Q: What was your primary motivation to seek elected office?
I have long complained about different aspects of city management in St. Albert, confirmed by other residents who shared similar opinions for solutions. A couple of years ago, I became involved in researching, presenting to and advising city council on civilian oversight of the RCMP. That concluded with a bylaw passed this year.
I have attended most of the city council meetings over the last 18 months. I witnessed many examples of business that I thought had potential for improvement.
I decided to quit complaining, and do something about the issues. That, with support from some members of city council, was my motivation.
Q: What skills and experiences have prepared you for this office?
33 years as a resident of St. Albert
30 years of policing
Volunteer with 30 years experience in non-profit governance
Professional conduct management experience – 18 years
Retired as a senior officer, extensive experience with crisis management, human resource management, community engagement, communications management, all with a strong teamwork component. Extensive experience in non-profit governance (including contract negotiation, mediation, labour relations), volunteer experience in environmental entities.
My early problem solving skills were developed out of a need to examine a wide span of possible solutions, with goals of financial constraint, fix the problem and avoid waste.
Q: What do you think are the most important issues to the community at large?
Based on frequency, these are the issues identified by St. Albert residents in face to face visits.
High taxes and unrealistic utility costs are negatively impacting most residents
Wasteful spending by the City must be curtailed (painted curbs, traffic circle, etc.)
Fix St. Albert Transit
Of those who bring the subject up, 80-90% do not want a stand-alone branch library
Smooth the traffic flow on St. Albert Trail and address Ray Gibbon Drive
Inconsistent bylaw / police / photo radar enforcement
Poor planning which results in traffic bottlenecks, lack of safe cycling / walk commuting
Q: What specific goals will you work to achieve?
I will work for all St. Albert residents to:
Protect and improve park space and trails.
Identify efficiencies within city management and budget process, and will work closely with the city internal auditor.
Reduce taxes and re-align utility costs to reflect reality.
Achieve full implementation of civilian oversight of police.
Reduce capital project cost overrun policy from 50 per cent to 15 per cent.
Improve city council accountability through easy web access of all motions / votes.
Ensure councillor / committee reporting policy is followed.
Improve the business / industry environment to support a fair balance of residential/business tax assessment.
Photo radar not the best solution
Jun 17, 2017
Having engaged in thousands of hours of traffic enforcement in a previous career, Mr. Kennair’s commentary (Gazette, June 3) certainly supports my experience, while exposing obvious shortfalls with the automated and impersonal enforcement conducted through use of a ‘machine’. With the absence of any “discretion” (which is an officer’s prerogative) and the vacuum of a “learning moment” (while an officer is describing your infraction) receiving a summons in the mail leaves most perplexed and uninformed. Instead of having the ability to contemplate all of the environmental and contextual circumstance of the event, folks understandably become resentful. The opportunity to educate and modify driver behaviour is missed.
In those years of law enforcement, I’d estimate that I educated as many drivers through discussion without a summons, as I did through discussion and the issuance of a summons. I am convinced, because of feedback received, that most, if not all, of those I spoke to about an indiscretion (with or without a summons) drove away giving the matter some serious deliberation. Those who drove away without a summons had an additional perspective to consider: an adult discussion about rules and driver responsibility. That can never be said about a summons received in the mail several days or weeks after the event. It’s simply too late at that point.
There are many reasons to conduct speed enforcement. There are equally as many reasons to enforce all other traffic violations in our city. Distracted driving and failing to stop when required are abundantly evident and serious public safety concerns. Abdicating all matters of traffic enforcement to automated systems that focus on speed or traffic lights misses the many other dangerous driving issues in St. Albert.
Unfortunately, our city has become dependent on revenue generated through automated speed enforcement. We now face the challenge of how to retain and improve enforcement practices while reducing the dependency on photo enforcement, specifically, the revenue. This transition will be compounded if we are no longer able to use the automated systems.
The issue deserves serious contemplation. It’s clear we need to focus on all manner of traffic infractions. I believe we should start by ensuring photo speed enforcement is focused only on those areas where no personal enforcement is reasonable (e.g. officer safety concerns) and a statistically demonstrated public safety issue is identified. We must re-examine the contractual agreements with the photo enforcement operators, in an effort to reduce the perception of ‘self serving’ income generation. The business of speed enforcement should not be influenced by revenue generation for private entities, but actual improvements to driver behaviour and education, and improved public safety.
