UVic talks parking some more

UVic, smarting after their rejection last summer for their height variance, is back before the community again for the CARSA project and its associated parkade. Not much has changed with this round, although they have at least attempted to show a few different options. The public seems to like the partially buried option as the TC has reported, but there some other interesting things in the report.

Not many students gave feedback
Arguably students have already given their approval after CARSA went through a referendum. Still, the total number of students was very low.

Nobody is talking about how CARSA or the parkade are going to be funded.
CARSA itself will come from a whole list of groups, but the parkade will be funded by the parking fees (which will generate money for UVic once the debt is paid off). This is why UVic isn’t talking about a new sorely-needed transit exchange: they aren’t paying for the parkade, so there is no money to shuffle from one project to another.

The story of funding CARSA is even more convoluted, involving a 2009 referendum to raise student fees that the province rejected as being too high and a 2011 attempt to have another referendum.

The parkade is busy damaging UVIC’s green cred
Several of the attendees were concerned about how this fit into UVic and the region’s larger transportation strategies. (full disclosure: one of those people was me).

CARSA will make biking/walking to UVic less attractive
CARSA will take a major (12% of total people) and narrow the pathway and redirect bicyclists onto McKenzie.

The kicker here is that UVic already did this once already, with the new Social Science and Math building. Bicyclists used to be able to cross the Ring Road from McGill, never actually having to bike on the Ring Road. The New SS&M building closed off that access, forcing bicyclists onto Ring Road, which is narrow and has a lot of traffic.

So for me the take away is this: does UVic actually care about sustainability? I used to think so. Now I am not so sure. The CARSA April Open Houses Summary (PDF) can be read here or on UVic’s CARSA site.

UVic’s CARSA and McKenzie rebuild host open houses

Seems it is the season for open houses and we have a lot of them:

For the next stage for teh CARSA project at UVic, including its parkade:

Saturday, April 28
St. Aidan’s United Church
3703 St. Aidan’s St.
noon – 3 p.m.

Monday, April 30
Mount Doug Secondary School, multi-purpose room
3970 Gordon Head Rd.
5 – 8 p.m.

Tuesday, May 1
UVic Student Union Building, Michele Pujol room,
University of Victoria
11am – 2 p.m.

Wednesday, May 2
Cadboro Bay United Church
2625 Arbutus Rd.
4 – 7 p.m.

And for McKenzie road rebuild (from Gordon Head Road to Cadboro Bay Rd.), we have an open house today:

The District of Saanich Engineering Department will host a Public Information Session on Tuesday, April 24, 2012 between the hours of 4:00 and 7:30 p.m. at the University of Victoria Student Union Building, 3800 Finnerty Road, in the Michele Pujol Room (A121).

Followup from BC Transit’s UVic future plans

BC Transit has posted the followup to their open house at UVic regarding future transit options for the university. Their findings were interesting:

  • A bus loop close to the Student Union Building (SUB) and bookstore (and planned Village Centre) is preferred, “as students consider the SUB the centre of the campus”.
  • There was support to keep major bus routes off Ring Road because of delays experienced at pedestrian crosswalks – instead, shuttle service should be operated around the campus
  • Preferred bus routes to and from UVic and on campus: route options 1 and 7 received the most support; option 5 is the least desirable (check out page 5 and 6 of the presentation boards to see the route options.)
  • Longer walking distances on campus would be acceptable if they are offset by faster transit service, more express buses and a campus shuttle
  • Reliability of service and pass-ups off campus are more of an issue than the frequency of service or walking distances on campus
  • There is a strong support for staggering class start times as a way to alleviate pass-ups and other service issues
  • Personal security is a concern at the bus loop at night, and for people walking across campus at night to the bus loop or a bus stop

This list does include some fascinating contradictions and unanswered questions:

  1. People don’t mind walk across campus but are also worried about personal security while doing so. Huh?
  2. What exchange options did people prefer?
  3. Do people realize what a walk across campus would actually mean in terms of time?
  4. Where are people actually clustered during the day? UVic has class times and enrollment for the entire campus. I would love to see a map of that.
  5. What is this “Village Centre” that they mention? Does it have to do with the discussions about putting in a traffic circle at the corner of Finnerty and Sinclair?
  6. Is UVic even willing to discuss changing class times? This has some pretty serious knock-on effects on instructor and classroom scheduling.

