Jun 13, 2019

Getting into the weeds, roads, lights & sidewalks

No one loves paying more, especially when they feel like they’re getting less.

People want to see their tax dollars at work when they walk out their front door. They want to be able to get around easily in their community, see it well maintained, and be proud of where they live. It’s the little things that often matter a lot.

When residents have to take time out of their day to contact 311 (sometimes repeatedly) or their Councillor, they get understandably annoyed. It tells me that the standards either aren’t acceptable or the accepted standards are not being met. That needs to change. Of course, it’s a trade-off between costs and services, but the main concern is that we’re not losing value for dollars. People deserve to get what they pay for.

When it comes to maintenance like snow removal, sidewalk repair, pothole filling, or grass cutting, we need the expectations of the City to be clear and the standards to be met. One-off requests to get crews out to take care of complaints are an inefficient use of everyone’s energy.

It would be helpful for residents to know when the sports field in their community is going to be mowed so they don’t feel compelled to have to get out there with their own mower just to be able to watch their kid’s game. This has actually recently happened! (see picture at the top). People start to wonder what they’re paying for. That’s why when they see big projects around the city, expensive contracts, consulting, and other costs eating up the budget, they’re frustrated when they hear “we can’t afford more crosswalks or proper sidewalks”.

I’ve asked Administration for the number of complaints we get about snow removal, where sidewalks are missing, and what the grass and turf maintenance schedule is so we can start to get to the root of the issue. Creating strong, safe communities starts with how we build and maintain them.

As our population increases, so does demand for services and infrastructure. Combine this with a lack of residential density and nonresidential economic growth to provide a solid tax base and it means more pressure on city budgets.

How we allocate dollars should be based on highest priority, but also take into account the voice of community.

We need to be making budget decisions based on a consistent measurement of needs in communities and take into consideration the lived experience that residents bring. For example, the City knows that there are a number of accidents at the intersection of 153 Ave and 18 St. But the residents of Fraser know that there’s much more to the story– that there are many near misses daily that the City’s data doesn’t capture. After some advocacy, the City did listen to the community and a traffic signal will be installed this summer (July 15th is the construction start date to be fully operational in August).

The City’s criteria also has to look at how the infrastructure actually functions day to day. For example, there are no safe, convenient crossings along Manning Drive on the west side of the transit center, so you can actually see where pedestrians have carved out paths in the grass to get where they need to go (see picture above). Another example is the congestion commuters will have getting out of the far north part of Ward 4 as it continues to develop if only left with single lane roads along 167 Ave and 153 Ave *. Also, why the City didn’t make the paving of Meridian Street a condition of approving the development of Quarry Ridge is still a mystery to me.

The point is that we have basic infrastructure and service pressures that seem to get the short end of the stick, meanwhile all kinds of projects that seem more like wants than needs are getting a lot of attention. We need to stop jumping to the green light on these things and hit yellow, or even red until we’ve made sure we’ve got the basics right. And that’s exactly the perspective I will continue to bring to budget and priority discussions in Council.

*So far the commitments I’ve been able to get for roadways in Ward 4 are:

  • Repaving: Hermitage Rd from 50 St – Victoria Tr
  • Repaving: 134 Ave from 50 St – 47 St
  • Arterial growth: Aurum Rd from 9 St – 17 St with a new bridge
  • Arterial growth: Meridian St from 167 Ave to CN tracks
  • Arterial growth: Marquis Blvd from Meridian St – 7 St
  • Overlay: Cloverbar
  • Reconstruction: Homesteader
  • Reconstruction: Overlanders
  • Reconstruction: Hairsine
  • Alley renewal: Homesteader
  • Alley renewal: Sifton
  • Widening: 153 Ave from 18 St – Fort Rd (planning & design)
  • Widening: 167 Ave from 52 St – 76 St (planning and design)
  • Widening: 50 St from 153 – 167 Ave (planning and design)
  • Widening: 66 St from 158 – 167 Ave (planning and design)