Al Bohachyk, St. Albert
Policing committee to begin work in 2018
Jun 14, 2017
A bylaw to establish a policing committee received third and final reading without much ado Monday.
The policing committee, which will liaise with the RCMP, help set policing priorities in the community and provide civilian oversight, will begin its role in January 2018.
It has taken over a year to establish a policing committee and the bylaw itself has undergone a number of amendments since first reading was given on May 3.
Coun. Bob Russell, who campaigned on the promise to re-establish a form of civilian oversight of policing operations, simply thanked residents and council for supporting the bylaw.
Mayor Nolan Crouse continued to vote against establishing the committee, stating that it served to delegate responsibilities away from council. Liaising with the detachment commander was historically the responsibility of the mayor. The new bylaw shifts that responsibility to the committee chair.
Crouse also questioned whether it was a good use of taxpayer dollars.
Council also approved $18,300 from the Stabilization Reserve to be used to hire a part-time position within the Policing Services department. The 0.56 FTE position will provide administrative support to the committee and would be responsible for setting meeting agendas, writing reports and taking meeting minutes.
This position could be filled as soon as July 2017, said Aaron Giesbrecht, manager of policing services.
Another $10,000 from the Stabilization Reserve was transferred to the 2017 Operating Budget to support the start-up costs associated with recruiting and training committee members.
An ongoing amount of approximately $70,000 will also be built into the budget to support ongoing operational and staffing costs.
Coun. Cam MacKay argued that oversight and accountability was invaluable and that the cost was small when compared to other projects under council consideration.
Coun. Tim Osborne said the committee is an opportunity to partner with residents.
“I think it’s been a struggle the way that we’ve done it. I’m not sure that council has always provided the best level of input into policing as possible. I think having a committee that can have dedicated time and focus on this is a good thing,” he said.
Third reading passed with a margin of 6-1, with Crouse voting against.
At City Hall
May 20, 2017
The city will not embark on any further public consultations about establishing a policing committee.
Mayor Nolan Crouse had proposed embarking on a public consultation campaign for the policing committee bylaw prior to giving it third reading. He made no arguments in favour of the motion, but has said he favours more public engagement on the topic since the bylaw has only just recently come in front of council.
“The bylaw’s only a month old!” he said.
Coun. Sheena Hughes noted the recommended survey questions from administration are simple yes/no questions about whether people want a policing committee, not about what roles people would want a policing committee to undertake.
“If you wanted these questions asked, they should have been asked a long time ago, not at the tail end,” she said. “It looks quite frankly like a stalling tactic and an attempt to quash it.”
Al Bohachyk, a resident representing the St. Albert Citizens for a Policing Committee who has spoken to council several times on this issue, told council that with dozens of mentions in the Gazette and a dozen debates about the committee in council chambers, further consultation is not needed.
“I think the effort to delay this bylaw at this point is nothing short of embarrassing,” he said.
He said he would not reveal the names or numbers of committee members for fear of Crouse initiating civil litigation; Crouse clarified for the record he has never launched a civil action against a resident.
Council voted down the motion 5-2, with Crouse and Coun. Cathy Heron in support.
Council to debate policing committee consultation
May 06, 2017
A proponent of establishing civilian oversight for the St. Albert RCMP has suggested Mayor Nolan Crouse’s call for public consultation is a deliberate attempt to delay the process.
Al Bohachyk, long a vocal supporter of establishing a policing committee in St. Albert, said he was disappointed but not surprised that Crouse gave notice that he would bring forward a motion calling for some public consultation on the proposed policing committee bylaw. Council gave first reading to the bylaw May 1, after close to a year of discussion about what a policing committee would entail.
“There is a lot of support for improving the accountability and the transparency of how the RCMP are managed in town, and I believe that to take a step now to engage a public consultation process is reasonably named a delay tactic,” he said. “I hope the majority of council do not support this delay.”
Crouse balked at the suggestion that his motion was a delaying tactic. He said it is an attempt to hear from residents on a major change with respect to how police in St. Albert are held accountable. The motion, which is expected to be on council’s agenda May 15, calls for consultation online and through advertising and a report back to council by July.
“When people have the opportunity to read the bylaw, they may have something they want to add or subtract or change. It’s no different than a land-use bylaw or anything else. You get input,” he said. “That’s a fascinating perspective that it’s a possible delay tactic.”
