I was shocked to read where Courtenay’s Mayor stands on prioritizing our transportation investment - “the need to cater for a growing number of drivers”, proposed as the “number one priority” in response to the visionary direction for the City’s 25 year Master Transportation and Land Use Plan (Echo, October 19). Ideas like the “possibility of a future circle road running right around the city, maybe taking in Arden Road and a causeway across the estuary to link up the McDonald Road” sounds like advice out of the middle of the last Century, before we understood the negative effects associated with car-oriented communities. Effects like sprawl, epidemic obesity rates, and an entrenched dependence on the automobile (which means you need a car to get around whether you want to use one or not).
Clearly there are environmental costs associated with sprawl, oil extraction and burning. There is also the immeasurable effect that too many roads can have on our communities - they can make us look like a “tangle of suburbs and big box stores” to the outsider’s view (BCAA Westworld magazine, Summer 2011 edition).
Now of course there are benefits to automobiles as well. I drive one myself. I would find it hard to live on Vancouver Island without one. They offer great carrying capacity of goods and people. For those who may be frail, sick or physically incapable of taking the bus, walking or riding a bike, they may be the only option. Please do not interpret my endorsement of more transportation alternatives as an outright dismissal of the value of the automobile. I am asking instead for a balanced approach. An approach that planners, engineers, health practitioners and other community-oriented professionals have been espousing for years. I understand that by investing in other forms of transportation for those who want to use them, we alleviate the pressure on our existing roads. Does this not sound like a sensible approach to managing our congestion challenges, rather than building more roads?
Who will pay for the ideas suggested by the Mayor, the perimeter road, the bridge across the estuary? I am surprised to hear of such expensive ideas from a Mayor who otherwise claims fiscal responsibility as the key criteria for making decisions. Will you even want to live here anymore when your community is encircled and bisected by more roads?
I have to wonder who are the Mayor’s advisors on this plan? How can he propose ideas that are in opposition to the City’s own Official Community Plan and the Regional Growth Strategy? No public process is perfect, but what exactly are we, as a community, supposed to use to make public decisions if not due process, including these high level policy instruments such as the OCP and the RGS?
My concern is how strong an influence does the Mayor’s personal assessment of what the 25 year transportation strategy needs have on the bearing of this plan? And what of the humble attitude this same Mayor displayed upon entering office, acknowledging that he barely beat out the competition? If the Mayor would have asked me on his campaign what I envisioned for my community, I would not have said a causeway across the estuary, and I know I’m not the only one.
You decide what you would like the future of transportation in Courtenay to look like. It’s a long-term plan, and everyone in the Valley is invited to have a say in it, whether you live in Courtenay or not. The plan asks us to imagine our community in 2037. The City of Courtenay has a simple questionnaire to fill out on-line: www.courtenay.ca. There’s a tab on the left hand side called Transportation Master Plan. Click on it and it will take you to a page with the survey and some background information. It took me 7 minutes to fill out and the questions are simple. There are also hard copies at the Lewis Centre, City Hall, Filberg Centre and the LINC.
Whether you agree with me or not it’s important that this process remain democratic. Get out there and have your say. The future of one of our most expensive public (and locally controlled) assets is at stake.
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