Ophelia Ravencroft for Ward 2

Mobility for All

Platform Overview

As a low-income person, pedestrian, and user of public transit, I’m acutely aware of the challenges many of us face getting around our city. For many people, our infrastructure simply doesn’t allow proper access to our city. Maybe it’s because the buses don’t run where they can afford to rent, or because we’ve dropped the ball on accessible features for people with disabilities, or simply because there’s a six-foot snowbank in the sidewalk!

I believe all citizens of St. John’s should be able to move about our city as freely as possible, without needless impediments, apathetic responses to difficulties, or inadequate institutional focus on the mobility needs of our most vulnerable citizens. That’s why I’m pledging to make enhanced mobility for all one of my key priorities on Council.

Here’s how I’ll do it:

  1. Invest in improved sidewalk snow-clearing. Ensure all downtown streets, and all major thoroughfares, have completely passable sidewalks without obstructions: that is, no snow piled in the middle of the sidewalk, in curb cuts, in front of wheelchair ramps, etc.

    Improving sidewalk snow-clearing is my #1 priority.

    All the talk in the world of annual improvements and “unique challenges” mean nothing when our residents still can’t walk down the street for as much as half the year. As a pedestrian, I’ve faced unbelievable obstacles even in supposedly cleared sidewalks, and have heard from seniors, parents with strollers, and people with disabilities who are virtually housebound for months once the snow piles up. Even the 2015 municipal report on snow-clearing identified our service level as abnormally low, and many of its recommendations still haven’t been implemented. It’s time to end our legacy of apathetic policies, and acknowledge that winter mobility should be a top priority. I’ll fight for significant service improvements to make our city more livable for everyone, and I’m open to all suggestions, and all possible methods, to see that through. Whether it’s investing in technology like snow-melters, removing physical obstacles to sidewalk plows, investigating residential sidewalk clearing requirements, ensuring private contractors don’t pile snow in inappropriate areas, or simply working to prioritise sidewalk snow-clearing in City budgeting, I will make this happen for all of us.

  2. Investigate the feasibility of a residential sidewalk-clearing requirement, either for the entire city or only those areas not served by City plows.

    I grew up in Halifax. At the time, most Haligonians were required to clear the snow off their own sidewalks, and I never heard substantial complaints about that policy there. Yet every time it’s brought up here, there’s always someone ready to dismiss it, often with unproven commentary about a lack of “appetite” for such a policy. In tandem with a more careful approach to snow-clearing, a requirement that some, or all, property occupants clear their own sidewalks could reduce drain on City resources and enable drastically improved municipal clearing for those residents, like seniors and people with disabilities, who may not be able to do so themselves. This would substantially reduce costs for our City and make our streets more passable and safe for everyone. I will press for a feasibility study on such a requirement so that its implementation, or rejection, would at least become a matter of evidence-based policy and not mere conjecture.

  3. Follow the 2019 transit report’s recommendations in establishing a Frequent Transit Network on at least the routes 1, 2, 3, and especially 10. Press for the extension of downtown bus services to late hours on at least weekend evenings.

    The Frequent Transit Network is currently in development, and I think it’s an excellent idea—it would reduce congestion on city buses, especially essential in COVID times, and would generally enable citizens to access our city more reliably. In my view, late-night service to the downtown could be equally significant: it would encourage local patrons to avoid driving home if they drink, and open up the night economy to those who cannot afford cars or cabs, all for comparatively little additional cost. I will press for the extension of downtown bus services to the hour at which bars close on at least Friday and Saturday nights.

  4. Implement the 2019 transit report’s recommendations for a microtransit model for access to unserved areas, “dark spots”, and in tandem with paratransit. Investigate the feasibility of replacing underperforming routes with microtransit to better allocate resources.

