Bus rapid transit routes approved by Saskatoon city council

Click to play video: 'Reaction mixed over BRT and bike lanes decisions by Saskatoon city council' Reaction mixed over BRT and bike lanes decisions by Saskatoon city council
WATCH ABOVE: Mixed reaction over Saskatoon city council’s decision on bus rapid transit and bike lanes – Apr 30, 2019

Saskatoon city council had a lengthy meeting spanning into the evening on Monday, with both bus rapid transit (BRT) routes and bike lanes being hot topics.

Council voted on two locations for BRT routes to allow easier movement of public transit.

READ MORE: Regina, Saskatoon all ears to solve urban transportation challenges

Councillors unanimously voted in favour of having a downtown BRT route on 1st Avenue – but after some discussion.

The city is hopeful the change could spur development in the area and be part of the future planning for the possibility of a downtown arena. The BRT route would also allow for transit riders to access Midtown Plaza.

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The downtown route includes dedicated transit lanes in the centre of 1st Avenue with two median stations – at the 21st Street and 23rd Street intersections.

READ MORE: City paints clearer picture of what BRT for downtown Saskatoon might look like

The proposal for the Nutana Broadway BRT was voted 10-1 in favour of the BRT option for mixed traffic use.

Coun. Randy Donauer was not in favour of the BRT route on Broadway.

“I think we’ve seen a mixture of views on Broadway from various different residents; the bus riders of Saskatoon prefer that it go there and I respect their opinion,” he said.

“I’ve had some business owners reach out to me and express concerns.”

There would be no dedicated BRT lanes on Broadway, according to the city. Transit signal priority measures would be installed, with BRT sharing the lane with motor vehicle traffic.

Broadway Business Improvement District executive director DeeAnn Mercier said it’s been a polarizing debate.

“We’ve been consulting with the city for a long time on these lanes,” Mercier explained on Tuesday. “This was a compromise that will benefit Broadway in the long run – there’s an opportunity for more parking spaces and better urban design and better transit stops.”

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Support for dedicated bus lanes was low and while people are thankful council decided against it, the increase in bus traffic is still worrisome, according to Mercier.

“That has some people concerned that would affect the atmosphere of Broadway and cause people to make different driving decisions,” Mercier said.

“We are hoping this doesn’t tip the scales too much to bus traffic, but that all modes still feel welcome here.”

Construction is expected to start in 2023, with a completion date of 2025. The cost of the two BRT lines is estimated at $7.3 million.

WATCH BELOW: Coverage of the BRT debate in Saskatoon

Bike lanes in the downtown core were also on the agenda.

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Council discussed scrapping the 4th Avenue lanes and moving it to 3rd Avenue to connect riders to the Traffic Bridge and existing bike lanes on Victoria Avenue.

Some business owners expressed concern over the loss of parking for businesses located on 3rd Avenue.

READ MORE: Saskatoon city committee endorses $4.6M downtown bike lane expansion

Councillors agreed to have the 4th Avenue bike lanes removed by the end of June, but said more engagement is needed on the design of sidewalk and cycling infrastructure along approved corridors in the downtown active transportation network.

Cycling advocates said the decision is frustrating, but not surprising.

“On the books, we have some bike lanes, but it’s virtually like we have no bike lanes,” Saskatoon Cycles co-chair Cathy Watts said on Tuesday. “I feel sad about how the community doesn’t think about the whole community.”

“For somebody who is trying to connect to other things and wants to use a bike and wants to get where they want to go and feel comfortable – well, it’s a bit challenging for that.”

Watts added she hopes the cycling community will be part of the ongoing consultations.

The city wants to develop more transit options as part of the city’s growth plan towards a population of half a million people.

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-With files from Global’s Nicole Stillger 

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