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  • Oct. 5, 2022 1:30 a.m.

Active transportation has been a hot-button topic for a few years now, with the city continuing to expand its network of bike lanes, etc. Where do you see your support going in regard to active transportation infrastructure? Are you in favour of continuing to expand on the bike lane project, or should efforts and attention be paid toward motor vehicle transportation infrastructure (I.e. an additional river crossing, improving public transit)?

MAYORAL CANDIDATES

Bob Wells*

The City of Courtenay has been successful in getting grants for active transportation projects like the 5th Street Complete Street and 17th St Corridor Improvement Project which have improved safety for students travelling to school as well as active seniors (the largest demographic purchasing e-bikes), while not costing the city taxpayer. Expanding our active transportation corridor, and linking East and West Courtenay, Cumberland and Comox will make travelling safer as well as attract tourists.

Most of the traffic congestion is on BC Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure roads (29th St. to 17th St. to Ryan Rd up to Anderton). The city has been working with the province for decades for corridor improvements, but our projects compete with projects in other communities with significantly more traffic congestion issues.

A third crossing has been discussed for decades and the last estimate in 2018 was at least $35 million, far more than the City of Courtenay can afford on its own. A third crossing would need to be a regional infrastructure project or be funded by grants so city taxpayers do not carry the entire burden of cost.

Improving our transit system and car share programs have the quickest and least expensive impacts.

Aaron Dowker

I support a third bridge but let’s plan for it, save for it, and beg Comox for help with it. The next four years can be spent investigating more inexpensive options such as one-way streets and a dedicated right turn lane onto Cliffe from the 17th Street bridge. Also widening the connector between Superstore and 17th should be discussed if they raise that dyke due to climate change mitigation. I also stand for the idea of leaving our main traffic arteries open, and encouraging our bike thoroughfares on side streets (i.e. 6th Street) or on one side of the street (i.e. 17th Street) or better yet, not near cars at all. What really excites me is paths in locations that make a bike trip geographically shorter than a car trip. But the only bike lane, road widening on my radar right now is also the most difficult to get people to work together on, the stretch between the Condensary Bridge and the One Spot Trail leading to Cessford Road; that is the most dangerous spot to ride a bicycle, I think. Traffic’s like water, it’s gotta flow.

Erik Eriksson

If people are ever going to ride their bikes to work or shopping in a significant way, they’re going to be riding their electric bikes. That’s not active transportation. We should certainly encourage cycling as an activity and we should do what we can to make it safe, but what the current council is doing is over the top. I think fixing the city streets that are crumbling should be a high priority. I don’t think an additional river crossing is a realistic expectation. There doesn’t seem to be anywhere to put it. The big lineup that occurs once or twice a day at the 17th Street Bridge only happens in one direction. The bottleneck is caused by the lights on Cliffe. We should adjust the timing of the lights in such a way as to move that traffic expeditiously.

COUNCILLOR CANDIDATES

Doug Hillian*

Some criticize the city’s promotion of active transportation, particularly the work on 17th, but bike lanes are not a radical idea. Cities everywhere are adding them because it makes roadways safer, and traffic safety is a priority, the issue we most hear about from residents. Narrower lanes with separated bikes slow cars down and make routes safer for everyone, including pedestrians at crosswalks, kids going to school and car drivers too. Traffic changes may be confusing at first, but it’s a nationwide trend to promote multi-modal transportation, address climate change and make streets safer for all users.

Expanding the bike network does not come at the expense of motor vehicle infrastructure, as the funding comes from separate streams. We know the majority will still drive cars and we are working with the ministry of transportation to widen the bypass and improve Ryan and the 17th Street bridge intersection, their roads and our main pinch points.

A new bridge would incur huge financial and environmental costs, funnel traffic into the same grid and in a few short years fill up with cars at peak periods. Our regional transit system is improving with more frequent service, and more of us should use it.

