Tag Archives: traffic

Cutting congestion and emissions

Saanich looks at installing new intersection cameras to improve vehicle flow, reduce idling
Kyle Slavin, Saanich News

A new traffic flow concept being tested at Saanich Road and Oak Street could soon be the norm throughout the municipality.

“The idea is that we will have all our major signals interconnected wirelessly … and that’ll allow us to monitor and alter the timing of signals in real time,” said Colin Doyle, director of engineering.

Currently, light changes are detected by a magnetic loop, completed when a vehicle stops on top of sensors in the road. But they can be problematic.

There can be sensitivity issues, asphalt issues and damage done to the sensors, Doyle said. An estimated five per cent of the underground sensors fail and need replacing each year.

The $1.5-million project, currently an option the municipality is looking to have funded through the Federal Gas Tax Agreement, would switch virtually all signalized intersections in Saanich to the new technology.

“With these new detection systems, a camera takes pictures of the intersection every couple seconds and a computer figures out where things have changed,” Doyle said. “We program in the area and visual field to look for those changes – so we program in where it will look for changes should a car or a bike approach a light.”

Consequently, this technology has huge potential in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The report to council stated that wireless traffic signals have helped remove 3,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions annually in similar size communities.

“Transportation represents 62 per cent of Saanich’s greenhouse gas emissions, so any changes we can make that will bring down our overall emissions is excellent,” Coun. Dean Murdock said.

The other benefit, Doyle said, is there’s potential with this technology to improve transit service by making the intersection “aware” that a bus is approaching.

Murdock says this would be a huge step forward in making the bus system more efficient on east-west streets – such as McKenzie Avenue – that aren’t a priority in discussions about the Douglas Corridor.

“(McKenzie Avenue) is a corridor we have a lot of interest in, a corridor where we want to build in some rapidity … This is the technology that will allow us to give some priority to buses or any kind of rapid transit,” he said. “The greatest benefit is for the person caught in congestion – this’ll hopefully speed the process up and you’ll get to where you’re going a little faster.”

Even if the gas tax fund request is rejected, Doyle anticipates wireless cameras will be rolled out to Saanich intersections in the coming years.

Proposed community recycling centre stalls

Saanich tables recycling depot proposal after neighbours voice concerns
Kyle Slavin – Saanich News

Not in their backyards… yet

The difference between a NIMBY and an impassioned group of residents hinges on the ability to justify your position.

The Royal Oak neighbourhood fell into the latter category, after somewhat successfully lobbying council to reject rezoning for a recycling facility proposal on Commerce Circle.

Councillors voted 5-3 to table the application, after a marathon meeting that saw more than 100 people cram into the council chambers and 28 speakers voice concerns over increased traffic, noise and decreased quality of life.

“If this is approved, you’ll be sacrificing our way of life for this facility, and sacrificing our community for this facility,” said a speaker who lives near the proposed site.

The Royal Oak Industrial Park on Vanalman Avenue, currently zoned for light industry, has one vacant lot, where Ellice Recycle intends to build a pay-per-use, open-air diversion facility. The use requires rezoning, because when the industrial park opened in the 1970s such operations were not on anyone’s radar – it wasn’t listed as an approved use of the site.

Coun. Judy Brownoff, who voted to reject tabling the application, said approving the facility would “erode” the decision-making process that led to the industrial park being zoned for light industry only.

“This is not about this business. This is about a commitment a past council has made about what this light industrial park should be – and it’s about quality of life,” she said. “I don’t think there’s anyone in Saanich that doesn’t support a proposal like this … I just don’t see it (working well) on this site.”

Ellice Recycle came to council last July with a proposal, but concerns were raised then about traffic, noise and operating hours. In the new rezoning application, some of those issues were mitigated, but not enough to gain support from many neighbours or councillors.

Gary Bartlett, general manager of Ellice, which operates a similar facility on David Street in Victoria, spent much of his time at the mike clarifying misconceptions. Council took that, as well as the strong attendance of many opponents, as an indication that Ellice did a poor job explaining its plans to neighbours.

“They owe it to everyone (to host) another open house,” said Mayor Frank Leonard, calling the applicant’s latest attempt – a Feb. 2 meeting drew less than 100 people – “inadequate.”

