Stephen Rees's blog

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

Olympic Line (short) closure notice

with 108 comments

The Olympic line will be closed between 11:30 am and 1 pm on Friday, February 12, due to the 2010 Olympic Torch Relay.

MIVB 3050 in service on the Olympic Line

Written by Stephen Rees

February 9, 2010 at 11:33 am

Posted in Transportation

108 Responses

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  1. What a great ride! For people and families looking to get the “Olympic Experience” without an event ticket, this is a great ticket! It is also a moment to reflect on the kind of decisions we are making around linking transportation planning with urban design.

    Get off the Canada Line at “Olympic Village” and ride the Olympic Line tram to Granville Island. Keep in mind that Granville Island is a kind of “world class destination” all of its own. And, that the Olympic Line gives you the opportunity to experience Granville Island as its designers dared not dream that you would: arriving on public transportation rather than in a private automobile.

    Well, that is not exactly correct. The original drawings for the design competition won by Norm Hotson and Joost Bakker show a tram line entering Granville Island. However, in 1978 the return of Tram to Vancouver was nothing but a pipe dream.

    If you take the ride, maybe you will share in another dream…

    Abandoning “Skytrain” as the technology of choice—actually, word is that it is a choice imposed on municipalities from the Provincial government—and embracing the more cost-effective and community friendly option: streetcars like the Olympic Line.

    This is not really a trivial matter. For example, I see the return of the Hastings Streetcar as a pivotal investment for revitalizing Hastings Street, and turning the tide in the so-called Downtown East Side (actually, the historic birthplace of our city). Ending homelessness in Vancouver, and finally closing the doors on “our little slum”, is a dream held by most of us in Vancouver, except perhaps for a handful of folks for whom an inner-city district reserved for poverty, drug addiction, and mental illness is a radical dream come true.

    Hard to stigmatize streetcars as “gentrification”—transit passes open the system in whatever way we feel is best for moving forward. Efficient transportation that takes the private automobile down a notch is exactly the kind of option needed to return balance to the public right of way between local, regional, and occasional users.

    In the DTES, a Hastings Streetcar can also be part of the answer for removing the neighbourhood destroying high traffic volumes of the Powell Street and Cordova Street one-way couplings.

    It is a well known fact that streets with high traffic volumes are not suitable for residential uses. Yet, that is just another story of what was not done right in the so-called Downtown Eastside.

    Ride the tram, see the future.

    Lewis N. Villegas

    February 11, 2010 at 11:25 pm

  2. Streetcar and Skytrain are not competitive transportation mode, but complementary one,

    they fulfill different purposes, and as you have mentioned, streetcar is a good revitalization tool, point is more moot in term of transportation “efficiency”.

    That said, a Streetcar on Hasting could be a great idea,
    Erickson in his time had drawn plan for introduction of a streetcar more south (Prior street)…but with the same idea of a revitalization tool…

    voony

    February 12, 2010 at 9:03 am

  3. voony, fill me in on “transporation efficiency”. Do you mean Skytrain carries more passengers per hour?

    A Metro Portland councillor spoke in Township of Langley recently, and said they would not consider skytrain—to costly. They are not building more Max, and she did not mention subways. Metro Portland’s population distribution is not unlike our own, if less restricted by geographical barriers.

    However, she did mention BRT. And, since the chorus that will great any mention of a Hastings Streetcar is going to be “too costly”, I have been thinking about whether it would be credible to talk in terms of BRT first, then streetcar later.

    Very interesting to hear about Erickson’s suggestion. Prior Street however must by a 66′ R.O.W. I wonder what his thinking was there.

    Lewis N. Villegas

    February 12, 2010 at 8:33 pm

  4. “transportation efficiency” is not reducible to the system capacity only, but include travel time, reliability, accessibility, operating cost,…

    all those parameters make one system more or less-cost effective according to the circumstances, (travel pattern, ridership,…)
    that was my point, you can’t have a definitive judgment on a transportation system.

    It is certainly possible that a driverless technology is not suitable for Portland…but it is not because this technology is too expensive in absolute, it is eventually because this investment is not justified by the ridership level (which is on Max a third of the one on Skytrain for a network 30% greater)

    So what make can be true in Portland is not necessarily true in Vancouver.

    A BRT can be an appropriate solution in some case, but evidence that it can trigger an “urban revitalization” are still to be brought.

    In fact, for a successful Urban revitalization, the city need to display a true commitment, usually demonstrated by an high initial investment, not a “glorified” bus route which can be easily rerouted or even scrapped with little visible scars on the public space…but I am pretty sure you know those things better than me…

    BTW, Richmond had a “BRT” before the Canada line, if this can bring any indication.

    So, really, if your purpose is revitalizing Hasting, think nothing less than a streetcar…

    and if successful, the initial cost will be quickly offsetted by development permit and other property tax

    For the Erickson suggestion, it is from:
    “Inner city neighbourhood rejuvenation : local transit as a catalyst for infill redevelopment” it is a document of the Province Government available at the VPL.

    voony

    February 13, 2010 at 1:38 am

  5. Well, I don’t know these things better than you, voony. But together we may be able to clarify some key points.

    I have put in a proposal for the Canadian Institute of Planners conference with a Toronto based urban design planner and a Toronto based Transportation Planner. At the latter’s suggestion, we are going to begin to case-study of Toronto transportation systems one at a time (Queen or King Streetcar, Yonge Subway, a BRT, etc.) to try to make some preliminary statements about the necessity of linking transportation and urban form.

    Mayor Adams of Portland provided supporting evidence for linking streetcars with urban revitalization when he boasted that developers showed no hesitation buying land to build along the streetcar lines. However, he also mentioned that Portland had taken FSR off the table. By removing floor space “that would never be built”, they tipped the scale towards high-density, low-rise urbanization. The kind that produces walkable neighborhoods. Walking, after all, is the primary form of urban transit.

    One of the mantra’s for this blog should be that transportation and urban planning must be done hand-in-hand. Which is what is interesting in voony’s posts above. So what about Skytrain, and I am so glad he mentioned it, the Richmond BR-whatever experiment on No. 3 Road.

    8th Street Station on Columbia has been the one that I’ve had an eye on since it opened. I have been an occasional diner at the nearby Spaghetti Factory pretty much since it opened in the late 1970′s. And New Westminster, as the first Provincial Capital, oldest urban footprint, and one has to say most botched-up piece of urbanism—oh, I should have said “misunderstood” instead—has always been close to my heart.

    My impression is that the issues caused by the elevated station on 8th Street are under control. However, it is hard to argue that Skytrain brought any economic or social boost to venerable Columbia street. The portion of Skytrian that comes on grade near Begbie Square most definitely acts as a kind of “last nail in the coffin” for that unique piece of urbanism.

    New West is now showing signs of economic and social recovery thanks to the latest tower-and-podium buildings going up near its center at 6th Street and Columbia. But, little else of what was supposed to revitalize downtown has worked: casino, public market, law courts, Skytrain, and the long trail of really awful condo towers and attendant low-rise stretching west along the river front as far as you can drive (not wallk). And if you know where to look, the point towers are doing just that: bringing “hot points” of hyper development, with very obvious “low points” just next door.

    My conclusion is that the Skytrain implementation was not really shaped to deliver neighborhood revitalization in New West. It is possible that Skytrian is not able to deliver on that promise. I make the same observations about the Sapperton Station on the Millennium Line that I imagine is also meant to service the Royal Columbian Hospital. Sapperton would be the neighborhood to look at for signs of revitalization, and I cannot see any.

    Richmond is another cause for worry under the “planning transportation and urban regeneration together” heading. Keep in mind that Richmond has the same street layout as Vancouver: an arterial grid laid out 0.5 miles on center, north-south and east-west. However, where as Vancouver’s arterial grid is then subdivided into a second tier grid within the 0.5 mile intervals, Richmond was platted with dead-end road systems plugging into the 0.5 mile grid.

    The result is predictable. Richmonds arterials experience a much higher level of loading that Vancouvers, because there is no second-tier dispersal system to flush the traffic. Sooner or later, every trip has to re-enter the arterial system and clog it.

