#City & Town Planning
Citizens, planners, decision-makers

Why A Charter?

Calgary is an auto-dependent city. Decades of low density, automobile-dependent development with segregated land uses has characterized the building of our city. The result of this urban sprawl has been a sharp increase in vehicle-related greenhouse gas emissions and ground level pollutants, fiscally unsustainable infrastructure spending, and loss of community, increased health risks and continued marginalization of Calgarians who do not drive. The opposite of auto-dependent is not a total lack of private vehicles, rather, it is a balanced or multi-modal transport system, meaning that consumers have a variety of transport options, and incentives to use each for what it does best.

Calgary’ is known for its large ecological footprint currently 9.86 global hectares per person . There is a relationship between rising greenhouse gas emissions and population growth. Between 1990 and 2005, Calgary's population grew 38 per cent and at the same time greenhouse gas emissions increased 32 per cent . The City is continuing to grow at a fast pace. Transportation is dependent on fossil fuel use, which is linked to air quality, acid rain, and climate change. Any changes to reduce fossil fuel use and increase energy efficiency will have a direct effect on issues related to air quality and the atmosphere as well as human health. Reducing dependency on automobile use would reduce the need for more expensive, environmentally invasive infrastructure.

A city so reliant on the automobile significantly marginalizes many Calgarians. According to figures from the Alberta Government there are over 170,000 driving age Calgarians without a license – about 20 per cent of those eligible to drive and many more with a license are without the financial resources to afford an automobile and are constrained by the cost of accessible transport. Affordable transportation enables access to services and opportunities for youth, people with disabilities, seniors, those living with low income, the sick and newcomers.

Different factors affect affordability, including individuals’ mobility needs and abilities; the quantity, quality and pricing of mobility options; land use factors that affect accessibility; and housing affordability . Public and private resources have been invested in providing alternative transportation services though these services rarely prove to be viable alternatives for efficiently meeting the day-to-day travel needs of those who cannot or do not drive. Where they exist, services are often sparse, overtaxed, uncoordinated, available only to strictly defined "eligible" populations, and limited in their geographic scope. Without accessible, efficient, affordable, safe transportation many Calgarians are unable to access services, employment, training, education, and social opportunities that are crucial to full participation in the community.

Sprawl reduces economic competitiveness. As global inventories of fossil fuels deplete, the cost of transportation will increase, creating a significant economic impact. Long commutes on clogged roads and increased time to transport goods have a direct economic cost. A 2003 report by the TD Bank Financial Group identified sprawl and the resulting infrastructure debt as two of the most significant factors impeding the economic competitiveness of Alberta. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, innovative cities that emphasize improved public transit, and compact, pedestrian-friendly, mixed-use development will be the most successful cities in the global market place.

Sprawl also contributes to reduced competitiveness of urban transit. The dispersed nature of growth and the cost structure of transit are high, because of the high capital cost of infrastructure and vehicles and because of fluctuating usage rates in peak period and off-peak period use. Transit services are expected to provide high capacity for short periods of time each day plus lower levels of service throughout the remainder of the day and evening.

Residents in communities in Calgary with limited transit are left with few options but to drive. Calgary needs a public transit throughout the City that is accessible, affordable, available and safe for all Calgarians. Research conducted by Sustainable Calgary in 2007 revealed barriers to the system. Transit users identified scheduling issues, overcrowding and long waits for buses . Road congestion resulted in busses sitting idly in traffic, wasting time and energy and creating pollution. Shift workers described scheduling constraints and limited services at irregular hours. People with disabilities reported barriers to accessing public transit safely , particularly around LRT stations. Crowding on transit during peak hours presented difficult for seniors, people with disabilities or parents with small children to ride. Those on fixed or low incomes faced access and affordability issues. Calgarians relying on parallel transit described continually declining service due to funding constraints. In addition, negative perceptions of the system deterred some car owners from using transit.

The excessive use of motor vehicles has also fostered an increasing lack of community, as people tend to drive to the majority of their destinations. Without walking to corner stores, neighbourhood parks and recreation facilities, social interaction is limited and isolation of increases. Furthermore communities with heavy traffic tend to have speed and congestion issues that make it unsafe to walk or wheel, which in turn forces people to drive.

Car-oriented development is also associated with increased health problems. Automobile-dependent cities tend to have higher per capita traffic casualty rates. Research by the Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation connects the sedentary lifestyle, promoted by the poor design of Canadian suburbs, with increased rates of obesity, heart disease and diabetes. In addition to inactivity, the fossil fuels used by automobiles increase air pollutants that cause or contribute to high levels of cardiovascular and pulmonary disease. All of these factors contribute to an already strained health care system.

Leadership, investment and accountability are needed in the development and implementation of strategies and policies that seek to provide accessibility and safety to remove obstacles for persons with disabilities, seniors, and other citizens with unique needs.

We, the undersigned, say NO to continued growth in Calgary that is unsustainable and inequitable. We call on the Council of the City of Calgary, to ensure that the new strategic direction defined in PLAN IT CALGARY - the Integrated Land Use and Mobility Plan - guarantees inclusion of the following 5 conditions:

1. Sustainable transportation-supportive community development
• All community development will be designed for maximum access by sustainable modes of travel including walking, wheeling and high-quality transit. Future development will include mixed land uses, integrated community services, local commercial opportunities and a range of inclusive housing options.
• The balance will shift from supporting community development in outlying areas of Calgary to promoting development and redevelopment in established communities.

2. Transportation infrastructure
• Adequate infrastructure will be provided for walking and wheeling in land uses and plans for roads, Light rapid transit (LRT) and transit facilities to allow for and encourage such travel modes. This will include increased road and path connectivity, accessibility and inter-modal connections.
• The system will be designed for accessibility, connectivity and safety for all users with effective detail and placement of facilities.

3. A City-wide efficient, system
• Transportation will be planned and implemented with the goal of making public transit universally accessible, safe, affordable, faster and more efficient than the private automobile at all times and in all communities in the city. In other words, no matter where you live in our city, you can have a practical choice to live without an automobile.

4. Re-allocation of transportation spending
• In order to achieve these sustainable and equitable transportation outcomes, The City will adopt a significant shift in municipal transportation infrastructure spending to at least 65% in favour of high quality transit and sustainable transportation, such as walking and wheeling.

5. Implement, monitor, resource
• Projects that are approved by The City of Calgary Council will include a detailed implementation strategy supported with adequate resources to ensure actionable results, specific time lines and monitoring mechanisms implemented to ensure success and continual improvement.

• Adequate infrastructure will be provided for walking and wheeling in all land uses and plans for roads, LRT and transit facilities to allow for and encourage such travel modes. This will include increased road and path connectivity, accessibility and inter-modal connections. The system will be designed for accessibility, connectivity and safety for all users with effective detail and placement of facilities.

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The Sustainable Equitable Transportation Charter petition to Citizens, planners, decision-makers was written by Sustainable Equitable Transportation Group and is in the category City & Town Planning at GoPetition.