How to coax residents from a Vernon, B.C., neighbourhood to park their cars and get active is the problem facing four students in the School of Engineering at UBC’s Okanagan campus.
The initiative—supported by UBC’s Okanagan campus, Interior Health, and the City of Vernon—will see students develop a Vernon Neighbourhood Active Travel Plan for East Hill Residents. Active travel focuses on walking,cycling and transit as a primary means of transportation.
“Vernon is a highly automobile dependent community, with most trips taken via single–occupant vehicles,” explains Gord Lovegrove, associate professor in the School of Engineering at UBC’s Okanagan campus and project supervisor. “If this trend continues as Vernon grows, residents will experience increased traffic congestion, vulnerability to an increase in chronic diseases and obesity, decreased air quality, and increased greenhouse gas emissions.”
The City of Vernon is keen to tackle these issues head on and its Transportation Plan 2008-2031 focuses on transit, cycling and walking initiatives, setting the target for 2031 of 20 per cent of trips by foot or bicycle.
“This pilot project is expanding on the successes of City’s previous planning, programming, engineering and infrastructure upgrades, says Wendy Majewski, Transportation Demand Management Coordinator with the City of Vernon.“We are very excited about the opportunity to work in partnership with Interior Health and UBC.”
Fourth-year engineering students Luke Friesen, Sandra Iroegbu, Cody Marwood and Alex Schuirmann will begin their work by surveying East Hill residents to develop a benchmark database of current travel modes, as well as identifying barriers to active transportation.
Using the data and current research into active transportation models that have been successful in other cities, students will then create a series of recommendations to encourage active modes of travel.
“As a final step, student engineers will create an implementation strategy for the East Hill Neighbourhood Active Travel Plan that could serve as a model for other Vernon neighbourhoods, and present it to the City of Vernon,” says Lovegrove. “This plan will include infrastructure upgrade designs needed to enhance and encourage the active travel plan, as well as an educational component.”
“The opportunity to put engineering theory into practice is important to us,” says Friesen. “ We have a unique chance to prove to the university and to professionals in the community that we’re ready to enter the workforce, as well as make a difference in the lives of the East Hill residents by reducing congestion, greenhouse gas emissions, obesity, and asthma.”