City of Kitchener Councillor Bil Ioannidis said that we have gone way too far with cycling infrastructure. The Councillor made the comments at the Finance and Corporate Services committee meeting on Monday, November 20. The committee was reviewing the city of Kitchener’s 2024 draft operating budget that is to go to the mayor for approval in early December. The budget includes approximately $5.5 million to advance the strategic priorities, which were determined in the 2023-2026 Strategic Plan. Some of these areas, and the funding given to them in this budget include:
$700,000 for downtown cycling grid and infrastructure;
$424,000 in traffic calming;
$300,000 trail improvements for the Active Transport plan;
$1.2 million for the Housing for all Strategy;
$117,000 for the Creative Hub;
$173,000 to expand community centre hours; and
$240,000 to launch additional special events, including one new major festival in 2024.
Councillors raised a series of questions about different strategic priority funding options, but it was the competing interests of cycling, trails, and traffic calming that occupied most of the meeting. In addition to Councillor Ioannidis’s remarks, other councillors balked at both the $700,000 given to the downtown cycling grid and infrastructure and the $300,000 for additional cycling and trail connections, while traffic calming, a much more important issue in many of the councillors’ opinions, was afforded only $424,000.
City staff tried in various ways to address the concern about too much attention paid to cycling which came from at least 3 of the councillors attending. Councillor Paul Singh asked where the $700k for the cycling infrastructure came from, and why it had been applied to the cycling infrastructure. First Jonathon Lautenbach, city of Kitchener CFO explained the city’s position and then Justin Readman,· General Manager, Development Services at city of Kitchener, elaborated the funds are the final phase of a long-term capital investment that the city agreed to undertake years ago.
Councillor Christine Michaud also noted that she’s not hearing complaints about cycling but rather about the speed that people drive their cars and the need for traffic calming. City staff said that traffic calming has been funded in the past and what is in the budget reflects what Council has previously agreed to, based on what each area needs. But Michaud reinforced her concerns, and desire for more funding, to contend with traffic calming and reducing drivers’ speed.
Councillors Dave Schnider and Jason Deneault expressed strong interest in improving signage in parks for trails and cyclists. Councillor Schnider noted you can get on a trail and go all the way around the city but there are no signs informing people they can do so. City staff assured Council a comprehensive wayfinding strategy is going to be revealed soon.
Councillors Ioannidis and Margaret Johnston asked about lighting on trails and parks, but were informed that lighting beyond the major trails (namely the Iron Horse Trail and the Spurline Trail) is too expensive.
The Kitchener City operating budget also included funding for new and continuing services and infrastructure. Kitchener City Chief Financial Officer, Jonathan Lautenbach summarised the tax increases for services and infrastructure, which include a 3.9% per year rise in property tax (that’s a $47 rise over last year) and 6.3% increase in utilities (a $77 increase).
Next week is the final week for any changes to the budget. Public are reminded next Monday, November 27, is public consultation night and the Council will also examine the Capital budget on that same evening. For more information on the 2024 operating budget, the city of Kitchener has a detailed description on their website here.
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