News Briefs

COUNCIL EXPLORES DOWNTOWN SHUTTLE

Did you know there are problems with traffic congestion and parking downtown? As a regular transit user, I hadn’t noticed. From my vantage point (which is on the bus) traveling downtown couldn’t be more convenient.

But if downtown’s congestion concerns are real, some might argue that the best solution to a traffic problem would be to reduce the number of cars on the streets by encouraging other forms of transportation.

Council, however, is exploring another option: reducing the number of buses.

Ward 4’s rookie councillor Bryon Burnett brought forward a motion at the July 29 city council meeting asking administration to tack onto the already underway Downtown Transportation Study an examination of a free shuttle bus service for downtown. Under Burnett’s proposal, full-sized buses would be routed around downtown to stations on Saskatchewan Drive, Albert Street, Broad Street and Victoria Avenue. Within the downtown market district, there would only be smaller shuttle buses.

Burnett, who is council’s representative on the Regina Downtown Business Improvement District, cited business concerns as inspiring his motion. He said many downtown business owners, particularly those near the transit stops on 11th Avenue, are upset by the congestion buses contribute to downtown traffic, the on-street parking spots that have been lost to transit stops and the narrowing of the sidewalks that new bus shelters may necessitate.

Mayor Michael Fougere stood in support of Burnett’s motion and stated that a free downtown shuttle isn’t without precedent.

“They do this in Winnipeg and Calgary for example where they have larger downtowns. They don’t have big buses in the centre; they have smaller shuttle buses that take you around,” said Fougere in a phone interview after the meeting.

But a quick glance at those cities’ respective transit maps reveals this isn’t the case. Both downtowns are well served by robust networks of bus routes. The Downtown Spirit shuttle in Winnipeg is a free transit service that works alongside the main transit system. And Calgary’s free downtown service is the 7th Avenue Free Zone where transit users can travel on the LRT at no charge.

And, on top of that, to deal with congestion problems on 7th Ave., only buses and light rail are allowed on it. Cars are prohibited — so, kind of the opposite of what Burnett and Fougere are suggesting.

But Fougere did suggest that Burnett’s motion does not mean that we will definitely be adding a free shuttle service to Regina’s downtown. It is just a feasibility study. And we’ll find out the results of it along with the findings of the Downtown Transportation Study and the Transportation Master Plan when they come before council in November. /Paul Dechene

[hr]

SHERWOOD SURE WANTS ITS VILLAGE

The Rural Municipality of Sherwood and the City of Regina continued to trade blows in their slowly progressing battle over development in the rural/urban fringe.

At a special meeting of their council on July 25, Sherwood voted to rezone several parcels of land from agricultural to neighbourhood land use, thus taking their plans to build Wascana Village, a major suburban development proposed for the southern edge of Regina, several steps closer to realization.

Meanwhile, at their regular meeting on July 29, Regina’s city council passed an interim extra-municipal servicing policy and fee structure which could make developments outside the city limits such as Wascana Village more expensive to build.

The new policy and fees cover situations where Regina is requested to provide water, wastewater and related services to users outside of the city limits. The goal is to devise a fee system that is in line with what developers within the city have to pay through servicing agreement fees and development levies.

In other words, developers outside the city will now have to pay the full cost of the services, including the costs of renewing that infrastructure into the future.

And the new policy gives city administration the ability to deny a request for service outright if a proposed development would cause any planning conflicts with Regina.

Considering Wascana Village is to be built in a part of the rural/urban fringe that the City of Regina has marked for possible future annexation, it looks like this new suburb would have difficulty getting accepted by this new policy.

And yet Mayor Michael Fougere says the servicing fee policy has nothing to do with Wascana Village and has actually been in the works for a long time.

“[They’re] totally separate. Completely separate,” he said after the council meeting. “Actually the RM of Sherwood has seen that report over the last year. We gave that to them and the province to take a look at. They’ve seen what essentially is in the report.”

Fougere refused to discuss the matter further, he said, because the city and Sherwood are currently in mediation and are having a productive discussion that he wouldn’t want to disrupt. /Paul Dechene

2013-08-08