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Archive for the ‘Healthy Communities’ Category

GTA West Corridor – A Blast Through the Greenbelt

February 25th, 2015
Healthy Communities, Recreation, Trails, Transportation issues

GTA West Corridor map

I am a co-author of trails master plans for York Region and the City of Vaughan. I have had correspondence with others regarding the GTA West Corridor particularly about how its construction will impact cycling and pedestrian activities in the future, during and post construction. The HVHTA will host a trail walk March 7, 2015 in lands that will be impacted by the highway construction. It seems a fait accompli that the highway will be built but there must be a way to ensure that modes other than motorized vehicles are accommodated in what today is designated Greenbelt. Accordingly, I have composed the following short summary, which is consistent with expressions of concern in other jurisdictions affected by GTA West Corridor.

MTO must consider pedestrian and cycling facilities as inherent parts of the GTA West Corridor system:

  • Connected and integrated cycle routes and paths: Newly constructed cycle trails/paths should parallel the proposed motorized vehicular routes. Multi-use Pedestrian / Cycle paths should be a minimum 3m wide allowing access between all overpasses crossing the future highway.
  • Address Municipal Cycling/Pedestrian Master Plans: Peel and York Regions, Brampton, Vaughan and King have Master Plans recommending connected and circumferential trails. These must be integrated into the plans for the Corridor and indeed, become an enhancement to encourage active transportation.
  • Permeability: In particular, frequent pedestrian / cycle overpasses must be part of a permeable system of crossings. Unlike recent MTO constructs, there should be generous and safe sidewalks for pedestrians. Crossings for cyclists should be on a separated lane for safety on all crossings of the future highway, as elevated overpasses can have greater wind velocities.
  • Trail Connections: Ensure the GTA West does not preclude other trail connections, particularly HVHTA’s Bolton to Kleinburg route through the Nashville Tract Conservation lands and Bolton Resource Management Tract Conservation lands.
  • Active transportation facilities: should be integrated in the overall design plan to accommodate pedestrians and cyclists: walking and cycling facilities at interchanges and ramp crossings; accessible crossings located to support direct pedestrian routes; adequate lighting and sight distances.
  • Landscaped Corridor: The poorly vegetated 407 must not be replicated. The GTA West Corridor removes considerable forest cover and hedgerows. These wildlife corridors will be lost. The wind protection and cooling effects they afford need to be compensated. In municipalities, developers are required to replace or compensate for removal of all trees. MTO, by construction of the highway, is a developer and should not be exempt.

I implore any readers of this blog to send a letter to the Minister of Transportation, Steven Del Duca, whose contact information is located: http://www.ontla.on.ca/web/members/members_detail.do?locale=en&ID=7205

Vaughan Cycling Limited

June 18th, 2013
Healthy Communities, Recreation, Trails

Vaughan-20130617-00770
Bike Month in Vaughan – it seems anomalous that my city needs a whole month to travel the two major trails that are pictured on the York Region Cycling Trails map. http://ww4.yorkmaps.ca/YorkMaps/CyclingMap/index.html  .

With the exception of the subdivision north of Major Mackenzie and west of Weston, there are no through routes that connect communities of the City without revving your motor!
In Vaughan, there is a chicken and egg scenario. The City Council will not build bike routes because there are not many riders. There are few riders because the bike routes are limited. Every Vaughan bike seminar and event was held in a location to which I had to drive. As adamant as Geoffrey Haines and Mike Tavares (City Staff) are to see routes constructed, the pace of that construction is slow. And it will be thus until it is indicated that there is a financial benefit. There is (a financial benefit):
http://www.railstotrails.org/resources/documents/resource_docs/tgc_economic.pdf
http://www.americantrails.org/resources/economics/
These are only two of many studies. Look no further than Kleinburg to see the land values. With surroundings of greenways peppered with trails, Kleinburg housing commands more than 20% premium on similar properties in Woodbridge and Brampton. That translates into higher taxes for the city. Health benefits will rarely be quantifiable, but undeniably, residents with access to recreation maintain a healthier lifestyle. PriceWaterhouseCooper in their study for TransCanada Trail explain it succinctly:

“A dollar spent on trail construction, maintenance or by users of the trail, circulates and recirculates within the economy, multiplying the effects of the original expenditures on overall economic activity. This process is referred to as the economic multiplier effect. It operates at several levels:

The initial expenditures of the trail users and trail operators on goods and services, wages, materials and other trail-related expenditures are generally referred to as the direct costs of operation and their effects are referred to as the initial (direct) effects.

Subsequent purchases by suppliers of materials and services to sustain the direct expenditures are called the indirect effects.

Induced effects emerge when workers in the sectors stimulated by initial and indirect expenditures spend their additional incomes on consumer goods and services.”

