Transportation Standing Committee, April 15, 2021
Meeting recap (the important stuff):
The Transportation Standing Committee decided to start making a plan to make it safer to cross Highway 102.
Currently when residents of the Sackville Manor Mobile Home Park want to get to the bus stop or grocery store, they’re jaywalking across a highway. Councillor Russell has been pushing for a safer crossing since he’s been elected and stressed that only one of the plans put forward today would be used by the residents of the land lease community. He said that the city needs to make the crossing safer and needs to build one that will be used, otherwise it’s a waste of money.
In the report city staff indicated that the cost of the project would be somewhere in the $3-4 million price range. In meetings with former councillor turned MLA for the area Steve Craig, he said the province will not help fund this project. Councillors flatly rejected the premise that the province shouldn’t chip in, with Mancini threatening to try and prevent the city from kicking in money to provincial projects until they start pulling their weight in the city.
The motion passed and city staff will come back with a functional plan.
Brad Anguish from Transportation and Public Works also gave a presentation about the new traffic calming Administrative Order (AO) they’re working on. His department wanted to solicit feedback from councillors to make sure they were doing things right, since pedestrian and street safety has become such a huge priority for councillors.
There are many problems with the old AO, like too many streets needing improvement to be a practical list, or too many streets being considered in isolation so speeders weren’t deterred from speeding and just moved to other streets. The old AO also had a problem of not being super effective at actually slowing drivers down.
The city is also working on making a “red book” which is a planning and design guide for streets in the HRM. There was a lot of concern about lining up the red book planning with the new Administrative Order to make sure they were both achieving the same goals.
Many councillors provided feedback, so we’ll have to wait and see what makes it into the text of the new AO.
And finally, in what is becoming a trend, Councillor Stoddard asked about a specific improvement that would be beneficial for her community. Like previous times she has done this it seemed like it should be within the scope of what’s being discussed at the meeting. She was duly informed by staff that there is no policy in place to adequately address her concern, but thanks for bringing it up.
Who said what (paraphrased):
Mason: On to our traffic calming AO presentation.
Anguish: This is a feedback presentation. We’re coming to you with our ideas but we want your feedback before doing a full report on these ideas, in case you don’t like them. We know traffic calming is now one of your primary concerns. With all the budget overs that could go through we’re looking at potentially 100 streets to do this year. And the AO means 2900 streets qualify for traffic calming. Our system currently means we’re doing traffic calming in an ad hoc way which could result in doing traffic calming on low priority streets.
Jody DeBaie: Here’s the background:
DeBaie: Our current policy relies on requests for traffic calming and we have a backlog. We’ve had 647 requests for traffic calming and we’ve completed 59. Here’s how speeds have been impacted by traffic calming:
DeBaie: Doing all traffic calming as it stands right now would be $18 million for our current street list. If all streets need traffic calming it’s $127 million. Here’s what we’ve learned so far:
DeBaie: We’ve looked at traffic calming policies from cities across the country. Other cities provide different weight to things like pedestrian and bike use makes it a higher priority. We’d like to make it so that the minimum speed for traffic calming is 45km/h. We want to make roads used by vulnerable people more of a priority. Higher collision frequency should also make things a higher priority. Individual streets should not be considered, it should be a neighbourhood approach. Here’s our transition plan:
Mancini: I understand the issues with the old AO, what’s the end result of the new AO?
Anguish: It’ll make it so we’re not having lower priority streets eat resources from higher priority streets. We’re having limited to no impact with a lot of our traffic calming, which we want to avoid.
DeBaie: And it would increase the emphasis on other road users, right now we’re just prioritizing vehicles.
Mancini: What about the other solutions we’ve tried, are there “right” tools to use in traffic calming that other cities are using?
DeBaie: Not really.
Outhit: We need an affordable solution for schools on hills. The $18 million number is less than we spend on paving, so that doesn’t surprise me. If we’re not looking at pedestrians, we damn well should be. I fought hard to get community consultation removed from this, everyone wants street calming but no one wants it in front of their house. I don’t know if you’re recommending this but I’m opposed to it if you are. If we lower streets to 40km/hr what happens to the red book?
Taso Koutroulakis: The community engagement piece, we’re not considering it as part of the AO. The current AO does consider pedestrians but the scoring system is upside down. Hopefully it’ll readjust the priority list to make it more pedestrian focused. For the red book, we’re working through that right now.
Russell: Would you consider differences in neighbourhoods? Downtown has more bikes, for example, so it shouldn’t be judged the same as Lower Sackville. There’s a street in the overs list where we’re making a wide street narrower, so it would make sense to consider the right solutions for the right streets. Our speed humps are too low and not aggressive enough so I’m not surprised we’re not seeing slowdowns.
