City Council Highlights
Below are some of the highlights from October’s City Council and committee meetings. You can find the full agenda and minutes from the meetings online.
Overhaul of Curbside Waste Collection
At October’s meeting of City Council, we moved forward with a decision to establish a city-wide curbside organics collection program.
This is a huge step forward for our city and it will have a significant impact on extending the life of the landfill—an estimated additional 23 years. The current (and optional) green cart program has been successful, but the City’s research has shown that 58% of what ends up in the black bin is organic material that could be diverted. The adoption of an organics program—set to be collected once every two weeks along with garbage collection on alternating weeks—will help to greatly reduce this number.
At this stage, Council has yet to determine a funding source to pay for this new service, and this decision is scheduled to take place in November, along with a report from the City’s administration with more information on the pros and cons of different funding options.
There are still difficult decisions yet to come on this matter to fix our waste management system, but this is a positive move for our community. We’re in an unfortunate situation when it comes to waste management and there are no easy solutions. I’m committed to figuring out a strategy that balances the costs and expectations that exist now with the costs and expectations that will exist in the years to come.
Updates on Bus Rapid Transit
At the Governance and Priorities Committee of City Council, we received an update on the City’s plans on a variety of different projects that are key to our city’s growth. The most significant item for discussion was the potential routing of the Bus Rapid Transit System, and the downtown bike lanes and the reconfiguration of Idylwyld Drive were also considered.
We are at a critical time in the growth of our city, one where we have to decide if we are going to keep on growing the same way that we have in the past, or if we should embark on a different route into the future. I am committed to making sure that the decisions that we make serve us well now and in the years and decades to come as our city continues to grow. We can be—and we need to be—ambitious about the sort of city that we want to become. That’s what all of these plans seek to do: to help us embrace being a 21st century city, to allow our growth to serve us well into the future, and to get us to be the city that gets it right.
At this time, City Council has not decided on the final routing of the BRT or of the downtown bike lanes, but this was just an information report to clarify what all of the options being considered are and what will be taken back out into the community for further engagement and conversation.
The BRT—much like the new Chief Mistawasis Bridge—is critically important to the city’s future growth. The BRT forms the backbone of the City’s new Plan for Growth, and it will help to transform the way that people get around the city. By creating a BRT system we can make transit better for those who use it, increase ridership, and decrease congestion on roads for drivers (especially as new neighbourhoods attract new residents).
There were a lot of business owners and residents who were concerned about the potential for a BRT route down Broadway, and especially about the possibility of a bus-only lane down this street. I heard these concerns loud and clear, and I’ve been hearing these concerns for several months now. The decision to use or not use Broadway for the BRT will be a decision made by all of Council, and this decision is anticipated early in 2019. Before a decision being made, City Council will be presented with detailed studies on all options, as well as the results of the community engagement. For more information on how you can get involved, check out the City’s engagement page.
The decision on where downtown bike lanes should go depends on the decision about BRT routing. Bike lanes are another way that we can encourage smart and sustainable growth in Saskatoon. All research and evidence points us in the direction that we need to increase our transportation options getting to, from, and around downtown. Although the current bike lane arrangement did get rid of some parking spots along 4th and 23rd, we are not going to be able to solve our congestion and parking issues without encouraging other forms of transportation, something made clear in the 2016 Downtown Parking Strategy. The bike lanes are a part of how we can do this, as they have proven to be effective for increasing ridership and increasing safety in Saskatoon.
Another piece to this puzzle is reconfiguring Idylwyld Drive to have traffic flow as smoothly as possible, and also to increase the walkability of the area. Right now, the stretch of Idylwyld between 20th Street and 25th Street is poorly set up for all road users. There is a proposed plan that will coordinate traffic signals and create greater consistency from intersection to intersection. With these changes, the morning commute will decrease along these five blocks by 37 seconds and will decrease the afternoon commute by 23 seconds. If you’re interested, you can watch a video of projected traffic flows with these changes.
Other than improving traffic flow, one of the benefits of this plan is that it increases safety for all road users. For motorists, there is less of a need for lane switching and there is a more efficient use of the road. For pedestrians and those using mobility aids, there are wider sidewalks that are designed to be accessible. And for cyclists—because of the more efficient use of the road—there is space for raised cycling tracks that will connect to other cycling infrastructure. Even as the City grows to 500,000, this is the best option for traffic flow and for the safety of everyone.
These changes would go alongside zoning changes and developments that would drive investment in the area and bridge the Downtown and Riversdale.
Taken together, these three initiatives will be key for how Saskatoon grows and they will shape our downtown for years to come. This process is taking a while, but it is well worth it so that we can do our due diligence and get all of these decisions right.
Speed Limit Review
City Council has decided to request that the City’s administration develop a framework for reviewing speed limits on residential streets, with a particular eye on the streets near schools and playgrounds. This was not a request to lower speed limits to 30km/h on residential streets.
