Elevator Goes Down For The Last Time

My last hometown grain elevator was demolished last year. I’d hoped that something would save it for all-time, but that’s not the norm in rural Saskatchewan. “Bigger is better” as elevators turned into terminals four or five towns over. Bigger may be better, but I’ve also heard that the bigger things are, the harder they fall. Also things can become too Big to fail (or rather too big for us to bear their failures).

Why Do We Hurt Ourselves With Cars?

Jordon Cooper makes a good effort to explain the psychology behind why people still choose to drive over using active transportation methods. Unfortunately, we know the reality of the costs of driving are much higher than dollars and a less healthy waist line.

Until driving becomes too expensive (another oil shock), too slow (traffic gridlock) or the personal cost of taking transit declines because transit service has become a lot better, people will keep driving.

Cities across the world have all learned the same thing. You need to invest in a world-class transit system first before lots of people begin to use it.

Like other cities that have made this happen, Saskatoon will need provincial and federal funding. The incremental upgrades the city is doing are nice, but they won’t change the underlying problem. Transit currently costs a person more than driving does.

While smog gets a mention in his column, climate change doesn’t come up once. Maybe it’ll turn off too many people who’d read it otherwise. More human psychology to deal with, right? That’s probably why the Conservatives’ budget never mentions climate change either (that, or the Cons permanently have their heads up their oily big gas).

So given the fact that not dealing with climate change is leaving human civilization on the road to likely ruin, and condemning countless species to early extinction, what’s the true economic cost of driving versus mass transit? Economists have trouble with that question, for the most part.

And on the subject of the cost of cars and transportation, and death, why aren’t there automated braking systems in all semi trucks? 3 teens died this past weekend because they were rear-ended by a semi when stopped for construction. The 4 people who would have been saved by the cost of installing such a braking system in every Saskatchewan truck, would have probably “paid” for it all.

A Culture of Consulting Missing At City Hall

I stepped onto a bus last year and struck up a conversation with the driver. I mentioned the bus stop that Regina Transit had finally installed closer to my residence, at my urging. The driver encouraged me to continue to speak up, because they felt management didn’t listen to bus driver concerns. That has got to change.

Managers and Councillors should consult people working in related departments, before they make ill-fated decisions. Few people know transit in Regina better than those who drive the buses, so their opinions should factor into decisions around lanes and stop locations.

Bus drivers bemoan losing lanes (on 11th and 12th Avenues)

On Monday, city council voted to eliminate the bus lanes on 11th Avenue between Albert and Broad streets, and 12th Avenue between Albert and Lorne streets.
Don Baker found the move “puzzling.”
… He said getting stuck behind cars “will back us up even more.

I wish we’d had a chance to raise our concerns about it.
Baker only found out about the bylaw change Wednesday morning.
“I never even knew this was coming down the pipe,” he said.”

The City’s response, and planning in regard to this change is disappointing.

When asked about the union’s concerns, (manager of traffic) Ravi Seera said they were considered.

They obviously weren’t consulted, so if their concerns were considered it was simply by coincidence that they simultaneously realized the same problems. Only they disregarded (or solved?) them.

“I think this will allow better traffic flow overall, and we don’t foresee any negative impact on buses,” Seera said.”

Oh, so they didn’t anticipate the same problems, or then solve them.

Councillor Fraser anticipated problems, so the expected failure of traffic flow will be monitored for up to a year before Council is (maybe) presented with the report showing how they failed.

Bruce Pierce said·
They’re going to “educate transit workers on the changes”, what a joke that it since they don’t have a clue what they’re doing in the first place.

Dig into the background to this story by reading my previous blog post.

The lack of a dedicated bus lane straight through 11th Ave. (where cars park and stop instead), may have been a factor in a bus with bad brakes veering off the street into a light pole which killed a Regina woman over a year ago.

11th Ave. is a Transit Hub, or Isn’t It?

“We’re a bigger city, we’re growing all the time, and our transit service is always improving, and this is a way to ensure people get to where they want to go as quickly as they want to get there,” said Fougere.

Wait, that’s a real quote from the Mayor, but it’s from January.

Last year Regina successfully fought off a boneheaded change proposed by the Mayor and the Ward 4 councilor to move the downtown transit hub out of the downtown. Now the change has come in the backdoor, as removal of 11th Ave.’s bus-only lanes.

This only months after the Mayor suggested he was still investing in Transit (on 11th Ave.). In 2013, “Fougere … stresses that the city is continuing to invest in transit improvements.”

