ENERGY SOLUTIONS: Transportation design vital

NANAIMO – Over-reliance on the single-occupancy car is costing us dearly.

What is the ideal city to you?

While most of us might think of facilities (pools, rinks, theatre, shopping) there is another even more important component.

It’s the transportation infrastructure. Which is why Nanaimo is working on a Transportation Master Plan.

Why is this so important? Transportation is absolutely vital. It always has been.

Unfortunately, our over-reliance on the single-occupancy car is costing us dearly. Indeed, transportation is the first or second highest budget expense for most individuals and families.

It also accounts for much of our property tax. Road-induced sprawl means more money spent to support the accompanying water, sewer, garbage, policing, fire and ambulance costs to cover that greatly expanded service area.

Two broad subjects have to be addressed in order to reduce costs while still providing the ability to move around – design the city more intelligently, and provide better ways of transport.

The highest priority has to be on designing the city so as to reduce the need for car travel. This means zoning so that services are available nearby (not mainly in the north end), increasing the population per hectare and making it easier, safer and comfortable to get to places by transit, walking or cycling.

Affordable and liveable cities that provide excellent public transportation, ample walking and cycling trails, green corridors (such as Linley Valley, Colliery Dam Park, etc.) attract companies who wisely wish to provide liveable environments for their employees – because they work better in such environments.

Cycling trails alone are economic drivers. Such amenities improve the brain’s oxytocin levels, making us feel more positive, and give us a greater sense of belonging. Car driving, especially in traffic, does the opposite.

Making a city or region more beautiful through parks, tree-lined streets, ample walking trails situated away from traffic, pleasant and safe cycling trails that easily allow access to desired destinations, robust and inter-connected public transportation (such as the  No. 25 bus that meets most Departure Bay ferries now) not only saves us all a lot of money, it improves lives, social connections and health outcomes, attracts companies, tourists and youth, and keeps money circulating in the community.

It turns out that a sustainable city is a beautiful, successful and, yes, a less costly city.

Steering Nanaimo – and other places – in this direction will be difficult at first. It means adapting.

But the results will be well worth the effort.

 

Ian Gartshore chairs the non-profit Energy Solutions for Vancouver Island.