Dear Friends of Kingston Inner Harbour:
This single October update contains four items of interest:
1) An invitation to a fun `Mark the Park` event being held in Douglas R. Fluhrer Park tomorrow, Sunday, Oct 5 in the afternoon,
2) FYI: a new webpage dedicated to the Wellington Street Extension
3) Upcoming dates of mayoral and councillor candidate debates, and
4) A Collection of Thoughts, Comments and Suggestions re the Wellington St. Extension compiled over the last two years with input from many members of the Friends of Kingston Inner Harbour. Food for thought if you can spare the time! This is long but as complete as I could make it for those interested to use as a resource.
Trust you are all well and enjoying the wonderful fall weather.
Hope to see you tomorrow in the park. More news in November.
1) “Mark the Park“ Event
What: Setting up traffic cones to mark the proposed alignment of the Wellington Street Extension for photo op with press! Just what space will it actually take up. Come and find out!
Where: Douglas Fluhrer Park
When: Sunday afternoon October 5 !!!
Pylons will start to be set out at 2 p.m. Photo op at 3 p.m.
People, bikes, strollers, dogs, cats, turtles all welcome so we can document scale and community concern. All welcome
2) FYI: New web-blog page of new WellingtonX group. Check it out!
3) Upcoming dates for Mayoral and Councillor Debate, and No Casino Kingston presentation:
Mon, Oct 6: NO CASINO KINGSTON PANEL DISCUSSION – Seniors Centre, Francis St., 6:30 pm
Mon, Oct 6: Williamsville Councillors Debate – St. Lukes Church Hall, Corner Nelson and Princess, 7 pm
Wed, Oct 8: McBurney Park Neighbourhood Associaion and Friends of Kington Inner Harbour`s Mayoral Candidates Debate – Artillery Park, 7 pm
Thurs, Oct 9: Sisters of Providence`s Meadowbrook-Strathcona Mayoral and Councillors Debate – Sisters of Providence, 1200 Princess St , 2 pm.
Thurs, Oct 9: Sustainable Kingston`s Mayoral Candidates Debate – Unitarian Place on Concession St, 7 pm.
Tues, Oct 14: McBurney Park Neighboourhood Association and Friends of Kiingston Inner Harbour`s Kings Town Councillors Debate – Artillery Park, 7;30 pm
Tues, Oct 14: Imagine Kingston`s Mayoral Candidates Debate – St. Lawrence College, 7pm.
Wed, Oct 15: Chamber of Commerce`s Mayoral Candidates Debate – TVCOGECO call-in show.
Thurs, Oct 16: Kingston East Business Association`s Countryside-Pittsburgh Councillors Debate – La Salle Secondary School, 7 pm.
Fri, Oct 17: Loyalist Lyons Club`s Candidates Debate – Amherstview Community Centre, 7 pm.
Tues, Oct 21: Mayoral Candidates Queen`s AMS – Wallace Hall, 7 pm.
4) A compendium of thoughts, comments and suggestions concerning the Wellington St. Extension collected from members of FKIH over the last two years to serve as a resource and a starting point for further discussion:
Matching Theory with Practice in the Interests of a Vibrant Downtown: Problems, Inconsistencies and Suggestions re the Wellington St. Extension
Overall, we all want to see the downtown thrive. We need a pedestrian-friendly downtown for residents and tourists and to accommodate the densification of the downtown area as described in the Official Plan. This will benefit everyone and especially the downtown businesses. Of course this requires more people to stop driving their cars to work. This too is in the Official Plan and the City is implementing it by installing cycle lanes, improved bus service, park ‘n rides, and proper pricing and control on parking. However, much more Transportation Demand Management needs to be done and this should reduce traffic despite projected population increases.
Also included in both the Transportation Master Plan and the Official Plan is the proposed construction of the Wellington St. Extension combined with a plan for the reduction of traffic on Rideau St. (despite peak hour traffic on Rideau St. being modest)
In short, the Official Plan is at war with itself and the taxpayer will pay.