To use the Mayor’s words, this is a way to ensure people in private cars get to where they want to go as quickly as they want to get there. Everyone else? No such luck.

Why Was Parking Study Hidden?

It shouldn’t take an Access to Info. request to release a public study to the public. The irony of this report being filed under “open government” is somewhat amusing. So, what was being kept hidden, and why? We may not find out why, but we now know what.

well-meaning measures are sometimes implemented which worsen, rather than relieve, the City’s parking imbalance.

Recall the Mayor’s ideas of building a parkade downtown, or moving buses from 11th Ave.? Those are good examples of well-meaning measures sought, which if implemented will worsen, rather than relieve, Regina’s parking problem.

Remember the uproar a few months ago about nurses threatened after leaving work at the General Hospital? The years old report addressed the parking problem (to some degree).

The City should install multi space meters or pay stations in the residential shoulder areas of downtown; an additional two or three blocks to the east (St. John Street), south (College Avenue) and west (Rae Street) for the purpose of expanding the areas available for short term street parking, encourage turnover in high demand areas (such as the area around Regina General Hospital),

Recommendations for the General stop there.

There are other areas within the City of Regina that are currently experiencing parking issues, such as the neighborhoods surrounding the General Hospital, the Pasqua Hospital, and the University of Regina. These areas warrant further investigation, but they are not included in the scope of this study.

What would work to reduce “parking congestion” instead?

$2 per hour as is common in other mid-sized cities in Western Canada.

Metering to Reduce Congestion – As metering parking space has the ability to suppress demand through time and fee restriction, meters or pay stations are the most effective tool for encouraging turnover of space in congested residential area.

So the next time you hear someone, like the Mayor, pushing for a parkade instead of an increased parking meter rate, you’ll know they haven’t done their homework. Although well meaning, their effort will only make things worse (and cost a lot of million dollars in the mean time).

A guess at why the study was being hidden would be to assume that it wasn’t in the interest of Councillors or City employees to release the study that said the following:

The city sells some 8,000 daily or monthly permits per year. More than half of those are issued for free. Their largest beneficiary are city employees.

The report estimates the city loses an estimated $1.3 million annually by giving out these permits

Parking Study in Leader Post

It took a trained journalist to pry the City of Regina’s Parking Study from its shelf.

We’ve been waiting for this study since about 2012. It was to help answer if we needed snow routes, more or fewer parking lots, more or fewer on street parking spots, and other questions.

Onrait assured that, “There is work being done on the study. It’s not that the study has been sitting on the shelf, but a lot of the recommendations out of the study are dealing with internal administrative processes.”

To a citizen waiting for years, it looks as if it’s been sitting on an invisible shelf in a locked away room.

We’ve not had the information available from the study to argue against last year’s Transit fee hikes, further pricing Transit out of the realm of Regina downtown street parking prices.

“There needs to be a lot more investment in parking … with the revenues that the city realizes from the parking meters, a similar amount of investment needs to be made back into the system to make parking more attractive,” said Veresuk.

Onrait said he has not discussed changing the revenue approach with the city’s finance department.

“in February 2014 found the 9,356 ground parking spots (that’s metered, time restricted and lot stalls) were at capacity on weekdays, with pressure extending beyond the core’s boundaries.”

I went to Urbanity 101 at the Queen City Hub on Hamilton St. on Apr. 9. My bike chain broke before I left my block. I hopped into a car instead, and was almost late because I had to park 4 blocks away to find an open spot. On my bike, I park right outside the door.

Take issuing permits, which the report considers to be a major cause of downtown parking being over-capacity. Their sale is unrestricted and their use compliance often goes unchecked, the report says. The city sells some 8,000 daily or monthly permits per year. More than half of those are issued for free. Their largest beneficiary are city employees.

The report estimates the city loses an estimated $1.3 million annually by giving out these permits, and half of the complimentary permit users overstay their welcome in spots.

Taxable benefits being given to City employees to park, rather than make use of the City’s Transit system. This sort of thing is why Regina Transit is struggling, while too many of Regina’s downtown workers feel they should drive to work.

UPDATE: The world’s leading parking economist says, “Cities have built an elaborate structure of parking requirements with no foundation. It’s pseudoscience.”

I think Regina could easily fall into that category. For one thing, we don’t put parking meter revenue back into neighbourhoods where they are collected, nor do we eliminate our “parking minimums” when new construction takes place. The latter just heaps an additional expense onto property developers who end up paying for parking spots that should not be subsidizing car ownership.