He and fellow councillors cautioned outright rejecting the proposal, because there remains potential for an even more intrusive, noisy and vehicle-heavy project to be built there under the existing zoning, without council and neighbours having their say.

“I don’t want to look back and say, ‘what could’ve been is far worse than what we have,'” said Coun. Vic Derman. “Sometimes it’s better to know what you are getting.”

Despite the overall sentiment of councillors that Commerce Circle may not be the right location for this sort of facility, Ellice has another opportunity to engage residents in a dialogue.

“I don’t think it’s going to get any further. The issues are still the same and they will always be the same,” Brownoff said, prior to voting.

Many residents spoke highly of the need for a recycling facility like the one proposed, where the safe disposal of items including wood, steel, paint, pesticides, carpeting and appliances is possible. But the Royal Oak neighbourhood just isn’t the place to do it, they said.

“I think we need to be a little more considerate. I’m concerned, at times, that we (Saanich residents) don’t want anything near us, but we want all the benefits,” Coun. Wayne Hunter said, referring to projects like the planned wastewater and sewage treatment plant in Esquimalt. “We do need a facility like this to follow through on the (environmental) commitments we’ve made.”

Coun. Dean Murdock, who voted to table the application, said the onus is now on Ellice to make any changes they want, based on the concerns they heard Monday, and to clarify further misconceptions about its operations.

“There are lessons to be learned from this,” he said. “One is how to do proper community consultations. Two is how to make a design for this type of service work in our community. I am hopeful there are ways to make this work.”

Leonard, Hunter, Murdock, Derman and Coun. Susan Brice voted to table the rezoning application, while councillors Brownoff, Vicki Sanders and Paul Gerrard voted to reject it. Coun. Leif Wergeland was absent from the meeting.

Creating transportation options in large developments

Kicking the car habit
By Kyle Slavin – Saanich News

Saanich is getting serious about changing the municipality’s current car culture.

Last week, council started the process to create a policy to ensure alternative transportation funding is expected anytime a developer wants a parking variance for a multi-family residential unit in the municipality.

“We want to try to maximize the potential of alternative transportation because (developers are) trying to reduce the amount of parking required, and we want people to be encouraged to move from the default position of always using a vehicle,” said Coun. Susan Brice, who chairs the planning, traffic and economic development committee.

“At this point, where we’re asking developers for just a ballpark amount of money (usually $1,000 per unit), saying it can be put towards transit passes, buying bikes or scooters – I think it just waters it down and we run the risk of having money put into a pot that doesn’t contribute to alternative transportation.”

Coun. Dean Murdock said developments will be judged individually so those in areas well-served by transit and bike routes are given more stringent requirements.

“There are advantages here for council, land-use planners, developers and ultimately the residents, (that will come from) locating these new developments with considerable density in major centres on major corridors,” he said. “The last thing you want to do is contribute to traffic in those corridors. So incentives need to be created for people to take public transit, or cycle or walk to their destination.”

Council has seen transit pass programs, bike purchases, car sharing options and shared electric vehicle purchases as commitments from developers.

“We need to explore the success and challenges that go along with those components, so the proponent (of a development) understands our expectations in advance,” Murdock said.

“That way council can take comfort that the proponent has considered the best incentives to encourage residents to choose alternative forms of transportation.”

The reason this is only now coming to the attention of councillors is because of a shift in the types of development being proposed to Saanich.

“We’re seeing more dense residential development in major centres. When you don’t have the surface available for parking, it means you have to go underground, which is a considerable expense for developers,” Murdock said. “Council can say that we’ll tolerate a variance, reduce the amount of parking stalls, and, in exchange, contribute a portion of the money a developer saves to alternative forms of transportation, so residents will not need those additional parking stalls.”

Brice expects the committee will have a policy outlining guidelines ready for council by late spring.

“Up until now, we’ve been working with goodwill. I think everybody’s been trying to advance the issue but it has to be more than just token. We have to look for ways to quantifiably say this investment is likely to result in a change of behaviour.”

E&N integral to our transporation future

For many years, our region has suffered from double vision when it comes to our transportation future. One vision is an image of commuter rail on the E&N line, while the other is rapid transit on the Douglas corridor.