    Building on that kind of urban design legacy is problematic to say the least. I was out early to see the Rapid Bus implementation on No.3 Road (time to put names to the places, is it not?). What a disappointment. The designers had gone out of their way to block pedestrian movements across the bus right of way with tall, expensive iron grates. The effect was Orwellian. The bus line was like a river dividing the community along No.3 not an “urban zipper” connecting the tissue together.

    I have not spent time on site since it opened, but I don’t hold much hope for Skytrain on No. 3 Road. The rapid bus implementation (how much money was flushed?) already shows a municipal team that does not understand urban design fundamentals. This kind of change takes 10 to 20 years to build out after you “get the principles right”.

    In contrast, I believe we are saying, the surface LRT has positive neighborhood effects. It spurs investment, and provides “rolling eyes” on the street. If someone should find themselves in a state where personal safety feels in danger, one might hope that the first two refuges might be an open retail storefront, or an approaching streetcar.

    However, it is the promise of attracting a density of 10,000 to 15,000 to live within a 5 minute walking radius of the LRT stop, or “catchment” that should really be foremost in the minds of policy makers and planners alike. We can deliver that kind of density with fee-simple, zero-lot-line houses building on existing residential lots, and reinventing the look and feel of the arterial as we go.

    If it is human-scale, eyes-on-the-street urbanism, not tower and podium, then there is a further promise. That the streets will show busstle, and the place will feel energized by the comings and goings of the very folks that live there. The savings in public and private policing alone should trigger a re-evaluation of what the towers are really bringing to our municipal purses.

    Lewis N. Villegas

    February 13, 2010 at 9:23 am

  6. I do have to agree that DT New West/ Columbia St. has been slow to re-develop from skytrain. I would argue that it is from a lot of factors aside from Skytrain’s fit in the ‘hood. (eg, there are significant hills that limit potential walkability, columbia was primariy commercial prior to skytrain with limited residential, and that the are was in decline prior to construction of skytrain. Uptown new west stole a lot of vitality from columbia when woodward’s built there in the ~ 1950s. Their sole public library is in uptown).

    IMO DT New West has reached critical mass and it looks different than it did 10 yr ago.

    I agree that New West station is not a good fit, and I hope the new condo development that envelops the station will improve on that.

    I do disagree with the lack of development by sapperton. The new condo complex by sapperton park has brought a new street vitality (the one with the sbux). The old labatt’s site has a lot of TOD potential (ignoring the debate about removing industrial land from metro).

    WRT streetcar and development, I do agree that it does spur change, but as Jarrett Walker pointed out, you have to be clear with its objectives.

    -would development happen anyway without a streetcar? (ie. a unique area (north false creek, DT New West), implementing other tranist modes?)
    -is the streetcar a developmental amenity or will it act to move ppl in a unique way aside from implementing better bus service?
    -if streetcar is for redevelopment, would you implement a local property tax to help pay for it, as property owners in Portland did? If so, what are the issues with transit equity?

    http://www.humantransit.org/2009/07/streetcars-an-inconvenient-truth.html

    mezzanine

    February 13, 2010 at 10:16 am

  7. Good questions, Mez’. I’ll have to have another look at Sapperton. I know there is new development there, but it is the form and character that seems to me a poor fit. Your comment on TOD (transit oriented development) hits that same issue of “form and character” right on the head.

    Richmond, as far as I know has been planning TOD. Maybe New West has too. But not all TOD is good urbanism. We would like the pedestrian oriented variety of urbanism. Columbia Street in Sapperton has always had a pedestrian oriented feel to it, so one wants to see whether or not it will blossom with Skytrain a more or less easy walking distance away.

    My answer to your questions are:

    - voony’s point: if your purpose is revitalizing Hastings, think nothing less than a streetcar…for a successful Urban revitalization, the city needs to display a true commitment, usually demonstrated by an high initial investment [I would agree, suggesting that a lack of investment by the City of Vancouver is why we still have a DTES].

    - streetcar is definitely a “comparative advantage” making for a better location, location, location vis a vis an urban neighborhood that does not offer transit. How it compares to other transit types, I don’t know, and would be interested to hear more.

    - the property tax in Portland, and Metro Portland, is probably TIF—not a new tax, but a “tax reserve”. Tax Increment Financing sets aside new taxes from a specified area to pay for a 10 or 20 year bond. The bond issue is used for a specific purpose, such as transit implementation. By issuing the bond, the municipality essentially realizes 10 or 20 years of future tax revenue today.

    TIF represents risk, so its application has to be done in a prudent manner. However, investment in transportation infrastructure is generally seen as a trigger for local economies (with exceptions as noted). When I asked the Metro Portland Councillor if TIF was part of the package for Metro transit projects, she said yes. It did not represent the whole financing scheme, but more often than not Metro transit projects carried a TIF component.

    The Community Charter enables all B.C. municipalities to create TIF strategies; the Vancouver Charter enabled that city to do it since the beginning, if I am not mistaken.

    Lewis N. Villegas

    February 13, 2010 at 5:18 pm

  8. “necessity of linking transportation and urban form”,

    I couldn’t agree more, Lewis…Your post open tons of avenue for interesting discussion:

    I notice there are 2 different worlds in Vancouver: The Vancouver “Urbanism community” tending to gather around the Frances Bula blog, and beside you, not venturing too much on more transport oriented blogs, and the reverse is also true: so glad to see some effort in action to bridge those world!

    You mentioned that “Skytrain implementation was not really shaped to deliver neighborhood revitalization in “New West” and I agree with it, less with the eventually that “Skytrain is not able to deliver on that promise” (also I agree with Mezzanine that Skytrain is successful at shaping growth, we could like it or not the urbanization form taking place but it is another story. it is also quite different from revitalization of an existing derelict neighborhood).

    Skytrain is primarily a segregated transportation, and such as, can be implemented without rethinking the existing urban space and sometime it has been the main reason for subway implementation (urban transit not disturbing the “motordom” space): that is a big difference with a streetcar where you can’t ignore it…That is in my opinion the reason that streetcar is more willingly associated with Urban revitalization that the former.

    But requalification of urban space hasn’t to be tied with a streetcar as the Jarret post, pointed by Mezzanine, brilliantly indicates. Nevertheless, I believe requalification of the urban space is not a sufficient condition toward urban revitalization you also need a strong commitment of some sort, streetcar or other, of the city to have “developers show[ing] no hesitation buying land to build”

    That said, we must admit people nourish a kind of non-rational relationship with the streetcar, which connect eventually with an idealized past we try to eventually revive in an urban requalification project (…and the streetcar will have a bucolic bell, instead of a blend electronic beep-beep, to announce its presence, and we love it).

    but segregated transportation can work as well when the interaction with the urban space is taken into consideration: in that instance due to what I say before, I have little example, but at least Bilbao in Spain come to mind (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bilbao#Regeneration_and_renewal).

    Clearly the original enclosed station on the expo line doesn’t participate to the public space. they contribute to separate the “transit space” of the “public one”, and that is one of the main issue in NewWest like in many other place (it is not specific to vancouver Skytrain). Things have turned out a bit better with the M-line, but you still have a problem of “scale”: the station are nice as an architure statement, but seems more designed as to be a landmark in the middle of a Park&ride lot than to be blended into a compact urban space. As an example Renfrew is very nice… because it is not closely surrounded by building, but it put an heavy burden on future development to preserve the architectural integrity of the station…and it is where I believe the minimalist design of the Foster subway entrance make the Bilbao subway a model…

    Paradoxically, the considered build “on the cheap” stations in Richmond could prove to be quite successful. they are human scale, the minimal footprint of the station are similar to a tram one. Sure they are 2 storey above ground, but are offering lot of transparency, blending well with the surrounding (and quality of the material seems good too making the standing on platform a pleasant experience) and not putting constraint on future development.

