TC’s special on Rebuilding Canada

The Times Colonist (and presumably the whole Canwest newspaper chain) has a special entitled “Rebuilding Canada”. That they are running such a piece now isn’t really a surprise, given the massive number of stories talking about an “infrastructure stimulus“. What really gets me is the focus on rebuilding and adding new roads. One of the choicer quotes comes from a story titled “The scramble to make our highways safe“:

Elsewhere, Edmonton has a $260-million interchange project to unclog a bottleneck on a ring road.

Twinned Port Mann bridge
Twinned Port Mann bridge. Notice the lie of the mostly empty lanes

You can’t build your way out of congestion. This is the hard lesson Boston is discovering, after their giant “Big Dig” project. Aside from all the well documented problems with quality of the construction, what they have found is that the faster traffic flow in the core has simply pushed bottlenecks outwards. The traditional answer to this would be to “fix” the new bottlenecks with more roads, which would just be perpetuating the cycle of endless construction, which is how we ended up here in the first place. We need to build less roads and reduce the number we already have, not be adding more.

But where is the talk about using transit to solve some of these bottlenecks? The problem is that planners and governments fail to look at mobility holistically. Essentially, we need to be planning how to move people more efficiently, not cars. Some organizations get it, such as Washington States Department of Transportation and their page on bottlenecks and chokepoints. Others, well, just don’t.

Seattle Street Edge Alternative
Seattle's Street Edge Alternative program. Photo credit CRD

Of course, roads are not the only piece of infrastructure that is crumbling. Recreational facilities and housing, garbage disposal, sewers and public transit are all covered as well. Sewers are an interesting one. Apparently the City of Victoria has some of the oldest sewer pipes in Canada, at almost 100 years old. All well and good, but where is the discussion of using bioswales (CRD on bioswales) and green roofs (Ecogeeks has a good photo-filled FAQ on green roofs) to reduce runoff into our sewers? As the CRD plans to charge municipalities based on flow, reducing runoff means less tax dollars wasted.

Overall, I am deeply disappointed with this whole series. It is typical tired journalism. Given the recent cuts in the Canwest newsrooms, I am not surprised they are failing to produce good, innovative stories. I guess that leaves it up to the poor bloggers to tell the story.