April 22, 2020

Recommendations for Reallocation: MoTI makes the leap

Guess who has come out with a quick response on how to design for our changing street uses in the time of the virus.  It’s from a place you might not expect: the provincial transportation ministry.

Here’s what they recommend to those who make the decisions about how we’re going to allocate road space.

Since the days of Jane Jacobs and Robert Moses, urbanists are typically sceptical of large state or provincial transportation departments (mostly about the care and feeding of highways) very much removed from local conditions.

But this is helpful.  The people at the province basically get the idea.  The headline alone – “Reallocation of Roadway Space” – is pretty provocative for a culture like MoTI.

However, some of it is already contested.

  • Closures should be in the daytime only (7am-7pm, or similar hours). Closure devices should be set up and taken down daily.
  • Some modification of Traffic Management Manual layouts will be needed. Consider using C-030 series (lane closure ahead) or other custom signage.

Sorry, guys, there’s this:

Beach flow way showed what could be done overnight.  And it works – without meeting all the recommendations above.

We’re learning by doing, because we have to do this.  Virus.

Trying things out safely and monitoring the results is a great and necessary way to proceed. But trying to do it with a set of prescribed regulations presumes you know what your’re trying to prescribe for.

Not yet, I’d bet.

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  1. So long as you aren’t proposing changes to “their” roads, the Ministry can be very amenable and forthcoming with their expertise, which runs deep. Their new Active Transportation design guidelines are great and show they understand multi-modalism in a very practical way.

    However, just don’t expect much support for slow-street upgrade proposals to Lougheed or Fraser highways, for example. You will get a very different quick response.

  2. I remain unconvinced that BC’s Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI) has altered its historic view that highways are for motor vehicles alone. Its guidelines for alternative modes of transport seems limited to “guidelines” and “designs” on their website. With perhaps the exception of high occupancy and transit lanes on urban expressways, barely a nickle has ever been reallocated to alternative modes. Notable examples of bike lanes within highway rights-of-way, such as the separated bike lane on a section of the provincial highway on the Sunshine Coast or a recently planned separated bike lane from Mill Bay to the nearby Frances Kelsey high school have almost always been the result of funding grants from the federal “gas tax” allocations to local governments or special projects by local governments within the MOTI’s land. Where they exist sidewalks in villages with high pedestrian densities are local or property owner initiatives. Nor has the recent advent of an NDP government in 2017 seemingly made much of a difference in these priorities. We can of course hope and advocate for more.

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