Following are a few observations collected from interested community members:
1) Lack of consistency between the City’s stated priorities and WSE plan:
Major official City documents including the Parks and Recreation Master Plan (2010), the Sustainable Kingston Plan (2010) the Kingston Transportation Master Plan (currently being updated) and the Official Plan stress the importance of green space and parks as well as the prioritization of walking, cycling and transit to maximize existing road capacity and improve environmental conditions. The proposed WSE flies in the face of all of these stated priorities. A trail system rather than a new road system would actually be in harmony with the City’s stated priorities.
2) Inertia and Inactive File
a) Because some version of the Wellington Street Extension has been a part of City plans for approaching 50 years, people find it difficult to be open to other options. Inertia sets in. This is human nature. But just because it has been on the books for so long shouldn’t mean that it is written in stone. So much has changed.
b) This file has been inactive for several years. Engineering staff are the first to admit that they have not looked at this file for quite a while. The result is that when they are asked for comments, they refer to what they remember from 2004. In truth, they cannot be expected to be completely on top of every inactive file. However, interested citizens can be a valuable resource to City Staff in this respect. Interested citizens, many of whom have broad global perspectives from having travelled widely, can help Staff and Council understand the disconnect between plans drawn up in 2004 and current global trends.
3) A little bit of history
Doug Fluhrer used the name WSE over 40 years ago to describe a small local access road to go between Bay & Wellington and Rideau & River Sts. Its purpose was to service the newly re-zoned park and the newly re-zoned residential area (It was all industrial before that). The road proposed at that time was a small residential road that really led nowhere – just local access!
The proposal for 40 years ago was a rational aspect of the long term plan to convert this area from industrial to residential. What is proposed today directly opposes that move to residential re-zoning that took place 40 years ago.
This new 2004 concept actually made Doug Fluhrer’s skin crawl. It is not at all his original vision – the vision that encouraged the construction of the three Inner Harbour condos: Frontenac Village, Bajus, and Leuwarden as well as Rideaucrest, the subsidized housing towards the north end of the park and the townhouses on Rideau and Bay Sts – all residential developments completed in the last 40 years.
One resident, among several seniors who have gone to the trouble of actually checking out the Official Plan before choosing Kingston and buying in the Inner Harbour area, states the following.
“Everyone that has invested their life savings in the development of this area over the last 40 has been deceived by this city, if the city puts a high speed arterial in the middle of this recently converted residential area (40 years is a short time in the planning world). The city will have entirely reneged on the plan to develop this area as residential!
This is exactly why planning and zoning moves at a turtles pace! To re-zone from industrial to residential, then within 40 years, just as the residential community is becoming successful, to do a 180 degree turn and slam a high speed truck / commuter route is very poor planning (and in my opinion outright deceitful!!). They will have just dropped the residential property values adjacent to the arterial significantly and made these homes an undesirable place to live.”
4) Conceptual plan out-dated:
Since the new conceptual plan was formed and described in the Transportation Master Plan in 2004, many conditions have changed truly radically:
a) This residential neighbourhood has changed and continues to develop in the direction of greater densification in the downtown and in the direction of gentrification. In addition the Woolen Mill and the National Grocer’s Building have brought interesting businesses and artisans into the mix. This new demographic needs more downtown green space, not less. This demographic also uses cars less, often preferring shared car use.
b) This 2004 plan was created before FOCUS KINGSTON and Sustainable Kingston were completed. The City’s stated philosophy has changed dramatically from being car focussed to being pedestrian, cycle and transit focussed.
c) Most jurisdictions globally are transforming old existing parkways into trails, not creating new parkways. From a global perspective, this conceptual plan makes Kingston appear mired in the 1960s.
