Why Urban Design and Planning Should Be THE Federal Election Issue

Image result for canada primary sources of carbon emissions
As you can see from the image above, the single largest source of greenhouse gas / carbon emissions in Canada – 20% – originate from CARS. Personal transportation, short trips on long roads.  Oodles of idling.
This is the same for the US. And other countries.
And yet sprawl continues. And we continue to sit in cars bitching about a couple of cents being added to gas prices.  And, truth be told, folks like me still want to blame the bitumen producers for all of the carbon (which, of course, is still substantial for a single industry!).
Once you take a moment to absorb this data, it becomes clear that we design our cities like hourglasses: too much sand is trying to get through a single, small entry point (ie. a downtown core), wasting valuable time and resources in the process.
Obviously, there are about a dozen easy policy considerations that we should be talking about and NOT the colour of anyone’s face, especially if they apologized in a genuine fashion.
Urban design rarely comes up in election campaign promises, but smatterings of the details do. Here’s a checklist of ideas related to urban design:
  • Nationally mandated design principles for roads, including a substantial amount of research and resources going into making better roads in place of existing bitumen/tar/gravel pot-hole generators.
  • Road design to include mandatory considerations for cycling and pedestrian traffic that are NOT simply adjuncts of roads. I am sick of fighting cars when cycling, trying to gain an inch or two of messy gravel shoulders when those around me in their cars gripe about what a pain I am.
  • House design that would ensure off-grid (or close to it) properties, such as gas/heating, electrical and water independence and extra taxes applied for monster garages. R-2000? Why not R-5000? Why not research and explore new materials that will be climate change friendly as opposed to continuing to build the same old ‘water mops’ that we allow in the suburbs?
  • Community independence and logical intensification. Focus on ways to minimize the need for people to get in their cars, drive 10km, park in giant parking lots and spend vast sums of money at international big-box stores.
  • Land use restrictions. Limit the amount of land – especially quality farm land that other countries would kill to possess – used for development. Implement ‘Agricultural Land Use’ and ‘Communal Park’ restrictions in many urban areas.
  • A parking tax levied on developers. Not applicable to qualifying downtown areas. Applicable mainly towards empty parking lots in the suburbs.
  • No more tax-free consideration for religious buildings. Phase out over time.
  • Mandate the integration of certain residential, commercial and farming uses for land as opposed to putting them in, pardon the pun, silos.
  • Farming, food policy and land-use requirements that look more like the EU standards of origin vs the mess we have now. By the way, did you know that your cheap ‘International blend’ wine is likely from China and not Canada, as they pretend it is?
  • Minimum public transit construction requirements. I’ve gone over this before. Any city larger than a certain population (eg. 500,000) will be legally required to continuously build efficient public transit services (ie. subways and independent LRT routes). No more buses that just add to congestion, please.
  • Develop nodes of high tech infrastructure that will encourage people to commute less and communicate more.
  • Massive subsidies to electric vehicles, especially those made in Canada.
For the record, I’m not a qualified urban planner or municipal worker, but as you can see, off the top of my head, I came up with at least a dozen recommendations that would help restructure our country’s pitiful public infrastructure.
If we’re going to solve the climate crisis, we have to get out of our cars.
It’s that simple.
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