Kent: The temporary measures, what are they? We have to manage community expectations and education will help us solve that. I get a lot of complaints about escalated activity and repeat offenders. It may be useful with temporary measures to counter these individual offenders, how do we get them if the streets don’t qualify for calming? What role does the HRP and RCMP play in the assessment? What community engagement do you do now? What would it look like in the new policy? We need some traffic calming on our collector streets, like Baker Drive, but it wouldn’t qualify.
DeBaie: We have just started using the tactical bollards, we haven’t started to use temporary speed bumps. We use the temp stuff to get ahead of work happening in a few years or to test traffic calming if it’s in front of emergency services, for example. Repeat offenders are why we’re considering giving more points to higher speeders. The police aren’t directly involved in the traffic calming process but we do pass on speeding concerns to them.
Anguish: The traffic calming AO doesn’t deal with collectors so there’s not much happening there. It’s why we’re trying photo enforcement and that should have a significant impact. We also have a dynamic street display program. There’s only so much you can put out before they become meaningless (without enforcement they are meaningless). We’re also upgrading the intersections by the collectors. We just don’t have as many tools for major collectors.
Mason: We’re not really talking about traffic calming, we’re talking about bad road design repair. This is generational and we are just starting now. $120 million to spend over a generation doesn’t really bother me. Is there any correlation between speed reduction and traffic volume? I like the neighbourhood design idea. Birchwood Terrace has been looking for a sidewalk since 1997 and is finally getting one now. You could do all of Creighton Park’s speed humps for the same price though. Can we also talk about a pedestrian street hierarchy? I know Taso’s uncomfortable saying streets are shared use. I don’t think we need sidewalks everywhere and a lot of times it’s not realistic. So can we design our streets to reflect that?
DeBaie: Evaluations based on types of traffic calming are pending, it was delayed due to COVID.
Mason: Everyone’s speeding everywhere since there’s fewer people parking on the roads in my neighbourhood.
Koutroulakis: Whether or not a street needs a sidewalk is a red book discussion.
Mancini: You talked about creating a new list, when the AO gets up in place what happens to the old list? Some of our residents watch this list very closely and they’d be upset if their street then gets taken off the list.
DeBaie: Our suggestion is reassess them in the new list. Our current list is pretty flexible because streets just get inserted wherever they go on the list when evaluated.
Koutroulakis: We have to pause the old list and have a transition to a new list.
Mancini: Your explanation for testing the green bollards makes sense. Sometimes they’re on cement platforms, sometimes they’re attached to the asphalt. Can we put them all on concrete for snow removal?
DeBaie: They are better for snow removal but we didn’t put them in, so I don’t want to comment too much.
Mancini: Why the two year trial period?
DeBaie: In your district’s case it’s because they went in late and they require two years to plan.
Anguish: We’re still working through which bollard design is better, they each have pros and cons. We do want to minimize the two year wait period.
Kent: Communication and messaging, traffic calming is the responsibility of the driver, communities and neighbourhoods, are there conversations happening with your folks about awareness that we can bring back to our communities? People are tuned in, if we can get messaging out there people will see it. In planning applications for new developments, can we include traffic calming? Do we have a collaborative effort between your folks and planning and development?
Koutroulakis: The Road Safety Steering Committee has an annual plan and they have funding for messaging around all road safety, next week we’re reviewing our 2021/2022 plan, and you can review it after that meeting. We collaborate with planning and development.
Stoddard: I’m concerned about St. Margerets Bay Road and the speed people travel on it. I know it’s getting repaved. I think it’s a traffic calming opportunity. They’re coming off the highway people are going 110km/hr, and then right on to St. Margarets Bay Road which is a 50km/hr, and they sometimes slow down to 70km/hr. I think there should be some type of effort to do something about that road when it’s being paved, please?
DeBaie: It’s not in the policy but we’re looking at other options for higher streets.
Stoddard: I just thought paving would be an opportunity to try something. Anyways, thank you.
Outhit: Ditto what you said Mason about traffic calming vs sidewalks. Anguish said you’d have to start planning for the new tech, you’d better be ready for when the policies do get passed. We have to make sure we’re ready to implement new policies and tech, especially if we asked for the changes. Taso said he was looking at hiring permanent folks so they don’t need to rely on student’s summer labour (it’s in the budget I think, right now). There’s still real confusion with developers and what they’re allowed to do.
DeBaie: The sidewalk list comparing it to traffic calming, we do communicate with each other, but it’s ad hoc.
Koutroulakis: The red light cameras, in our budget this year we’ve indicated that we want to hire someone to make sure we’re ready for them.
Outhit: And the noise regulation too.
Koutroulakis: That’s a bit outside of my area of expertise. We met with police back in the fall to go over the changes required in the Traffic Safety Act. We now have full time traffic staff.