    On the opposite hand, in regard of “necessity of linking transportation and urban form”. In Paris, some years ago, it was a contest to redesign the “Halles”, a complex integrating a huge subway/train station (huge enough to be the largest underground train station in the world) which has never worked well ( the closest thing we could have in Vancouver could be Commercial#Broadway which is plagued by problem similar to “Les Halles”). Among contestant, only Rem Koolhaas has centered his project at resolving the “existing schizophrenia between the underground transit world and urban surface one” (to take the architect wording)…A brilliant concept in my opinion (I have found only a french record on it, http://avfm.files.wordpress.com/2008/06/2008-virginie-pontbriand.pdf worth to read), alas, a very conservative project to speak the less has been chosen instead (http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/07/arts/design/07hall.html ).

    On a side note I have seen the Townshift (www.townshift.ca) exhibit in Surrey, and took a closer look at the “Newton newtown” proposals: the least I can say, is that the transit area could have been replaced by a dump field, that, except for one, the contestants could not have designed thier project otherwise.

    You also mention that the Richmond arteries are clogged. It is especially true of Road 3 and Westminster Road: again paradox ally this provides a pretty interesting urban experience (especially a the crossing of the both above mentioned road), this because traffic is not moving fast, making the pedestrian comfortable. narrow lane on Road number 3 and ample sidewalk, also help to the “urban boulevard” feeling.

    In regard of Toronto. You would like eventually examine the Spadina “LRT”. Though awfully slow, and heavily critized here and there, it has allowed a revival of the ChinaTown. You would like also examine the North York centre urbanization around the Yonge subway, which provides really a “lively urban feeling” (By the way the treatment of Yonge street in North York is not too much dissimilar that the one of N3 road in Richmond, what I believe are important contributor to this feeling) what we are still to achieve around our skytrain station outside DownTown (PS: the North York center is heavily criticized by Toronto architecture circle, and certainly architecturally, it is blend, but no-one can deny it works well).

    voony

    February 13, 2010 at 6:59 pm

  9. Thanks for the inputs, lewis and voony.

    I didn’t know the run-down on TIFs. I think though that there was an extra property tax on commercial property owners in the streetcar area in Portland – i think they call them LIDS.

    http://www.portlandstreetcar.org/pdf/development_200804_report.pdf (pg7)

    “A Local Improvement District (LID) is a method by which a group of property owners can share in the cost of transportation infrastructure improvements.”

    http://www.portlandonline.com/transportation/index.cfm?c=35715

    Th TIF and LID contributed ~ $20 million each, out of a capital cost of $100 mil.

    @ lewis, wrt you question of streetcar versus other modes, I’ve picked out some quotes from Jarrett’s link:

    “Streetcars that replace bus lines are not a mobility improvement. If you replace a bus with a streetcar on the same route, nobody will be able to get anywhere any faster than they could before. This makes streetcars quite different from most of the other transit investments being discussed today.

    Where a streetcar is faster or more reliable than the bus route it replaced, this is because other improvements were made at the same time — improvements that could just as well have been made for the bus route.

    If you want a streetcar because it will make your city a better place, then build it for that reason. If you want a streetcar because of the development it will attract, fine, though this suggests that (as in Portland) the landowners who will benefit when the streetcar raises their property values should probably be one the main sources of the money. But you want a streetcar because it’s intrinsically faster and more reliable than a bus — well, that’s just not true.”

    mezzanine

    February 13, 2010 at 9:39 pm

  10. Well, voony, I think that having a dialogue across the disciplines (or silos) is an important but missing component of good urbanism in Canada. And, your careful observations are the kind of considerations that we all have to get good at making.

    So, a quick recount of what I don’t like about the elevated Skytrain.

    The two floor distance from the ground is the killer. Consider that the yard-stick for how far a person will walk is 5 minutes or 400 meters. Now, let’s stand at the top of the platform of a station on No. 3 Road, and let’s see what is to be had within a 5 minute walking distance. I would be happy to start the clock running at the entrance/exit to the station. Just crossing No. 3 Road looks like it could take 5 minutes, or take your life.

    And, yes, congestion is good for the pedestrian, but not so good for the driver rage.

    Then, there is the fact that the elevated station and track are urban blight. The litter the visual field, and in some cases, ravage the street space below. Look around the Skytrain component of Commercial & Broadway and you’ll see what I mean. That little parking lot to the side of the Macdonalds could have been a small urban square, with a barely noticeable entrance to the station, and five or six businesses crowding all around—a true urban oasis.

    Our region is giving us two golden opportunities (three if you count Canada Line) to develop our predictions and observations on transportation: Gateway Twinning and the Evergreen Line being the other two. Are we going to be happy if we get 2 out of 3 wrong? I mean, Canada Line is working…

    Over to mezzanine, that has some good numbers on LID and TIF. If LID and TIF are the same, then we can surmise that LID is a kind of “doubling of property taxes” for a specified duration, in order to get a transit implementation, and maybe some street beautification. It would be interesting to know whether the LID applies to both commercial and residential property.

    In the data I’ve come across, and this is very much “early days” for me in transportation, BRT and Streetcar (perhaps trolleys on HOV lanes in the Lower Mainland), the streetcar is seen as capable of carrying more people. I know that politically the streetcar will (1) cost more, and get some push back for that; and (2) be a fancier ride (a la Olympic Line), and get some push back for that. On the one hand, the streetcar is too expensive, and on the other, HOV buses are not exciting enough.

    However, if we move on to the Evergreen line as currently proposed, it will be elevated in Coquitlam Town Center (mega block urbanism that resembles No. 3 Road); on grade thru Port Moody, which means continuous barbed wire fences on both sides—except where required to cross existing roads; in a tunnel under Burnaby Mountain to Burquitlam, then up in the air again to Lougheed Mall.

    Except for the tunnel, is this not the worst of all possible implementation schemes?

    Lewis N. Villegas

    February 14, 2010 at 7:39 pm

  11. [...] this  to provide illustration in support of a discussion on the Stephen Rees blog , as well as one of the Jarret Walker [...]

  12. Following on some of the discussion here, I returned to the Evergreen Line site and looked again at the Image Gallery.

    http://www.evergreenline.gov.bc.ca/image_gallery.htm

    The artist renderings from the Preliminary Design Discussion Guide, October-November 2009 have renderings of the proposed alignments and stations. Most of what we’ve said about No. 3 Road, Richmond applies here. In most cases the stations will be too far away from the “footprints” of residential population.

    At Lougheed town Centre, Ioco Station, and Coquitlam Central, those population footprints are housed in towers. The consequence of this for the urban design of these places is better appreciated in the second set of photos, identified as February 2009.

    The urbanism here is truly appalling. Lougheed TC, Burquitlam Plaza, Ioco Road, and Coquitlam TC represent areas of strip malls and heavy vehicular traffic. The expectation is that these conditions will remain the same, and towers added.

    It is hard to imagine how pedestrians are going to make the way in these vast wastelands of asphalt overrun by motor cars. The comment posted earlier that surface LRT displaces motor cars, and requires heavy investment by the local government in street design applies here.

    Thus, one conclusion that begins to emerge is that “Skytrain” or elevated track is transportation implementation without urban design.

    That is perhaps why Sapperton is so important. I don’t know if it was platted—block pattern laid out—by Col. Moody. However, the pattern of streets and sqaure is very good. From Braid Street to Simpson Street, E Columbia measures 800 m—one “Quartier” or one catchment area in diameter.

    It would be interesting to hear about what the “catchment area” for a Skytrain Station actually measures out to be. And, if different locations generate broader catchments. These issues would seem to be of critical importance for system deign and station location.

    Not accounting for vertical displacement, the heart of Sapperton Park on Columbia Street is 0.56 kilometres away from the station. I think most people would walk 5 mintues to the park and then 7 minutes to LRT. That would be a catchment radius of almost 1 km.

    However, the point about the “urban design” is about what kind of environment they would be walking in for those 12 minutes. I used search term “Braid Street, New Westminster, B.C.” on Google Earth and Google Maps to see the area.

    Compare those views with the views on the Evergreen Line, and no matter what Silo you come from, I think the difference will become readily apparent.

    One final point. The density of “Sapperton”, of all the building lots contained within a “Quartier” (400m or 0.25 mile radius circle) centred on Sapperton Park, can be the equivalent of the densities achieved in the Lougheed, Ioco, and Coquitlam tower centres.

