When Great Minds Come Together

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              Last January, a Sustainability Conference entitled “Urban Transportation and Design: Getting Where We Need to Go” was held at the Parktown Hotel in Saskatoon. Hosted by the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists – Saskatchewan (APEGS), the City of Saskatoon, and the School of Environment and Sustainability (SENS) at the University of Saskatchewan, the conference was intended to give a diverse group of stakeholders the opportunity to discuss urban transportation issues, addressing both physical infrastructure and social aspects.

Speakers from the City of Saskatoon, the City of Edmonton, and the University of Saskatchewan introduced the themes of sprawl and density, lessons learned from other municipalities, transportation behaviour, greenhouse gas reductions and designing cities for multiple modes of transportation. Conference attendees discussed these themes at length, reflecting on the information provided by the speakers, and identifying issues, challenges, and implications and then proposed solutions! Here are just five of the many proposed solutions that resulted from their discussion.

  • Be creative in encouraging a shift to commuting by public transit. Such as making a driver’s license a transit pass as well, and encouraging ridership by offering free transit to special events and festivals, especially those which are family-focused. Other creative ideas were ‘Car-Free Sundays.’
  • Provide incentives for employers to provide bus passes for employees. Cities such as Vancouver and Toronto have introduced such incentives and have seen traffic congestion decrease. Employers could introduce a “sustainable mobility program” or an “ecopass,” promoting ride shares, parking spot shares, and bike servicing, for example. Another idea would be a ‘commuter challenge’ amoung employees or companies.
  • Reduce the subsidization of the transit system by the public utilities sector. The introduction of full cost pricing mechanisms will effectively bring about this reduction, providing decision makers with better information regarding the performance of each sector. By separating utilities from transit, City Council can show how transit infrastructure is actually a capital asset not an expense, as it generates its own funds. This will foster greater fiscal transparency, which will assist people in understanding the costs of public infrastructure.
  • Initiate pilot projects: Implementation can begin on a small scale, instead of with massive projects. Taking the time for proper evaluation of these projects is essential. The Saskatoon Outdoor School and the School of Environment and Sustainability would be ideal venues for pilot projects. Completing more studies means that in- formed decisions are easier to make.
  • Change fiscal policy around transportation budgeting: A certain amount of the municipal budget should be allocated to each mode of transportation, and the transportation budget should be uncoupled from the general public utilities budget.

A full conference report is available at:

Click to access Urban%20Transportation%20and%20Design%20Getting%20Where%20We%20Need%20To%20Go%20FINAL%20Report%20May%202014.pdf


One thought on “When Great Minds Come Together

  1. I attended this conference too, and found it helpful. Especially interesting was the reaction around the room to the news that Saskatchewan leads the world in carbon pollution per capita; The defensive claws came out.


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