Corp Comm Connects

Oshawa’s transportation master plan – Improving connectivity

June 17, 2015
By Leah Wong

As Oshawa prepares to accommodate an additional 45,000 people by 2031 it is sorting out the best way for people to move around the city and to improve connectivity through a variety of modes.

In June 2013 the city retained MMM Group to prepare Oshawa’s first integrated transportation master plan. The plan details a citywide vision for the city’s future transportation priorities, programs and networks. It is intended to guide the city’s future transportation infrastructure investments in a way that is consistent with the city’s strategic and official plans.

“The plan builds upon what’s already in place to serve the city’s interest in the future,” MMM Group project manager Brett Sears said in a presentation to Development Services Committee Monday.

Oshawa engineering director Gary Carroll told committee that after the official plan the integrated transportation master plan is the most important infrastructure study the city has undertaken.

Presently the majority of trips in Oshawa are made using single-occupant vehicles (73 per cent). Active transportation and transit accounts for 9 per cent of trips and 18 per cent are auto passengers. The modal split is expected to remain constant to 2031 under the recommended transportation network.

The consultant also prepared an active transportation management plan, focused on trips of 5 km or less. While cars are the main mode of transportation for Oshawa residents, about 59 per cent of trips start and end in Oshawa demonstrating an opportunity to increase use of active transportation modes.

MMM Group has recommended the city study its one-way street system to consider the feasibility of changing it to a two-way system. Sears said two-way streets are easier for visitors and transit users to navigate and can benefit local businesses.

“Two-way downtown streets will make the city more liveable,” said Sears. While one-way systems are better suited to getting people through an area, two-way streets encourage people to stop and visit an area. “Businesses find they get more pass-by traffic if they are on two-way streets as they are usually slower.”

One of the reasons for strengthening active transportation options is that it’s one area over which the city has jurisdiction. Sears said the integrated plan recognizes that while the city doesn’t have control over GO Transit investment, it can encourage other forms of active transportation on its own streets.

“A key outcome we wanted to see come out of the study is connectivity—to make sure people can get to where they want to go by the mode of transportation they want to use,” said Sears. Through the public consultation Sears said improving connectivity was a major issue for residents.

Municipal road improvements are just one way the master plan seeks to improve the city’s transportation network. It also takes into account the investments being made by Durham Region and the province. Provincial projects, such as the extension of Highway 407 and expansion of GO Transit service, will impact movement within Oshawa and need to be considered as the city plans its own infrastructure investments.

As Oshawa does not have its own transportation service, Sears said the city should focus on advocating for transit investments by other levels of governments as it plans improvements to its transportation network. For example, commuters from other municipalities without regular GO Transit service, drive on Oshawa streets to avoid Highway 401 adding to the city’s congestion. More public transit service could get more commuters using transit, taking drivers off Oshawa streets.

“Our recommendations recognize the city does not have physical control [of transit], like its does with active transportation on city streets,” said Sears.

MMM Group project coordinator Michael Parker told committee a critical objective of the master plan is to cut down on congestion by getting more people to travel using active modes for more than recreation both along trails and roads. In addition to reducing the number of cars on the road there are also health benefits associated with a more active population.

Considering active modes as part of the master plan allows the city to build active transportation infrastructure at the same time as roads are upgraded.

Council will consider committee’s recommendations at its June 29 meeting.