He said he has only actually heard from three residents specifically on this issue, including Bohachyk who said he represents a group called St. Albert Citizens for a Policing Committee. Bohachyk has declined to say who the group members are, or even how many there are.
“We are a small group of St. Albert residents with an extensive policing background,” he said, adding the concerns about the group’s composition are a “red herring.”
The policing committee would be a committee to which council would delegate its role of liaising with the municipal police force, a role that is contracted to the RCMP. Currently the detachment commander liaises with council via the mayor; under the proposed bylaw the detachment commander would liaise with the committee chair, and the committee would in turn liaise with council. The intention would be to create more public oversight of the St. Albert RCMP.
Bohachyk raised two specific concerns with the first version of the bylaw: first, that a section exists to allow RCMP an effective veto over committee composition, and second that the time required for the committee to publish meeting agendas was too short. Council will also debate amendments addressing both of those concerns.
Staff Sgt. Jeff Jacobson, who is the acting detachment commander for the St. Albert RCMP, said in an email there are several options for the city in how to manage the policing contract, whether through a policing committee or otherwise. The change, from his perspective, would be limited to how police information is reported and how priorities are established, although he doesn’t necessarily have a preference.
“The RCMP will support whatever decision is made for how the city would like to manage the agreement,” he said.
At City Hall
Nov 23, 2016
Although St. Albert city council was set to debate the guiding principles of the proposed policing committee at the Nov. 21 meeting, it was removed from the agenda at the last minute.
Two items – amendments proposed by Coun. Sheena Hughes and an approval of the guiding principles – were included in the agenda package distributed publicly Nov. 18.
Mayor Nolan Crouse explained some councillors hadn’t received the information prior to the meeting, and the agenda was approved without those two items. They will instead be discussed next week, Nov. 28.
Resident Al Bohachyk, who has been a vocal proponent of forming a policing committee, gave a brief presentation to council explaining he wouldn’t be able to attend Nov. 28.
He outlined several of his concerns with the report, including what he described as false or misleading information in the report about the committee’s ability to investigate complaints.
As for the guiding principles themselves, he said the proposed budget of $50,000 is out of line with what the committee would require, saying it’s used only to “create the impression of false hardship to city taxpayers.”
Bohachyk said the proposed committee size of 11 is too big and should be reduced to seven. He said that the requirement that no more than one committee have a policing background should be removed. Bohachyk recommended that the committee should also oversee the municipal enforcement officers in the city and not just the RCMP.
“Our community deserves to know what our police are doing and why, and our community deserves to know if our policing dollars are being spent wisely,” he said.
Council postpones debate on policing committee principles
Oct 22, 2016
St. Albert city council got a look at the principles that would guide a new policing committee in town, but deferred debate on the matter until next month or later.
Policing services manager Aaron Giesbrecht presented an update on the committee, outlining the guiding principles that would be used to create a draft policing services bylaw.
Coun. Cam MacKay said he had spoken to Coun. Bob Russell, who was not present at the meeting, and asked that any motion on the matter be postponed until he was able to return so he could speak to it.
Giesbrecht presented 12 guiding principles for the committee this week, along with context about the role of municipal police as defined in the provincial Police Act, in the city’s policing services policy, and in the existing municipal policing agreement the city has with the RCMP.
He indicated a cost estimate to establish a committee would be about $50,000 per year – $20,000 for member training and $30,000 for a part-time administrator – indicating current staff members do not have any extra time to dedicate to the committee.
The committee would be tasked with maintaining a balance between the independence of the police and accountability to the public. This would remove the perception of political interference, according to the report. The current policing agreement states that the chief elected official, in this case Crouse, may set the priorities and goals of the municipal police service.
A new committee would oversee the municipal policing agreement, and replace council’s current role in communicating with the officer in charge with respect to setting annual priorities and communicating public concerns. The committee would appoint a public complaints director and assist in selecting the officer in charge.
Committee membership would be 11 members, including one councillor and one employee. Membership would be limited to having just one civilian member with a law-enforcement background.
“Frankly in our discussions, we struggled with having it populated with more than one officer if it’s intended to be civilian oversight,” Giesbrecht explained.
The committee would oversee just the RCMP and not Municipal Enforcement Services of the city’s 911 call centre, and it would communicate with the officer in charge on resource matters such as requests for new positions, and present to council on policing activities.