UVic seeks input on Cedar Hill X Rd lands

A former potential site of sewage treatment, now under study. Image courtesy CRD Natural Areas Atlas

UVic Sustainability has finally decided to develop a plan for the Cedar Hill X Rd. lands. Yes, those same lands that the CRD considered for a Saanich East/Oak Bay sewage treatment/pumping plant earlier this year. (For reference, it is outlined in yellow to the right). Like most areas, there are a lot of interested parties, including dog walkers, UVic Facilities, UVic Forest Biology, and the local community. Some of those users don’t see eye to eye, so balancing those conflicted needs should be interesting.

This isn’t the first time a plan has come up for the site, although it seems that everybody but UVic has been involved. Proposed for the site in 2009 was a “UVic School of Agriculture” by the Campus Urban Agricultural Collective (Facebook page). At the time the draft plan under discussion was but an apple in the eye of then-UVic (now CRD) Sustainability Coordinator Sarah Webb, as she mentioned the Marlet in a story about the CUAC. Earlier this year the Food Not Lawns Collective co-opted that idea and dumped it into their manifesto (as they dug up the lawn in front of the library, possibly killing all their credibility in the process).

Disappointingly, the plan doesn’t talk at all about the road immediately adjacent, which includes parking in the area, or of better pedestrian access. Currently Cedar Hill X Rd. has a number of problems: too wide, lack of sidewalks on the north side, lack of bike lanes, and its use as overflow parking from UVic, the Rec Centre, both golf courses, and Emmanuel Baptist Church. Yes, the road is under the control of Oak Bay, but that shouldn’t stop UVic from making a stronger statement. And Oak Bay should listen. After all, they are the adjacent land owner and we go to great pains to query other adjacent land owners when we put in improvements like bike lanes. Observe the recent bike lane work on the other side of Cedar Hill X Rd.

However, I am cautiously optimistic. The drop dead date for getting your comments into UVic is November 26th. You can read more at the UVic Sustainability Planning site.

Council asks for feedback on proposed bike lanes

The great disappearing bike lane on Foul Bay Rd.
The great disappearing bike lane on Foul Bay Rd.

It seems those bike lane improvements I mentioned the other day might not be as slow as coming as I had feared. At the time council hesitated, asking for more information about traffic counts and resident feelings. The counting of cars has begun with the engineering department deploying a vehicle counter just south of Middowne and notifying the residents has apparently already happened, as I received in my inbox this notice (PDF) asking for their opinion.

For a quick refresher, the proposed works are:

  1. Completing the bike lane up Foul Bay Rd. northbound and possibly adding a bike box at the intersection with some sort of striping through the intersection itself
  2. Adding a bike lane on Cedar Hill X Rd. between the Saanich border at the intersection with Gordon Head Rd. and the UVic entrance at Henderson Road.

The deadline for getting information back to council is fairly short: you need to send in your comments by 4pm on Thursday, July 8th or by attending the meeting on the 12th of July at 7:30 pm. It will be held in the usual place at the Municipal Hall on at 2167 Oak Bay Ave. Thanks to Lesley Ewing for forwarding this on to me. Hope to see you all there.

Bike lanes delayed in Oak Bay

After a good half hour debate about the relative merits of adding bike lanes and bike boxes on two different routes to UVic, council ultimately decided to delay doing any work until Director of Engineering David Marshall could come back with more detailed engineering drawings, traffic counts at the Foul Bay intersection, and feedback from the local residents affected.

For a quick review, as I reported two weeks back, Councillor Nils Jensen asked Marshall to look at adding a bike lane northbound on Foul Bay just before Lansdowne Rd with a bike box at the intersection itself as well as adding a bike lane on the western section of Cedar Hill X Rd to complete the existing lane that ends at the Saanich border.

Marshall came back with three different designs: The first simply stripped the bike lane through the intersection, possibly with a coloured treatment in the middle for visibility. This was the option recommended by Marshall to council. The second added a bike box at the intersection and the third extended the bike lane all the up the curb, removing the right turn lane.