    We have found that the density of human-scale, high-density neighbourhoods is equivalent to most tower neighbourhoods. However, that is a measurement of density taken at the scale of the “quartier” or neighbourhood as a whole. On a site-by-site basis, of course, the towers win the density contest hands flat.

    The resulting urban quality in Sapperton would be far superior—and safer: less policing costs, municipal and private, and no strata fees.

    These are some of the more important issues I see left out of the discussion arising out of the lack of “common ground” among the city design professions.

    Lewis N. Villegas

    February 15, 2010 at 8:26 am

  13. Lewis, I have the feeling that Richmond Number 3 is not any worse than Pacific Boulevard or Burrard (or Main around 2nde avenue).
    When the urbanization take place, the conjugation of narrow lane on a street lined by building give this “tunnel” effect invitating the motorist to slow down

    With Number 3, Richmond is at a decision point about what he want do with it: a major urban boulevard lined by retail or move car with as less impediment as possible (urban freeway)?

    By the way, Garden city road, seems to be more appropriate to the second, and can be still nice by adopting a more “parkway” design with large landscaped median, making the crossing of it still doable for pedestrian…At this time garden City is still half baked.

    “Skytrain” or elevated track is transportation implementation without urban design.”, I have post some picture on my site (http://voony.wordpress.com/2010/02/15/a-viaduct-in-richmond/) to illustrates things doesn’t need to be like it, and i think lot of
    Richmonite are pleased by the result obtained in a very challenging strip mall environment:

    The non at grade station of course restrain the accessibility of them, but it is a small penalty the rider is willing to pay to get a reliable and faster transit experience (and I agree station access should be factored in to quantify the transit accessibility)
    In anycase, I also believe that at grade is the worse solution for implementing a Skytrain, since it impose a divide in the community.

    Since other interesting point are raised, I will comment on them later on, time permitted.

    voony

    February 15, 2010 at 9:33 am

  14. Very interesting discussion :)

    The City of Coquitlam had the right idea. They designed Guildford for future high capacity transit. At some point, however, Evergreen planners decided to put LRT onto Lougheed and the freight rail corridors, places with horrible access for pedestrians. Taking transit to the people works much better than trying to entice the people to come to the transit.

    David

    February 15, 2010 at 1:26 pm

  15. Look forward to hear more. At grade Skytrain, I agree, would “impose a divide in the community”.

    The point on this string, below that glowing picture of the Olympic Line, is to suggest that LRT in the Lower Mainland should be at grade, for the reasons we are suggesting, including revitalization, neighbourhood intensification, taking some R.O.W. back from the car, and introducing some “islands of safety”. And, that LRT in the Lower Mainland should look like the picture at the top of this string instead.

    Lewis N. Villegas

    February 15, 2010 at 1:28 pm

  16. Here’s what’s planned on the Labatt’s Brewery site (demolished a few years ago) near Sapperton Station – pending economic conditions are right, of course:

    http://thebrewerydistrict.ca/

    http://www.wesgroup.ca/our_services/d_sapperton.htm

    Note that an unrelated project named “Anvil” is open and incorporates the entry plaza of the overpass leading to Sapperton Station.

    Ron C.

    February 15, 2010 at 2:06 pm

  17. WRT Richmond and No 3 Rd strip malls – I expect that you will see a slow move to redevelopment solely because of the ownership structure of thse commercial buildings along the road.

    Most are strata-titled commerial buildings (i.e. condominiumized commercial units with individual units owned by different people). Unlike Aberdeen Centre that is owned by a single company (Fairchild) that can decide to redevelop, the other malls in the area (i.e. Parker Place, Empire Plaza, etc.) will need agreement among the unit owners in order to demolish and redevelop.

    Ron C.

    February 15, 2010 at 2:39 pm

  18. @ lewis: “The point on this string, below that glowing picture of the Olympic Line, is to suggest that LRT in the Lower Mainland should be at grade, for the reasons we are suggesting, including revitalization, neighbourhood intensification, taking some R.O.W. back from the car, and introducing some “islands of safety”. And, that LRT in the Lower Mainland should look like the picture at the top of this string instead.”

    WRT the olympic line, a very appropriate post is also found at Jarrett’s blog:

    http://www.humantransit.org/2009/04/the-disneyland-theory-of-transit.html#more

    “But our values as tourists are different from our values as commuters: We enjoy riding the Ferris wheel, but that doesn’t mean we’d enjoy commuting on one. There certainly are times when we travel in our home city in a recreational way, with the primary goal of pleasure, but most of the time we really need to get somewhere, because a treasured or necessary part of our lives is on hold until we do.”

    mezzanine

    February 15, 2010 at 3:31 pm

  19. Soory to double post, that’t not to say the route of the o-line is bad, it won’t duplicate bus service and occupies an existing ROW, but I wonder, aside from the development aspect, choosing to replace bus/trolley bus lines with on-street LRT.

    mezzanine

    February 15, 2010 at 3:34 pm

  20. Double-posting, thinking twice as hard, right?

    If trolley (if a greener choice than bus) delivers the service of the streetcar, I don’t see the reason to change. You guys know better than I. Gordon Price was always a fan of talking about the trolley stop in front of the Safeway at the English Bay end of Davie, saying that people would get on with grocery bags in hand. I’ve seen them too.

    I can learn to say “transportation efficiency” and then ask whether or not you are suggesting that bus/trolley on dedicated lanes, can do the job of the Evergreen Skytrain?

    Meanwhile, I’m going to read the articles posted here.

    Lewis N. Villegas

    February 15, 2010 at 6:37 pm

  21. In the name of thinking out of the box, and finding common ground, let’s double post. Here is an argument, based on urban design considerations, for suggesting that SkyTrain on an elevated track is a bad implementation for the proposed Evergreen Line in the stretch between Lougheed Mall and the tunnel entrance at Burquitlam. A small part of the argument comes from having a good knowledge of the local situation, walking some blocks, and having driven in the area extensively.

    Imagine you are living in one of the 3-storey walk-ups built in the 1970′s and later, along the easter side of North Road. Then, all of a sudden, the view out your window is of an elevated guideway. Not good.

    Now, put yourself on the street, where the guideway will cast a shadow all day long on streets, sidewalks and fronting residential uses, where it was never before. Never mind block out a continuous swath of the sky.

    Compare that to either BRT or Tram on the ground, on a dedicated guideway, with two continuous rows of trees on either side, in medians that act as “islands of safety” for pedestrians choosing not to go to the corner to cross the street.

    Finally, think of the improvement to the street from taking out some 20,000 vpd, and replacing it with a fast and efficient transportation alternative. The time of day where the vehicular carrying capacity is needed, on the morning and evening work-rushes, carries precisely the car trips that transit is best suited to replace.

    At night, when these arterials are oversized, lighting conditions are poor, and drivers naturally increase their speed due to the perception of an abundance of space. These are the times of night when pedestrian fatalities seem to happen.

    Thus, on the basis of urban design considerations, I would suggest for your consideration that transportation implementation in the Evergreen Corridor should be a choice between either surface rail, or BRT.

    I am interested in voony’s argument, that the massive commitment in infrastructure by local governments and partners represented by surface rail, is a pre-requisite to revitalization and intensification.

    However, let’s take it one step at a time: is the urban design argument persuasive to suggest turning away from Skytrain?? If not, why not?

    Lewis N. Villegas

    February 15, 2010 at 8:29 pm

  22. Lewis, I suggest going for a walk or a bike ride on #3 Road. It is so much better than before and in many ways better than it would have been if surface rail would have been built down the centre of the street.

    First of all, without surface rail there is much more space for pedestrians and cyclists. I doubt their would have been the space for bike lanes if there was surface rail or if there was, the sidewalks would have been much narrower. On the east side of the street, there is much more separation from traffic. As well, the guideway provides excellent weather protection for peds and even northbound cyclists. When walking under the guideway, you tend to notice what is on either side and not the guideway overhead.