d) Perhaps most importantly, a 2014 Provincial Policy Statement re Land Use Planning outlines new principles for municipalities to follow regarding Land Use Planning. The Sustainable Kingston Plan aligns in aspirational tone with the PPS 2014. The PPS 2014 stresses the need to opt for active transportation over other modes of transportation where possible. It also notes the importance of considering the mitigating effect of vegetation on Climate Change – in other words, advocates for the importance of green space. The most relevant sections of the PPS 2014, discussed in greater detail in the document referenced below, may include Policy 1 which includes provisions under Settlement Areas (22.214.171.124.(a) (3), (4) and (5)); Public Spaces, Recreation, Parks, Trails and Open Space (1.5.1); Infrastructure and Public Service Facilities (126.96.36.199); and Energy Conservation¸Air Quality and Climate Change (1.8.1.(b)-(f))
The WSE would, in essence, help establish a pattern of development that is regressive and not sustainable. This is a legal question but any future development in Kingston should surely be in line with this 2014 Provincial Policy Statement.
e) EU countries have managed to deter traffic into city centres while not harming tourism and downtown local business. Kingston is a European style city with a historic core. It wouldn`t hurt to have a look at what works in Europe. They too have many cars.
A closer look at the inadequate rationales of the original the 2004 report include the following:
a) The report notes an absence of significant natural areas that could be affected by road improvements. However, in the ten years since the report was available both Douglas R. Fluhrer Park and Belle Park have seen a marked increase in endangered turtles to mention just one species. Many turtles now cross the path of the extension in Douglas R. Fluhrer park to lay eggs along the retaining wall and along the walls of Barr Cabinetry and the National Grocers Building. Many species of migratory birds have also been documented.
b) The report states that the greatest potential for impact in creation of another north-south arterial would potentially be the residents of Rideau, Montreal and Division. All have significant numbers of residences that front onto the roadway and significant numbers of property removals would be required if the decision were to be made to widen those roads. No discussion is offered about creating one-way streets with synchronized lights to avoid this problem altogether.
c) The report states that the Wellington St. Extension would largely pass through an area of vacant industrial land where social impacts would be minimal. However, since 2004, The National Grocer building has become a hive of artistic activity, the Bailey Broom Company may be developed in a similar way and Douglas R. Fluhrer Park has become a vibrant well-used, highly valued community park – a current selling point for local real estate. This park will also become the neighbourhood park of the new condos being built in the North Block downtown.
d) The report further states that the extension will support development in the lands east of Rideau. In fact development and gentrification of those lands is already happening apace without the extension. Further, in keeping with global trends, if the preferred alignment were developed as a pedestrian and cycling trail rather than a road, further development would actually be encouraged. The trail would a real draw for development as is happening all over the world.
5) No adequate rationales are provided for the actual need for another north-south arterial.
6) Interface with Third Crossing:
This plan was designed to interface with the proposed Third Crossing.
a) The Third Crossing may never happen due to cost.
b) The WSE should not be constructed first before a Third Crossing that may never happen.
c) It is now being suggested that the WSE is needed even without the Third Crossing to encourage Tannery developments despite the fact that current traffic studies state that there is no current need.
d) Creating the WSE in order to get developers for the Tannery property is very expensive bait.
7) Local residents misinformed:
a) It is assumed by a few vocal residents on Rideau St. that the WSE will reduce traffic on Rideau St. However studies consistently show that if you build more roads you encourage more cars. It is highly likely that traffic will actually increase on Rideau St. if more cars come downtown. Unblocking Russell St. and adding stop signs on Rideau St. might well do more to decrease traffic flow on Rideau without the need for an extension.
b) It is assumed by some of the residents on King St. the WSE will reduce traffic on King St. Again, studies consistently show that building more roads leads to more cars, not fewer. Further, when the cars coming south on Wellington reach Bay St. they will face 5 stop lights + stop signs before Wellington St. ends at City Park. It is simply not an appropriate arterial. Drivers are not stupid. They will switch from Wellington to King or Ontario where there are fewer lights. Traffic on King might well increase rather than decrease.