Mayor Nolan Crouse said his understanding was there were five communities in Alberta that had similar policing commissions, and said he spoke to elected officials from two of those communities – Drumheller and Fort Saskatchewan – at the recent Alberta Urban Municipalities Association meeting.
“Neither of them had a lot of good to say about the committee,” he said, adding he would want to speak with officials from all five communities with similar commissions before making any decision.
Prior to council’s brief discussion of the guiding principles, Coun. Sheena Hughes gave notice of three motions for changes she would like to see: change the size from 11 members to 9, remove the limit to have just one committee member with a law-enforcement background and include municipal enforcement services under the committee’s oversight.
Resident Al Bohachyk, a retired police officer who has long advocated the formation of a police committee in St. Albert, was scheduled to make a presentation to council but chose to wait until the matter came back after learning council would postpone the debate.
He told the Gazette that while he was happy to see the formation of a policing committee on council’s agenda, he did have some concerns with the proposed guiding principles – the same three for which Hughes gave notice of motion.
“The imperative for city council is to make this a functional committee that can actually attend to the issues and tasks that are very well defined in the Police Act,” he said. “In that respect, a couple of the suggestions in the terms of reference have the distinct possibility of the making the committee less functional than optimal.”
With respect to committee size, Bohachyk said seven would be best as anything larger becomes a little too difficult to manage, and is regardless more costly.
He also argued prohibiting more than one committee member having a law-enforcement background, was akin to prohibiting people with a medical background from a hospital oversight committee or prohibiting those with a law background from a judicial oversight committee.
Lastly, he noted a functional committee should oversee both the RCMP and municipal enforcement officers, as they often work in tandem to deliver the policing services the public expects.
Bohachyk also took issue with the cost estimate of $50,000, noting there was no need for a functioning committee that met once per month to have an administrator dedicating 20 hours per week to the committee, suggesting it would only take “a couple hours per month.”
“The optics are awful. It takes a $20,000 budget and turns it into a $50,000 budget, which has its own optics about taxpayer revolt on spending,” he said. “The possibility is this was intentional to create the optic that it’s much more problematic for the citizens of St. Albert than it needs to be.”
While council postponed discussion of the guiding principles, it’s unclear when the matter might return to council. Mayor Nolan Crouse said the agenda committee will add it to an agenda when there’s time.
“I don’t know when it will be, I don’t know if it’s next month,” he said.
Interim city manager Chris Jardine noted the matter had come before council Oct. 17 in order to bring a bylaw forward, and delaying discussion of the guiding principles would also delay a draft bylaw.
Re-establishing the policing committee was one of Russell’s priorities in his campaign leading up to the byelection June 24, 2015. He brought a motion forward that fall, but withdrew it saying he wanted to give time for newly hired detachment commander Insp. Ken Foster to get acquainted with the city.
He brought the motion back to council April 18 this year for administration to begin the work, which was approved unanimously.
Former detachment commander Insp. Kevin Murray disbanded the previous policing advisory committee in spring 2015.
In a letter to council dated March 16, 2015, Murray explained he was disbanding the committee because it had simply become ineffective – rather than the committee providing feedback to him, the meetings ended up being more about him reporting on police activities to the committee.
Russell told the Gazette in February he agreed with Murray’s assessment, and wanted to see the committee re-established with a clear mandate in order to minimize the time the detachment commander would have to devote to the meetings.
Police bodies provide investigation not direction
Aug 17, 2016
From the Aug. 3 St. Albert Gazette (reaction to the idea of a local police committee): “Foster wanted to clarify a few inaccuracies on the website, such as the perceived lack of civilian oversight within the detachment. The RCMP has multiple levels of oversight – from the Alberta Serious Incidence Response Team to the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission to the Attorney and Solicitor General.”
This assertion is not what it appears to be, as it does not tell a complete story.
ASIRT, the Complaints Commission and AJ&SG are investigative entities that kick into gear when a police service is involved in a very sensitive matter, or member of the public is injured or killed by a police officer, or when there is a complaint about the conduct of a police officer that requires a formal investigation. Although there are civilian review capabilities with these entities, they are completely unrelated to our recommended oversight functions in a police committee. The civilian oversight our group has referred to and referenced repeatedly is described clearly in Sec 23 of the Alberta Police Act and articulates (amongst other responsibilities) public input into policing priorities and policing management in a community. Any suggestion that the ‘civilian’ oversight identified by Inspector Foster will substitute or ‘attend to’ the functions described in Sec 23 is inaccurate.