These two images came into a single, sharp focus this week with two important decisions. The first decision is a partnership between BC Transit and the Island Corridor Foundation to develop an intra-city transit system business case. This will see the development of a functional plan to bring commuters from as far away as Courtney into downtown Victoria, where they will link into the region’s transit system.

The second decision is the CRD Board directing the Transportation Committee to look into development of a bylaw for a $5.5 million contribution to a rail crossing on the Johnson Street Bridge. When the bylaw is approved, it will secure rail service from Courtney into downtown Victoria.

Commuter rail on the E&N line only works if commuters are connected to the regional transportation network. It’s a network that carries riders from downtown to the west shore and back on a rapid line, and across the lower island to and from UVic and the peninsula. Our transportation future depends on these two integral and integrated systems working in tandem.

Residents deserve a transportation network with frequent and dependable service to get to work, to shop, to schools, and for social purposes. It will help reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and ensure that we avoid the environmental, social, and economic costs of traffic congestion that plagues so many other urban centres.

This week’s two important decisions are major steps forward in securing that transportation future.

Let’s send Falcon a rail business case

BC Liberal leadership candidate Kevin Falcon says he wants to talk to Mayors and communities about commuter rail on the E&N, light rail, or an overpass at McKenzie Avenue and the Trans-Canada Highway.

It’s easy to dismiss this as political opportunism or pandering. Falcon had five years as Transportation Minister to do something about the Colwood Crawl and congestion on Highway 1, but failed to deliver. Now the leadership is at stake, he’s all ears.

But let’s recognize the opportunity that Falcon’s gesture presents to the Capital Region. A member of the governing party has opened the door to a major transportation investment. That’s money to fix our growing congestion challenges. Political rhetoric or not, it’s well worth answering the call.

BC Transit is steadily moving forward with a Rapid Transit Plan for the Douglas-Island Highway corridor. The Plan is for a light rail or rapid bus system, or a mix of the two. Saanich, Victoria, and View Royal Councils have all endorsed a rail-based approach.

A rail-based system offers environmental, social, and economic benefits for our region. It will cut greenhouse gas emissions, increase transit ridership, improve transit travel times, stimulate economic growth, and cut sprawl. It’s exactly the kind of plan a would-be Premier is looking for.

Let’s not miss our chance to fix the Crawl and boost our region’s environment and economy at the same time. We can, and should, pull together to fast track a business case for a rail system, including costs and benefits. Let’s get it into the hands of all the leadership candidates for both political parties. It might just make it to the top of the pile this time. It’s worth a try.

Traffic troubles around Uptown

Uptown gets earful over layout, traffic
Difficult to judge final product in mid-construction, says developer
By Kim Westad, Times Colonist January 12, 2011

Uptown Shopping Centre has been touted as the design of the future when it comes to malls, but critics say it looks like more of a white elephant.

“It’s badly designed, focusing inward instead of outward,” Saanich resident Rob Wickson said Tuesday. “I look at it and see missed opportunities.”

Several residents took shots at the Douglas Street development at a Saanich council meeting this week, and politicians also said they’ve had numerous complaints about the look of and accessibility to the site.

Geoff Nagle, spokesman for Morguard Investments which owns the development, cautioned that it’s difficult to judge the final product when it is still in the midst of construction.

The first phase of Uptown is complete and the second soon to start on the site, sandwiched between Douglas and Blanshard streets at the former Town and Country mall site.

Instead of a covered mall, Uptown tries to recreate more of a small downtown feel, with streets and exterior access to stores.

The Future Shop building at the corner of Saanich Road and Douglas Street recently won an award for best new commercial mixed-use building.

“It may have won an award, but a great number of residents would greet that with a fair amount of derision,” Coun. Vic Derman said. “People say it doesn’t look inviting. That’s the more polite comment.”

The comments came this week as Nagle asked for some changes to the plan for the second phase of the development.

A proposed green roof on one building was reduced to 35 per cent of the roof, so the remainder could be used for outdoor seating for a potential restaurant.

Most of the proposed changes won’t be perceptible to the public, Saanich staff said. All but Coun. Dean Murdock voted in favour of the changes. Murdock said he couldn’t see the positive for the public in the changes.

But the meeting was largely an airing of concerns council had or had heard from constituents about the $350-million development.

“Overwhelmingly, the feedback I get is that from the outside, it appears to be very imposing, almost monolithic and not inviting to pedestrians or cyclists from either side,” said Murdock.

