There have been several letters recently with respect to the cost-effectiveness and need of changing our transportation infrastructure from being car-centric to being people-centric.
Unfortunately, most have been based on opinion and hyperbolic statements. Instead of conjecture and opinion, let’s deal with some facts related to our Valley, our workforce, and the demographics people who contribute to our economy — i.e. people who work.
Let’s look at who actually makes up the population of the Comox Valley.
Per the 2011 census, the total population of the Courtenay agglomeration was 55,213. The Courtenay Agglomeration consists of Courtenay, Comox, Cumberland and most of the CVRD. Of that, the total population under the age of 60 was 39,710 or almost 71 per cent.
The total population under 30 represents almost 30 per cent of the Valley – a far cry from the “seniors outnumbering the under-30 crowd.”
In fact, the percent of our population over 65 (seniors) is only 22.3 per cent. So in fact, the “under-30 crowd” outnumbers the seniors.
Now, let’s look at the need for people-focused transportation infrastructure. We are talking about bike lanes, paths, sidewalks, pedestrian bridges, etc.
From the 2006 census, as the 2011 numbers haven’t been released, we find that the active workforce in the Valley consisted of about 23,675 people. Of that amount, 2,355 of them reported that they walk or ride a bicycle to work — an impressive 9.95 per cent of our workforce.
Now, how much of our local transportation budget is focused on people walking and riding bikes? I would hazard a guess that it is far less than 10 per cent.
It is also interesting to look at transit usage — in 1996, 1.08 per cent of our workforce used transit, 0.76 per cent in 2001 and 1.48 per cent in 2006.
This is far below the B.C. average of 8.87 per cent of the total workforce. This highlights a huge opportunity to improve transit and remove vehicles from our roads.
As a civil engineer, I spent a good part of my undergraduate career learning about traffic and traffic management. One of the basic truths of how traffic works is that the difference in the volume of vehicles between efficiently flowing traffic and complete deadlock is very small.
Thus, any efforts that reduce vehicle traffic in any way have a huge impact in improving the overall efficiency of vehicle traffic. This is a lesson that has been applied with great success in Europe, and is starting to be applied all over the world.
The more people who walk, ride bikes and take transit, the fewer cars will be on the road, and the better our transportation system will serve everyone’s needs.