Integrated Mobility Plan manager Rod McPhail.

Just about a year ago HRM hired Rod McPhail to head up a team of Halifax city staffers from Transportation and Public Works, Halifax Transit, and Planning and Development to write Halifax’s first Integrated Mobility Plan (IMP), a 15-year transportation plan for the region.

To those of you who shudder at the thought of yet another plan, I implore you to look at the IMP differently. Yes, we have plenty of existing “transportation” plans. We’ve got a bike plan, a bus plan, a parking plan, and a road network plan. And we have a regional plan that says all these plans need to work together somehow — along with our zoning and development plans — to help us reduce the share of car trips we take.

What we don’t have is any sort of guide for how to get those plans to work together, or how to prioritize the policy changes and investments in them to serve the larger goal of a sustainable, affordable, and efficient transportation system.

The IMP holds out the promise of doing just that.

It’s clear that unless we change course, our current policies and plans will lead us to continue building and maintaining a system that favours car use above other modes. How do we know? Just walk, bike, or bus around the city and the anecdotal evidence abounds.

You could also look at the numbers. According to census data, 75 per cent of commuters went by car in 2006. In 2011, it was up to 77 per cent. Rod McPhail thinks that the 2016 census numbers (due out in November) could put us near 80 per cent. That’s growth in a direction that we can’t afford in terms of either GHG emissions or road construction and maintenance.

You could also take a look at our regional plan, the one approved in 2014 that sets a reduction to 70 per cent modal share car trips (a modest, but doable goal, says McPhail) by 2031. The same plan then goes on to list 16 “programmed,” “planned,” or “future potential” road projects, including the widening of Bayers Road and the 102, the construction of a new Highway 113, and a 107 extension from Burnside to Bedford, among others.

That is the context for this new IMP: a regional plan that on the one hand sets clear goals and a mandate for “turning the cruiseship around,” as McPhail puts it, and on the other hand carries forward the same old historical list of road building projects, with little to no direction on the trade-offs we have in store.

We desperately need this IMP, and we need it to be good. Even beyond that, we need it to be well-understood.

Here’s McPhail from a conversation we had back in September 2016:

“I’ve done a lot of this,” says McPhail. “It’s not easy. There’s always fear of changing things, and there will be here. There will be fear of: ‘you mean we’re going to make a four lane road and we’re going to put two of those lanes for buses? My god! What will happen?’ Well you know what? The world doesn’t end, the sky doesn’t fall, and people will get to work.”

“We have to change things,” says McPhail. “It’s time. And it’s not too late. That’s the nice thing about Halifax, it’s not too late.”

This week, the third and final round of consultations on the IMP will begin. There will be six public meetings, accompanied by some sort of online consultation via Shape Your City (link to come). After that, McPhail and team will dot the proverbial “i”s on the draft plan, and deliver it to council’s Transportation Standing Committee by June or July.

You can check out McPhail’s last update to Transportation Standing Committee here.

IMP Public Consultation Meetings

Wednesday, April 19, 6 – 8 p.m.| Cole Harbour Place (Westphal Room), 51 Forest Hills Parkway, Cole Harbour
Thursday, April 20, 12 noon – 2 p.m. | Central Library (Paul O’Regan Hall), 5440 Spring Garden Road, Halifax
Thursday, April 20, 6 – 8 p.m. | NSCC Technology Campus (Atrium), 5685 Leeds Street, Halifax
Monday, April 24, 6 – 8 p.m. | NSCC Waterfront Campus (Presentation Theatre), 80 Mawiomi Place, Dartmouth
Wednesday, April 26, 6 – 8 p.m.| Ecole Secondaire du Sommet (Cafeteria), 500 Larry Uteck Boulevard, Halifax
Thursday, April 27, 6 – 8 p.m. | Acadia Hall, 650 Sackville Drive, Lower Sackville

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