Coquitlam Traffic Calming Project fails

"We were wrong," mayor says of traffic calming

By Janis  Cleugh
A quarter-million dollars later, Coquitlam council called the city’s traffic calming project in the Dawes Hill-Mundy Road area a failure.

Monday, councillors voted to re-work its policy on traffic calming initiatives. The change of policy means residents in the Dawes Hill/Mundy sub-division who were billed $50 will get their money back.

It also means the unpopular speed humps along Mundy, Dawes Hill and Cape Horn roads as well as Brunette Avenue will be taken out.

And it means that Coquitlam homeowners who want such devices, aimed at slowing motorists, on their streets will not only have to petition council but also have to pay for the entire cost themselves.

The exercise in the Dawes Hill/Mundy sub-division - the city’s first traffic calming project - cost $258,000 to study and implement.

Mayor Jon Kingsbury said the project was a failure. “We were wrong so we deserve to be chastised,” he said at Monday’s council meeting.

Other neighbourhoods slated for traffic calming are now on hold. These include Chineside, Oakdale, Laurentian/Austin Heights, Burquitlam, Maillardville east and west, and Riverview Heights.

“I don’t think it’s back to square one,” said Neil Nyberg, Coquitlam’s general manager of operations. “I think we have learned from our mistakes. The initial support fell significantly by the time the measures were put in place [in Dawes/Mundy]. There was intensive public consultation and, after all, this is the ‘City of Choice’ and I think council listened to the feedback that was being directed to them.”

According to documents, the city fielded more than 250 phone calls and letters from Dawes/Mundy residents after the measures went in. The biggest problems appeared to be the location and design of the devices, the $50 charge and the method of voting for the project.

The 2,600 Dawes Hill/Mundy residents were asked to vote against the proposal if they did not want it - a voting procedure many homeowners said reminded them of Rogers Cable’s former negative option billing practices.

With the new policy, though, traffic calming petitions will require a two-thirds majority vote rather than a 51 per cent negative vote.

But Craig Hodge, chair of the traffic calming panel, said he fears Coquitlam will soon look like the city of New Westminster, with cheap, quick-fix calming devices if petitions are approved on a street-by-street basis with no overall plan on how traffic will flow in the neighbourhood.

And he said calming projects may become elitist, with only the most affluent and well-organized sub-divisions pushing petitions.

Hodge said there still has to be needs assessments carried out by the city to determine if traffic calming is warranted in each sub-division.

“There has to be some sort of checks and balances to make sure the measures are really required,” he said. “And it’s apparent that there has to be more input from the residents at the start of the process.”