Transportation tough to plan

One of the challenges of a long-term transportation plan is that we don’t know exactly where we’re going.

It’s rare to be stuck in a traffic jam in Nanaimo, and ideally, that will always be the case.

The municipality, working on a long-term transportation plan, is entering the final phase of public consultation. As city staff await input from residents, they’re coming up with a few ideas of their own.

Green, clean travel is being held up as an ideal. Right now 12 per cent of Nanaimoites get to and fro by walking, cycling or taking the bus and the city would like to double that percentage over the next 25 years.

That’s going to be a challenge. Right now, Nanaimo is about as car-friendly as it gets. Traffic is light, parking costs peanuts, and a trip from north Nanaimo to downtown is simplest on four wheels.

And there is isn’t a lot of incentive for commuters to change their ways. We keep hearing that our gas-guzzling, exhaust-choking SUVs are an unsustainable mode of travel, but industry keeps finding ways to pipeline more fuel our way.

The people who are most likely to contribute to this transportation talk are those who face challenges in their daily commute – the bus riders who aren’t well-serviced by current routes, or the cyclists who are getting sideswiped by sport utes. We feel some sympathy, but in a city this size, those travellers are in the minority and any major transportation infrastructure investment had better be for the greater good.

One of the challenges of a long-term transportation plan is that we don’t know exactly where we’re going. It’s difficult to predict population growth, or urban sprawl, or the efficacy of downtown revitalization. We don’t know where people will be travelling to, or from, over the coming years. We don’t know if it will be in hybrid electrics or hovercars.

The best we can do is to try to create a transportation plan that’s idealistic yet realistic. The road ahead beckons. Let’s get a move on it.