Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Now is the time to reshape our cities

with 10 comments

Jack Diamond in the Globe and Mail

Jack Diamond is principal of Diamond and Schmitt Architects Inc. He was one of five commissioners appointed by the Ontario government to examine the governance, taxation, land use and transportation for the Greater Toronto Area, producing proposals known as the Golden report.

He likens the crisis in the auto industry to the crisis facing Toronto. But what he says applies equally here too.

If we expand the major freeway from the Vancouver- Burnaby boundary to the Langley – Abbotsford one, then we will see low density development that does not support transit. We will not see transit oriented development in areas where there is no transit. Equally, we can no longer afford to spend billions of dollars on rapid transit systems that run through established areas that remian obsitnately wedded to their current densities.

Diamond ties this to the cost for municipal government

we’re going broke – for every $1 earned in real-estate taxes in low-density areas, the city pays $1.40 to service the land.

at the top of the article but his conclusion is one that I thought I might have written

… lays the foundation for future sustainability, and therefore a globally competitive and environmentally responsible economy. If we don’t take the opportunity created by the current crisis, suburbs will be like an SUV in the next decade – unwieldy and unwanted.

And remember “suburbs” cover most of the City of Vancouver too

Written by Stephen Rees

November 27, 2008 at 1:42 pm

10 Responses

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  3. “Now is the time to reshape our cities”. Too true, but we must completely think ‘out of the box.’

    Some years ago and reported in the transit ‘press’ a Australian Professor of planning, wrote a paper which caused much discussion and rancor. It went something like this; “It is time to admit that we have done everything wrong”.

    Only reading snippets about transit, the good professor was against expensive transit systems and favoured light rail or GLT (hybrid LRT/bus runs on rubber tires but guided by a rail) and small ‘metro’ style smart cars.

    Like all university types who don’t ‘follow the leader’ little has been heard of him since, too bad.

    I think we too have to think out of the box, certainly the ‘density’ mantra is just a developers ploy to increase land values. The social implications of this drive to density have yet to be felt, just wait another decade and I think we will not like what we see.

    I think we need a massive rethink about transit and the philosophy of providing public transit. There is no one correct answer, but the course that the GVRD is on, will lead us to a bleak future. The erosion of the ALR is most alarming, but the massive strip development of Kelowna is also of great concern.

    In effect, we are taking paradise, and putting up parking lots!

    Malcolm J.

    November 27, 2008 at 3:40 pm

  4. I thought about your past comments when I was riding in a Mark I Skytrain car this morning Malcolm.

    The seats that people were sitting on seemed so small, and the whole affair so cramped, it just made me think how deficient the whole system is.

    The foremost thought in my mind was, “Who really wants to ride in such an uncomfortable dinosaur?”

    Of course transit is now all about providing a service as you say… something Translink obviously hasn’t a clue about.

    Corey

    November 28, 2008 at 12:48 am

  5. Corey, the Mk.1 cars and SkyTrain, were never designed as a long haul metro, rather a short inner city people mover that had a larger capacity than a Toronto Streetcar and cost less than subway to build.

    The TTC’s 1983 ART Study dispelled that notion and sunk ICTS or what SkyTrain was called before it was called ALRT

    Detroit’s 4.5 km. single track loop, locally known as the “mugger” mover is the only example of the original SkyTrain philosophy. It was thought that many connecting SkyTrain ‘cells or loops, would provide cheap transit for cities. No one bought into the idea.

    So SkyTrain was quickly renamed ALRT and sold as a cheap metro, but there was no redesign of the cars. The Mk.1 cars were never intended to have anyone sit on them for more than a few minutes.

    When Bombardier bought SkyTrain, they put the largest metro car body they could operate and what LIM’s could pull on Vancouver’s system, thus becoming Mk.2 cars. The last BC Transit/UTDC ‘Fat Albert’ or Mk. 2 car is on a siding in Squamish.

