HALIFAX - Halifax councillors will get their first look at the long-anticipated Integrated Mobility Plan this week as it will be presented at committee before council proper on Tuesday morning.
The suggestions in the plan, developed by McPhail Transportation Planning Services and 02 Planning and Design, are meant to serve as a long-term blueprint to move residents more efficiently through the entire municipality with more alternatives to driving cars.
The 194-page plan lays out a number of different ways the municipality can make it more attractive for people to leave their cars at home for alternative forms of transportation in the years to come including walking, cycling and using public transit.
The report says its authors took into account feedback from 22 public meetings and other public consultations, along with 2,000 responses to an online survey.
The mobility plan, which cost HRM $550,000, has not had its suggestions costed out and no specific plans will be brought before council at Tuesday's meeting.
Some key recommendations:
Dedicated transit corridors
The report suggests implementing a network of transit corridors for a 'Bus Rapid Transit' system that would allow buses to bypass traffic congestion using things like dedicated bus lanes and traffic signal priority.
These corridors include: Bayers Road from Romans Avenue to Windsor Street, Gottingen Street from North Street to Cogswell, Robie Street from Young Street to Inglis Street and Young from Windsor to Robie.
It says this would allow easier travel between Mainland North and the Peninsula.
Keep an eye towards commuter rail
The report says the municipality should continue discussions on a possible commuter rail service between Cobequid Road, Bedford and Halifax that it says could spawn more users of public transit in suburban areas.
It says while commuter rail is often only found in cities much larger than Halifax, the existing rail-corridor between Bedford and Halifax coupled with the area's growing population provides a possible opportunity for rail-based transit.
The report suggests "rail-based transit could potentially improve transit mode share and catalyze transit oriented development around terminals or stations."
"Passenger trains would travel along the existing CN rail corridor between downtown Halifax (Via Rail Station) and outlying areas, most likely terminating near Windsor Junction."
It says terminals and stations could be placed strategically in between including places like Dalhousie, St. Mary's and Mount Saint Vincent universities, Halifax Shopping Centre, the existing Mumford Road Terminal, Mill Cove, Sunnyside Mall and near the Bedford Common.
The potential stops, the report says, could further connection to active transportation routes like the Halifax Urban Greenway Trail and provide other transit opportunities like 'Park and Ride' stations.
The park and ride model could also allow access of for more rural ridership, the report suggests.
In the long-term, assuming commuter rail were to move ahead, it further recommends HRM consider a potential streetcar extension in the downtown.
Ensure future development along transit corridor is mixed-use and pedestrian friendly
The report suggests HRM review its land-use regulations surrounding existing and potential transit terminals in the Bedford-Halifax corridor to encourage mixed-use and pedestrian friendly developments.
The point would be to encourage so-called 'Complete Streets' with increased focus on and priority for pedestrians, cyclists and public transit users of all ages and abilities.
The plan says this approach to development around transit routes and terminals means fewer people would need to own vehicles because of the access to quality transit and other amenities.
"When more people use transit, the municipality can spend less on parking facilities and road expansions and public health and sustainability are improved," the report says.
Complete major sidewalk work
The plan points out sidewalks were the responsibility of the four former municipalities before amalgamation and that each used different approaches for where they were placed.
It says while many areas have sidewalks, many key areas along transit routes, major roads and commercial areas do not. The plan uses the Bedford Highway and St. Margarets Bay Road as examples as areas that were once considered rural and thus never upgraded for pedestrian and cycling infrastructure despite their urbanization.
Specifically, the report recommends the municipality complete major sidewalk connection work on portions of Herring Cove Road and Dutch Village Road by 2020 to improve walkability.
A connected cycling network by 2022
The plan says a commitment to complete an accessible and interconnected cycling network by 2022 would help achieve the Active Transportation Priorities’ Plan goal of doubling the share of trips to work made by bike by 2026.
It says the municipality would also need to ensure the cycling network can accommodate residents of all ages and abilities that would be interested in biking but fearful of being in live traffic.
"Bicycling routes are most useful when they form a connected and cohesive network that provides direct and convenient access to important destinations like employment districts, shopping, schools, service centres and other community amenities," the report states.
It says routes are best spaced close together wherever the most potential for cycling activity exists and should also take into consideration things that can discourage cyclists, like steep hills.
Ride-sharing and 'park and ride' should be considered as part of rural public transit model
Mostly because of demand, sustainable service for public transit in a traditional scheduled approach is difficult in rural areas according to the report, which suggests creative options be considered like 'park and ride' stations along key transit routes.
It also says there is potential to improve rural transit use through ride-sharing apps and community-based ‘dial-a-ride’ services.
The report says in addition to the potential to improve transit options with these stations and other solutions, it could spur development in these 'clusters.'