Faster, easier transit and greater development in core neighbourhoods are the two primary goals for Saskatoon planners as the city prepares to grow to half a million people.
In a presentation seven years in the making, on Wednesday planning and development director Allan Wallace offered the first glimpse of the 30-year Growth Plan to Half a Million, which focuses primarily on urban infill and effective transportation.
“Growth will occur with or without a plan,” Wallace said. “If we don’t take the necessary measures to change how we move around the city, we’re going to experience a lot of difficulty in the short and medium term.”
The plan includes creating a near-even split between growing suburbs and core neighbourhood infill. Right now urban infill makes up 15 per cent of the city’s total development..
Wallace said the city could access up to 1,000 acres of undeveloped land within Circle Drive, including the bus yards and University of Saskatchewan endowment lands.
“It’s like having two full neighbourhoods inside circle drive,” he said. “The fact that (the university) wants to develop that in an urban way will really help us balance growth.”
Garden and garage suite bylaws will also be examined to encourage redevelopment.
Outside the inner core within Circle Drive, new neighbourhoods will be developed in the Blairmore, University Heights, and Holmwood areas. Those developments will focus on smaller, contained communities where residents have quick access to employment, shopping, and connection to the downtown core.
Upgrades to and construction of new water and sewer systems are also included in the plan.
With the city expecting 75,000 people to move into core neighbourhoods, Wallace said they will need a transit plan that boosts public transportation usage from five to eight per cent and encourages more cycling and walking.
The growth plan includes several items aimed at public transit, such as upgrading buses, extending operating hours and increasing frequency. Other measures focus on revamping route systems and creating dedicated bus lanes and park-and-ride stations. The plan also calls for introducing a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system along main corridors.
“You really need frequencies below 10 minutes to change behaviours,” Wallace said.
The BRT plan includes one corridor running east-west through Blairmore, University Heights and Holmwood, and another running north-south through Nutana and Lawson. Dedicated bus lanes would be set up in the curb lanes.
Residents can expect to see the start of the new plan this summer. That’s when dedicated bus lanes will be introduced during peak hours along 8th Street.
Transit director Jim McDonald said they hope to increase the frequency of buses to every five minutes by having several routes travel along 8th Street before arriving at Centre Mall where they will break off into surrounding neighbourhoods.
McDonald said he expects to accomplish the plan within the current transit budget.
The plan will be expanded to 22nd Street next year, then College Drive in 2018. Warman Road and Idywyld Drive in 2019.
In addition to transit, the city estimates they will spent up to $1.4 billion upgrading and building new roads over the next 30-plus years. Proposed road improvements include widening parts of 8th Street, Circle Drive, College Drive, 11th, and 22nd streets.
Should the city reach its infill goals, a new bridge at 33rd Street will be considered to relieve traffic to and from the downtown core, however Wallace said the plan is at least a decade away and would come after the Traffic and North Commuter bridges.
The road plan is also dependent on increasing the amount of people using transit, cycling and walking from 11.5 per cent to 20 per cent of the population.
A Growth Plan Summit will present the final draft of the plan to council at a public meeting next Monday, March 14. Residents will also be able to ask questions and offer input during an open forum at 7 p.m. following the summit.
Council will vote on the draft in April. If the plan is approved, administration will develop a detailed 10-year implementation plan which will go to a vote during budget deliberations in December.
The complete growth plan is available on the City of Saskatoon Growing Forward website.http://www.growingfwd.ca/