You can review the legislation on our website at policingstalbert.ca
It is also disappointing that Insp. Ken Foster would only consider such a committee ‘conditionally’. His support is couched as, “is open to the establishing a policing committee, but only if it will be effective”, and “I don’t know that we would hear or learn anything different than what we’re already hearing and learning,” (St. Albert Gazette, Aug. 3). We should be troubled with the prospect that the officer in charge of our police service would make a comment that could be construed as resistant to civilian oversight. Given the contractual relationship Inspector Foster has with the citizens of St. Albert, his position should be neutral. It is also the city’s decision to make, alone.
Foster’s ‘clarification’ leaves the impression that civilian oversight is in place.
This leaves residents of St. Albert in a compromised state of clarity. For most, this would suggest that the movement to establish a policing committee is unnecessary. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Al Bohachyk, St. Albert
Concerned citizens want return of policing committee
Aug 03, 2016
A group of retired police officers and concerned citizens has started a website to inform St. Albertans of the benefits of establishing a policing committee.
They say there is a lack of visible police presence on the streets of St. Albert and a lack of publicly available data. The group began researching ways to help improve police services in Alberta.
“Over the last number of years we’ve been aware of many citizen complaints about an absence of police visibility on the streets,” said Al Bohachyk, a retired Edmonton Police Services officer and resident of St. Albert. “That was the impetus to exploring what was going on with police management.”
St. Albert had a RCMP Community Advisory Committee, which informed the RCMP of concerns in the community. Former detachment commander Inspector Kevin Murray disbanded the committee in 2015, stating in a letter addressed to council that the committee was no longer fulfilling its mandate.
He also felt that the advisory committee was, at best, duplicating the work of the Strategic Action and Mobilization committee, which brings together a number of groups, school divisions and ministerial officials to address social issues in the community.
But Bohachyk said this group would be different than its predecessor. Not only would a policing committee act as a “barometer of public concern,” but it would have some say in shaping of policing priorities.
He thinks a group of dedicated and informed individuals could really help make a difference in improving the quality of policing and ensuring that the community voice is heard when establishing priorities.
St. Albert RCMP detachment commander Insp. Ken Foster said he appreciates the passion of the group and is open to the establishing a policing committee, but only if it will be effective.
“I don’t know that we would hear or learn anything different than what we’re already hearing and learning,” said Foster, who said that he has never worked in a detachment that values public consultation as much as St. Albert.
Priorities are established after extensive formal and informal community consultation, with groups such as mayor and council, members of the St. Albert Strategic Action and Mobilization committee, members of the St. Albert Youth Working Group, St. Albert Seniors Working Group and PFLAG groups.
“The work we do in this community, and this is my 12th location, is so advanced and there’s so much of it,” he said.
Foster wanted to clarify a few inaccuracies on the website, such as the perceived lack of civilian oversight within the detachment.
The RCMP has multiple levels of oversight – from the Alberta Serious Incidence Response Team to the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission to the Attorney and Solicitor General.
Foster also said that it is difficult to compare the police to population ratio when comparing municipal police forces to RCMP detachments.
Municipal policing services are required to staff their own bomb squads, canine units, and more, contributing to a ratio of one officer to 550 citizens, whereas the 112 RCMP detachments in Alberta have access to these teams under a shared agreement.
The group is encouraging residents to inform themselves on the benefits of a policing committee and to visit the website: policingstalbert.ca.
They have also prepared a customer satisfaction survey, which includes a question about the desire to see a policing committee established in St. Albert. The results will be presented to council and to the provincial government.
The group was happy to see the RCMP release its first public quarterly report last week, saying it was a good start to addressing the concerns about public accountability.
City administration was instructed in April to prepare a bylaw or terms of reference related to a policing committee for city council’s consideration.
Policing committee good for St. Albert
Apr 27, 2016
Congratulations to Councillor Bob Russell for bringing forward a motion to create (a policing) committee for St. Albert, and to council for its unanimous support. This first step will allow the building of a template for the required bylaw, which can be subsequently approved by council. Adoption of such a bylaw would bring our city into a peer group of other Alberta centres that enjoy advanced community/policing cooperation. The most significant of the benefits will be regular information exchange, and focus on localized public safety issues. However, many more benefits will be realized as the bylaw is established.
