The car is still king in Waterloo Region

Opinion Dec 04, 2017 by Mike Farwell Kitchener Post

That the car is still king in Waterloo Region should not surprise us.

But, it should concern us.

Census data released last week reveals that we’re as likely as ever to consider our car the top option for travel, with 80 per cent of commuting trips taken in a personal vehicle, the same rate at which we were driving in 1996. Meanwhile, ridership on Grand River Transit is declining and only one per cent of us are commuting by bicycle, a mode share that hasn’t changed in 20 years.

It would be easy to look at these numbers and decide our investments in transit expansion and cycling infrastructure have been wasted. But, we should also recognize that changing our car-centric culture will be far from easy, and the easy way out is not an option in either case.

Cars still rule our roads because our community was built for cars, a process that began generations ago. Our investments in roads and our sprawling suburbs have catered to the car, making it the most convenient mode of transportation. It would be foolish to think we could undo all of that, even in the two decades we’re using to compare these census numbers.

While many were anxious to see greater gains made in transit ridership and bicycle commuting, the only bold development to support either outcome is our ION light rail system. That system is only scheduled to begin running in mid-2018, and when the trains are finally on the tracks, they will undoubtedly attract more riders and reverse this decline in usage of Grand River Transit.

As for cycling, in a community that has continued to sprawl while investing in small-scale cycling infrastructure, even maintaining a one per cent mode share could be considered a victory.

We’ve created multi-use trails and we’ve painted bike lanes, but our cycling infrastructure remains a work-in-progress. Plans for 2018 include a $600,000 investment in separated bike lanes on Wilson Avenue, painted bike lanes on a stretch of Stirling and additional bike parking in the city, among other projects.

It’s nowhere near as bold as our $821 million light rail project that will make transit more appealing in 2018, and critics will still say that we’ve underinvested in cycling for so long that it’s time for some serious catch-up.

But, that doesn’t mean writing blank cheques, no matter how small those cheques are relative to the cheques we write for roads and transit.

Like light rail, there should be careful analysis of what our investments in cycling will achieve. Still, there’s a strong case to be made, including in Calgary, where the cycling mode share was doubled in just five years, thanks to investments in a new bicycle network. Asking whether we can make similar gains in Kitchener is a question that should certainly be explored.

The most important question to consider, however, is how we’ll feel in 20 years if we’re still taking 80 per cent of our trips by car.

I think a failure to reduce that number is a failure to reach our full potential as a community.

The car is still king in Waterloo Region

Census data reveals a decline in use of transit

Opinion Dec 04, 2017 by Mike Farwell Kitchener Post

That the car is still king in Waterloo Region should not surprise us.

But, it should concern us.

Census data released last week reveals that we’re as likely as ever to consider our car the top option for travel, with 80 per cent of commuting trips taken in a personal vehicle, the same rate at which we were driving in 1996. Meanwhile, ridership on Grand River Transit is declining and only one per cent of us are commuting by bicycle, a mode share that hasn’t changed in 20 years.

It would be easy to look at these numbers and decide our investments in transit expansion and cycling infrastructure have been wasted. But, we should also recognize that changing our car-centric culture will be far from easy, and the easy way out is not an option in either case.

Cars still rule our roads because our community was built for cars, a process that began generations ago. Our investments in roads and our sprawling suburbs have catered to the car, making it the most convenient mode of transportation. It would be foolish to think we could undo all of that, even in the two decades we’re using to compare these census numbers.

While many were anxious to see greater gains made in transit ridership and bicycle commuting, the only bold development to support either outcome is our ION light rail system. That system is only scheduled to begin running in mid-2018, and when the trains are finally on the tracks, they will undoubtedly attract more riders and reverse this decline in usage of Grand River Transit.

As for cycling, in a community that has continued to sprawl while investing in small-scale cycling infrastructure, even maintaining a one per cent mode share could be considered a victory.

We’ve created multi-use trails and we’ve painted bike lanes, but our cycling infrastructure remains a work-in-progress. Plans for 2018 include a $600,000 investment in separated bike lanes on Wilson Avenue, painted bike lanes on a stretch of Stirling and additional bike parking in the city, among other projects.

It’s nowhere near as bold as our $821 million light rail project that will make transit more appealing in 2018, and critics will still say that we’ve underinvested in cycling for so long that it’s time for some serious catch-up.

But, that doesn’t mean writing blank cheques, no matter how small those cheques are relative to the cheques we write for roads and transit.

Like light rail, there should be careful analysis of what our investments in cycling will achieve. Still, there’s a strong case to be made, including in Calgary, where the cycling mode share was doubled in just five years, thanks to investments in a new bicycle network. Asking whether we can make similar gains in Kitchener is a question that should certainly be explored.

The most important question to consider, however, is how we’ll feel in 20 years if we’re still taking 80 per cent of our trips by car.

I think a failure to reduce that number is a failure to reach our full potential as a community.

The car is still king in Waterloo Region

Census data reveals a decline in use of transit

Opinion Dec 04, 2017 by Mike Farwell Kitchener Post

That the car is still king in Waterloo Region should not surprise us.

But, it should concern us.

Census data released last week reveals that we’re as likely as ever to consider our car the top option for travel, with 80 per cent of commuting trips taken in a personal vehicle, the same rate at which we were driving in 1996. Meanwhile, ridership on Grand River Transit is declining and only one per cent of us are commuting by bicycle, a mode share that hasn’t changed in 20 years.

It would be easy to look at these numbers and decide our investments in transit expansion and cycling infrastructure have been wasted. But, we should also recognize that changing our car-centric culture will be far from easy, and the easy way out is not an option in either case.

Cars still rule our roads because our community was built for cars, a process that began generations ago. Our investments in roads and our sprawling suburbs have catered to the car, making it the most convenient mode of transportation. It would be foolish to think we could undo all of that, even in the two decades we’re using to compare these census numbers.

While many were anxious to see greater gains made in transit ridership and bicycle commuting, the only bold development to support either outcome is our ION light rail system. That system is only scheduled to begin running in mid-2018, and when the trains are finally on the tracks, they will undoubtedly attract more riders and reverse this decline in usage of Grand River Transit.

As for cycling, in a community that has continued to sprawl while investing in small-scale cycling infrastructure, even maintaining a one per cent mode share could be considered a victory.

We’ve created multi-use trails and we’ve painted bike lanes, but our cycling infrastructure remains a work-in-progress. Plans for 2018 include a $600,000 investment in separated bike lanes on Wilson Avenue, painted bike lanes on a stretch of Stirling and additional bike parking in the city, among other projects.

It’s nowhere near as bold as our $821 million light rail project that will make transit more appealing in 2018, and critics will still say that we’ve underinvested in cycling for so long that it’s time for some serious catch-up.

But, that doesn’t mean writing blank cheques, no matter how small those cheques are relative to the cheques we write for roads and transit.

Like light rail, there should be careful analysis of what our investments in cycling will achieve. Still, there’s a strong case to be made, including in Calgary, where the cycling mode share was doubled in just five years, thanks to investments in a new bicycle network. Asking whether we can make similar gains in Kitchener is a question that should certainly be explored.

The most important question to consider, however, is how we’ll feel in 20 years if we’re still taking 80 per cent of our trips by car.

I think a failure to reduce that number is a failure to reach our full potential as a community.