    “Microtransit” is the practise of operating ride-share services in tandem with City buses to cover gaps in service. Similar models have already been implemented elsewhere in Canada (e.g. York Regional Transit) with great success. Microtransit would ensure that all areas of our city are accessible to those who need them to be. Areas like Bally Haly, Quidi Vidi Village, and the northern portion of Rabbittown, all of which are currently substantially inaccessible by bus, could be opened up to residents without cars. As these vehicles would be much smaller and more nimble than full-size buses, microtransit could equally replace underperforming portions of fixed bus routes while maintaining an identical level of service for those who require it—and at considerably lower cost. Equally, implementing wheelchair-adapted vehicles in a microtransit plan could allow superior service levels for paratransit, which could prove a huge assistance for people with disabilities.

  5. Advocate for improved accessibility for people with disabilities throughout our city, particularly including the removal of impediments to access on City property. Increase accessible parking downtown and audible walk signals throughout the city.

    Talking with people with disabilities has shown me the often horrifying barriers they face to full access to our city. That means issues like unnecessary physical obstructions on sidewalks, the piling of snow in curb cuts and ramps, paternalistic approaches to paratransit, and dearths of accessible housing, among many, many other issues. As Councillor, I’ll make improving accessibility a key priority. My efforts will include investigating the removal or relocation of obstructions in curb cuts and ramps, improving sidewalk clearing to ensure all accessible features are freely usable, and advocating for either the building of new accessible non-market housing units or the retrofitting of existing ones. On an advocacy level, I will amplify the voices of activists who have fought for improved access in local businesses, whether in redesigned spaces, the provision of ramps at doors, or the relocation of unnecessary obstructions like signage and clothing racks in sidewalks.

    Finally, as quickly as possible after election, I will implement four simple, low-cost solutions that would radically transform our downtown for people with disabilities: painting yellow visibility lines on the steps of City stairways, increasing the number of audible crosswalk signals around the city, implementing audiovisual stop announcements on all city buses, and increasing the number of on-street accessible parking spaces in the downtown core. These are simple solutions that should have been implemented years, if not decades, ago, and I’ll see them through now.

  6. Champion the Pedestrian Mall’s future implementation on the condition that accessibility is substantially improved. Investigate the feasibility of extending the Mall to other months.

    Like many of you, I reveled in Water Street’s transformation these past two summers. For the first time in ages, our city had something increasingly rare in our modern world–a true, vibrant commons, where citizens could meet, enjoy each other’s company, and not have their freedom to exist in a public space limited by their ability to spend. The pedmall had massive positive benefit for Water Street’s businesses, too, and for those reasons I’ll certainly support its implementation in future years. But I’ll make that support conditional on listening to people with disabilities, who often report serious new issues accessing local businesses and spaces as a consequence of the street’s changes, and whose needs must be accommodated. I will advocate for implementing the Pedestrian Mall in each and every year to come, including in other months and/or seasons if possible, on the condition that accessibility stays at the forefront of our thinking on it.

  7. Champion active transportation, and challenge car culture, at the municipal level. Prioritise implementing the Bike Plan.

    I think we all understand that car culture has become destructive to our environment, but active transportation has many benefits beyond reducing our reliance on automobiles. Recent research from Memorial has outlined potentially explosive economic benefits from its encouragement—a municipal savings of nearly $120 million over 10 years from even a slight increase in walking and cycling! In my view, we should be doing everything we can to encourage active transportation, and while I recognise the diversity of opinions on the topic, I feel the city’s existing Bike Plan is an excellent way to start.

    There’s precedent for this, too—the success of paved, mixed-use trails in our sister city, as well as existing St. John’s mixed-use trails like the T’Railway, has been significant. Widening and paving certain City trails would make them more passable for people with disabilities, easier to ride on for cyclists and skate users, and easier—indeed, even possible—to clear in winter. Combined with improved snow-clearing as outlined above, our city will become more accessible for active transportation year-round, which improves our health, curbs our emissions, and saves us money. While the Plan is a multi-year project, I will champion its continued implementation and fight to make it a top City priority as much as possible.

Platform Overview