The option to develop such a committee is well grounded in existing provincial legislation (the Police Act) and is intended to improve police/community engagement by representing the interests of city council in an arm’s-length manner to the officer in charge, helping develop a yearly plan of priorities, assisting with the implementation of the plans, representing public concerns to the officer in charge and assisting in resolving complaints.
The RCMP policing committee handbook, assembled by the Ministry of Justice & Solicitor General, further suggests that a policing committee will; improve community input and guidance, assist in dealing with local complaints and concerns, increase transparency regarding the operations of the RCMP in the community, and help remove the pressures associated with the perception of political interference.
There will be slight costs associated with the implementation of this bylaw, but they are necessary for the betterment of our community. With careful planning and selection of committee members, related costs can certainly be held to a minimum.
Several other Alberta cities and towns have already implemented a similar bylaw and working committee. Their examples eliminate the need to reinvent associated documentation in support of this bylaw. The adoption of a functional bylaw should be quite seamless.
City council has agreed to give this serious consideration. I hope that when you speak to any of our council members, you encourage them to continue on this path. It will go a long way to foster an optimum police/community relationship.
And, if city council ever again struggles with what to do with photo enforcement revenues, here is the perfect place to put it!
Al Bohachyk, St. Albert
A new policing committee could be on the horizon for St. Albert.
Policing committee to be considered
Apr 20, 2016
Coun. Bob Russell promised during his byelection campaign last June to pursue the creation of a policing committee to give the community a voice.
On Monday a motion for city administration to work with the RCMP and the solicitor general on the establishment of such a committee and to bring back a bylaw or terms of reference for council’s consideration was unanimously passed.
Russell said a policing committee can serve an active function, and his suggestion was not meant to be a criticism of the St. Albert RCMP.
“There are many areas where we can be of some help,” he said, noting he’s served on similar committees in the past.
Russell said that the committee would have a voice to represent citizens, but would leave the day-to-day policing to the RCMP. He disputed a staff report that suggested an additional city employee would be needed to co-ordinate such a committee.
“Mr. Mayor, I don’t think so. Get good people on this committee, we can do this ourselves,” Russell said.
Previously the RCMP had a community advisory committee that was disbanded by former detachment commander Kevin Murray. Murray said in a 2015 letter to council that the meetings had become more about him reporting policing activities to the committee than getting community input.
Coun. Tim Osborne said he’d been on the previous advisory committee.
“I think it had run its course,” he said. But he said he was willing to support this motion, noting he believes it is important to have police and citizens communicating.
Mayor Nolan Crouse said a couple of years ago he visited Caledon, Ont. to check out its crime prevention strategies.
That included a committee where the chair was paid, committee members received funding to go conferences to get information, and there were several active subcommittees.
“It’s an entire community engagement,” he said. He thinks if St. Albert’s proposed policing committee was designed to have broad impact and received some funding, “I believe they can do something.”
“This committee has some great potential as long as they’re not sitting around telling the RCMP what to do,” he said.
Community resident Allan Bohachyk presented to council in favour of a policing committee. With 30 years of municipal policing under his belt, he supported the idea of putting in place mechanisms where citizens could have their concerns addressed.
“You have the authority to make this happen, you have much public support if you do,” he told council.
Insp. Ken Foster, the current St. Albert RCMP detachment commander, said he would not resist such a move.
“We always appreciate and have no concerns and we’re not resistant at all to having and being involved in conversations, engagement with the general public,” Foster said.
The RCMP currently use other mechanisms to engage the public, like the Strategic and Mobilization committee, meetings with council and communication with various agencies, he said.
“We just want something that works,” he said. “Where the problem comes in, and I think the mayor alluded to it last night if it just winds up with people coming to have tea and coffee to find out what’s happening in the policing world, that’s not value-added.”
What shape the committee could take is yet to be determined, as council has asked for a terms of reference to come back.
“The only thing that’s really important to me is it really becomes meaningful holistically for the city, and not get mired in … somebody concerned about the car that lives on their block that goes too fast,” Foster said. Whatever structure council settles on should be focused on high level issues, he said.
Signs Confusing? How about: Another waster of public funds?
Jan 02, 2016
The new signs – stay back 30 m – tell a much bigger story than simple advice to leave room between yourself and the vehicle ahead of you.
