The way we move: Halifax’s Integrated Mobility Plan keeps health in mind

cyclists

Healthy. It’s a word that can mean many things to many people and it was one of the pillars of Halifax’s recently adopted Integrated Mobility Plan (IMP). 

“The IMP is a new transportation plan for the Halifax region that focuses on providing sustainable, enjoyable and healthy travel options for residents,” says Tanya Davis, Strategic Transportation Planning Program Manager, Halifax Regional Municipality.
 “We are changing how we approach mobility in our communities and know that transportation can impact the health of the people who live, work and play here.”

The plan integrates work that has been happening across different departments and modes of transportation and presents bold moves for enhancing mobility in our communities.

Right now, 20 per cent of residents take sustainable modes of transportation to and from work. The IMP sets a goal to increase this number to 30 per cent of residents by 2031 through a series of policies and actions that range from how our communities are developed to how our streets are designed and maintained. It also signals an investment of $190 million up to 2031, aligning with the end date of the current regional plan. 

Nova Scotia Health Authority’s Public Health team has been one of the partners at the table with the Halifax Regional Municipality. Ali Shaver, Healthy Built Environment Coordinator with Public Health, says working with the municipality has provided the opportunity to highlight how plans can be developed while considering social determinants of health and health equity.

“We’re adding a health equity and healthy public policy lens to the expertise of municipal planners, designers and engineers so that the plans consider how changes can support improved health,” she adds. “It’s about considering how decisions that are being made will affect members of our community, in particular those who are more vulnerable and who may not have their voices heard.”

One example, she notes, is the development of a complete-streets approach that ensures streets are designed and maintained to make travel safe, convenient and comfortable for people of all ages and abilities and all transportation modes. The IMP sets clear direction and outlines cross-departmental responsibilities in creating streets that work for people – not just cars. 

Public Health has supported various pieces of the work, including public engagement, providing local data, involving new partners, advising on health aspects of criteria and policy, and participating in evaluation and monitoring. 

Collaboration around transportation started between Public Health and the municipality in 2013 through the Healthy Canada by Design project. Over the years, the partnership has grown and discussions continue about new opportunities to work together to support healthier communities and residents. 

“When we work more closely together and break down those silos even within the municipality, we can do a better job of looking at the whole picture. Ideally, these changes will have more positive impact on the community,” Davis adds.

On December 5, when the plan was put before Halifax Regional Council for a vote of approval, a group of residents gathered outside of city hall in support of the plan. Rod McPhail, Project Manager for the IMP, noted it was his first time experiencing a protest in support of his work. 

“It’s great to see the support this plan has gotten from community members and it will be great to see how these plans unfold in Halifax communities.”

For more information about the Integrated Mobility Plan visit halifax.ca/integratedmobility