Fall 2020 Supplemental Budget Adjustments

On December 3, 2020, Paths for People spoke to City Council regarding the Fall 2020 Supplemental Budget Adjustments. This process is a key checkpoint within the City of Edmonton’s four-year budget cycle to re-prioritize municipal spending. Paths for People advocated that the City focus on low-cost, high-impact active transportation projects. We also called for the City to re-evaluate over-building roadway capacity and instead invest in transportation options to create savings in the long term.

We face many difficult decisions as a community this year. What we are hearing through these discussions from more and more Edmontonians is that now is the time to allocate the resources we have in investments that catalyze the city envisioned within the City Plan. This means building 15 minute communities, places where all Edmontonians can have their daily needs met within a 15 minute walk, roll, bike, or transit ride. 

If we want to work towards this goal, we need to continue investing in the transportation network that would provide for the 15 minute commutes by foot, bike, or mobility device. As an active-transportation advocacy group, we recognize that many active transportation related projects are not funded this year. This is extremely concerning since we know that the current state of our active transportation network (disconnected and deteriorating in many places) is a result of this pattern of limited investment in infrastructure over time. In times like these, Paths for People advocates that the City focus on low-cost and high-impact active transportation projects.

The Missing Links campaign we completed over 2018-2019 indicated that there was no shortage of these low-cost and high-impact projects that would greatly improve the connectivity of our active transportation network. The City has made progress over the past few years on this. However, failing to fund the “City sidewalk missing connections” line item and reducing funding going towards neighbourhood renewal would be a step backwards. Both of these programs act as a pragmatic way of filling the missing links in our transportation network. The safer, more liveable streets that these initiatives create support vibrant main streets and the local economy, healthier choices that make it easier to lead active lives, and also the City Plan’s vision for 15 minute communities.

Our engagement campaign for the Missing Links project showed that Edmontonians saw great value and positive impact in these small fixes. They told us that better connections make all Edmontonians’ lives better. Sufficiently funding “City sidewalk missing connections” and neighbourhood renewal projects are smart, strategic moves. These are relatively small line items within the budget that have a big impact. 

Our experience this summer with re-allocated roadways also showed us that our streets can work differently then they currently do and that rethinking our streets can achieve huge amounts of savings. With pylons and signage narrowing many main streets in Edmonton, they still functioned well and produced a safer, more inviting environment for all users. As traffic patterns returned to normal over the summer, those who chose to drive had a few minutes added to their commute or selected different routes. Those who chose to walk or bike had more space to safely do so.

If we redesigned streets to reflect our experience with re-allocated roadways, we could achieve huge savings on infrastructure maintenance and renewal. Edmonton has over 11,000 km of roadway, but we know that we don’t need that many. There are many places we can find savings by reducing capacity and investing in options. Paths for People identified one small opportunity to save costs along Saskatchewan Drive. Although rebuilding Duggan Bridge to a narrower width may not be feasible due to project timelines, that shouldn’t keep us from searching for these small savings all over the city. We can save so much if we shift our roadway capacity philosophy.

Within the scope of today’s discussion, Paths for People urges Council to be strategic about investing in its transportation network. It is imperative that we funnel our limited resources into low-cost and high-impact projects that would show that the City cares about Edmontonians throughout our community and also work towards the broader strategic goals we have set for ourselves. And in the long term, we must chart a course for future savings through building a more efficient transportation network that focuses on moving people efficiently. We look forward to working with you to create this city and thank you for providing the opportunity to speak on the budget this year.