The Master Transportation Plan, Background

The City of New Westminster is currently working on a Master Transportation Plan. The process to update the City’s 10-year-old transportation planning document was initiated n 2010, and will hopefully be completed in 2011 (the plan has been delayed somewhat by “staffing changes” in City Hall). As I suggested at my year-end looking back/looking forward interview with the News Leader, the MTP should be the #1 environmental issue in New Westminster this year, as nothing will have more influence on the liveability of our City in the decades to come than this plan and its successful implementation. With the UBE Experience behind us (for now) and the NFPR breathing down our necks, the City needs to get it’s transportation priorities down, or decisions will be made without us.

So what is a Master Transportation Plan? It is the high-level guidance document that outlines what the goals, priorities, and needs of the City are in relation to its transportation infrastructure. Usually, it is a high-level document, which creates broad guidelines, as opposed to providing details, it is more likely to state that all sidewalks should be accessible to people with disabilities, instead of detailing the dimensions and slope of the perfect curb cut. It sets guidelines that the engineers and planners can use to do their work. Think about the MTP as the Constitution: it doesn’t create laws, but all laws must be compared to it to see if they comply.

Once the MTP is created and accepted, then every transportation project in the City can be assessed compared to that document. If the project meets the goals and priorities of the Plan, it is easy to approve. If it doesn’t, then the project has to be adapted. In theory, this assures that the complex integrated system that is the “transportation infrastructure” all works together, instead of being a slapped-together patchwork. The end result should be lower building and maintenance costs due to efficiencies, reduced overlap or competition between projects, and ultimately, a less expensive, better organized transportation network.

So perhaps you can see why it is so important to the City that the MTP is right, and how important it is to the liveability of the City.

The big issues are outlined on the City’s website on Transportation Planning: pedestrian safety, cycling infrastructure, transit access and service, the volume of regional traffic through the City, air quality, and noise. Further, the City states that the MTP “will focus on principles of sustainability, social liveability, environmental stewardship and economic prosperity”.

This is a promising start, as it seems to put the emphasis on sustainable transportation choices, increased safety for all road (and sidewalk) users, and increased liveability.

There are two other documents that are already available from the City that will provide guidance for the MTP. They are the (now slightly dated) “Official Community Plan”, and the “Livable City Strategy“. Both of these documents make many of the same points: sustainable transportation alternatives (walking, transit, bicycles) need to be encouraged, and building more roads to accommodate more traffic will only result in more noise, more pollution, and more congestion.

Over the next couple of months, I hope to Blog quite a bit on the MTP process. The NWEP Transportation Group is also watching to see how it develops. It is the documents above that are going to provide a framework for the discussions. If you are interested in the topic, you might want to read them. And you should be interested, both because it is important for the City, and because the City will be looking for public input into the plan, through consultations. We don’t know what those consultations will look like, but it would be great to be informed when the call comes.

There are also many examples of Transportation Plans available on line, most Cities have them. Here are links to a couple of interesting ones:
Vancouver (showing how “Gregor’s Bike Routes” were planned in 1997).
City of North Vancouver (A city with similar demographics and challenges as New Westminster)
Coquitlam (as cautionary example).
Burnaby (our closest neighbour)

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