Letter To The Coast Magazine by Peggy Cameron, Coordinator, Friends of the Halifax Common
Great job describing myriad reasons why metro pedestrians feel they’re the last on the list. I suspect it’s not the sidewalks that have patience maxed out but also the long-term failure of the city to develop an integrated transportation policy. Decades of widening streets to improve capacity and speed of vehicles (more recently it’s a roundabout fetish) has been to the detriment of meeting real transportation needs or of ensuring pedestrian and cycling safety. The city has also wrecked a lot of the small-scale pedestrian-friendly grid pattern of Halifax streets by privatizing them for super-blockers such as the Metro Centre, Scotia Square, Maritime Centre or, newly, the Nova Centre.
In 2014 Danish tourists wrote to Canadian newspapers to express their shock about our cities gutted by parking lots and our unfit citizens in need of physical exercise. Halifax got special mention. Small wonder. A Friends of Halifax Common photographic exhibition “Phylum Paveia”, documented parking lots on the Halifax Common. It found that approximately 25 percent of the 240 acres of public land is parking lots. And the city plans to pave The Pavilion parking lot as soon as possible. Many of these parking lots are for people who drive to the same work site destination for their entire 30-plus year career.
Why should parking be convenient? We know that vehicles produce more than 30 percent of our GHG emissions. Infrastructure and services costs public money for police, fire, ambulances, medical, theft, traffic control, road-building and maintenance. And societal costs for loss of life or injury are enormous. When developers cry “Densify!” shouldn’t the parking lots be the first to be built on?
In fairness to the vehicle-dependent, its clear the city needs to put real money into real long-term options for everyone. The timing is perfect. You can give support to commuter rail at halifax.ca/transit/commuterrail.php. Meantime, walk long and prosper.
—Peggy Cameron, Halifax