8) Routing traffic unnecessarily into a congested downtown:
The WSE will route traffic unnecessarily into the congested downtown to get people to their work places at the KGH, Hotel Dieu and Queen’s. This traffic will merge even more closely with traffic coming across the Causeway creating further congestion. More direct routes to those work places are from the 401 via Sir John A Blvd, Montreal and Division.
9) Parking Issues
a) When these cars arrive in the downtown there is a parking problem. Reducing parking in favour of population densification is good in that it will both increase tax revenue and create a more lively downtown. New parking lots could be created on Queen St. towards Division (at the huge cost of $40,000 per parking space) but these lots would be much better accessed via Division or Montreal Streets. Development charges would be better spent on parking than on the unnecessary extension.
b) Parking permits for residents on Rideau Street (like those in Sydenham District) would solve one of the major concerns these residents have that they feel might somehow be solved with the creation of the WSE. The residents we have spoken with favour paying for dedicated parking on Rideau in order to guarantee their spots.
10) The Devil is in the Details: Difficult design problems
It is simply misleading to suggest that all design problems can be rectified in the Detailed Plan.
a) There is a very narrow area at the north end of the park where Douglas R. Fluhrer Park abuts the Woolen Mill property. This is a geographical constraint that cannot be changed. The proposed roadway will take up most of the available green space here effectively cutting off Douglas R. Fluhrer Park from the Woolen Mill’s green space except for an extremely narrow walkway.
b) 5 metres will have to be taken of the historic Davis Dry Dock to accommodate a widened road and to allow trucks to turn around in the park. No explanation is given as to why trucks would need to turn around there. This important heritage asset should remain as is.c) Trees are to be planted along the retaining wall – covering Kingston’s wonderful new street art wall.
These trees would be killed anyway when snowplows put salt on them. What were planners thinking?
d) The old willows are to be cut down in favour of Native trees. This would be a huge loss. People truly love these heritage trees.
e) Two sidewalks and two bike lanes are part of the design that evidently cannot be removed in the detailed design. When a multi-purpose trail for pedestrians and bicycles is already planned along the waterfront, it seems overkill to include two extra sidewalks and bike lanes covering an unnecessary amount of green space with asphalt.
f) The proposed design for a speed of 70 km/hr, posted at 50 km/hr is too fast for this quiet peaceful waterfront park and a danger for pedestrians crossing – especially the elderly who live at Rideaucrest and the many families with small children who live nearby.
11) Flawed argument that the park and the parkway can co-exist happily:
a) Noise from cars and trucks will drastically reduce all Kingston citizens’ enjoyment of this beautiful waterfront park. In the public consultation, overwhelmingly what people loved most about this park was the peace and quiet. Currently this waterfront asset is a bit of nature in a busy downtown. With a major road, there will be no peace and quiet.
b) Nature will be compromised – especially the engangered species.
c) Again, a road designed for 70km/hr is not compatible with safety for the many families with young children and the many seniors who live nearby. They walk slowly.
d) The argument is sometimes raised that Breakwater Park works effectively with the King St. arterial beside it. However, residents are very unhappy with that. They try repeatedly to press City Staff to create crosswalks and reduce speeds there because of the danger of crossing the road. Why copy this mistake?
12) Alternative possibilities – Opening up the old grid system:
a) No serious thought has been given to this alternative possibility – opening up the old grid system. This would be a much cheaper alternative than the WSE. Removing the barriers at Russell and River Streets would allow traffic to filter through.
b) The old grid system would also be better for the new developments on the Tannery property. In addition to reaching the downtown easily by car via Rideau, Montreal, Russell Street and Bagot or Division, residents will have an amazing cycling and pedestrian trail to the downtown on the alignment intended originally for the WSE. This should be all the infrastructure that is needed for encouraging more development along the Inner Harbour.