    Elevated rail allowed the creation of shorter blocks with many pedestrian crossings. The proposed LRT would have had fewer crossings for safety reasons and to reduce travel times. A planner referred to the proposed surface rail as kind of a “Berlin Wall”, down the middle of the street. Without light rail in the middle of the street, crossing times and distances for pedestrians are much shorter, encouraging people to wonder from one side to the other and decreasing access times to the stations. The short crossing times have allowed for shorter signal phases, which combined with the short blocks and narrower road way, have really decreased the speed of traffic along #3 making it much more ped and bike friendly. In addition to the great landscaping under the guideway, there are some great pieces of art which further enhance the environment.

    The key to good urban space is often in the details and not in “grand principals”. Elevated structures are definitely a challenge but when people decide to take on the challenge, the result is often great spaces, which are a break from the cookie cutter environments produced by strict adherence to the principals of “good” urban design. The best example is Granville Island, which is in one of the most challenging environments, under an eight lane Viaduct. In London, the huge rail viaduct running through Central London has great funky restaurants integrated into the brick structure, again creating a special place.

    Not that elevated guideways everywhere is a good ideal but a few well executed can be a good addition to a city.

    Richard

    February 15, 2010 at 8:57 pm

  23. Broadway Commercial:
    (I split my answer because lewis open many front I cannot follow in real time;)

    “there is the fact that the elevated station and track are urban blight. The litter the visual field, and in some cases, ravage the street space below. Look around the Skytrain component of Commercial & Broadway and you’ll see what I mean.”

    I certainly agree with the symptom, but we could have a disagreement on the diagnosis for Commercial & Broadway, hence of the medicine to apply:

    This station is a very specific animal. It is one of the most used transit station but first people are just transferring, noone aims to be there and noone likes to transfer, in other term you have intrinsically a negative transit experience happening here.
    Secondly the transit transferring user volume far outnumber the other more traditional “place user”

    And result of it can be very predictable from similar experience: Commercial#Broadway is plagued by the same problem that other transfer station. I have mentioned “Les halles” in Paris (way worse), but I could have also mentioned Yonge and Bloor in Toronto (Bloor South of Yonge) but here last 10 years change has brought some change for the better (when in the mean time, it has evolved to the worse for Broadway#Commercial), or the old version of the Granville mall

    In fact this problem is very complex to address, because the typical thinking way is to design space for “sedentary people” even when those are way outnumbered by “nomadic one”

    Successful transit transfer station i have seen always try to reestablish a more sustainable balance between those 2 groups: “sedentary” (sense of belonging to the place) and “nomadic” one.

    one way, is to try to reduce the amount of nomadic people by reducing the transfers: for Broadway and Commercial, extension of the Millenium toward West will certainly help

    Another is to increase the density of “sedentary people” (people coming to the place as a destination purpose).
    Successful pattern I have seen include a “trip generator”, means a distinctfuly regional destination, typically a sizable shopping mall. but this is not a sufficient condition, like for Granville mall, or Yonge and Dundas (in the case of the Bay department store and mall here), or “les halles” a Paris have show

    the Mall need to meet certain criteria, integrate the transit station, open to the street…and provide the proper balance “sedentary/nomadic” around the clock (like movie theatre to generate destination purpose at night…). Also you have to reproduce the right mix of social balance (take account that the “lower income bracket is over represented in transit, so a high scale Mall work better as a counterbalance)

    Hong Kong MTR corp masters those aspect pretty well, but In Toronto, at Yonge and Dundas, they have achieved to revitalize the area pretty well too, this by massive density influx in the area, and High scale retai, here more by chance more than by design. Though not a transfer station, North York has also a pretty well designed Mall topped by Condos high rise integrating with the subway station (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Empress_Walk). In Vancouver we are year light of this level of integration (but the Aberdeen mal extension to the station looks pretty promising).

    So as you see, I put little cause on the guideway for the failure of Broadway#Commercial but way more on urbanism choice which I believe are not appropriate with the function of the area (but as mentioned before, lot of city face same problem).

    As a side note: Due to the amount of traffic involved by a station like Broadway, I am afraid a urban park could not work well, I means he could look more like the grass at the Art gallery than a desirable place to have a rest.

    Evergreen line:

    Regarding the Evergreen line: regarding the rendering, it looks all the good thing I praise on the Richmond viaduct are not there: viaduct location in the streetspace is the most disturbing: It is either in the median lane, closing the space (like on lougheed Highway near Lougheed mall), or to far from the street to be part of the streetscape, and hence “sterilizing” the space between the viaduct and the street (too narrow space to install a building, to large space to get a urban street feeling)

    In regard of Lougheed Mall, I have heard that the owner didn’t want the station close of its mall…

    “It would be interesting to hear about what the “catchment area” for a Skytrain Station actually measures out to be”

    I think Translink use 600m (station every km or so)

    Now, I also think the catchment area is also heavily dependant of how pleasant is the walk to the station.

    voony

    February 15, 2010 at 9:47 pm

  24. I attended a couple of open houses about the Evergreen line last November. Many of the homeowners living in the low rises on North Road are now quite upset. Originally they were against a tramway (as we European born Canadians call them, even the big fancy modern ones)as they didn’t wanted to loose a couple of car lanes..
    Now they belatedly realize that anyone living on the 2 upper floors of these 3 floors low rises will loose a big chunk of their view (I told those living on the 2nd floor that they will still be able to see the road, as long as they always sit on the floor. They weren’t amused). One real estate salesman is convinced that suites on the 2 upper floors facing North Road will loose at least 1/3 of the their value.
    The TransLink rep said that there is no changing now as they want to avoid an extra transfer at Lougheed Station. Of course those going downtown will still have to change at Commercial drive anyway, and coming FROM Commercial drive they will have to take the Evergreen trains only, not the Millenium ones, to avoid transfer.

    Revitalization and higher density are pretty much the same with a SkyTrain type or a tram judging by other cities. What matters the most is the WILL of the city council. In towns with a much longer experience with transit than Vancouver it is the town council that decides what this and that neighbourhood will looks like, density wise. It also decides where (new) transit goes, what technology to use, the fares prices etc. THEN private developers build according to the city guidelines.

    Just today (February 15, 2010) the TV channel TV5 had a segment on transportation in France. Cars trips in most major cities are now down to 45 to 49 % of all the trips made (to the workplace, schools, shopping etc.).
    They used Lyon as an example, showing numerous photos of the subways (4 lines + a cog rail line), the trams (3 lines), the commuter trains (17 lines from/ to Lyon) buses and trolleys, and city owned bikes for rent. the reduction in the use of cars was due, according to the users interviewed, to the price of gas and the drastic improvement of the transit system.
    Lyon is roughly comparable in size to Vancouver: 450 000 in Lyon itself, 1.2 millions with the adjacent oldest suburbs, 2.4 millions total in the Greater Lyon (figures are + or – depending on sources).

    Red frog

    February 15, 2010 at 10:42 pm

  25. Great points voony—sorry about the argument on many fronts. However, I can’t detect any signs of labouring in your posts. Hopefully, we can bring all the loose ends together.

    Nomadic and local, or “sedentary” people. I get it.

    On Les Halles—and I was avoiding it trying to simplify the discussion—Rem Koolhas, whom you mentioned as designing a proposal for Les Halles, is the architect for the Seattle Library. I highly recommend a visit or two. VERY avant-garde, so don’t despair if it makes no sense at all the first time out.

    Les Halles area of Paris is probably among the most enigmatic pieces of urban land in any modern metropolis today. I wish them well, and vow to keep returning to it periodically to check on progress.

    In “Complexity and Contradiction in Modern Architecture” (1960), the first book to poke its finger in the eye of the Modernist movement, Robert Venturi argued for “both-and” thinking (i.e. complexity).

    It seems to me that (1) “to try to reduce the amount of nomadic people” goes against the purpose of Broadway & Commercial Station itself. Let’s not do that. (2) “increase the density of sedentary people”, if it is to be an artificial goal, that won’t work either.

    My sense is that we have to maximize (1) at the same time that we do (3): use transit implementation to also raise the level of the “urban quality” of the site. The boast comes from suggesting that (3) “urban quality” can also be measured in quantifiable terms. If it can, then we can come to consensus on what “urban quality” really means in practical, measurable terms at Broadway and Commerical.

