If the city were to base its transportation master plan on the results of a recent survey it would be “taking a step backwards,” according to Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran.
The Transportation Citizen Survey, which garnered responses from 300 Kelowna residents, show a vast majority of residents support alternative forms of transportation, however many respondents still want to the city to build more roads, an opinion that doesn’t necessarily improve the flow of traffic.
The results showed strong support for the city’s direction towards increasing transportation options and reducing dependence on private vehicles. Seventy-five per cent of residents said that investing in walking, biking, transit, and other sustainable modes would be a good or very good idea.
However, not everybody was on board.
Council specifically took issue with the 51 per cent of respondents who said building more roads is a long-term solution for the city’s traffic congestion.
“Building roads doesn’t reduce congestion,” said Coun. Gail Given. “Rather, it adds to congestion.”
Despite his comments, the survey showed 61 per cent of people believe cars and trucks passing through Kelowna have a significant impact on traffic congestion, while a report that went to council just a few months ago showed that just 13 per cent of traffic coming into the city are destined for elsewhere.
As a result, the city plans to focus its attention on educating the public about transporation, with staff noting significant differences between the answers of those surveyed and statistics on road use.
While acknowledging that educating the public is vital moving forward, Basran admitted there will never be a consensus on topics like this.
“We aren’t going to be able to convince or bring everyone along for the ride,” he said. “It’s going to take some political courage to make some decisions or investments in areas where maybe people don’t believe it should be. We know for a number of different reasons — financially and environmentally — it’s the right thing to do.”
Basran also challenged the survey’s phrasing, specifically the part which asked if the city’s investment into sustainable transportation is a good thing.
“Of course everyone thinks it’s a good idea,” he said. “I bet you if you worded that question a little differently and said, ‘would you be willing to pay more in taxes to invest in (sustainable transportation)?’ the answer would be a lot different.”