City paves way for transportation plan

NANAIMO – Data will help determine future transportation patterns and needs.

There’s a good chance your movement through the city will be tracked over the next two months, as  increasingly complex transportation issues have prompted Nanaimo to embark on its first transportation master plan.

As the city’s population moves toward 100,000 people and roadways become more congested, the city’s transportation department wants to ensure that objectives of planNanaimo are met and that people who live here or visit are able to move as efficiently as possible.

“It’s about sustainability, and that means livability – how easy it is to get to work, where you shop or where you want to play,” said Susan Clift, the city’s director of engineering and public works. “It also means what kind of impact people’s transportation choices are having on the environment, as well as what is the ability to pay, as a community, for changes [we] might want to seek in transportation infrastructure.”

As the city follows its official community plan to densify corridors, alternatives to the single occupancy automobile such as cycling, walking or taking transit could become increasingly popular choices.

The car currently dominates as the preferred choice for moving around Nanaimo, according to city statistics, but Clift said one of the goals of the transportation plan is to encourage alternatives to cars over the next 20 years.

By collecting data now, city staff will have the information needed to help define how Nanaimo moves, looks and grows over the next five, 10 and 20 years, said Gordon Foy, transportation engineer for the city.

“What we want to do this spring is collect a good set of information to create a base on which to build the plan,” said Foy. “All good plans are based on a good understanding of current conditions, so this year we’re out to provide a snapshot of current transportation conditions in Nanaimo.”

The first data collection, expected to take place from mid-march to May, is the Household Travel Survey.

About 1,400 randomly selected households from Nanaimo Airport to Lantzville will be phoned to help determine existing travel patterns and how people choose to move about the city. The survey will be conducted by R.A. Malatest and Associates, a Victoria-based market research firm.

Coun. Jim Kipp said he encourages residents to take part in the telephone survey.

“I want people to understand that they will be getting robocalls, but they will be identified. But please participate, I know it’s tough sometimes, but give the information because it’s important for our community. If we can figure out where our logistics are, it’s going to be really important for our future.”

Other transportation surveys are already underway, such as the automatic traffic counters set up on selected roadways around the city, as well as manual traffic counts, which capture cyclist and pedestrian numbers, and transit and ferry ridership surveys.

An external gateway survey will also be conducted. That survey will help city staff better understand what trips are passing through Nanaimo.

“We don’t really know what the proportion of trips passing through the Nanaimo Parkway compared to internal trips are, so that survey will give us an idea,” said Foy. “But the main message is we’re going to be doing a fair bit of work in the next two to three months and it’s all preparatory to get ourselves organized for a plan later this year.”

Foy said the data collected this year will have a shelf life of about five years, and future surveys will help achieve future transportation goals.

The next phase of the Nanaimo Transportation Master Plan will be to shape transportation goals, identify issues and review strategies through public consultation.

Nanaimo News Bulletin