 937 - 1022 found here
  • In Nutana, this option implements a BRT system along Broadway Avenue in a north-south direction from 8th Street to 12th Street. It proposes to construct two pairs of BRT stations on either side of Broadway Avenue at 12th Street and at 9th Street. Under this option, there are no dedicated BRT lanes along Broadway Avenue, but Transit Signal Priority measures would be installed in traffic signals. The proposed BRT would “mix” with motor vehicle and cycling traffic that typically travel along Broadway Avenue, as well as vehicles entering and leaving on-street parking spaces.
    • The full report and engagement results can be found as agenda item 10.3.2 on pages 1023 - 1158 found here
  • The complete corridor consists of approximately 38 kms of BRT, which consists of 34.5 kms running in mixed traffic and up to 3.5 kms in dedicated transit-only lanes through Downtown and College Drive. Six bus-only queue jump locations along with 38 kms of fibre optic communication cable, 114 upgraded traffic signal controllers and transit signal priority at 90 intersections is also proposed to improve reliability of BRT. The following customer systems at each of the 85 accessible station platforms are also included:
    • Identification pylon;
    • Real-time information display;
    • Shelter & on-call radiant heater;
    • CCTV camera;
    • Advertising display; and
    • Public art opportunities.
    • The full report and engagement results can be found as agenda item 10.3.3 on pages 1159 -1215 found here

Next steps include Administration proceeding with detailed design of the BRT system including implementation planning. This will include continued work and engagement with the community on the reconfiguration of the conventional transit system to ensure it supports BRT and the goals of the overall transit plan. Budget requests will be brought forward at the appropriate time, which will most likely be accompanied with matching federal and provincial funds through the ICIP funding program.

Downtown Active Transportation Network

The process with which we got here today has been almost ten years in the making. Starting in 2010, Saskatoon Speaks was launched, where the City of Saskatoon began a process of developing a Community Vision and strategic plan and for the City. This informed the Strategic Plan 2013 – 2023 which led to Growing Forward: Shaping Saskatoon, a two and a half year, five-phase community planning process that led to the creation of the Growth Plan to Half a Million. In April 2016, Saskatoon City Council unanimously adopted in principle the Growth Plan to Half a Million. This directional document is made up of several themes that form a new growth model for Saskatoon, to recognize that change would be needed. The themes include: Corridor Growth, Transit, and Core Bridges serve as the core strategies within the Growth Plan. Including Employment Areas, Active Transportation (AT), Water and Sewer, Financing Growth. As such, we are now in the implementation part of this plan that was almost ten years in the making. The Growth Plan was developed knowing Saskatoon’s population is expected to double to half a million people over the next 30 to 40 years. 

Why do we need an AT Plan? We have current conflict with all modes of transportation (cycling, motorists, pedestrians). There are bad examples and good examples of all of those modes and we need to be able to provide safe spaces for folks to move in. Frankly, there are places within our city center where we cannot expand our road network further (e.g. Broadway, 8th St, downtown). If we take all current transit and cyclists and eliminate spaces for them to be, there main alternative will be driving. How would this impact folks who rely on driving as their main form of transportation? Currently there are 9.5 million transit rides, 8% of residents walking, and 4% of residents cycling. Without options for transit or cycling, these folks would most likely rely on driving to get around. Now if we picture the space needed to accommodate growth as our population double, we will simply have congestion that we cannot eliminate.

Furthermore, Saskatoon currently has one of the youngest median ages in Canada with approximately 33% of our population being under 30 years of age. We want to keep those folks in our city. Business attraction, as labour has become one of the most critical inputs for firms. Employees aren’t just looking for good jobs now, they want to know they are moving and living in a great community. Research has shown that people tend to move to cities with plentiful amenities, which includes transportation of all modes.

Therefore, in recognizing the need for a protected cycling network in the Downtown, but making sure we take time to design a space that is more user friendly for all, City Council voted for the following:

  1. That the existing protected bike lanes on 4th Avenue be removed by June 30, 2019;
  2. That Option 1 (3rd Avenue, 23rd Street and 19th Street) be endorsed as the future active transportation network in the Downtown, but that implementation decisions (including capital or detailed design expenses) be deferred until the administration has completed engagement based on the following criteria:
    • That the active transportation network be designed for all users, including pedestrians, cyclists, and those with accessibility needs.
    • That design and configuration options for the network should be drawn from collaborative engagement with all affected stakeholders (including Downtown Saskatoon), and that these options be focused on enhancing the public realm for all users.
    • That engagement include outstanding concerns, including parking, design standards, streetscaping and construction.
    • In 2021 after engagement, that Administration report back with opportunities to reduce costs by completing active transportation work in conjunction with future streetscaping improvements.

The full report and engagement results can be found as agenda item 10.1.1 on pages 623 - 936 found here

Climate Change Projections and Possible Impacts

This report summarizes the expected climate change projections and possible impacts to the Saskatoon region and the risks these changes pose to the City of Saskatoon’s (City) infrastructure, programming and service delivery. The report highlights the following:

  1. Climate change “mitigation” involves the reduction of emissions and stabilizing the levels of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. “Adaptation” addresses the impacts of climate change already in progress. Both are necessary in responding to the prevention and consequences of climate change.
  2. Climate projection data featured in this report comes from the Canadian Centre for Climate Services and the Climate Atlas of Canada.
  3. The Saskatoon region can expect to see temperature and precipitation increases in addition to more extreme weather fluctuations and events, characterized by warmer, wetter, wilder.
  4. The three high-risk impacts anticipated for the Saskatoon region are: 1) increased demand on the water and waste water, storm water, and power utilities; 2) heat stress on outdoor staff and plants/trees; and 3) increased populations and diversity of pests as consequences of climate change.
  5. Next steps include further analysis of risk assessment, prioritizing items for risk management, and developing plans to reduce climate risk into the future.
  6. Research indicates that early investment in climate change adaptation and mitigation efforts are likely to be at a lower cost than investments that are delayed or happen reactively.

The full report can be found as agenda item 8.3.2 on pages 583 - 591 found here, with additional information available here

Downtown Event and Entertainment District

In follow up to the November 2018 decision about locating a Downtown event and entertainment district in the Downtown, the  report received by Council this month described the City’s next steps with respect to planning for a future Downtown event and entertainment district. 

To ensure the best chance of realizing the most advantageous vision of a Downtown entertainment district, centered around a Downtown arena and convention center, work is underway with the goal of making a site selection for these facilities in 2019.

Next steps include confirming viable sites for consideration, completing detailed analysis to determine the preferred sites, and undertaking stakeholder and public engagement for feedback on the preferred sites. These inputs will then be brought to City Council to inform their decision on site selection.

More detailed information about the process can be found as agenda item 10.3.4 on pages 1216 - 1219 found here

In the next round of reporting, I will be keeping an eye out for reporting around a prioritization process for projects in the Downtown. It will be important to understand the financial implications of this decision and how we can fund the project while recognizing other priorities and projects.