City looks for input on transport issues

(Photo by Nick Lachance)

“I’m really excited to be here tonight with you to begin the discussion on how we can make our neighbourhoods safer,” began Waterloo Ward 7 councillor Melissa Durrell, speaking to a packed room of over 100 people at the Uptown Transportation Summit on Sept. 19.

The event was designed as an open forum for the community to provide feedback on their outlook and concerns with transportation issues in Uptown Waterloo before starting a formal transportation study.

Last year, in 2011, the Cty of Waterloo approved its first Transportation Master Plan, which outlines the creation of safer, more sustainable transportation. Engineer and manager of the Master Plan Chris Hodgson detailed that the goals are to create a bike and walk friendly city, while considering aspects such as financial sustainability and development. With Light Rail Transit (LRT) set to be constructed within the next few years, now is a crucial time to be considering transportation development in Uptown.

“From the 30s to the end of the 20th century, all cities were designed around cars. Now we’re in a situation where we have to undesign cities,” reflected attendee Peter Mansell in a group discussion.

“We’re kind of trapped by the decisions we made earlier.”

The room was set up with small round tables to allow for group discussion. Each group was given a detailed map of the uptown area and an idea board, while each person was given Post-it notes to write their questions and suggestions. Volunteers rotated amongst the tables three times to facilitate discussion on different transportation-related questions.

Concerns were expressed by some, including uptown resident Pat Fenessy, about safety concerns for cyclists travelling through the city core.

She has a 12-year old son for whom biking to school would be more convenient, but doesn’t due to the lack of bike lanes along the route.

“I’m concerned about the increase in traffic. Not a decrease in bike lanes, but lack of bike lanes,” she expressed.

Joy Simms, University of Waterloo student and a volunteer at the summit, said she heard a lot of concerns being voiced about parking in Uptown Waterloo, regarding spaces being taken away to facilitate further development, and advocacy for active transport.

Simms felt the event went well, observing it was “a lot of educating people, but also getting their ideas out into the open, so they appreciate that.”

However, not all were satisfied with the workshop-style setup or the opportunities provided to give feedback.

“These exercises were a bit juvenile,” said Ms. Murray, who declined to give her first name. She felt that larger group discussion would have been more beneficial and that the next steps following the

Transportation Summit were not made entirely clear. A lot of what was discussed, she added, was simply “stating the obvious.”

“Most of the important decision have already been made; we’re just here to be soothed,” agreed uptown resident Claire Wilson.

City representatives announced that all information collected would be transcribed, and that those who signed up to receive further information would receive an email within two weeks answering the top ten questions collected from participants.

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