Comité des transports
1 February 2017 / 1 février 2017
Submitted on January 23, 2017
Soumis le 23 janvier 2017
Councillor / Conseiller Tobi Nussbaum
Councillor / Conseiller T. Nussbaum
(613) 580-2484, Tobi.Nussbaum@ottawa.ca
Ward: CITY WIDE / À L'ÉCHELLE DE LA VILLE
File Number: ACS2017-CCS-TRC-0001
SUBJECT: National Association of City Transportation Officials’ “Designing Cities” Conference
OBJET: Congrès « designing cities » (conception de villes) de la national association of city transportation officials
That the Transportation Committee receive this report for information.
RECOMMANDATION DU RAPPORT
Que le Comité des transports prenne connaissance du présent rapport.
The National Association of City Transportation Officials’ “Designing Cities” Conference took place in Seattle between September 26 and 29, 2016. Councillor Tobi Nussbaum attended the conference and has attached an overview for the committee’s information.
In keeping with the recommendation within the 2014-2018 Council Governance Review report (ACS2014-CMR-CCB-0062), that Members who undertake City-funded travel submit a written report, to be listed on the appropriate Standing Committee agenda, detailing their experiences at the conference and how they advanced the City’s position or interests, the attached report is submitted by Councillor Nussbaum with respect to the National Association of City Transportation Officials’ “Designing Cities” Conference.
There are no rural implications associated with the recommendation in this report.
This item is administrative in nature and consultation was not required.
COMMENTS BY THE WARD COUNCILLOR
In September 2016, I attended the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) Annual Conference in response to an invitation from the organizers to speak as part of a session focussed on views of elected officials.
NACTO is an organization consisting of member cities throughout North America focussed on “raising the state of practice for street design and transportation.” Through their guidelines on different aspects of road design – from transit priority to bike lanes – along with their workshops and conferences, NACTO has emerged as the leading organization for evidence-based city transportation policies. The current Chair of NACTO is Jeanette Sadik-Khan, former Transportation New York City Commissioner, who visited Ottawa in May 2016 and met with members of Council and staff as well as headlining a well-attended public event at the Aberdeen Pavillion.
The Conference, entitled Designing Cities and hosted by the City of Seattle, provided me an excellent opportunity to learn about best practices in the area of transportation policy and planning including issues related to complete streets, transit systems and active mobility. Through conversations with other delegates, workshops, walking tours, panels and plenary sessions, I was able to get a sense of the priorities, preoccupations and latest innovations in the urban transportation field.
Along with elected officials from New York City, Charlotte, San Antonio and Leicester I participated as a panelist in a session titled Paving the Way for Safe Streets: The Role of Political Leadership, which focused on the role of elected officials in building community support and creating the political environment necessary for transportation staff to implement safe street projects. While most of the discussion focused on approaches to building political will for transportation projects, I noted four additional actions that facilitate the successful implementation of complete streets (Document 1).
First, recognition of the broader public policy benefits of projects that promote alternative modes of transportation, such as adding bike lanes, widening sidewalks or creating transit priority lanes, can help both elected officials and residents understand how these projects impact health, environmental and economic outcomes. There is ample evidence that road modifications not only affect how people travel to different destinations, but can also reduce risk of injury, promote physical activity, lower the operating costs of roads and reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs). Expanding study methodology to include a comprehensive cost-benefit analyses and emphasizing these benefits in transportation discussions can assist decision-making and build political will for these projects. For example, I noted how the City of Ottawa’s Transportation Master Plan includes an analysis of the different costs associated with each mode.