Evan Jolicoeur

Living in a beautiful community with a river and estuary means we are bridge people. Much of our traffic woes occur during morning and afternoon commute times.

The world is changing fast, and so is Courtenay! Listening, educating and supporting everyone with the changes needs to be a priority for government. We need to plan for a future-proof community that supports families, neighbourhoods, and businesses.

We need to ensure we plan for a future where there are multi-modal options for safe transportation – including vehicles, buses, bikes, legs, and mobility supports.

I will:

• Address safety issues including potholes, high accident intersections and crosswalks;

• Advocate for federal funding to successfully build our active transportation infrastructure as planned in the Regional Active Transportation Plan and Growth Strategy;

• Support expanded public transit network, free fares for seniors (+55), students, and youth (24 and under), and income-based transit fares for adults;

• Collaborate with community organizations to offer training on how to safely share our roads, paths and trails;

• Educate – understanding of the why, what and how of any transportation infrastructure change;

• Incentivize low-impact transportation such as scooters, bikes, e-bikes and other forms;

• Include everyone – infrastructure planning to involve citizens’ input from the beginning to the end

Melanie McCollum*

For me, it’s not an either/or question. Sound planning and fiscal management take into consideration a variety of transportation options to meet the needs of the entire community.

Courtenay must support all forms of transportation to address the growing demands on our road infrastructure. This includes intersection improvements to improve vehicle flow, safe travel routes to encourage cycling, and pedestrian improvements to meet the needs of the community.

The provincial and federal governments have many grant opportunities to support active travel, public transit, and green infrastructure – Courtenay should continue to seek out those funding opportunities to ensure we continue to develop future-focused transportation.

Wendy Morin*

Active transportation needs to be prioritized for several reasons. We are in a climate crisis and need to reduce GHG emissions, and our community is growing, putting more pressure on our transportation system. Millennials (ages 25 to 40) are the fastest growing generation, expected to surpass numbers of baby boomers by 2029. This age group is more likely to utilize multi-modal transportation, particularly if the infrastructure is safe and convenient. Many newcomers to our area are in this age range, and have come from places where using transit and other modes of transportation is normalized. And of course Ebike ridership is soaring, with many seniors households downsizing to one vehicle and running short errands by Ebike. Councillors Cole-Hamilton, McCollum, and I jointly drafted a resolution at the CVRD which was adopted, to explore Ebike rebates for those with lower incomes and an Ebike share program. Bolstering the active transportation network allows those who prefer or need cars to benefit from less cars on the road. Having all the secondary schools on one side of the river exacerbates the traffic congestion in the morning and late afternoon. We need to continue to expand transit services during these pinch points. Although transit passes are reasonably priced and kids 12 and under fares are free, I am advocating for free fares for all youth. Extensive research has been done regarding an additional river crossing, with no justification at this time. We need to utilize the third bridge more, and continue to push the province to make improvements in their jurisdiction around the 17th Street bridge, as we have done in meetings with the transportation ministry within the last couple of weeks.

Lyndsey Northcott

I still believe the homelessness and affordable housing issue is the number one issue. We should address these issues first. I’m not in favour of continuing to expand on the bike lane project. I still believe we need to stay focused on the number one problem which is we need homes for the people.

Deana Simkin

The Official Community Plan (OCP) that was adopted by Courtenay council in June 2022 is a living document that tells us what Courtenay is at present and what Courtenay will be like in the future. The OCP states that 85 per cent of citizens move throughout Courtenay via private vehicle and 15 per cent via other modes (seven per cent walking, four per cent cycling, four per cent transit), yet it speaks little of private vehicles and promotes cycling, walking and transit. Traffic congestion has been a hot topic for years and with an aging population and the city expecting to be home to approximately 4,500 new residents by 2031 (page 10 of the OCP), we can only expect more traffic on the roads. Transportation infrastructure should be maintained and upgraded to support the 75-85 per cent of citizens using it in the future, whether it be a motorized vehicle or a battery-operated vehicle.