Coun. Judy Brownoff asked when promised plants that are to trail over the front of the award-winning building to soften the look would be planted, only to learn they already have been but missed the growing season this year.

Almost all of council said they’ve received comments from citizens about the look of the development, ranging from the “armoured facade” at the corner of Douglas Street and Saanich Road to difficulty navigating once inside.

Coun. Susan Brice asked about the proposed town plaza, one of the selling points of the development.

“What you see today is not the plaza,” Nagle said. “That is a very temporary construction situation.”

The Italian cast iron kiosks will have berms and plantings around them, so they aren’t as dominant as they are now.

“We’re upsizing the size of the plants. I had a hissy fit when they arrived. They weren’t big enough,” Nagle said.

A water feature at the corner of Blanshard Street and Saanich Road will likely open in early spring. It will showcase a 2.5-metre bronze sculpture, with a fountain and pond surrounding it.

Brownoff is also concerned about traffic and pedestrians crossing busy Saanich Road to get from the Save-On Plaza to Uptown.

“It’s just a matter of time until there’s an accident,” Brownoff said. “I see pedestrians cutting across too.”

She made a motion that Saanich let the province, responsible for that road, know of their concerns.

Saanich neighbourhoods need better transit service

Rapid transit on Douglas is great but other Saanich neighbourhoods need better service, council says
Kyle Slavin, Saanich News

Douglas Street will be the future home of rapid transit now that both Saanich and Victoria councils have thrown their support behind the route.

However, Saanich needs to be more critical of B.C. Transit’s 25-year plan because such a geographically narrow focus could leave many of the municipality’s residents without quality service, Mayor Frank Leonard said Monday night.

“We need not be shy about (population centres) in our municipality that are not getting serviced now,” he said. “There are 25,000 people in Cedar Hill not getting adequate service.”

Coun. Dean Murdock agreed with Leonard’s notion that it doesn’t serve Saanich to concentrate on bringing rapid transit to Langford – expected to be heavily residential in 25 years – if that means neglecting Saanich’s already heavily-residential neighbourhoods.

“We’re looking at making a major infrastructure investment that goes out to the (Langford) that has projected growth in significant numbers but pales in comparison to pockets of the Saanich community,” Murdock said. “There are areas just within Saanich that are chronically underserved by public transit and have a population base significantly larger than even the projected growth for portions of that projected rapid transit corridor.”

The concerns arose during a presentation by transit planners on Monday. B.C. Transit was seeking council’s approval to make the Douglas Street corridor the location for rapid transit.

How it will look still remains up in the air. Rapid bus service or light rail, as well as lane alignment and location of bike lanes are among the many questions left to be answered.

“It’s pretty critical that we get things right. We’re not going to get a second chance at this, that’s for sure,” said Coun. Vic Derman, acknowledging his appreciation that B.C. Transit asked for approval from council and the public before moving ahead.

Transit planner Emily Flett told council open houses will be held in 2011 to examine the different technologies and their benefits as well as costs associated with the different options.

“We need longer term views. This is about making an investment that’s going to last us into the long-term,” he said, citing greenhouse gas emissions and attractiveness to riders as major factors in that decision.

He suggested that Saanich and Victoria councils – as they share jurisdictional boundaries along Douglas street – hold a joint meeting to discuss the long-term plan.

“As we are preparing to see significant redevelopment in both these communities, we must ensure we’re doing that in harmony and promoting the shared vision for that corridor,” Murdock said.

Saanich endorses rapid rail transit for Douglas street

Saanich OKs light-rapid rail proposal

Council unanimously endorses transformation of Douglas Street

By Kim Westad, Times Colonist December 15, 2010

A plan to introduce light-rapid rail transit along Douglas Street has been backed by councillors in Saanich, who say it could ease traffic congestion, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and dramatically change the corridor’s development.

Saanich council unanimously approved a motion that Douglas Street form the main transportation corridor from downtown Victoria, through Saanich to the West Shore. “I think with both municipalities agreeing, we’ve sent a very strong message to B.C. Transit, the transit commission and the Ministry of Transportation — this is where we want to see investment,” Saanich Coun. Dean Murdock said Tuesday.

