New Westminster reveals draft transportation plan

  - City of New Westminster
— image credit: City of New Westminster

New Westminster’s draft master transportation plan (MTP) aims to increase the number of walkers, cyclists and transit users in New West, while not adding any regional traffic to its streets.

After more than two years of open houses and analysis, the draft was revealed to city council Monday. It puts feet at the top of its transportation hierarchy followed by bicycles, transit, commercial vehicles and cars.

“This plan addresses a lot of the issues that surround transportation in New Westminster. Certainly there are no easy solutions to the transportation issues in New Westminster,” said MTP task force co-chair Coun. Jonathan Coté.

The 228-page MTP sets a goal of at least 50 per cent of all trips in New Westminster being by foot, bicycle or transit by 2031 and 60 per cent by 2041. Currently there are about 167,000 local trips per day made by New West residents by those modes of transportation. If the trend were to continue it would increase to 250,000 by 2041, and local car trips would remain stable at about 100,000.

The plan is counting on no additional through traffic because reducing regional car trips is part of TransLink’s strategy. The report admits the city will have to work closely with other municipalities and jurisdictions to make sure New West doesn’t get any more traffic than it does today.

The city aims to reduce the average distance travelled by car by a third to approximately 6.5 km per day by 2041. A 2011 estimate had residents driving 10km a day.

Three quarters of the city’s streets have sidewalks, about 255 kilometres’ worth. The plan calls for filling in the gaps with priority going to streets close to schools, SkyTrain stations, parks and within the Downtown core and other areas with lots of pedestrians.

More, Better sidewalks

It suggested more sidewalk maintenance, repaving, improving surface quality, widening sidewalks, increasing accessibility, building boulevards and buffers between pedestrians and vehicles, and removing obstructions.

Building areas that promote pedestrian usage is another of the plan’s policies.

“Pocket parks and plazas, enhanced landscaping, public art, street trees, litter and recycling bins, benches, curb extensions, weather protection, and pedestrian-scale street lighting are examples of good public realm features,” said the report.

More cycling

Cycling accounts for one per cent of trips in New Westminster, most averaging less than five kilometres. The MTP wants to encourage more bike usage for short trips by developing a safe, comprehensive bicycle network that is time competitive with other ways of getting around.

A complete network would ideally place every resident and business within 500 metres of a bike route.

To making biking more convenient, the MTP proposes more secure on-street parking in key locations, retrofitting buildings with bicycle facilities, requiring shower facilities and lockers at workplaces, and implementation of a public bike sharing program.

Uptown to Downtown

As for transit, the MTP recommends the city explore creating a free shuttle service between Downtown and Uptown in conjunction with the business improvement areas in those neighbourhoods or other partners.

The draft plan said New Westminster should work with TransLink to increase peak period service on Twelfth Street, Sixth and Eighth avenues and East Columbia. The city would also like to improve peak period service in Queensborough, Fraserview and Victoria Hill.

The MTP said Sixth, Eighth, Twelfth, Columbia and East Columbia streets and Sixth and Eighth avenues should be priorities for transit to reduce bus service delays. The city can help make that possible with improved signal coordination, bus bulges and dedicated bus lanes. The plan also calls for safer and more accessible bus stops and shelters.

Creating ‘Great Streets’

The MTP also trumpeted the concept of Great Streets, places for people to be instead of being only places to move through.

Great Streets would have features that make them more comfortable to walk, rest and be active along as well as more attractive. The MTP identifies Twelfth, Sixth, Columbia and East Columbia streets and Eighth and Ewen avenues as potential Great Streets.

The MTP says right now the balance in some of those corridors favours motor vehicles. To change that around the plan recommends better pedestrian crossings, wider sidewalks, resting places, lighting, boulevards, public art and even streetcars on Columbia.

Regional traffic on fringe

The plan would like to see through traffic funneled to major roads on the city’s periphery such as Tenth Avenue and Stewardson Way. Along with asking TransLink to remove Royal Avenue, East Columbia and East Eighth Avenue from the truck route network, the long-term goal is to also get them off of Front and Braid streets.

The plan lays out policies that would prioritize traffic calming and green streets in neighbourhoods.

The MTP suggested timeframes of two to five years to develop many of the projects, although the ideas for goods movement are long-term projects.

“This is a wish list, but in many respects it’s only a wish list in relation to how hard we work to convince people this is the right thing to do,” said Harper. “You have to make it really easy for people to get out of their cars. Either that or make gas $3 a litre.”

A final open house on the draft plan is to be held next week, although no time or place has been announced. The final draft will also go to other agencies such as TransLink and adjacent municipalities for comment. Final adoption is expected in September.


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