The signs indicate a city traffic planning/management section that is completely out of control. Not even the mayor knew what the signs meant, suggesting this initiative was spawned, not by council, but traffic bureaucrats. Bureaucrats it seems, that do not actually ever drive on the roads they are in charge of.
For they would see that the increase in rear-end collisions is not just because people are following others too closely – although the erosion of traffic courtesy is tragic – but because the constipation of traffic along the St. Albert Trail has created driver fatigue and stress. Traffic flow has been reduced to a trickle of what is possible. Independent turn control initiatives at many of the major intersections has slowed traffic flow so significantly, people must now push the envelope in an effort to get through an intersection in less than two or three light cycles.
Logically, leaving 30 metres between yourself and the vehicle ahead of you would result in a couple of possibilities. It’s probable that only one or two vehicles would get through a green turn light, but even more likely, the space would be filled by three others, simply delaying your arrival time even further. It’s fairy-tale advice … won’t happen. And, this motherly advice is not based on any existing traffic law.
All around this city, motorists are putting others at great risk, disobeying turn arrows, running red lights and entering the roadway without stopping or in consideration of others directly in their intended path. It is possible to observe a traffic control device infraction at almost every light controlled intersection on every light cycle.
Statistics indicating an increase in following too close is an easy excuse to deflect poor traffic planning. Drive around to our other small city neighbours and see if they too share this ridiculous notion of protecting everyone from themselves by gridlock.
Collisions as a result of following too closely are often an indicator of driving too fast. It is also a common consequence for not paying attention – distracted driving. With traffic slowed to a crawl along the SAT, surely speeding is not the reason. And how would we know if it is distracted driving; no one ever deals with that roadway scourge.
My guess is that this phenomenon is a combination of very poor traffic planning, no enforcement, and a traffic planning section that has been frightened by ‘risk management’ legal advice. Regardless, it makes driving around St. Albert an increasingly frustrating and dangerous activity. Installing a few advisory signs ignores the real solutions, and is a waste of our money.
Al Bohachyk, St. Albert
Police the bad drivers
Jun 17, 2015
Actually Vic Ritchie, you have understated the problems with bad drivers in the Capital Region, and specifically St. Albert, (Gazette, May 23). It’s easily worse than you described.
I routinely drive these streets. Most evenings, I walk a route in the northwest quadrant of St. Albert. The driving behaviour that is evident every day and evening is atrocious. Cellphone use, actively consuming drugs while driving, reckless speeding and complete disregard for anyone else in our city has become a norm. In the last year, I have seen numerous vehicles travelling in this area, all in 50 km/hr. zones, in excess of 100 km/hr., and in one case, well in excess of 150 km/hr.
Why the increased disregard for rules and courtesy? It could be a misplaced attitude of entitlement, only concerned about their own progress, acting as though the rules are only for all others. It could be they’re driving their new model vehicles with childish glee, perhaps thrilled with loud exhaust and dramatic acceleration.
We have all ages and both genders ignoring their social contract – to say nothing of the rules – that expects them to give a reasonable notice for what they would like to do on the roadway. Either their left hand is occupied with a phone, or they simply don’t care. I think for most, it is the latter. Their conscience doesn’t seem to influence any obligation to signal. Pausing long enough to allow others to co-operate and make space for a lane change is only a theory.
Unfortunately, we have allowed our politicians to let traffic enforcement slide, primarily due to some reluctance to pay for adequate policing. We have allowed photo radar to substitute for real policing. And it won’t get better unless we demand attention to the problem.
Speed enforcement in this city by either RCMP, Community Police Officers or Municipal Enforcement is totally inadequate. Those who speed with abandon are often smart enough to figure out where the photo radar is. Slow down temporarily, and they’re home free. For those who are caught, the consequences are simply an annoyance.
Traffic enforcement generally is absent. You probably notice extensive cellphone use, changing lanes by forcing others out of the way, failing to stop before entering a roadway, or many other potentially dangerous driving behaviours. The part that is missing is officers conducting the necessary vehicle stops. The only realistic expectation of changing driver behaviour is to impose immediate consequences, with demerits. That’s not happening.
Compounding this phenomenon is the recent social engineering efforts of our city traffic planners. The absolute constipation of traffic flow along and across the St. Albert Trail has now prompted some to simply ignore arrows or lights. The outcome is that we have another layer of dangerous driving manoeuvres happening daily on our streets, with no consequences to those who ignore the rules.
