She’s a master’s student of local economic development and a former resident of St. Thomas who has issued a challenge to the city to embrace alternative modes of transportation.
Tara Smedbol, now a London resident, contacted us recently with two simple ways in which St. Thomas can increase its livability for residents. The first focuses on developing cycling infrastructure and the other is to increase transit options.
This is not a matter of recreational infrastructure, Smedbol asserts, but instead it would increase the options and abilities for residents to be mobile and connected to the city.
“The key to a vibrant city with a vibrant downtown,” she points out, “is activity and movement of people.” She continues: “One tactic to increase activity on the streets is by encouraging walking and bicycling in the downtown core and other areas of the city.
“It is self-explanatory that as someone drives a car less (maybe even giving up a car in favour of other modes of transportation, if they are able to change their commuting patterns) and thus decrease the costs directly associated to owning a car, they increase their disposable income.”
Smedbol argues: “it has been also shown that this money tends to stay in the community since the individual is restricted in movement and therefore distance travelled for consumer purposes.”
She points out cyclists tend to shop at small, local businesses, stop more frequently and return more often to businesses unlike their peers who drive cars and typically just shuttle from point A to B.
“This should be of particular interest to a city such as St. Thomas, where the city is a manageable size for a cyclist to navigate and the neighbourhood and downtown businesses would benefit greatly from an investment and initiative such as this.”
There has been much talk of late, both from city officials and those from Elgin county, on the importance of tourism for future economic growth in the region. Smedbol points out there are many southwestern Ontario communities that are now focussing on cycling tourism and, as such, she is is encouraging the city to join the Cyclists Network , a network of cycling tourism-friendly cities and businesses. Here comes the kicker from Smedbol directed at council and city staff.
“I challenge you to rise up to, and exceed, the standard that your neighbouring communities and other communities in Canada are following in terms of alternative transportation.
“Not only will you see financial returns in activity in your businesses, but reduced health costs for your citizens, increased energy and vitality, as well as increased responsible activity on your streets.”
Smedbol concludes with an offer of assistance.
“There are numerous assets that St. Thomas has to offer, and I would love to see these utilized in a way that also encourages the health of the overall community. I would be more than happy to help you on your path to community success.”
Who on council will take a proactive step and communicate with this young visionary? Or are our elected officials so locked into following the path of least resistance?
PRESENT YOUR CASE
The St. Thomas Police Service open house is next Saturday and is it safe to assume members of council who have voice opposition to construction of a new facility north of the Timken Centre will be in attendance that day?
That would be aldermen Jeff Kohler, Mark Cosens and Sam Yusuf.
If they are spotted, ask them to present their business case to affirm renovation of the equisting headquarters is a viable proposition.
At least two different consultant reports over the years concluded such an option is neither recommended nor feasible. If the trio has no such business plan, do they expect city ratepayers to pay for yet another consultant’s report?
Or, are they suggesting such a study is within the realm of city staff capability?
THAT BAD? This corner has learned some members of the Elgin County Railway Museum were so concerned about alleged financial irregularities, they advised police be called in to investigate.
WHO WILL DRIVE THE BUS?
We have learned, via Mayor Heather Jackson’s Facebook page, the city plans to host a budget open house on Saturday, March 10 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Elgin Mall.
Will the mayor take charge of the information session or will that be the domain of the city’s finance chairman, Ald. Lori Baldwin-Sands?
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“My least favourite word at the moment, dealing with these, is arbitration.”
Mayor Heather Jackson on the arbitration process underway now with both the police and fire service contracts with the city.
City Scope appears every Saturday in the Times-Journal. Questions and comments may be e-mailed to: firstname.lastname@example.org.