Friday, October 2, 2009

Perfecting Alberta, Part 5: Infrastructure

Nation, whether you're driving to your local health centre or just surfing the internet, the common thread that binds us all together is public infrastructure. Roads, schools, hospitals, the Supernet, LRT, public parks, public buildings... all of them built by our tax dollars, for the use of all.

It's no secret that we in the Alberta of the present are suffering from a significant deficit in public infrastructure. We have buildings in desperate need of repair, we have ring roads that need completion, and we have a need for a high-speed rail link between Edmonton and Calgary (or DO we?). We need hockey rinks, community centres, and cultural spaces for the arts.

There's a lot to build. And of course, it all costs money. But, is there a way we can be managing our infrastructure BETTER? Is there a way we can better plan our cities, and better connect our citizens to one another?

One interesting idea I've heard that I'm hoping someone can touch on is the "multiple cores" idea, where in addition to your traditional "Downtown" area, you have a secondary urban core elsewhere in the city - a high concentration of office spaces, cultural spaces, and services that helps alleviate some of the pressure from the infrastructure of the Downtown core - good-bye, rush hour on MacLeod Trail into Downtown, hel-lo leisurely drive to the Sundance Commercial and Office Core.

So, I put it to you: How do we plan, build, and maintain the infrastructure of the Perfect Alberta? P3's? Full private? Full public? Toll roads and bridges? Sell naming rights?

It's all up to you, Nation. Build a province your grandchildren can be proud to call home. :)

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Two words: toll booths! Oh and user pay!

Christopher said...

Toll booths for new/existing highways are a reasonable idea. But only if the money spent on those tolls stays with the roads and pays for their upkeep. The toll should be by weight, since that's what takes a toll on the road. In that way, a small car will pay less toll than a truck or SUV, and a bus, though it will pay more, will have the toll distributed amongs all its passengers.

Multiple cores only work with a population that is not attached to their homes (or only willing to work close to home). A "South Calgary" business core will still attract talent from North Calgary, which seems to defeat the purpose.

Public transportation, though. Here's where the biggest payoff can come by way of improving infrastructure, though I realize it's currently more of a municipal initiative.

High-speed transit corridors, not slowed by rush-hour traffic (ex: c-trains) should radiate to points around the city, with significant hubs connected around to each other crossways (ex: join Chinook Station to a SW line ending at Mount Royal or Westhills) each hub serviced by busses to surrounding areas. The key is to make traveling via public transit FASTER than by car. Keep all non-high-speed routes as short as possible, to minimize wait-times and times in traffic. (The recent upgrades to transit in SE Calgary are a perfect example of what NOT to do.)

As far as this public intra-city transit goes, it should be free to users, and funded entirely by taxes to encourage use. (And given that it is supposed to be faster than driving, that shouldn't be so hard to swallow. Perhaps it needs to be improved first, though, then have the funding switched.)

This would make the city more attractive to tourists (far more than a funky bridge-to-nowhere) and locals alike.

Enlightened Savage said...

Great ideas re: Transit, Christopher.

As far as tolls go, I agree that they're only palatable so long as the money collected stays in the jurisdiction.

For example, let's say we wake up tomorrow, and there's a toll gate on Highway 40, going into Kananaskis Country. If you told visitors that the toll was, say, $2 per person and that the money was going directly into maintaining the roads and facilities of Kananaskis Country, and hiring Conservation Officers and offering educational programs within K-Country, people MIGHT swallow it.

If, though, you set up toll booths on Deerfoot Trail under the same premise, people might not bite - because they're quite possibly using it to get from Lethbridge to Edmonton, and couldn't possibly care less about whether you're hiring more police in Calgary.

And if you lose your mind, and set up those toll booths in K-Country but then tell people that the money is going into General Revenue, then you're going to be explaining every line item in the provincial budget to people when they complain about having to pay a toll - "Why does this money go into the same fund that you use to subsidize horse racing? I just want to SKI, dammit!"

Good conversation.