Undoubtedly, we need more police attention focused on our driving public, at all hours of the day. If more “active watching” was going on, untold numbers of dangerous driving behaviours could be curtailed. St. Albert politicians are failing dismally in their responsibility to protect the kids, pedestrians and other users of our city’s streets.
It’s time to let your council representative hear from you. And, it’s time for reasonable drivers to say, “enough already.”
Al Bohachyk, St. Albert
Common sense welcome in photo radar discussion
Mar 26, 2014
Given the fluid, always-changing nature of driving, and driving conditions that impact all users of the roadway, it is nice to see some common sense articulated by both the St. Albert Gazette editorial of March 15, and comments from some local municipalities that manage photo radar in their jurisdictions. This candid discussion is refreshing, considering some of what we have been hearing.
Drivers routinely face the necessity to be aware of their surroundings: changing speed zones, traffic flow in another lane, dramatic elevation changes (hills) and the ever-present need to drive defensively. The point is, many factors influence driver behaviour, and not all of it supports the hard-line suggestion that one or two kilometres per hour over the posted speed limit is an intentional ignoring of the rules.
In the interest of brevity, the variances in vehicle speedometers, tire pressures and an array of other vehicle factors that make it virtually impossible to maintain a vehicle exactly on the mark of a speed limit won’t be discussed here. We don’t drive on a set of rails with a manually-adjustable throttle.
I don’t advocate intentional excessive speeding. I also understand that if enforcement officials declare a speed tolerance, drivers will migrate to that imaginary limit, and then any excess becomes problematic. But all of that hard-line discussion must be tempered with the realization that driving a few kilometres per hour over the speed limit to ensure safe traffic flow happens.
Thanks to Morinville’s and St. Albert’s enforcement managers for realizing, and disclosing, that photo radar is not sufficiently accurate to support zero tolerance. That is common sense. We have enough – some much more serious – concerns as drivers that demand our attention. We don’t need to be watching our speedometers constantly to avoid the one kilometre per hour over the limit potential.
Al Bohachyk, St. Albert
Better light co-ordination needed
Jun 30, 2012
Each day that I drive back into St. Albert along the St. Albert Trail during the evening rush hour, I am puzzled by the apparent lack of common sense that has been applied to the management of traffic lights from the Anthony Henday northbound.
It must be that the folks who set the traffic light sequences along that stretch never actually drive it, for they would certainly see that other options should be considered. It is inconceivable that the priority for traffic movement is the half dozen cars waiting to enter the trail from the Superstore and Tudor Glen areas, while three packed lanes of northbound traffic must sit through five, six or seven sets of lights to advance from 156 Street to just past Hebert Road. The half dozen cars entering from each side never wait more than a single light sequence.
Access into St. Albert is woeful at best, primarily because of limited arterial roads. It’s getting better over the years, but I suggest there are ways to manage traffic that would reduce wear and tear, improve environmental considerations and treat local and regional residents with a bit of respect for their time and vehicle maintenance costs.
Heading south in the morning rush hour doesn’t seem to face the same constrictions. The light sequences seem to accommodate the flow quite nicely. It can be done.
How about some problem-solving? Why not set the lights at Superstore to interrupt the St. Albert Trail only every second time, compared to the current sequence? You would get a better flow northbound. It would require co-ordinating with the lights at Hebert to free up the traffic to continue north. That means co-ordinating two sets of lights. Since the ‘provincial lights’ at the Henday are not as easily accessed, use them as the starting point.
If the commercial interests along both sides of the trail have some priority in traffic flow, maybe it’s time to revisit those agreements or expectations. Surely, customers on both sides could be informed of restricted access hours by simple signage and it doesn’t have to be changed for the whole day, just a couple of hours. The greater good should be the priority.
There are other light sequences that seem to be completely counter-intuitive. The left advance green on the trail at McKenney feeds up the hill to an immediate red at Muir, stopping westbound traffic on an uphill slope. The only other close light that could impact Muir is at Dawson, with nothing close to that set of lights. Again, it shouldn’t be too hard to sequence two or three sets of lights to keep traffic moving and the two or three cars sitting perpendicular to the heavy traffic flow will just have to wait a minute or two.
There may be many more options to improve traffic flow in different parts of St. Albert, but the point is that someone needs to look at traffic flow objectively. I’m looking forward to more dialogue about this.
Al Bohachyk, St. Albert