Manno Theos*

The vast majority of people I speak with would like a plan in place for a third vehicle bridge in South Courtenay. As for cycling infrastructure common sense thinking that heavy rain, significant hills and an aging population in Courtenay make it difficult to achieve more than two per cent of road share. I consider other projects, such as the Filberg Seniors’ Centre and the East Courtenay fire hall more urgent infrastructure to address. I believe there is a need for educating drivers and cyclists to share the road respectfully and safely for both road users. I believe in dedicating appropriate levels of funds and accessing grants when possible. I would like to see more cycling investment in trails rather than narrowing roads. With this in mind, in June of 2019 I voted against the 5th street bridge cantilevers, was also concerned for the viability of downtown businesses while the work was being completed. Also, in June 2019 voted against the over $4 million cycling/pedestrian bridge at 6th street and in March 2020 I voted against 17th street cycling lane work. Smaller buses and direct routes between critical locations would be a start.

Starr Winchester

According to the 2016 census, over 40 per cent of our population is over 55 years old. The majority of this age group requires either public transportation or a vehicle to go grocery shopping, go to appointments and tend to their day-to-day life. Younger families take their kids to school and do many other activities that require a car, especially in the winter.

I have always supported bike lanes for safety reasons, however it is my opinion that the next council must focus more attention on vehicle transportation infrastructure. For example, do we really need to spend millions of dollars on a pedestrian bridge beside our existing 5th Street Bridge? In my opinion, the answer is no. What we really need is a solution to the growing problem of traffic congestion on the 17th Street Bridge. I believe that costs should be shared on finding a solution from both levels of government as well as the Comox Valley Regional District to improve the traffic flow in and out of Courtenay. For many reasons, vehicles, which include buses, are going to be the choice of most of our citizens due to the geography of our city. Vehicles are here to stay and that’s not going to change.

Philip Adams

I think that we should spend our transportation funding and energy on projects that are going to help the greatest number of people in Courtenay. At present, only two per cent of residents bike as a form of transportation and the current council is heavily focused on this group. I want to represent seniors at city council who make up 30 per cent of the city’s population. Right now there is only one taxi in the Valley that can accommodate wheelchairs and other mobility devices. Handy Dart doesn’t run after 5 p.m., on weekends or on holidays. When I’m elected to council I will spend our taxes revenue and energy on more Handy Darts and ride-sharing shuttle services for seniors and people unable to drive to be able to get to their appointments.

Steffan Chmuryk

I have travelled extensively through Europe, and have come to appreciate the improvements to the quality of life that comes from walkable cities. I also drive a truck for work, and need to be able to drive through town regularly.

Our current problem is that we are already heavily invested in car-dependent infrastructure. We are at a stage of growth where further increases in automobile use will render our infrastructure obsolete. To address car dependancy, we must move away from the development of big-box commercial centres, and towards more community-centred models of available shops and markets. We need people to live their lives within their communities, and not feel the need to drive across town for simple provisions.

Biking infrastructure is necessary in any future planning, but this should not force expensive projects in the short term. I prefer a long-term approach, where we recognize the necessary cultural shift, and learn to accommodate other road users, as they will dramatically increase in number. The era of large vehicles is coming to an end, and geopolitical instability will increase fuel price volatility. A shift towards walking, cycling, and transit infrastructure can help ensure our resiliency through such events.

Will Cole-Hamilton*

I believe it is important for the city to ensure that all residents have safe options for getting around our community.

While many people chose to drive, many other residents are too young to drive, unable to drive due to a disability, only have a single vehicle for a household, or cannot afford a vehicle at all. There are others who do have access to a vehicle and would like to have a choice about how they get from A to B. Providing safe ways for these residents to get around, by walking, public transit, or cycling ensures that we meet the needs of all members of our community.

