INDUCED DEMAND is the phenomenon where traffic gets worse, not better, when roads are improved. Build more roads, get more traffic. Make traffic more efficient, get more traffic.
I applaud the spirit of cooperation of the City of Kamloops and School District #73 to improve traffic congestion at Westmount Elementary.
Their solution will make traffic worse.
The School District and the City have not addressed the core issue. There is no way a kindergarten or first grader would walk or bike from upper Batchelor to the school. No more so for most older children.
To get to Westmount, students have to cross Westsyde Road, a daunting task for small children. When kids live in an area that is not safe to walk or bike to school, the solution should not be to force parents to drive their kids to school.
The real solution is school bus service from Batchelor to the school.
Currently, for School District 73, school buses are only provided for students outside the walk limit of the school. For kindergarten to Grade 3, the walk limit is four kilometers. For students in Grades 4 to 12 the walk limit is 4.8 km to school or 3.2 km to a school bus stop.
For students living in Batchelor, there are no students from K to 7 outside the walk limit for Westmount elementary. So the school district does not provide a school bus from Batchelor to the school.
The school district’s policy looks only at distance. It doesn’t look at having children cross busy, high speed roads.
I cannot imagine any kindergarten kid, walking from Batchelor, and having to cross Westsyde Road, to get to school. In fact, I’d be reluctant to have most kids up to Grade 7 cross Westsyde Road. At present, by the volume of vehicles at Westmount Elementary, it is clear that most parents living in Batchelor agree. I know Batchelor parents who drove their kids to the elementary school the entire eight years because of safety concerns crossing Westsyde Road.
Speeds on Westsyde have been reported in the media at up to 80 or 90 km/hr despite the 60 km/hr speed limit. The road has had a series of fatalities and serious injuries, both to pedestrians and motorists. In March 2017 was the most recent pedestrian death struck by a motor vehicle at Eighth Street and Westsyde Road.
Therefore, the school district’s bus policy is a sham. It ignores how walkable a student’s route is.
The solution of the School District and the City of Kamloops have designed to make traffic more efficient will no doubt increase the amount of vehicles going to and from the school. Before, neighbors may have car pooled their kids to school because of the congestion. Now, with the traffic light at Walkem Road and Westsyde, and the increased drop off area, there is added incentive for parents to drive their kids themselves.
The idea that extending city bus service further into Batchelor will be a part of the solution is also misguided. It ignores the fact that students taking the 14 Batchelor city bus can only get as far as the dangerous Eighth Street/ Westsyde/Ord Road/Batchelor intersection by bus, after which must disembark the city bus, and cross multiple intersections to either pick up the Westsyde bus, or to continue their journey to school on foot along Westsyde Road.
If I was a parent with children at Westmount Elementary, I wouldn’t want my children to have to cross Westsyde Road, at Walkem Road, let alone at Eighth Street.
A walk limit based only on distance is not a fair way to decide which students should be bused to school.
The City and the School District have chosen a solution that is all about individual cars and increasing traffic going to the elementary school. So rather than having one vehicle (the school bus) bring all of the students to school, hundreds of parents make the trip.
Choosing a solution that is all about individual cars, says that as a city and school district, we would rather pay more and more, for heavier and heavier traffic, rather than find simpler solutions that reduce volumes of traffic.
Choosing a solution that is all about individual cars, rather than about school buses, says families in Batchelor likely need multiple cars so that when one parent is working, the other has a car to drive to school.
Choosing a solution that is all about individual cars says that for families who cannot drive, whether because of disabilities or income levels, entire neighborhoods, such as Batchelor are not a welcome place to live.
Choosing to install a light at Walkem Road will disturb traffic flows along Westsyde Road for the thousands of commuters who don’t have kids at the school as well.
Finally, choosing a solution that is all about individual cars, says that even a dangerous, deadly road like Westsyde Road, is not considered reason enough to provide a school bus.
It’s time for the City and School District to choose a different solution. It’s time to kids who live in non-walkable neighborhoods like Batchelor are provided with a school bus to school.
Nancy Bepple is a former city councillor of Kamloops with a strong interest in community building projects.