The Ministry of Finance has issued its 2016 population forecasts. They do not agree with the forecast used in the City’s proposed Transportation Master Plan.
The Ministry says that the population of the city in 2041 will be 163,875. That is a nice number, but it is 513 fewer than in 2015. The Province expects a quarter century of no growth for the City.
So why do the City engineers keep telling their City council to invest in road expansion to accommodate a growing population? The city already has more roads per capita than any other city in the Province.
(Some say the City also has more potholes than any other city, and should concentrate of fixing the roads we have, but Statistics Canada doesn’t do a pothole census, so we can’t be sure if we have too many. )
Labour market data also points to a no-growth scenario for the city. The graph below shows no job growth since the recession.
The North as a whole is actually in decline. During the economic recovery from 2010 to 2015, Provincial employment grew by 1.1%, jobs in the Greater Golden Horseshoe increased by 1.8%. and employment in Northern Ontario fell by 0.2%. The employment rate in the North is 7% lower than the the employment rate for Ottawa and the Toronto regions. This is a situation sure to drive young people out.
Schools provide another sign that the (slightly updated) 1960s Transportation Plan in so no longer relevant. The news has been full of stories about school closures. That is normally a sign of a city in decline. The population forecast from the province says we should expect the 5-9 year old group to decline from 886 in 2015 to 645 in 2042. That is a 27% decline.
The Ministry is actually predicting that every age group under 70 will decline. Every group over 70 will increase. Welcome to Sudbury, the North’s Old Age Home
A Transportation Plan for a city with no growth, more elderly and fewer schools would look very different from the plan that Council has been asked to consider. It would take into account lower average income resulting in downsizing for many households, lower home prices leading to reduced property tax revenue. It would take account of a decline in rush hour traffic as more people retire, and a relative increase in off-peak travel. The result will almost certainly be a reduction in the relatively small amount of congestion the city now experiences. Since retired people travel less than those employed full time it would assume an overall reduction in traffic, not an increase. It would assume greater demand for walkable districts
A sensible plan would therefore focus on improved local walking and cycling routes to all the shopping districts in the community, so that anyone within a kilometer can get to the local stores, the local school, and the local library safely on foot.
A sensible Transportation Plan would also have a section about planning school locations to minimize the time children spend on buses. It is hard to think of a policy so close to child abuse as our habit of busing children. Failure to make good neighbourhoods for children is a kind of community suicide.
Unfortunately the Plan doesn’t include these modest, cheap and important parts and asks for spending to deal with imaginary growth and occasional congestion
Council members and citizens should take a look in the proposed `Plan’ to see exactly how the Four Corners area, New Sudbury and the downtown area going to be made much better for pedestrians. This is the direction that transportation plans in every other city have been going. It i not the direction built into the Sudbury Plan.
Council should send the `Plan’ back for a massive rewrite. Council should get someone who is in touch with the real world to write the new version.