Tuesday, June 16, 2009

"Built Form" and Transit

As you may have heard, Pelham Council recently discontinued the transit service that we had contracted with Welland Transit for one year. While we said no to that particular service, we also asked staff to recommend alternatives at Council’s July meeting.

The total cost of the service for 2008/09 was budgeted at $90,000, with the Town’s share being approximately $60,000. The other revenue was derived from Gas Tax, rider fares, and investments from Brock and Niagara College Student’s Unions.

In the spring of 2008, Council decided not to conduct an expensive survey that would supply the Town with the views of you and other residents regarding the need for transit. Instead, we invested those dollars into “rubber on the road” and pledged to gauge support that way.

So, on June 1st of this year, staff reported that the “Pelham Link” averaged 10.2 riders per day. Based on ridership and expecting an increase in costs in September – to $67,000 per year – staff recommended that the service be discontinued.

So, do we know why the transit test fell short?

Some said that the bus wasn’t frequent or convenient enough. While Pelham staff and Welland Transit staff attempted to give residents the best system with the amount of funding available, perhaps it could have been better.

But, perhaps there is a more profound reason.

You see, last week I had the honour of being one of the Region’s representatives at the 2009 Federation of Canadian Municipalities Conference.

I attended several presentations about transportation and transit from all parts of the country. These presentations showed that while convenience and the quality of service are important elements for successful transit, the foundation lies in the “built form” of the community.

What does that mean? Built form is how a community actually exists “on the ground” and functions.

In this case, the theory states that the more dense a community – the higher the level of residential homes/units and jobs per acre – the greater the ability and willingness to use public transit.

While that’s intuitive, I had never heard it stated with so much authority nor seen it engrained in transportation policy before.

But, changing the built form of a community can take years. It is guided largely by the Official Plan and other planning rules.

In the meantime, I look forward to examining short- and medium-terms options for Pelham Transit when Staff presents recommendations to Council in July.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Unprecedented investment will allow Pelham to complete two projects worth $8.7 million

On Friday I heard from both Dean Allison, our MP, and Minister Jim Bradley, MPP St. Catharines, that the Town of Pelham had been awarded $5.66 million from both the Federal and Provincial Governments through the Building Canada Fund and the Infrastructure Stimulus Fund. Together with the municipal share, this will allow the Town to complete two projects worth $8.68 million.

This level of investment by the Federal and Provincial Governments is simply unprecedented in Pelham.

I deeply appreciate this shared investment because it will provide a much-needed construction boost while allowing Pelham to build a lasting foundation for our Town’s future.

Under the Building Canada Communities Component, the Provincial and Federal Governments will each invest $1.84 million in the reconstruction of Haist Street. The Town will invest $2.03 million in the $5.71 million project.

As one of Pelham’s most-used collector roads, two kilometres of Haist Street from Canboro Road to Welland Road are in desperate need of reconstruction. Not only have the road and sidewalks deteriorated significantly, the water system needs upgrading.

The reconstruction will rehabilitate sidewalks and create a more efficient road system that includes bicycle lanes, improved sightlines, and traffic calming measures. The replacement of the cast iron watermains will improve water system resiliency and the project will dramatically improve the control of storm water.

Instead of digging up small sections of Haist Street over three years, this Federal and Provincial funding will allow us to accelerate the work and do it all at once. Construction will now begin as early as October 2009.

The Provincial and Federal Governments will also invest $990,000 each from the Infrastructure Stimulus Fund to replace Pelham Fire Station #2. Based on a complete functional analysis, the $2.97 million replacement fire hall will provide sufficient space for firefighters to work safely around the department’s equipment, store bunker gear in a separate area, and provide hands-on training and host fire-related meetings and events.

Parts of the current fire hall are showing significant cracks and other signs of deterioration. There are also significant safety concerns with the firefighters backing fire trucks into the station after each call.

The replacement Fire Hall will include very high standards for energy conservation and sustainable design. We hope to achieve long term operating cost savings while facilitating smooth and unobstructed movement of Firefighters and their equipment.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

You Can Help Redesign Our Downtowns

It was my pleasure to finally meet Larry during the weekend.

You see, several years ago Larry developed a series of drawings of how downtown Fonthill could look. In essence, he used a standard theme and drew new facades on each of the buildings of the day.

What happened with the drawings and his vision? They became a rallying cry for people who wanted to see a more standard and beautified downtown.

But, quite frankly, not much else happened with the drawings. Until now, that is.

Now, I’m pleased to let you know that through the leadership of this Council, the Town is ready for that vision. We are also ready for the strategies to make design guidelines happen.


It began with a community meeting regarding Pelham’s downtowns that Council and I called in the spring of 2007. At that meeting, an ad hoc, community-based committee was established to move the issues forward. Shortly thereafter, those citizens approached Council to become an official Town committee; Council agreed and established the Downtown Beautification Committee.

As I have written here before, that Committee has actively advanced beautification of our downtowns by encouraging Council to undertake and develop a Community Improvement Plan (CIP). Through assessment adjustments and grant incentives, this CIP will encourage property owners to upgrade their properties.

Council also set aside funds – up to $50,000 – for incentives for property-owners to beautify their properties in designated areas. This final CIP report could be adopted by Council as early as July.

But, in what way should downtown property-owners improve their properties and buildings? What should those improvements look like? And, how do you ensure that improvements follow a certain look and feel?

We need your help to do that. That’s why I am writing to invite you and your neighbours to participate in three workshops to help form special Design Guidelines and strategies for our downtowns. These guidelines will “provide an urban design vision and guidance for the Downtowns by addressing the nature, intensity and quality of development in both the public and private realms.”

The workshops will run from 6:30 PM on June 9 at Town Hall, and on June 10 and 11 at Old Town Hall. Please check the following link for further details: www.pelham.ca/designworkshop.pdf

Whether it’s Larry’s vision or your vision, I hope you can participate in the workshops and help Pelham’s downtowns become beautified and revitalized.