Murdock suggested Saanich and Victoria councils meet to discuss how they can work together on the corridor. Both favour rapid rail transit.

“We want to make sure our vision for the corridor is consistent with Victoria’s. This really does change in a very significant way the land-use decisions for the corridor,” Murdock said. “We want to ensure we’ll have a seamless transition across the boundary.”

B.C. Transit has been working for months on a plan to connect downtown Victoria to the West Shore.

Last year, it approved the routing of three segments: downtown Victoria to the Uptown shopping centre in Saanich along Douglas Street; Uptown to Six Mile Road along the Galloping Goose trail alignment; and Six Mile Road to Colwood Corners along the Island Highway. Uptown would become a transit hub for the region.

Rapid rail along Douglas Street would change how development occurs, Murdock said.

Instead of stops every few blocks, such as buses have, the stops would likely be more widely spaced. Around each stop, a mix of residential and commercial would likely develop. The need for parking would be minimal because of the light-rapid rail, he said.

Victoria has voted in favour of having two light-rail lanes on the east side of Douglas Street, one heading downtown and the other out of town. Two car lanes and all on-street parking on Douglas Street south of Hillside would be eliminated to make room for rapid transit.

Saanich council did not vote on the location of the transit lanes. It is awaiting more detailed reports.

B.C. Transit said it will have cost estimates next year. The preference now is for one transit lane in and one out adjacent to each other on one side of Douglas, said Erinn Pinkerton, B.C. Transit director of corporate and strategic planning. “The analysis we’ve done between Uptown and downtown has shown that is the preferred option, with the curbside approach [one lane on each side of the street] a close second,” she said.

Transit will work through the details of both options “to understand the implication and benefits of the two” before a final decision is made, she said.

Saanich Council endorses Douglas street for rapid transit

RAPID TRANSIT ON DOUGLAS CORRIDOR GETS THUMBS-UP FROM SAANICH

Dec 14, 2010

Saanich Council has voted support for the Douglas Street corridor as the route for Greater Victoria’s rapid transit project.

It follows a similar move in Victoria, where a committee of city council last week endorsed a stretch of Douglas Street within their municipal boundaries as the sole route for rapid transit lanes – as opposed to coupling the route with another street like Blanshard.

Last night’s vote by Saanich councilors shows the two municipalities are on the same page when it comes to Douglas, which runs through both municipal neighbours.

With that in mind Saanich Councilor Dean Murdock suggests that, as the re-alignment of Douglas begins to take place, he’d like to convene a joint meeting with the city of Victoria to discuss a shared vision for the Douglas corridor.

Also at last night’s meeting, Saanich politicians reaffirmed their support of a rail option.

Council endorses rail

Light rail only viable solution for Saanich, council says
Kyle Slavin, Saanich News

Light rail is the only viable solution to easing traffic woes along the Douglas corridor, Saanich councillors say. On Monday night, a united council officially decided to rally behind rail-based technology.

Coun. Dean Murdock brought the motion forward to have staff convey its support for rail, even though it’s likely a more costly way to proceed with rapid transit in the region.

“We know from example that rail achieves the environmental, social and economic outcomes that you want to obtain in a project like this. When you rely on bus, a rubber-based solution, you’re not building the ridership. You’re not encouraging new commuters to choose the system.”

Murdock’s comments come following a presentation last month by B.C. Transit. At that meeting, councillors were told that the transportation solution may come in different forms – buses, streetcars or light rail – for the three different areas of the South Island route (West Hills to Six Mile, Six Mile to Uptown, and Uptown to downtown Victoria).

Coun. Vic Derman asked that council specifically put a line in a letter to B.C. Transit, the Victoria Regional Transit Commission and the Ministry of Transportation that light rail is necessary — at the very least, along Douglas from Uptown to downtown.

“(The Douglas corridor) is perhaps the most important part of this conduit,” Derman said.

Coun. Leif Wergeland was the only councillor to express skepticism on the motion.

“What hasn’t been mentioned is how much it’ll cost and how it’ll be paid for,” he said. “I hardly believe any of us here would want to move ahead at any cost … I would like to see light rail, but it has to be financially viable to us and our taxpayers.”

The cost of bringing light rail to Victoria would be significantly higher than adding streetcars or more buses. The actual price tag has yet to be determined.