    If you were are the public consultation session the CoVancouver held for that station expansion design, then we were in the same room. My suggestions that centred on the design of the curb-to-curb spaces on both Broadway and on Commercial were… well, dismissed by staff that nonetheless still respect and count among my friends and colegues.

    [Note: I have not seen the Aberdeen Mall extension, though I have had in the last 10 years, some contact with the Chinese commercial property owners in the Richmond area. Not been to Hong Kong yet, so much to look forward to.]

    “…I put little cause on the guideway for the failure of Broadway#Commercial but way more on urbanism choice which I believe are not appropriate with the function of the area…”

    Here is where the “cross-discipline” stuff gets interesting, vooony. I don’t see the station as a failure, but I sure agree that the urbanism could be a lot better. And, I hold hope it will improve. That site is not done by a long shot.

    And, “Oh No, Not the Lawn at the Art Gallery!”

    At least the Tulleries, walking distance from Les Halles in Paris, has the foresight to put marble pebbles as the “high wearing surface” that does not require “keep off the grass” signs!

    At Broadway & Commercial I was envisioning a space just large enough to grow one tree, say like the Abbey Green in Bath, England. Tight, designed to fit within the parameters of human scale, and large enough not to be dwarfed by the station on its eastern flank.

    EVERGREEN

    I think readers will realize that there is a remarkable consistency between your observations and mine. That in itself is a good thing. Especially on the “urban design” front:

    “I also think the catchment area is also heavily dependant of how pleasant is the walk to the station.”

    We are due to hear back from Canadian Institute of Planners conference on our proposal for the session in Montreal next month, and I think it will be fair to make my transportation partner public knowledge at that time. However, just a note on his approach to measuring “catchment area”.

    He described for me how he actually stands around, observing, at a transit stop, then moves another 100m away, and begins observing all over again. He repeats the process until he is satisfied that there are no more pedestrians walking to transit in the street that he is standing in.

    That is an almost identical process for how I look at urban space, and its ability to pull people from the periphery to the core. I really think that these quantifiable observations form the core of a data set that we have to have, and become very conversant about. Else, how are we going to know the consequences of our planning actions.

    Lewis N. Villegas

    February 15, 2010 at 10:51 pm

  26. “one conclusion that begins to emerge is that “Skytrain” or elevated track is transportation implementation without urban design.”

    As I mentioned before the conclusion should rather be

    ““Skytrain” or elevated track is transportation implementation which can be done with or without urban design.”

    Unfortunately the later is predominant but it is not a fatality per se

    The link sent by mezzanine is well on the point “http://www.humantransit.org/2009/04/the-disneyland-theory-of-transit.html#more”

    “However, let’s take it one step at a time: is the urban design argument persuasive to suggest turning away from Skytrain?? If not, why not?”

    I think most agree that at grade transit is generally better for the urban landscape than an elevated one, but as mentioned by Mezzanine it doesn’t means “fast and efficient” transit…and it is where you have to choose what you want…

    In the case of an Olympic line:
    Going from the Olympic Village vicinity to Main street one: time advantage provided by a skytrain could be quickly offseted by the off grade access station…so streetcar seems appropriate for this travel pattern.

    But if people travel on longer segments, they will start to feel the pain, it is where a faster technology start to have a general positive impact in despite of its local intrusiveness in the urban landscape.

    Typically you can see the Skytrain system as a regional one connecting the regional Urban hubs…
    And those “hub” can be “urban” because they are connected by a fast and efficient mass transit system.

    Now, inside these hubs, in order to develop or revitalize a compact and pleasant urban form, you could consider a streetcar…

    voony

    February 15, 2010 at 11:00 pm

  27. “But if people travel on longer segments, they will start to feel the pain, it is where a faster technology start to have a general positive impact in despite of its local intrusiveness in the urban landscape.”

    I get it. At grade you have to trip lights and deal with traffic, so if you are travelling from Stanley Park to Burnaby Mountain, you want separation… But, are we ready to settle for “urban blight”? The longer the run the further we blight. There must be a win-win solution.

    Frog has some interesting numbers about the economic effect on North Road of grade separation.

    “One real estate salesman is convinced that suites on the 2 upper floors facing North Road will loose at least 1/3 of the their value.”

    It’s like we’ll need revitalization after that gigantinc guideway goes in. If Skytrain brings urban blight, which I think we agree about, then its only useful application is in urban-blighted areas. I would argue for First Avenue, Vancouver; No. 3 Richmond; but not a North Road, Coquitlam.

    Further, to blight the urban footprint must be seen as a very near-sighted approach. City’s rejuvenate themselves. Of European cities, we say they do so every 50 years. Now that may be a 19th-20th century measurement, but he concept is an important one. Today’s blighted area was going to be tomorrow’s neighbourhood. No more.

    Frog brings two other important considerations to our attention.

    First, the idea that residents in North Road originally thought they did not want to lose 20,000 vpd capacity (or two lanes), but now they are not so sure anymore.

    One of the most vital contributions of an urban design approach based on concrete and measurable facts, even facts about what will await you outside your window, or on the street in front of your door, is that the urban design facts become the things that ALL can agree too, and before you know it, you are staring a community consensus right in the face.

    Now, get that result from the old paradigm planning that we still practice today. Consensus is built on concrete facts that we can all agree about.

    Second point of Frogs goes to voonie’s observations. Cities need an array of transportation options, and beyond a certain trip length—any ideas, out there, 20 minutes?—riding on the streets gets tedious.

    Which is why Les Halles is an RR stop. RR is the commuter train that you take when its time to go to Versailles, to check out not the palace, but the quality of the urbanism that was built fronting it. Versailles, in the middle of the 17th century, in a place that knew what they were doing, was a complete new town, right down to water systems, waste disposal, innovative street types, an strategic location of four public markets and one, central urban square. A joy to bicycle in.

    As we consider how to link up Stanley Park, the PNE, Burnaby, Port Moody, Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam and Maple Ridge, etc., what is going to make the most sense is not a long, blighting implementation, but following the continuous historic corridors that are already there. The ones that spurred these towns to begin with.

    Either the 1986 CPR, or the 1930 Lougheed Highway. The West Coast Express is doing just that, although reports from my sister is that it is now too crowded to allow you to get any work done.

    The second condition that we have to meet is the feeling arrival that you are stranded without a car, DOA. So, if the destination is a walkable “quartier” like we described Sapperton, or a transfer to a street-based system, then we have built the system that will deliver what we really want.

    Frogs numbers from Lyon, a near 50% reduction in traffic, is our goal. Traffic reduction is essential if we are to improve the urban quality of the places we call home.

    Lewis N. Villegas

    February 16, 2010 at 6:53 am

  28. What is forgotten is that there is a hierarchy of transit modes, bus, tram/LRT, and metro. Each mode is built to carry specific passenger loads on a transit route, with LRT or metro carrying than 2,000 pphpd or 15,000 pphpd respectively.

    Now one can build and operate the most expensive mode, metro, on a lightly used route but be prepared to: 1) Pay high subsidies to operate metro and 2) higher fares.

    In the late 19th & early 20th century, to reduce the cost of subway construction, many ‘metros’ were built on elevated rights-of-ways either on brick viaduct or steel lattice girder spans.

    Though the elevated metros or ‘Els’ did the job well, they were ugly; an eyesore. During the same time came the rise of the tram which was far cheaper than metro, and operating on-street was very user friendly.

    In the 30′s it was realized that by operating trams on ‘reserved rights-of-ways’ or rights-of-ways used exclusively by trams, the commercial speed of a tram increased to almost of that of a metro.

    But in the 40′s, the car became king and the tram or streetcar started to disappear from the scene. The metro remained (even though a few grade separated metro lines were abandoned) the prime mover in large cities, but high operating and construction costs retarded their construction.

    The ‘El’ was still considered ugly and many were relocated into subways, at great expense, which further retarded metro growth.

    In the 70′s saw the rebirth of the tram in the guise of light-rail, operating on 30′s style reserved rights-of-ways, giving an almost metro type service at a fraction of metros cost.

    During this time many ‘proprietary’ light metros were offered by various companies, with the signature of being elevated, so that they would be cheaper than a conventional subway.

    Elevated metros or light-metro were still considered ugly and in the end the newer elevated metro systems cost almost as much as a conventional metro to build.