13) Alternative possibilities – Thinking more seriously about Park and Rides, Car Pools, Transit, Shared Cars and Parking Options rather than paying lip-service to them:
a) More serious thought needs to be given to increasing Park and Ride options, e.g. from Belle Park to the downtown with quick shuttles down Montreal St. – this in addition to the Park and Ride north of the 401. Advocating and really promoting the Kingston Centre as a Park and Ride could also help. And certainly there should be park and rides in Kingston East to avoid congestion on the LaSalle Causeway as well as in Glenburnie to the north.b) No serious thought has been given to advocating and promoting current carpool systems: New IT applications exist these days that people can use to connect with one another and save parking fees by carpooling. The City could choose one to advocate and promote. (David Dossett, IT specialist, has more information on this.) c) Increasing the cost of monthly parking to a rate that actually covers the cost as other jurisdictions do could also help reduce car traffic.
d) Active promotion of safe cycling routes for cycle commuters – on the City’s webpage is needed. We have heard many complaints about this lack.
e) Cycling infrastructure in the City must also include recreational routes. Kingston is out of sinc with most jurisdictions in this regard. Our City considers only cycle commuting when making plans for cycling infrastructure and maps for community members. A major failing. For many, recreational cycling is a major first step towards cycle commuting.
f) The new demographic moving into the downtown apartments will be using shared cars far more as in the new Anna Lane development. This is a world-wide trend.
14) Alternative possibilities – Creation of new north/south infrastructure using one-way options.
Discussion re the possibility of moving north/south traffic slightly west of the deep downtown should be studied. The Brock/Johnson/Princess complex works extremely well for east/west arterials. Why not have a similar Montreal/Division/Sir John A complex. One way into town from John Counter Blvd via Montreal St. and one way north on Division with Sir John A being two way. The development charges that were to be spent on the extension could be spent instead on a downtown parking garage on Queen St which is an excellent connector between Division and Montreal. Other one way options have also been suggested. Further study of these possibilities could prove very useful.
15) Thinking seriously about a trail instead of a road:
No serious consideration has been given to how an off-road pedestrian and cycling trail from John Counter Blvd. (and Belle Park) to the downtown would seriously encourage cyclists who feel nervous about cycle commuting on major arterials – including seniors and parents with small children. This would most probably increase pedestrians and cyclists far more than reducing traffic slightly on Rideau St. A reality check is needed here. A trail would bring more people, not cars to the downtown. That is what is needed for a lively downtown. This is in keeping with global trends and with the Official Plan. It could also tap into the hundreds of dollars being lost due to lack of cycle tourism options and promotion.
16) Maintaining Neighbourhoods:
It has been suggested that reducing traffic on Rideau St. will create more of a neighbourhood feel with increased numbers of pedestrians and cyclists. This argument falls flat however when one considers the corresponding decrease in pedestrians and cyclists one block over in Douglas R. Fluhrer Park due to increased access difficulties. Parents with small children and the many seniors who live nearby and move slowly will be reluctant to cross such a busy arterial.
17) Fiscal Responsibility:
Why spend $35 million on infrastructure that is not needed? At least wait until a need can be demonstrated after other options have been tried.
18) Another related fiscal issue: The actual need for the Third Crossing:
The argument is often raised that the Third Crossing is needed because
a) the 401 is dangerous to use as an east/west arterial. In fact, despite its operation as an east/west arterial, the 401 remains the safest highway in Ontario. Detailed records are kept by the Ontario Ministry of Transport and there has been no spike in accidents related to its use in Kingston as an east/west arterial.
b) when accidents happen, cars clog the downtown. We have been informed by retired MTO personnel that the last time the downtown was clogged it was because people were using their GPS devices rather than following the correct detours. Clearly, a new system needs to be put in place, perhaps with police barring any but local traffic from coming to the downtown in such cases. Detour routes to the north are really good along the Unity Road and Mud Lake Roads. The problematic area is between Hwy 15 and Montreal St. at Kingston Mills. These cars and trucks would simply have to go north to Sunbury. Not a lot to ask in extremely rare occasions.
