30 May 2010

My summer reading pick: Peterborough's Comprehensive Transportation Plan

Three trips to the registrar's offices (40 mins. round trip by bike) and several panicked phone calls later, I'm finally registered for CAST 3810Y: Community-based research project. I'm the only student doing a project with the Trent Centre for Community-Based Education this summer, so the people at the dean's and registrar's offices were not sure what to do with me.

Next (daunting) step: get approval from the Canadian Studies Department research ethics committee.
While waiting for approval to interview city planners, councilors, residents, public health officials, and local organizations, I've been having a look at the 2002 Comprehensive Transportation Plan now being updated.

For those who haven't had the chance to read it, the plan has some good recommendations. 
Here's some highlights:  

  • Principles: mobility, economic vitality, environment, affordability

  • Recommends Peterborough Transit and school boards talk about coordinating services —students could be issued transit passes rather than get yellow bus service

  • Recommends City form a Bicycle Transportation Advisory Committee to advise on additions and improvements to bikeway system and help create a “cycling system improvement and expansion master plan”

  • According to the plan, achieving a transit mode share (TMS) of 10 or 15% would cost an additional $3.9 or $4.2 million per year respectively (1996 TMS: 5%; 1999 operating cost: $3,671,700).

  • Points to the link between land use planning and transportation planning – recommends City create more mixed use neighbourhoods with higher densities to encourage transit use, cycling and walking

  • Notes that traffic calming techniques are only implemented at a neighbourhood's request (petition)
As excellent as some of the recommendations are, few have been implemented. If any talks that have gone on between school boards and Peterborough Transit, they have not been made public. A bicycle advisory committee has not been formed, nor has a bikeway system master plan been created. Nonetheless, the City has exceeded one goal in the 2002 plan: buses now run until 11:20 pm on all routes every day except Sunday (except the Major Bennet route which ends service at 6:40 on Saturdays) whereas in 2002 the goal was to increase weekday service to 10 pm only. Frequency of service has decreased, however, from every half hour to every 40 minutes.     

Here are the plan's mode share targets:

Percentage of daily trips made by....

Cycling and walking – 9% by 2021 (7% in 1996)
Transit – 6% by 2021 (5% in 1996)
Other – 3% by 2021 (2% in 1996)

In 1996, automobiles on Peterborough's roads had an average of 1.15 occupants; the plan sets a target to increase that average to 1.2 by 2021.

With these targets, Peterborough's modal split will remain relatively unchanged for the next decade. Initial reports coming from the firm conducting the transportation plan update, Morrison Hershfield, indicates there will be little to no changes to these targets. In fact, according to a report, the transit target of 6% of daily trips by 2021 may be reduced.

In that same report, Morrison Hershfield projects that despite reduced population growth projections, traffic congestion on arterial routes will increase significantly. Morrison Hershield says that despite this slower growth rate, Peterborough will have twice as much congestion by 2031.

All this will be discussed further at the next public consultation session, scheduled for June 10th, 2010. You can get information about upcoming public consultation sessions at the City's website here.

(I hope you like these photos from my trip downtown to the grocery store last Tuesday. Below are a few images of the downtown bus terminal that afternoon.)

The buses all arrive at the same time every 40 minutes. 

Peterborough Transit has 12 bus routes and 4 express routes

...This was the sight a few minutes later, empty 
for the next 40 minutes. 


  1. Great initiative Brett! It looks fascinating and is so relevant to contemporary planning issues. Transportation planning deserves attention not only from academia, but from active citizens too! I am sure your recommendations will be insightful and very practical.

    I look forward to reading your results.

  2. Hi Brett,

    What an interesting question! And who better to answer it and to keep us informed. I think the blog is gorgeous. Enjoy your summer reading, and all best with this project.