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Establishing a Regional Public Transit System can ease parking challenges and improve your health.

By Fred Winsor

Most times when you travel by car in St. John's there is always a doubt in the back of your mind as to whether or not you will find a parking space. This is especially true if you are going to the University, the Confederation Building, the Health Sciences Complex or the Downtown. A common complaint for many years, the response from governments both provincial and municipal has been to build more and wider roads and encourage urban sprawl. Has this worked? What have been the outcomes of such initiatives? One outcome has been a substantial increase in the number of cars liscensed in Newfoundland. In 1975 there were approximately 180,000 automobiles in Newfoundland and Labrador. Today that number has risen to over 600,000. Similarly, there seem to be almost daily traffic jams on most, if not all commuter roads, roads that were supposed to make it easier for us to get around.

Across North America other cities and urban regions face similar situations. In many quarters it has resulted in a rethinking of urban development. In St. John's, the recent Municipal Plan consultations reflected much of that rethinking as citizens reflected on what they wanted in their city. One of the points which came up again and again was walkability. People really like walking about in the city. In the suburban areas, they like the many kilometers of walking trails, and in the old city, they love the charm of walking the centuries old streets and laneways. Along with the disarming, outgoing friendliness of the local population, it remains one of the major aesthetic tourism attractions in the city.

 

However, walkability, or creating the conditions to promote walking in the City has very practical determinants of health functions for our citizens. At present our population has one of the highest rates of type “2” diabetes in the country. One of the best known treatments for this medical condition is walking. With this situation it is incumbant on our municipal government to take the lead and support and encourage walking as a public health initiative to protect the interests of our citizens.

One of the proven methods to encourage walking has been the increased use of public transit in urban areas. This form of transportation has been shown to increase the amount of daily exercise by its users. In addition the introduction of regional public transit would permit those living outside the boundaries of the city the choice to travel to the Downtown, Memorial University (MUN), the Health Sciences, the College of the North Atlantic (CONA) and the Confederation Building with limited or no use of cars and not having to find a parking space.

However the move to expanded public transit is not without challenges. Provincial government funding is required to make regional public transit a viable option. Unfortuantely unlike most Canadian provinces, Newfoundland and Labrador provides little funding for public transit, either on a municipal or regional basis. However after decades of spending millions of dollars on building commuter roads around the Northeast Avalon, maybe the time has come to look at other less costly and utimately more healthy transit options.

 

 

Contact Information

 

Fred Winsor

53 Warbury Street

St. John's, NL

tel. 738-3781

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Recent comments

  • Edward Sawdon
    August 05, 2013 - 11:35

    Hi Fred, I believe the Metro St. John's or Northeast Avalon area needs a regional Transit system to cover not only St. John's & Mt. Pearl, but also nearby Paradise, C.B.S., Torbay, Portugal Cove-St. Phillips, & Petty Harbour. On top of that, we need to have Park'n'Ride areas along the outskirts of St. John's whereby commuters park their cars and hop on a Express Buses taking them to and from Downtown St. John's.