A lot of money could be saved to deal with other more pressing infrastructure problems.
19) WSE not good for local neighbourhood, Kingston CMA, or broader tourist community:
a) The WSE would not be good for the local neighbourhood as pedestrians and cyclists who currently use the park would understandably feel more nervous crossing a high speed arterial.
b) The WSE would not be good for Kingston’s Census Metropolitan Area because it would not achieve the goals of creating a better route to downtown work places, reducing air pollution and creating a lively downtown. Instead it would increase congestion.
c) The WSE would not be good for tourists because a wonderful potential tourism resource – the Inner Harbour off-road extended pedestrian and cycling trail would be destroyed in favour of cars, bike lanes and sidewalks.
20) Seriously examining what will be lost:
As the report on the extension first appeared in the 2004 Transportation Master Plan, it is out of date (even though technically it is not out of date until 2018 because it was ratified by Council in 2008) A large public consultative process should take place on this major issue as there is so much to lose – including our incredibly beautiful waterfront park and Kingston’s most beautiful recreational cycling path (The old K&P line to and from Belle Park). An off-road trail is not the same as a sidewalk and a bike lane. An incredible recreational resource for all citizens and tourists would be lost. Most cities, worldwide are getting rid of major waterfront arterials in favour of trails. We are out of step. Where is the City’s waterfront vision? Imagine what this waterfront could be in 50 or 100 years – part of a sustainable vibrant downtown? Or a major arterial for cars? Come on now!
21) Working cooperatively with Community Members:
Public consultation measures are in place. However there are problems. Community members worry that their needs and comments are not being recorded or heeded. For example, at the recent Transportation Master Plan public meeting there was no presentation and no opportunity for community members to present views on the WSE in a public fashion. The consultant suggested that Staff was worried that such a format would be a bit scary. Instead participants were encouraged to write short comments on cards. We don’t know what happens to these comments. When some participants approached staff, they were told that this meeting was not the appropriate venue to make comments about the WSE. There was no place on the public questionnaire to make comments about the WSE either. In addition, during the Visioning Exercise for Douglas R. Fluhrer Park, 40 minutes of the first public meeting was spent with community members voicing their disapproval of the WSE. There is apparently no public record of this strong dissent. Protocols should be revised to ensure that presentations at public meetings happen and to ensure that comments are duly recorded and become part of the public record. Staff should not feel scared of the community. We should be working together for the best possible outcomes.
22) Where are the City’s priorities?
a) The City seems to be extremely fiscally conservative when faced with the cost of 1 million for a bridge under or over a railway crossing or a few million to fix some of the old piers on the waterfront. They consider such expenses not justified. Why is it that the City doesn’t blink an eyelid at the thought of 35 million for the WSE? Surely fixing up our waterfront and making it accessible to all is more important than creating a new road that is not needed. Consistently, when surveyed, 80% of those surveyed say they would be happy to pay more taxes for parks and trails.
b) Also, surely fixing existing infrastructure is more important than creating new infrastructure? There was a lot of ire about last year’s potholes. And Utilities Kingston would prefer to spend money on our aging sewer systems rather than create new unnecessary infrastructure. Perhaps Utilities should trump Engineering?
c) The current legislation in place stating that development charges are to be used to develop new infrastructure should be changed so that such monies can be better used to either fix aging sewer and road infrastructure, or create a new downtown parking lot on Queen between Montreal and Division.
d) Shouldn’t recreational cycling infrastructure connecting neighbourhoods with one another and with the water be an inexpensive infrastructure priority?
e) It is important to have a vision of what we want Kingston and Kingston’s waterfront to look like in 50 – 100 years.
Let’s at least open the discussion! It could result in millions of dollars of savings.
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