The city continues to invest in each of these modes of transportation, including vehicle traffic. In recent years the federal and provincial governments have chosen to fund a variety of transportation options. As a city, we have taken advantage of those grant opportunities to provide a range of safe options for our community. The 17th Street project was paid for by one of those grants – a $1,720,000 grant that could only be put towards walking, transit or cycling.

If re-elected I will continue to support a balanced approach to investments in transportation.

Brennan Day

The current “bike lane project” would better be referred to as a bike lane patchwork. In their excitement to “improve” bike lanes, council has ignored the majority of road users, increased the likelihood of car/bike interactions through frankly poor engineering and design, moved bike users from quiet side streets into arterial traffic, pushed cars and trucks from arterial roads onto quiet side roads, and choked off major north/south arteries; these are not improvements for nearly any user group. The council has lacked balance for the past four years, and the decisions that have been made show what can happen when there is no discussion or debate required at the council table. If we are going to apply for grant funding, let’s ensure it is spent on actual improvements, not a patchwork of paint and curbs. Let’s think bigger and work towards a multi-use path between Courtenay, KFN, the RD, and Comox that would have a real impact on all road users alike; let’s get the traffic and lights on the 17th Street bridge sorted out. We are growing; let’s try and keep up and plan for an uncongested future for bikes, pedestrians, and vehicle traffic.

If elected, I will prioritize the following:

• Debottleneck the 17th Street Bridge Crossing

• Creating a Valley-wide transportation plan along with our neighbouring municipalities; Courtenay is not alone in a bubble, let’s stop planning as if we are.

• Look at cycling routes that avoid traffic interactions

• Improve pedestrian safety with better lighting, sidewalks, and crosswalks.

• Work with the KFN, RD, and Comox on a Courtenay-Comox multi-use pathway to encourage tourism, alternative transit, and user safety.

• Strike a balance between pedestrian, cycling, transit, and the current reality of vehicle transportation and parking requirements.

Let’s ensure smart designs that acknowledge the need for alternative transportation methods to be encouraged, but not ignore the reality of our aging demographic, geographic size, and inclement weather.

David Frisch*

Firstly, our transit service has seen a wise and substantial increase in funding (through the 50/50 share program with BC Transit) over the last eight years. Because of this, we actually have a useful, functioning transit service, which I support and will continue to support increases to.

Secondly, the provincial active transportation grants and the Canada infrastructure grants for the 5th Street Complete Street, Hobson bike way, and 17th street pedestrian and cycling projects are not funds that could be applied to car-centric projects.

Looking ahead at the needs of the people in the Comox Valley for the future, we must build safe, effective transportation alternatives like a cycling network, multi-use paths (like the River Walkway, Rail Trail, and soon to be Laketrail Road pathway), crosswalks, sidewalks, bus stops, and transit priority lanes. No city has ever solved car congestion and preserved their natural ecosystems by building more roads and bridges for cars alone. Our approach must be wholistic and lead to healthy lifestyles and sustainable infrastructure cost.

Michael Gilbert

I support the 75 per cent of people who drive. Our current council has focused on a small percentage of transportation users, we need a more balanced approach. The time, money and resources used for two per cent of our population, although important, is a small part of this issue. We do not have a climate conducive to year-round cycling. We do not have enough weather-safe, covered areas for people to wait for public transportation. Bike lanes need to be refocused on roads that are truly unsafe for cyclists – not redesigned European city-inspired costly changes in our wider boulevards which will be needed as the population grows.

Our roadways need to be kept in good condition. The number of kilometres we need to repair and maintain our streets yearly is 270 km divided by 25 years = 10.8 km per year, to keep our streets in good condition. People can’t and won’t give up their cars. We can replace all city vehicles with electric where possible. The 5th Street bridge should be a three-lane bridge, to decrease congestion in this bottleneck. A definitive no to a 6th Street pedestrian/bicycle bridge. Priorities must start with congestion and bottlenecks at both the 5th Street and 17th Street bridges.

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