Council Monday approved ambitious new goals for active transportation in Saanich, but questions about its financing remain.
Saanich would like see active transportations account for 50 per cent of all trips by 2050. Saanich defines active transportation as “any form of human-powered transportation” such as walking and cycling as the most popular and well-known forms. Saanich’s definition of active transportation also includes riding public transit.
“The challenge lies ahead in how we set the priorities,” said Coun. Dean Murdock.
According to the 2016 Census, walking, cycling and taking transit account for over 24 per cent of all trips to work and school in Saanich, and the plan calls on Saanich to double this figure by 2050. In this scenario, transit would account for 20 per cent of all trips, while walking and cycling would respectively account for 17 and 13 per cent.
These figures appear in the Active Transportation Plan, which council endorsed unanimously Monday. The plan promises to guide active forms of transportation in Saanich for the next 30 years.
“Investments in walking, cycling and other forms of active transportation result in a more balanced transportation system – one that is more accessible, cost-effective and efficient in terms of infrastructure investments,” it reads. “There are also significant quality of life, health, safety and economic benefits associated with investing in active transportation.”
The report does not say how much it would cost Saanich to achieve this goal. “It will take significant time and financial resources to implement the long-term recommendations of the Active Transportation Plan,” it reads.
Harley Machielse, Saanich’s director of engineering, later said that the plan includes 100 actions that Saanich will implement.
“It’s premature to provide a cost to this wide variety of actions, most of which still require a significant amount of planning, consultation or design,” he said. “Our ability to achieve the goals of the plan will be made through good long-term planning, co-ordination with asset replacement infrastructure projects, integration with land use planning and development, applying for grant funding, adjusting maintenance practices, and partnering with regional agencies and other levels of government.”
Developed over 18 months starting in the winter of 2016 with the help of extensive public and internal input, the report mixes description with aspiration.
Overall, it says Saanich has made “significant progress implementing pedestrian and bicycle facilities throughout the community” while calling for improvements.
“There is a significant demand for active transportation in Saanich,” it reads. “Results from the public engagement show that residents of Saanich think active transportation is most important for health, commuting and environmental reasons…”
But if Saanich residents appear supportive of active transportation in theory, the report concedes practical deficits.
A “number of gaps and barriers in Saanich’s existing active transportation network” remain. A lack of sidewalks and pathways, speed and noise from motor traffic, and distance appear as top concerns for people walking within Saanich, while gaps in the existing bike network, a lack of bike routes and intersection safety concern cyclists.