    Bombardier is up front what SkyTrain is, a metro, something that TransLink doesn’t admit to.

    Here lies the problem with Transit planning in the region, a whole generation of planners have come to know SkyTrain as goth LRT (which it isn’t) and a successful transit mode (which it is not), thus creating the myth that transit must shape development by densifying transit corridors. The notion that transit should be appealing to customers by providing a viable alternative is forgotten.

    That’s why I’m so dead set against SkyTrain – wrong mode, wrong philosophy = big problems in the future.

    Malcolm J.

    November 28, 2008 at 7:58 am

  6. At the time the Expo Line was built, it was known that longer wider cars were going to be coming – so the clearances in the tunnels and around the curves were built with that in mind.
    In contrast, the demonstration line that is the Scarborough RT in Toronto was not built to the large specifications and their capacity problems cannot be easily solved by simply buying MKII cars.

    As a side note – Chicago EL cars are similar in length to the MKI SkyTrain cars (about 2m longer), but wider. The length may be the result of specifications for making tight turns on elevated tracks in cramped downtown locations (whether as peoplemover or metro).

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chicago_%27L%27_rolling_stock

    Ron C.

    November 28, 2008 at 1:07 pm

  7. I find that calling SkyTrain a Metro is very very confusing. My first experience of urban rapid transit was at 14, when I went on a trip to Paris. Paris’ Metro is likely the first rapid transit system with that name. Metro is actually short for “chemin de fer metropolitain” French for metropolitan (= urban) railway and it used to be referred to, in brochures and on some signs as “le metropolitain” even in my youth. In the past 30 years, all sorts of transit systems have been called “metro” including some that are true LRT (Rouen for example) and others that are Automated Guideway systems, like SkyTrain. AGT is what we should call SkyTrain. Lille (France) called its AGT a Metro, when it opened in 1983, even though each “train set” had only 2 small cars, just because the good burghers of Lille wouldn’t have approved spending money on it had they known it was a toy compared to the Paris Metro many of them were familiar with (Paris isn’t that far away). The Lille AGT, or VAL–light automated vehicle–as they call it, is very popular now and is uncomfortably crowded most of the time, at least in downtown Lille. Toulouse, with a similar system, is expending it with a LRT.

    Red frog

    November 28, 2008 at 1:49 pm

  8. The first ever urban underground railway was built in London

    “In 1854 an Act of Parliament was passed approving the construction of an underground railway between Paddington Station and Farringdon Street via King’s Cross which was to be called the Metropolitan Railway.” (source wikipedia) The line was a great success and the idea was copied in other cities all of which used the same name – shortened in popular usage in Paris and then elsewhere to “Metro”.

    This first line was as big as mainline railways and trains from longer distance lines worked onto the Met tracks on a regular basis. Only later were bored tunnels used for smaller trains which gave the London system the name “The Tube”

    Stephen Rees

    November 28, 2008 at 3:20 pm

  9. … and it’s interesting that London Transport (or whatever it’s called now) uses the term “Underground” for both the subsurface lines and the deep level tubes, despite the disimmilarity between the two. It’s yet to be seen how the new Canada Line will be branded in relation to our present system, though it seems in the court of public opinion it’s “SkyTrain”. It does look like SkyTrain in Richmond, at least from ground level.

    re: Detroit People Mover, there’s a number of videos on YouTube, simlilar (the familiar sound of an MK-1 car accelerating), yet different (The next station is Broadway, in a male voice). All seats are sideways, my back twinges at the thought, I’d rather stand.

    David Banks

    November 28, 2008 at 10:51 pm

  10. Thanks Stephen for the correction. Good think that I said “likely”, leaving a doubt..as I did know that London subway came before Paris. I still think that Metro should be reserved for full size subways, not those with light short vehicles. Something like a frog trying to pass for a bull..

    Red frog

    November 29, 2008 at 12:43 am


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