* New transportation manager takes helm *
* Aims to restore trust following south Wilkes corridor controversy *
CITY hall’s new manager of transportation realizes he’s got his work cut out for him.
David Patman is heading up the public works division that took a public beating in the fall over the controversial south Wilkes corridor project.
“There was a lot of talk in themedia about how projects were being managed, about how transportation was interacting with other departments and stakeholders,” said Patman, 39. “I think we’re in the process of rebuilding trust and making sure everyone has a comfort level with the department.”
Patman was in charge of Winnipeg Transit’s eastern transit corridor study for the past year before moving to the public works department two weeks ago.
He was introduced to councillors on the public works committee Friday, where he juggled double duties: briefing the committee on the eastern transit corridor study, and then hearing their beefs about the backlog of studies his transportation division has yet to do.
Patman’s predecessor, Luis Escobar, had been with the city for 18 years when he unexpectedly gave notice at the end of August and left in October, just as trouble was about to tear through the division. Staff was openly criticized by city hall’s chief administrative officer, Doug Mc Neil, and the public works chairman, Coun. Marty Morantz, for developing what was derisively described as the “rogue” corridor route through Charleswood.
While there were suggestions Mc-Neil and Morantz had ignored reports, it was the staff who were thrown under the bus and two senior planners subsequently left. Patman faces multiple tasks: restoring public trust and rebuilding staff confidence and the department.
“People in my department do very good work. They take their work seriously. They’re very professional,” Patman said. “I just want to make sure everyone is aware of this.”
Patman, married, is originally from southern Ontario. He moved to Canada with his family at the age of three from Liverpool, and still retains a trace of the English accent.
Patman’s background includes working for a private engineering consulting firm and the City of Calgary’s transportation department. He’d been with Transit, in various roles, since September 2013.
He’s also a hobby farmer, who for the past six years has been raising five alpacas on a small acreage in Anola.
Patman oversees about 70 planners in the transportation division. They are responsible for street design; collecting data on vehicular, pedestrian and cycling traffic; dealing with improvements to intersections; designing bike paths; and overseeing traffic signals.
He stresses collaboration as the key to success, within his department and others, with politicians and the public.
“You want to make sure when you have a concept, we want to get people excited about it and try
something dynamic and different, that everyone is on the same page and moving in the same direction, that it’s not going to hit a roadblock internally before it can get implemented.”
Escobar hadareputation of approaching traffic and transportation issues in a very conservative manner.
Patman, on the other hand, singles out the innovate approaches of his former employer, the City of Calgary, with the hint Winnipeggers might see some of the same.
Patman said Calgary and other cities in North America sometimes deploy a “pop-up” approach to projects. He thinks a similar approach might work here.
“They say ‘let’s try it and see if it works. If it doesn’t work, we can take it out.’” Patman said. “I think there’s a lot to be said about those ideas that are quick wins. It gets people paying attention to what we’re doing and giving us feedback.”
Patman said Winnipeg has duplicated that process with reverse-angled parking in the Exchange District. A pilot project involving one street last summer became permanent and is being considered for other streets.
Patman also wants to put a greater emphasis on active transportation modes: walking and cycling.
“I know some people believe there is a war on the car, but the question is if it’s the right (transportation) tool for the right type of trip,” he said.
“I’m not going to say I’m anti-car, but we need to look at what we can do to make sure all these different modes work together... and that we’re thinking about the more sustainable modes, which are the active transportation — walking, cycling and transit. They all have a role to play in the transportation mix.”