Also completed was a quick count of cyclists, with 54 cyclists tallied headed northbound during peak hours a few weeks ago. Engineering staff also spoke to a few of them. Their main concern was with how the intersection shifted to the left as a bicyclist or car travelled northbound. This apparently low number of cyclists and their lack of concern was used by several council members as reasons for holding off doing any work. Given that neither UVic nor Camosun are in regular session, the numbers are deceivingly low. I also suspect that surveying now misses the inexperienced cyclists that appear in the early September, cyclists that are more likely to want bike lanes and bike boxes.

At the end of the night, council ultimately opting to do nothing beyond asking Marshall for the more information. Hopefully the Community Initiatives Committee, of which I am a member, will meet again in the near future so that we can discuss these items and get some action before the summer ends and students return to class.

Bike improvements possibly coming to Oak Bay

Bike lane ending on Foul Bay. Photo Credit: John Luton
Bike lane ending on Foul Bay. Photo Credit: John Luton

Bicycle commuters to UVic may have an easier time next September as the municipality moves to fix a few gaps in the existing bike lanes. Initially promoted by Councillor Jensen, Council last night asked engineering staff to prepare a report on finishing the bike lane on the northbound (east) side of Foul Bay  just before Lansdowne (as can be seen on the photo to the right). This is a very steep area and the bike lane disappears a few hundred metres before the intersection. Further the study will look at the addition of a bike box at the intersection itself to help get bicyclists get ahead of cars. Given that the roadway narrows and shifts to the west at Lansdowne, a bike box will help keep cyclists safe and make them feel more comfortable.

Also up for study is finishing the bike lane on Cedar Hill Cross Rd from the Saanich border (near Mount Tolmie Park) to the entrance of UVic. This part of Cedar Hill X was recently repaved, a missed opportunity to get these bike lanes in as part of the re-striping of the road.

Bike box being installed on Wharf. Photo Credit: John Luton
Bike box being installed on Wharf. Photo Credit: John Luton

Much of the discussion around the table, which was missing bike lane skeptics Cassidy and Herbert, focused on the process, given that the municipality has tasked the Citizen’s Initiatives Committee (CIC) with pedestrian and bicycle improvements. The Mayor wanted the study to got to that committee first, before coming back to council but in the end settling for sending it Comm. of the Whole. This far more informal venue will be a good place for council to get feedback on the proposed changes. That report is expected to available by the June 7th Comm. of the Whole meeting, held at the municipal chambers.

All in all, it is good to see this low hanging (or lying on the ground fruit, as Coun. Jensen put it) dealt with so that the CIC can handle the larger, more contentious issues such as Beach Drive or Cadboro Bay Rd.

Guerrilla gardeners ask for the moon

The lawn diggers of UVic finally released a set of demands (PDF). Do these things or the lawn gets it. Oh, wait…

What exactly do they want? The first and most logical demand is for new community garden space, preferably smack in the middle of campus. They also want a giant educational farm, 15 acres be exact. Their suggested location: Cedar Hill X Rd. lands. Given the lands were once a farm and still have fruit trees, these ideas seem fairly reasonable so far.

Still in the reasonable category is the idea of more fruit trees on campus, to take advantage of Victoria’s Mediterranean-like climate. It is their time-frame and scale I quibble with: 500 trees  in five years. Trees take a decade or more to mature. Simpler would be to change (or subvert, depending on your worldview) UVic’s natural tree replacement and addition programs. The only work needed now revising whatever plan already exists.

And now we get to the insane. A department of agriculture? With 6 full time faculty? Aside from the small matter that UVic seriously lacks office and classroom space for its existing courses — let alone a brand new department — where is the money going to come from? What are they going to teach? And more cynically, what kind of monetization is possible? So I say: get thyself to UBC. They are BC’s agriculture specialists. Have been for a long time. No need to duplicate that.

The rest are a wash. Ten acres of ethnobotanical gardens? A LEED certified building? A food harvest festival? Interesting and not impossible.

Surprisingly, the garden in question is still in existence as of today. Like the rabbit problem, I suspect the university will wait for the summer to deal with it. Less students to chain themselves to bulldozers/live-traps that way.

If all this digging has prompted one good thing, it is that students are talking about community gardens, most of them for the first time. Whether or not that is a good thing is a matter of debate, like I had with a fellow student yesterday. Maybe something will come of this. After all, the reasonable community gardens group can play good cop: “Well, you could be dealing with them…”