Rather, the next steps on this for the City will be to conduct some more thorough research and create a detailed community engagement plan about the impacts of and attitudes towards addressing speed concerns on residential streets. This will also include a deeper analysis of traffic accidents and injuries to get a more accurate picture of where people are getting hurt within the city and whether speed limit changes can have an impact on reducing this.
There will also be a review of whether it is appropriate to remove school zone limits from high schools (something that is becoming more common across the country), adjusting the hours of the school zone limits, and considering creating playground zones or safety measures where there is a larger concentration of senior citizens. These issues are being tackled across the country, we will be looking at best practices and a variety of options.
I understand this is controversial. I also recognize the responsibility I have to support the conditions for residents to be safe in our community. Both as a councillor and now as mayor, traffic safety has been one of the most common issues that people raise with me. We have had 69 people killed in traffic accidents and thousands injured in the last decade. Whether it is messages to my office, conversations I have at events, or at Town Hall meetings, traffic safety issues are a frequent concern among residents. People are expecting and demanding that this issue is taken seriously, so to me this deserves attention and some further analysis.
Additionally, there are also numerous situations where there is the perception of widespread speeding on certain streets, when the data show that this actually isn’t the case. In these instances, even if someone is going 50km/h, it simply feels too fast for the way the street is designed or for the amount of activity there is on a street. When this happens we measure if it is a problem against a 50km/h speed limit and often this means there is a recommendation not to do anything. This happens quite frequently where there are commuters cutting through neighbourhoods as shortcuts, often on narrow residential streets in older neighbourhoods or near playgrounds and parks where there is lots of activity. There is a disconnect between what people are expecting and what the City can deliver, and I believe that we need to explore.
Finally, I also wanted to clarify that this review is not for arterial roads (such as 8th Street, 22nd Street, and College Drive) or for freeways, but this review is just for neighbourhood roads.
Improvements to the City’s Procurement
City Council has modernized our procurement practices at the City of Saskatoon so that we can have the best impact on the community as a whole.
This was a comprehensive overhaul of the Purchasing Policy that changed many different elements, and the full new policy (that comes into effect on Dec. 1, 2018) can be found online, as can a summary of changes.
At a very high level, I’d like to talk about three different changes that the new Purchasing Policy will have for the City of Saskatoon.
- Award contracts based on best value:
The new procurement practices help the City to procure what provides the best value, and not just necessarily what can be provided at the lowest price. This means a lot of different things, and one of the most effective ways that we can make sure that it happens is by making sure that our procurement process is open, fair, and transparent.
The City has also been working with Priority Saskatchewan to align our templates with what the province uses, so it is easier for businesses to apply for City work.
- Delegation of authority:
This new policy delegates the City’s administration the authority to award most of the contracts the City has without the need to go to City Council for final approval. This makes our policy more clearly in line with best practices and helps to get rid of the perception of political interference when awarding this sort of work.
- Social procurement:
One of the most exciting changes is to better enable procurement that supports Indigenous businesses, social enterprises, and environmentally-friendly purchases, to name just a few. The City has a tremendous amount of purchasing power, and with that comes a tremendous potential to do things differently and have a positive effect for the broader community. Additionally, I believe that the City of Saskatoon also has a responsibility to make sure that the investments we are making in the city are best serving the community as a whole.
Social issues and economic issues are so deeply linked, and to create a stronger economy we need to create a more inclusive economy. In addition to changing our own internal practices, this sort of work is done through cooperation and relationship building.
There is a lot of work remaining on this because this is a significant undertaking, but we’re moving in the right direction to help to create a stronger and more inclusive economy and a stronger and more inclusive Saskatoon. We are forging forward on this, and we have the potential to really push boundaries and lead the country on this matter.
For more information on the changes to the City’s procurement, you can check out my blog post.
Redevelopment of Former Bus Barns
When Saskatoon Transit moved their operations from the bus barns in the south part of Caswell Hill out to the new Civic Operations Centre on Valley Road, this created an opportunity for the development of this site close to the city’s centre.
With the former Saskatoon Transit facilities now vacant, this space is not being utilized and there is the potential for infill opportunities, for business growth, and for investment in the area. The development of the bus barns fits in with the City’s vision to strategically invest in areas in and around the downtown to help to strengthen our city’s core, and it is also close to a future corridor for Bus Rapid Transit, making this area even more important.
It is also important that these lots are used in a way that serves both the needs of the neighbourhood and of the city more broadly. When this issue came to committee, I made an additional motion to make sure that the future of this area aligns with the wishes of the community and of the South Caswell Concept Plan that was adopted several years ago. This will be done by having City staff work with the Caswell Hill Community Association to review the different proposals that come forward.