The second lesson I shared related to transportation study methodology and the importance of considering multiple modes of travel. Traditionally, traffic studies have positioned fast, unimpeded traffic during peak periods as the primary goal of street design, and have overlooked the impacts on other modes of travel. Resulting modifications have widened roads and promoted faster vehicle speeds, which degraded conditions for other modes of transportation, particularly active modes like walking and cycling. Considering levels of service for other modes and expanding the time period evaluated will yield more balanced outcomes. The City of Ottawa is leading the way with its multi-modal level of service guidelines, which were approved in fall 2015 as part of the Complete Streets Implementation Framework. These guidelines establish performance measures for cycling, walking and transit, in addition to vehicle travel. Session participants believed that Ottawa is unique among North American municipalities in pioneering and adopting a MMLOS. The City is also setting an example in using planned infrastructure renewal projects as opportunities to redesign streets, as was done on Main Street and is being planned for Elgin Street.
The third lesson emphasizes the need to share the objectives of complete streets with public works, utilities, transit and operational staff. Complete street projects endeavour to accommodate multiple modes within limited road space and often push the envelope in terms of traditional engineering standards. Collaboration across departments is essential to successful implementation. By fostering a culture of collaborative problem-solving, elected officials and senior management can help break down bureaucratic silos. As part of the design process for Beechwood Avenue, we assembled planning and operations staff to identify areas of concern and collectively brainstormed possible design solutions that were technically acceptable and improved levels of service for different modes of transportation.
Finally, consulting the community early and often allows both elected officials and staff to minimize opposition by responding to local priorities, building coalitions and addressing any misconceptions. To expand on this lesson, I drew heavily on my experiences with Beechwood Avenue. Early in the planning process for Beechwood Avenue, we held a visioning workshop that invited local residents and businesses to re-imagine the street and propose possible configurations for both the present and future public right-of-way. We also provided regular status updates to the community through a variety of communication channels (i.e. online, flyers, signs) and shared information on expected impacts. Once the changes were implemented, we braced ourselves for a wave of backlash that never came. Instead, many residents contacted our office to express support for the changes. Over the years, opposition to complete street projects across the City has diminished as the impacts become better known. However, proposals may still face opposition from residents and external stakeholders, highlighting the need to undertake effective consultation early and share evidence that dispels common traffic myths.
It was encouraging to learn that the City of Ottawa is a leader in some important areas of transportation policy. For example, the practice of approaching roadway changes through the lens of a formalized Multi-Modal Level of Service analysis is more advanced than in most cities, many of whom will be looking at Ottawa’s framework and experience. Traffic signalization is also an area where Ottawa is clearly leading, having made important infrastructure investments from pedestrian countdown signalization to fixed side arm traffic controls and sophisticated software.
In other areas, Ottawa could usefully learn from the experience of other cities. As an example, I was struck by how integral bike share programmes are to the transportation objectives of almost all of the participating members. I heard much about how bike share is being used as a tool to enable residents to get around their cities. An example might be a downtown office worker who needs to run errands at lunch, or enabling residents within, say, a 15-20 minute cycle of their workplace to use bike share to commute. There was also a lot of focus on equity, and the fact that bike share can and should provide an affordable way for all residents to gain mobility options. These approaches have moved on from the more limited view of bike share programmes as being primarily geared to tourists and visitors.
In order to help establish and grow bike share programmes, many cities are partnering with bike share operators to facilitate the siting of bike share stations and by coordinating their placement at high traffic locations such as transit stations. The City of Ottawa’s current approach of charging full encroachment fees for bike share stations on municipal property is unique among North American cities. There is a risk that this approach could frustrate the expansion of bike share growth in the National Capital Region risking the many benefits – convenience, lessening congestion, public health and air quality – that these programs offer.
In summary, I would recommend the annual NACTO conference to Council colleagues and staff as a cost-effective learning opportunity for those interested in advancing Ottawa’s transportation objectives.
ADVISORY COMMITTEE(S) COMMENTS
No consultation with the City’s advisory committees was required.
There are no legal impediments to receiving this report.
RISK MANAGEMENT IMPLICATIONS
There are no risk implications associated with this report.
There are no direct financial implications.
There are no accessibility implications associated with the report recommendation.
TERM OF COUNCIL PRIORITIES
This report has no direct impacts on the City’s strategic priorities or directions identified for the current Term of Council.
This report is to be received for information.