Currently, east to west travel by non-motorized means is, at best, unsafe. Regional Councillor Deb Schulte says she rode Major Mackenzie to City Hall twice last year, but has no plans to do so this year. A plan, I am told, exists to construct a bikeway adjacent to a reconstructed Major Mackenzie between Weston and Islington. It still does not get one across the near-impenetrable Highway 400. The hospital planned for construction in the next 5 years should be an impetus for the construction for such a crossing.
Cycling can be a healthy business, call it Vaughan Cycling Limited, instead of limited Vaughan cycling.

The View from the office

October 22nd, 2012
Healthy Communities, Uncategorized

God’s apologies for the coming winter are in the leaves of fall

- my office view

Cycling on the increase?

August 8th, 2012
Healthy Communities, Recreation, Transportation issues, Uncategorized

http://www.thestar.com/business/article/1238625–recession-squeezed-greeks-ditch-cars-for-bikes
Is this what it will take to increase cycling in GTA?

RAM – Symbol of community

June 21st, 2012
Healthy Communities

Bindertwine Festival remnant

This may not be typically an urban design blog, at least until you read into the meaning – community.

On the Saturday after Labour Day, in 2001, the annual trek of cleanup crew for the Bindertwine Festival gathered at the barn to return the festival wood works for the winter. Within the barn, there stood a winged ram. The owner of the barn was embarrassed that it was there, as it had been a gift from an artist. She gave Leon permission to take it away.
Therein starts our story of Return of the Ram. It is a story of community, neighbours, and friends.
Leon really did not want the ram, but instead, hid it in our returning van. I certainly did not want it, but IT IS A PIECE OF ART! This lark by Leon turned into an expression of what community is. On his birthday, the opportunity arose to have the ram visit his birthday party. The guests were curious, but he got it back. Next was my significant birthday, to which the uninvited ram arrived regaled in party costume. It was returned and returned and returned again…but disappeared for almost 3 years.
My wife’s graduation became the featured event for the rise of the ram. A mortar board on his repainted head and booties that clash greeted our household at our large party.
The ram has become a symbol of community founded on the Bindertwine festival and about lasting friendships which are the foundation of neighbourhoods.
Thanks, Leon..back to you..perhaps not too soon.

Birders can be detrimental to Birds

April 18th, 2012
Healthy Communities, Trails

Last night’s Humber Valley Heritage Trail Association invited Mark Stabb of the Nature Conservancy of Canada to speak. He said many things, but one caught my attention.
He talked of the symbiotic relationship of woodpeckers and owls and nuthatches. Birders are in awe of these largish and rare birds…so much so that they tell their birder friends who tell their birder friends, and so on. This hotline results in multitudes of tilly hats and binocular bearing well-wishers. This in turn discourages the nesting of the very birds they come to see. Point Pelee has become such a flashpoint as hordes of humanity descend there to get their rush in migratory season.
Do we need to save the forests or create the forests (urban forests)? Create the forests for new habitat and maybe the birders will stay closer to home. Who’d have thought that birders could be considered such a vitriolic group.

Centre for City Ecology

February 1st, 2012
Healthy Communities, Uncategorized

Just heard on CBC that a book club is being formed by Centre for City Ecology. They are starting with Jane Jacobs’ Death and Life of Great American Cities.

Jane Jacobs was a phenomenon. The book is a great guide for designers. I just hope its pedestal is not raised so high as to ignore that its writing is set in the 1960′s and that communication and transportation modes have created change.

HAPPY NEW YEAR

December 29th, 2011
Healthy Communities, Urban Design

TOP EIGHT URBAN WISHES AND ANTICIPATIONS FOR YORK IN 2012

1. NO ELECTIONS IN 2012

2. BUILDINGS THAT NOT ONLY MEET LEED STANDARDS BUT THAT DRAMATICALLY INSPIRE

3. PARKS CREATIVELY DESIGNED, APPROPRIATELY LOCATED, FOR ALL DEMOGRAPHICS

4. VILLAGES THAT THRIVE IN A SEA OF BIG BOXES

5. VARIATION IN DEVELOPMENT PROPOSALS – SOMETHING NEW; SOMETHING APPROVABLE

6. JUNIOR STAFF WHO ARE ENCOURAGED TO LOOK AT THE WHOLE PICTURE

7. INTERSECTIONS WHOSE LIGHTS ARE RESPONDENT TO THE VEHICLES WAITING TO PROCEED

8. TRAILS FOR NON-MOTORIZED TRANSPORTATION CONNECTING NORTH, SOUTH, EAST AND WEST YORK REGION

Students

September 13th, 2011
Healthy Communities

Students are so refreshing.  Is it naivity or just that their ideals have not been tainted by the realities of politics?

A Contractor's dilemma

August 29th, 2011
Healthy Communities

Construction administration has been taken to an extreme on Main Street, Kleinburg.  The City is administering two contracts on our little 33 foot right-of-way.  The contractor’s challenge?  Not only to use this narrow passage, but also to accommodate the comings and goings of three vehicles from our home office.  Gotta give em credit, I have yet to hear the grumblings (expletive deleted), likely because my car is well away from the site before tempers rise.

……Onto my next project.