    Exit the light-metro, as LRT/tram won the day, though many cities continue to build with light metro, it was done strictly for political prestige, not for better public transport.

    With tram or light rail also came the phenomenon of urban renewal as properties near light rail lines became desirable for both merchants and residents. In Portland, merchants along the new streetcar route saw an increase of 10% in business.

    With light-metro, politicians allowed much higher densities around metro stations, but this probably had more to do with politically friendly land owners, than the desirability living near a metro station. This has also given Vancouver the ‘density myth’ that there isn’t the density for ‘rapid transit’.

    There is plenty of population to support LRT/tram, but only just enough population to support SkyTrain and if we cram every bus rider we can onto the three metro lines. The density increases along the line does not come from ‘rapid transit’, rather rezoning of land.

    The West coast Express has allowed for the population to sprawl out as far as Mission, taking advantage of a highly subsidized commuter train where over half the customers moved up the valley to take advantage of cheaper housing. With limited service, the WCE is not a replacement for the car.

    This leave us with the hoary old SkyTrain versus LRT debate, which SkyTrain lost almost two decades ago, but we are stuck in a transit warp, where we still continue to plan for expensive metro with religious fervor, rather than planning for light rail, which has proven superior in service.

    Want a livable city, best build with LRT.
    Want a car oriented city, build with metro.

    Livable cities have prosperous merchants along their routes, where car oriented cities have massive malls built conveniently at metro stations or visa versa.

    Malcolm J

    February 16, 2010 at 8:41 am

  29. I really enjoy the breadth of opinion and reach that we can generate here, just blogging. And I heed the warning in the following website “not to become an advocate of one system or another”:

    http://www.humantransit.org/2009/07/streetcars-an-inconvenient-truth.html

    The question: “”What are our transit needs, and how do we meet them?” seems to be hitting the right balance.

    Some of the lines that pop out from an urban design perspective are:

    “the fundamental question [is] why you would build streetcars in urban corridors where there’s already a good bus route.”

    On Hastings, and on Broadway, how do folks feel about the answer, “to provide top-quality service and increase capacity by 50%”?

    That 50% is room for growth, an advantage that is a boon to these two “Great Streets” that seem to hard-wire our city in the east-to-west direction north of 33rd. Thus:

    “there’s a strong case for streetcars in cases where

    (a) the ~50% capacity advantage of a streetcar is critical and

    (b) the streetcar can be placed in the “fast lane” [middle of the R.O.W.]

    From a perspective of urban design, we want to change the section of the R.O.W., introduce medians as “islands of safety”; continuous rows of tree planting as softening and greening elements in our heaviest thoroughfares; and take cars off roads that are fronted by residential and mixed uses.

    So, whether BRT or Tram, the point really seems to be to put it in the centre.

    Somewhat contradicting previous statements [assuming same street section]:

    “Streetcars that replace bus lines are not a mobility improvement.  If you replace a bus with a streetcar on the same route, nobody will be able to get anywhere any faster than they could before.  This makes streetcars quite different from most of the other transit investments being discussed today.”

    “an average speed of 7-12 mi/hour for local-stop service” [curb lane]

    “an everage speed of 15-25 mi/hour when operating in the inside or “fast” lane with island platforms” [center median]

    If we think that “tedium” sets in after 20 minutes, then the reach of these average speeds after 20 minutes are:

    2 – 4 miles for curb side surface transit (not a good urban design option)

    5 – 8.33 miles for centre of the R.O.W. implementations (which I suggest is best practice for urban design)

    A line connecting Stanley Park with New Brighton Park would be 6 miles long or 9.5 km.

    A few things are not mentioned in the website:

    - The “experience of riding” in a tram like the Olympic Line, which was excellent. I have been in many buses in my time, and none compare.

    - BRT on specially designed lanes might match the ride, but there is a solidity to the train structure that makes me doubt it.

    - Station spacing and catchment. My impression is that BRT and Tram station spacing could be one per “quartier” or 800m – 1000m on centre. I don’t see why people would not walk 10 minutes (800m) to catch either and efficient service of BRT or Tram.

    Thus, if we assume that the urban design will be the same in both cases, the Tram option only appears to be an advantage for adding 50% more capacity; and for extending the trip distance by giving a more confortable ride. That suggests use in our highest density urban corridors.

    I don’t doubt voony’s observation that for the revitalization of Hastings Street, for example, the Tram would carry more punch. In the DTES that is exactly the message we would want to send to private developers.

    Both Hastings and Broadway have a 99′ R.O.W. Assuming 15′ sidewalks, the curb-to-curb distance is 69′ feet, accommodating six lanes of traffic with off-peak curb side parking.

    If we assume BRT and Tram can ride in 8.5′ between two 5′ tree medians, road sections between the stations would have 47 feet of R.O.W. available, for four lanes with off-peak parking.

    At the stations, a centre platform wants to be comfortable enough to safely handle loading and off-loading. 5m or 15′ seems like a minimum. We would give up the tree medians here, and the remaining R.O.W. would be reduced to 42 feet. That might still accommodate four lanes of varying widths (alternating 10 and 11 feet, for example), with off-peak parking.

    With full mature trees, and the crossing distance to a median or curb reduced from 69′ feet to and average of 22 feet, Hastings and Broadway would be transformed.

    Note: in order to access centre medians, BRT may have to run in the opposite direction to traffic, placing loading doors to the centre of the R.O.W.

    That is a first cut at a Hatings Street Revitalization, and a DTES intensification strategy.

    What’s the view of out there of the street sections proposed?

    Lewis N. Villegas

    February 16, 2010 at 10:14 am

  30. Do not make the mistake that BRT and tram are one and the same, they are not as even the simplest of tram system is about 10% faster than buses on a route without reserved R-O-W’s and preemptive signaling; with LRT commercial speed increases dramatically as well as capacity (in excess of 20,000 pphpd!).

    The chap at Humanist transit tends to be anti-LRT, but I leave that debate there, as he obscures the the three transit modes bus, tram, and metro.

    To many people in North America firmly believe that the more money you throw at ‘rail’ transit, the better it will be.

    The optimum station spacing for LRT/Tram is about 500m to 600m apart, any further distance tends to discourage ridership and the same is true for bus. Remember it isn’t just speed of a transit system that attracts ridership, but the convenience, ease of use and affordability of a transit system tend to be more important factors.

    In Germany, the transfer free journey trumps speed completely in attracting ridership, while in France it is the convenience and ambient atmosphere of LRT that made the public approval easier for LRT (tram) rather than the elevated VAL light-metro.

    Try, if you can, read the series of transit studies by Prof. Carmen Hass-Klau, starting with Bus or Light Rail: Making the Right Choice. There are four studies and all very informative.

    For LRT on Broadway or Hastings, we must think of the French way of looking at LRT, that by replacing a road lane with a reserved tram line, you increase capacity ten fold, of that lane, without additional land take.

    As for metro or light-metro; if your transit line has a ridership of 400,000 customers a day or more, then one must grade separate it to accommodate longer trains, etc.

    Malcolm J

    February 16, 2010 at 10:52 am

  31. Hi Lewis N. Villegas

    Good analysis but one thing I think you forgot to mention is dwell time.

    Rail is far superior to bus when it comes to dwell time. Go watch the Olympic Line and notice how quickly people get on/off and compare this to a full 99B bus.

    This is something which is often missed in the discussion of BRT vs LRT/streetcar I believe. A streetcar would never be as fast as a SkyTrain however it would be faster and more comfortable than articulated buses and at a fraction of the cost of SkyTrain.

    Chris S

    February 16, 2010 at 11:01 am

  32. Chris, a minor quibble but important.

    To quote you: “A streetcar would never be as fast as a SkyTrain”. The speed of a streetcar/LRT is dependent on the quality of rights-of-ways and the number of stops per route km. Karlsruhe’s famous TramTrains are streetcars but travel at 100 kph on the DB mainlines, something that SkyTrain could never do.

    The 21st century has seemed to pass over SkyTrain.

    In Europe, 15 second dwell times for trams are what most transit agencies aim for.

