Large cities tend to be the focus of research, which led Erin Toop to believe that Kamloops would be an interesting subject for a transportation study.
When Toop left Urban Systems in Kamloops to pursue post-graduate studies at the University of Toronto, she opted to focus on this city rather than the usual metropolis.
The City of Kamloops, recognizing the potential value of such research, is hosting the Midsize Cities Project in collaboration with the U of T.
Surveys for the project have been sent to a random field of residents in Kamloops with the aim of using the results to develop effective transportation strategies for the future.
The online survey is designed to determine transportation behaviour patterns — why they travel about in vehicles, on foot or on bicycles.
“Largely because we’ve realized that we need to go deep and understand the intricacies of it,” Toop explained from Toronto. “We’re asking what the barriers are to sustainability in midsize cities. We’re trying not to impose some of the ideas from larger cities.”
There are cultural differences expressed in transportation behaviour, she said. Traffic congestion, for example, grows to become a deterrent to driving in larger centres.
Chris Darwent, the City’s traffic and transportation engineer, said the questions asked in the survey reflect concerns the City is pursuing in its sustainability plan.
“One of the goals in that plan is to increase the number of people walking or using alternatives to 30 per cent by 2020.”
Residents are already walking or cycling for 20 per cent of their trips, so the goal is not overly ambitious.
“It’s achievable, but in that same period, we’re also growing (population-wise),” he said. That would mean more vehicles on the road even as people pursue alternatives.
Another planning consideration is the increasing cost of infrastructure to accommodate single-occupancy vehicles, Darwent noted. Promoting alternatives will help control costs.
Darwent said the City welcomed the external research in support of its own planning efforts.
“To have a masters student working for us for free is great,” he said. The data could be used to update the transportation plan, envisioning the city’s needs for the next 25 to 40 years.
Toop intends to sharpen her research focus by conducting interviews with some of the survey respondents early in 2013 and have survey results to the City by spring.