I went to the Open House held Thursday about the interprovincial transit study. The study should identify problems with transit going between the two cities, user problems, and suggest solutions. I signed up for a round-table exercise. It was the first one I think I have attended, and it wasn’t as bad as I feared.
First, the moderators at each table were well informed and not too rigorous about keeping the participants on topic. This was important, because the topics, defined beforehand by the sponsors, were very narrow. Basically, they were looking for expressions of what the problems were.
In contrast, most of the participants were selling something: their transit solutions. I recognized a number of the participants. General public? Not really: they were, like me, transit and planning hobbyists/activists/proponents of their pet projects.
This open house, like a number of other ones I have attended, are not really broad public consultations because the attendees are self-selected (ie, already interested in the subject) or nominated by their councillors (mine checked to make sure I was going…). I think this is why the final plans that come out of some of these planning sessions and public consultation sessions generate opposition later on … because the general public wasn’t really there.
For example, a number of the people at the interprovincial meeting were the same ones I see at the DOTT meetings. I have sat on the Preston Streetscaping project for 16 years, and only now that concrete is being poured that some residents pop up saying “What?”. Similarly, after all the public open houses, suddenly some are questioning the basics of the DOTT.
I don’t know what the solution is. People cannot go to every meeting on every subject, there are too many meetings, on too fuzzy objectives, on projects that too often die on the vine. On the other hand, it is frustrating to go thru a multi-year process and then have people pop up at the last minute objecting to everything and wanting to start all over with a different project. LeBreton Flats planning process is an ideal example. Even though dozens of meeting have been held and the city and NCC established a final build-out plan — politicians, citizens, newspapermen, want to throw it all out and introduce something new, like a soccer stadium. For the DOTT plan, many of the critics question decisions made a year ago, eg council says it will be a tunnel, not a surface system. So DOTT produces a tunnel options, wieghs them, and recommends one … at which point whiners start advocating for a totally different system to solve other problems.
This interprovincial study might find something useful from the public consultation process. Or it might just be a routine gone through to say the public was consulted, to pacify the civilian planning hobbyists.