All that is wrong with our city was demonstrated in the Plan It process which wrapped up last Monday.
The 60-year growth plan received a long-awaited stamp of approval and has the potential to strategically align the economic, environmental and social interests of our city. In doing so, Plan It has more potential than anything else to unburden many of our transportation woes.
We’ve burdened ourselves with jammed up expressways, car-dependent suburbs, and largely ineffective and unreliable public transit because of our attitudes — the same ones evidenced during the Plan It process.
The first problem is most Calgarians think like Myke Thomas, Calgary Sun columnist and Plan It naysayer, who, in an April 7 column, labelled the plan, “an impossible, pie-in-the-sky, utopian vision.”
He warned Plan It would wreak havoc, “significantly raising the cost of housing, making traffic problems worse rather than better and turning our city into an unattractive place to live and do business.”
He’s wrong. Plan It, along with its sensible and proven carpool lanes, transit-oriented development and pedestrian- and bike-friendly infrastructure, set out to save taxpayers $11.2 billion in roads, sewer lines, fire halls and other sprawl-related infrastructure.
The second problem is we blindly follow, rather than question, businessmen like Dennis Little, a representative for Calgary chapter of the Canadian Home Builders’ Association, who argued curtailing sprawl is “an aggressive market intervention we believe doesn’t serve well the citizens of Calgary.”
He failed to mention current market interventions that, according to the city’s 2009 Cost of Growth Review, subsidize the Greenfield development industry $150 million for every 1,000 hectares of new subdivisions developed.
The third problem is Calgary is swarming with NIMBYs.
Nobody seems to want to live amongst secondary suites, transit-oriented development or economically diverse neighbourhoods; but we all want to be able to drive to work in 10 minutes.
The last and most unacceptable problem is our city council is not transparent. Plan It now has lower intensity targets because the development industry was granted a closed-door, last-minute meeting.
If we don’t change our thinking, all that is good in Plan It will go to waste as we drive around in circles, repeating the same mistakes that have gotten us into the sprawling mess we’re in.