City Council approves a new transportation goal and outcomes for The Way Ahead

It’s no secret that LRT is City Council’s top infrastructure priority. They have repeatedly stressed the importance of expanding our LRT network, and scored a win recently with the Valley Line. LRT is part of a bigger transformation that Council hopes to realize, which is a shift away from the car-dominated transportation network we have today to a network that offers realistic choice through a range of travel options. At Wednesday’s City Council meeting, they approved a new goal for The Way We Move that makes this transformation clearer.

City Council Swearing In 2013-2017

In November last year, Edmonton’s new City Council took part in a series of strategic planning sessions. In addition to serving as a crash course on the City’s strategy and approach to long-term planning, the sessions were also a way to ensure the new Councillors were on board with the corporate outcomes, measures, and targets for each of the six 10-year goals identified in The Way Ahead. Among the key outcomes of those meetings were a desire by Council to review the goal statement for The Way We Move, as well as a desire to emphasize public engagement within The Ways.

The public engagement action is being handled through a new Council Initiative, and I think we’ll hear much more about that in the weeks ahead. I’m looking forward to it.

The goal for The Way We Move was reviewed and discussed at a couple of subsequent Council meetings, notably January 28 and March 11. Council wanted to stress the use of public transit, but they wanted to make it clear that Edmontonians would have choice. The goal they ultimately settled on reflects both of those desires and has led to a new set of outcomes too.

Current Goal: Shift Edmonton’s Transportation Mode

The current goal statement for The Way We Move is focused on “mode shift”, which is meant to convey that while the majority of Edmontonians get around the city using vehicles today, that should not always be the case. The reasons for needing a shift included changing our urban form to be more sustainable, accessibility, supporting active and healthy lifestyles, reducing the impact on the environment, and attracting business and talent to Edmonton.

Here’s the goal statement that accompanies the goal:

“Modes of transportation shift to “fit” Edmonton’s urban form and enhanced density while supporting the City’s planning, financial and environmental sustainability goals.”

Each goal also has an ‘elaboration’ associated with it. The current one for transportation reads:

“In shifting Edmonton’s transportation modes the City recognizes the importance of mobility shifts to contribute to the achievement of other related goals. To do so suggests the need to transform the mix of transport modes, with emphasis on road use for goods movement and transiting people and transit use for moving people. This goal reflects the need for a more integrated transportation network comprising of heavy rail, light rail, air and ground transport, and recognizes the important contribution that transportation makes to environmental goals.”

While the current wording attempts to connect with the other goals in The Way Ahead, it doesn’t as forcefully make the case for offering alternatives to single-occupant vehicles. The other challenge is that “mode shift” doesn’t mean anything to most of us, and sounds bureaucratic.

Perhaps more importantly, this was the only goal that was presented as if was worth doing solely to achieve the other goals. Surely a shift in how we move around the city should have benefits of its own!

New Goal: Enhance use of public transit and active modes of transportation

The new goal statement reads:

“Enhancing public transit and other alternatives to single-occupant vehicles will provide Edmonton with a well-maintained and integrated transportation network. Increased use of these options will maximize overall transportation system efficiency and support the City’s urban planning, livability, financial, economic and environmental sustainability goals.”

And the new elaboration reads:

“Through this goal, the City recognizes that a transportation system that is designed to support a range of travel options will increase the number of people and the amount of goods that can move efficiently around the city, while supporting the City’s goals for livability, urban form, financial, economic and environmental sustainability. Creating this 21st century sustainable and globally competitive city means offering choice. It will allow Edmontonians of all ages and abilities to safely walk, bike, ride transit, ride-share or drive to the places they need to go. The trade-offs needed to achieve this vision will create an integrated transportation system with greater travel choices for Edmontonians.”

The connection to the other goals is still present in the new wording, but not at the expense of highlighting the desire for alternatives to the car. There’s also the suggestion that trade-offs will need to be made in order to create a system that offers choice – we can’t have it all without making some hard decisions. The new goal is much more approachable now that “mode shift” is gone.

New Outcomes

Alongside this change, Council approved 12 new corporate outcomes, replacing the 20 that had previously been approved. Through their discussions, Council felt the outcomes should be specific and measurable, and provide a clarity of purpose. They wanted to simplify the approach. Here are the 12 outcomes they ended up with:

  1. Edmonton is attractive and compact
  2. The City of Edmonton has sustainable and accessible infrastructure
  3. Edmontonians use public transit and active modes of transportation
  4. Goods and services move efficiently
  5. Edmontonians are connected to the city in which they live, work, and play
  6. Edmontonians use facilities and services that promote healthy living
  7. Edmonton is a safe city
  8. The City of Edmonton’s operations are environmentally sustainable
  9. Edmonton is an environmentally sustainable and resilient city
  10. The City of Edmonton has a resilient financial position
  11. Edmonton has a globally competitive and entrepreneurial business climate
  12. Edmonton Region is a catalyst for industry and business growth

Gone are words like “minimized”, “supports”, or “strives”. The new language seems less open to interpretation, which is a good thing for determining progress. The next step is for Administration to prepare measures and targets based on these outcomes and to update The Way Ahead (there are currently 65 approved measures and 27 approved targets).

Results?

It’s great that Council wanted to strengthen the transportation goal and that they have simplified the outcomes. Most of this strategic planning was completed by previous Councils, so the exercise probably helped to ensure our current Councillors feel a sense of ownership. But the challenge remains: we need to implement the plans and see results. An annual report on progress will go to Council next year, based on the new outcomes, measures, and targets.

  • Mark

    Basically, they watered down the goal to make it seem less “scary” for the suburban car loving Councillors.
    We seem to forget that we have been shifting people toward use of the private automobile for generations with our road/density/transit policies. It is not so bad to shift them back to transit or walking, really.