Comment 83953

By kevlahan (registered) | Posted December 14, 2012 at 19:18:58

In my experience of interacting with the traffic department for the past 10 years or so (six as member of the board of the Durand Neighbourhood Association), this is indeed the standard response:

  1. Delay responding for as long as possible.

  2. When you do finally respond always explain how it would just be impractical/against policy/too expensive to implement the requested change. This is the same tactic no matter how minor or major the change is (e.g. timings for a pedestrian signal).

I do sympathize with the traffic department: people are constantly making requests (especially for stop signs) and it is easier just to say no, than to carefully consider and prioritize them. This is especially true since many of the requested changes (like stop signs) are not actually good solutions.

According the Barry Wellar a professor of Geography at the University of Ottawa who has advised the DNA, this is the way it is supposed to work:

  1. Residents bring problems to the attention of the traffic engineers (e.g. no safe or convenient way to cross a major street). They do not suggest a solution.

  2. The Engineers find a technical solution to the problem. They do not simply ignore, claim there is no possible solution (this isn't unifying gravity and quantum mechanics!), or impose their own priorities, or brush off the concern.

  3. Residents provide feedback to tell the engineers whether the solution worked.

A few years ago the DNA, on the City's request, hosted the "Walk and Bike for Life" workshop with 8-80 Cities (Gil Penalosa's outfit). I was skeptical at the time, but city staff (from public health) assured us the recommendations would be taken very seriously and at least some implemented.

After a year of no response to the resulting report, and constant reminders from our councillor, traffic staff finally met with the DNA to tell us they would not make any changes at all. This was especially galling as Penalosa specifically had us add in "petunias": low cost, simple solutions that could be implemented very quickly and easily.

When I pointed out that I would like my children to be able to walk around their own neighbourhood safely, one of the engineers (I'm pretty sure it was Mr Gallo) said: "I really sympathize with you: I have children and I certainly wouldn't let them walk around by themselves in the Durand ... the traffic is dangerous."

I was rather taken aback, to say the least.

I think part of the problem is that very few (any?) of the traffic department actually live in the urban core of the city (especially the downtown core, and even other parts of wards 1,2,3). I'd be happy to be corrected, but I just don't think they understand why pedestrian safety and convenience is important for these dense, old neighbourhoods bisected by high speed one-way streets. It is always a "nice to have" once fast and smooth motor vehicle traffic is taken care of.

This is why the only way to make progress is to have Councillors direct the traffic engineers to make the necessary changes. This is not a great solution (since the engineers should be suggesting the right solutions), but at least it gets around the blank refusal to address neighbourhood concerns.

Comment edited by kevlahan on 2012-12-14 20:48:02

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