As people continue to flock to cities, urban planners and property developers are increasingly pressed to come up with novel land use solutions to everyday problems. One problem that affects nearly every aspect of city life is transportation, with transportation networks strained by the pressures of increased usage and the sustainable agenda. Thankfully, creative solutions meet these multiple challenges head on.
In Kelowna, Canada, an active rail corridor has been identified as a potential artery for active transportation. This approach to transportation development has been tried with success in many North American communities, building what the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy describes as “a nationwide network of trails from former rail lines and connecting corridors to build healthier places for healthier people.”
Kelowna’s Rails With Trails project, so named because the rail is still used to carry freight, envisions a continuous pedestrian and cycling link from the city’s waterfront to the neighbouring city of Vernon, just over 50 kilometres north. This multi-use pathway would connect people to schools (including the University of British Columbia’s Okanagan campus), recreation facilities, parks, Kelowna International Airport, and the various retail and commercial amenities along the way.
However, the ambitious project has met resistance from the property owner, the Canadian National Railway. This is despite phase one of the trail, a 2.6km stretch from downtown to the Parkinson Recreation Centre, having been completed in 2008 to the delight of local residents. CN Rail now sites potential liability issues related to trespassing as the principle reason for barring future development in the rail corridor. The city administration has countered that the landscaped trail is perfectly safe due to sturdy fencing and clearly marked crossing signs.
So the City and CN remain at a stalemate. Somewhat optimistically, Kelowna will begin a related project this fall, a multi-use pathway and pedestrian interchange at a key location near the university. Once completed, this will tie into the much hoped for Rails With Trails pathway, however distant a future that might be.
Do you think trail development along active rail corridors is a safe way to increase transportation options? Would you use such a pathway if the choice was available?
Credits: Images and data linked to sources.