Mason: Thanks for this presentation, I hope you got what you wanted from it! The red book piece, we’re probably three or four years into ‘it’ll be done next year,’ we really need to get it done. The data collected this year is all garbage because COVID changed all our patterns. I really like this data collection process and hope we keep it evidence based and not change to who can scream the loudest getting it. How long it will it take for us to do the data ranking?
Koutroulakis: The data collection is starting right now. We’ll collect all the data and once we have the new AO we’ll crunch the numbers over the winter.
Mason: Red book?
Anguish: We have an IMP lunch and learn at the end of the month and I’m going to ask for a very robust piece on the red book. I’m ill equipped to answer this question today. Narrow streets are coming though. Don’t lose complete faith, it’s not in policy form yet, but it’s creeping it’s way into designs.
Mason: Moving on to pedestrian infrastructure presentation, Dave Hubley?
Dave Hubley: Council requested a staff review to make pedestrian infrastructure safety by Old Sackville Road (it’s a death trap).
Siobhan Witherbee: Here’s the routes most people are taking. The pink saves time, the blue is safer but takes a lot longer.
Witherbee: There are signs saying no pedestrians but people are crossing anyway. Most of the shortcutting is happening on provincial roads, the nearest HRM right of way is Walker Service Road. The path may need to go around the mobile home park. But the owners of the mobile home park don’t want this path on their land. The area isn’t included in any of the city’s planning documents. The new sidewalk planning tool rates the need for a sidewalk as “average,” so we would have to add a safety and socioeconomic lens. The original request was for a sidewalk, we’d recommend a multi-use pathway instead.
Phil Nickerson: We’ve talked to the province and here are some of the things they’ve told us they’d be willing to do and/or need:
Nickerson: Here are the three options:
Witherbee: Here’s our recommendation:
Russell: *Makes a motion to extend the meeting beyond 3 p.m.* – *Motion carries* – *Makes a motion to do the planning for the pedestrian crossing* I’m happy to see this. It’s not a good situation here for people to be crossing the highway. People have been doing this for decades, we’re lucky we’ve only had two deaths. People want to continue using the route they’re currently using. I understand the province prefers the option of crossing the highway with a bridge, but the community said they wouldn’t use it if it was built. My concern with the motion is what it would look like with the province installing deterrents. Deterrents could impede fire services. If the province installs fences to deter, it’ll push people onto the road making it more dangerous. Option two is ideal for the community.
Mancini: I’m surprised at option three because it has property acquisition, there are times it needs to be done, this is not one of these times. $3-4.5 million, has there been any talk of cost sharing with the province?
Witherbee: We have been in contact with the province about building and maintaining the infrastructure, and the province expects us to pick up the tab.
Mancini: I don’t accept that. They’re trying to give us two pedways in Dartmouth for free that will require $10 million in repairs, no thanks. This is there community too, there should be cost sharing. They ask us all the time for cost sharing on their projects, why not ask the other way around! You are going to come back with your recommended one option out of the three, staff?
Witherbee: That’s our intention, yes.
Hubley: We can reach out to the province again but we’ve broached them with this numerous times over the years and they don’t cost share on this type of project.
Mancini: It’s unacceptable, we need to ask. I’ll be bringing it up when the art gallery comes to council.
Mason: Cost sharing piece, it’ll be a lot easier for us to get 100 per cent funding on this because if the province starts funding things they seem like they’re going to, with electric busses and the Khyber reno, etc. I share Russell’s hesitancy about putting a fence up because people will go through a fence.
Outhit: I agree with both of you.
Russell: Thank you everyone. Thank you councillors for supporting this. I would like to make an amendment, changing the wording to make it “consider” deterrents instead of “installing” deterrents.
Outhit: It’s friendly.
Russell: MLA Craig said there would not be cost sharing on this project, and I agree it’s easier to fund this if they fund things, but I don’t think this project should be dependent on shared funding. The worst case scenario for me is if we choose an option the residents won’t use.
M/S/C – Vote – Aye – Unanimous
Councillor Waye Mason, Chair (District 7)
Councillor Becky Kent, Vice Chair (District 3)
Deputy Mayor Tim Outhit (District 16)
Councillor Tony Mancini (District 6)
Councillor Iona Stoddard (District 12)
Councillor Paul Russell (District 15)
N/A – COVID
Previous meeting minutes and current agenda:
A former Naval Officer turned journalist, Matt Stickland is committed to empowering his community to ensure that everyone has access to the information they need to make their city a better place.
Let’s cut to the chase: The Committee Trawler wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for the support of our readers, like yourself. Sign up now – and with your monthly contribution (or one-time contribution) you can help us stay afloat. In return, we will give you a say on the content you want to see on The Trawler.