    Also missed, is that the time taken by buses to pull out of bus-stops, which is also is time consuming. But for bus or LRT, one might ask transit specialists in Adelaide, why their O-Bahn guided bus (ultimate BRT)failed to impress local transit customers. It must be remembered that for buses match light rail/tram performance, they must be guided.

    Malcolm J

    February 16, 2010 at 12:25 pm

  33. What I said was “Cars trips in most major cities are now down to 45 to 49 % of all the trips made”. By “All the trips” we have always meant in Europe trips made by cars, buses, rapid transit, commuter trains, by foot and a combination of all.
    Until the mid-sixties, before there were freeways in France around each town and between towns, many of the people that lived in the heart of a city managed very well without a car. In fact even middle-class apartments like the 250 m2, 2 bedroom, 2 sitting rooms, den etc. (plus a suite in the attic for the maids) that my parents rented in downtown Bordeaux had no indoor parking and none was available in the neighbourhood.
    Starting in early 70s when freeways (or rather paying motorways) became available, more and more people got cars and eventually the majority of trips were made by cars.
    This forced the cities to outlaw parking on major streets to keep traffic moving, then, starting in the mid 1970s, to turn major downtown shopping areas into pedestrian streets (tearing down old neighbourhoods and replacing them by wider roads lined by high rises is just not being done in Europe, except for areas outside historical centers)
    In the past 15 years T.E.R. regional transit (trains and buses) around each major city has improved drastically, giving an incentive to commuterS to leave cars at home.

    Other points:
    The Tuileries gardens, like all formal gardens (both public and private) in France, Italy etc. have always had gravel paths. When they were open to the public in the late 19th century the lawns became off limits and still are in most French public gardens, with a few notable exceptions.

    Les Halles transit station is not a true railway station as we understand it in Europe. A proper major railway station (like the 6 there are in Paris) shelter both medium and long distance trains, along with metros etc. and has a much bigger trains and passengers traffic than the Chatelet-les Halles station. The R.E.R is a network of relatively short distance commuter trains that serve most of the Ile de France–the greater Paris region.

    Chatelet -Les Halles has 3 R.E.R line, 5 Metro lines and is said to have 3/4 millions passengers a week.
    this is a far cry from the 180 millions passengers using the Gare du Nord in Paris and the 3.5 plus millions that use the Shinjuku station in Tokyo.

    see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gare_du_Nord
    see http://www.bonjourlafrance.com/france-trains/stations/paris-train-stations.htm
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shinjuku_Station

    Having used these 3 stations many times..I can vouch that Chatelet-les Halles isn’t the busiest by far. it is an unpleasant one though.. hence the drastic renovations that will start any time now for the transit station, along with the renovations of the shopping mall.

    Versailles is indeed a god example of a planned city, with palatial looking buildings. Other examples in France are Bordeaux, Nancy etc.
    http://www.bordeaux-tourisme.com/uk/bordeaux_patrimoine_mondial/joyau_de_l_architecture/joyau_de_l_architecture_18eme.html

    Red frog

    February 16, 2010 at 11:06 pm

  34. My previous 2 postings disappeared in the electronic void….hope they don’t come back to haunt me..

    I didnt say that the car trips in France were reduced by 50%, only that trips by cars are now less than 50% of ALL trips. The other 50% plus are trips made by rapid transit, buses, commuter trains, bikes, on foot etc. Of course it helps that in the heart of most old European towns there is no–or very limited–car parking for home owners.

    The Tuileries gardens, like all formal gardens in Italy and France, always had gravel paths. Walking and sitting on the grass is not allowed in most historical parks and gardens in France.

    The Chatelet-Les Halles transit station (3 R.E.R. lines, 5 Metro lines) is NOT a rail station as we Europeans understant it. It has much less daily traffic than some of the 6 rail stations that circle Paris.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gare_du_Nord
    http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liste_des_gares_de_Paris

    Being not just underground but under a 3 level shopping mall, Chatelet -les Halles is quite unpleasant and hard to navigate. Hence the drastic renovations that will start any time now, along with the renovations of the shopping mall.

    The busiest rail station in the world is Shinjuku in Tokyo, with over 3.5 million a day.

    Red frog

    February 16, 2010 at 11:39 pm

  35. Thanks for tip on the Rem Koolhas piece in Seattle, I will try to pay a visit next time I go down (to be sure, I was saying his proposal fro the Halles was very brilliant).

    Interesting you mention “les Tuileries”: it is also one of the little hidden secret of North York Center: they have a little “french garden” (at Mel lastman square) working pretty well considering its size and heavy traffic.

    Enough of Paris reference:

    also when I was advocating ““to try to reduce the amount of nomadic people”, it is in fact reducing the need for transfer at one station by providing alternative option, not reduce the amount of people by itself ;).

    I don’t say the station design by itself is a failure: it is a pretty efficient one, and meet its purpose, but I feel the urban choice for the area are ignoring the major transfer node function of Broadway station.

    Unfortunately I was not at the CoV public consultation on this topic

    …Recently I was at one of the stakeholder meeting on Broadway, where Translink invite us to go thru the exercise to allocate the road right of way: it was an interesting discussion.
    If my memory serve me well, I think they were considering 7m for a double track LRT, and 3m per car lane (2m50 for parking), and 2m50 for sidewalk, and don’t remember exactly for the bikepath.
    To be sure, they were as much as opinion on it than it was people around the table.
    One of the choke point is that in the case of Hasting or Broadway, you have probably to give-up something
    (implicitly you have gave up on the bikepath, some could disagree with this option, I could be of those whose believe bikepath should be on main arterial shopping street…).

    “Second point of Frogs goes to voonie’s observations. Cities need an array of transportation options, and beyond a certain trip length—any ideas, out there, 20 minutes?—riding on the streets gets tedious”

    That is a very good way to put the things in perspective: time, not distance is the way we think…
    You were mentioning previously 10mn walk…

    It seems written in our gene, that we “discount” pretty easily waiting time when this one is below ~5mn (means we don’t mind to wait 5mn)
    and we discount pretty much travel time, when this one is below 10mn: we don’t mind to walk 10mn or so, but 15mn start to be factored as a long walk…
    So, I don’t know the level of ‘acceptance” for a less than optimum level of transportation, but I guess we have some general idea.

    Another study, I guess has been mentioned previously on this blog (unless it was on the Gord Price one), is that “acceptable” human space is in 30mn reach or so. So no matter what the human will be readily accept to travel 30mn for causal business (like work or shop), before considering the trip to be a time casualty.

    For reference, the trip Broadway-UBC take 40mn using the 99B.

    On another front, I don’t want open a pointless solution on the respective theorical performance of a Skytrain vs a Tram, but just invite people to note that the Olympic line is a demonstration line:

    I didn’t see the tachometer of the tram going above 25km/h, the track doesn’t have sharp curve (turning), and all the thing is new: tram in “real condition” can be a bit less smooth even they are still usually offering a smoother experience than bus ( lack of smooth ride in bus is essentially due to the fact bus are in mixed traffic and road surface issue).

    WRT the dwelling time: again it need to be compared with terminus station dwelling time), but to be sure, it is greatly a question of vehicle design and stop design, the European buses (and tram) have often more door than the American one: that contributes to reduce the dwelling time… but also reduce the number of seats…typical American transit user tend to ride farther than the American one, so the different design (on it I invite you to visit my entry on the Hynovis bus taking this aspect pretty well account ( http://voony.wordpress.com/2010/02/04/hyvonis-or-the-hydrogen-bus/ ). bulge stop also avoid the bus to pull in and out of traffic…

    …Those thing are technicality factor among other where transit experience need to be balanced by operation efficiency.

    …but we start to deviate of the original discussion.

    voony

    February 16, 2010 at 11:45 pm

  36. Let’s try to summarize the discussion, and as much as possible, identify facts we all seem to agree on [where I have added new comments or edits, they appear in square brackets. For the most part, I've left my own comments out].

    A HIERARCHY OF TRANSIT MODES

    Bus, tram, metro (Guided BRT, commuter rail, bikes-for-hire)

    We want to think in terms of a full array of transit systems, shaped by local conditions.

    THE GOAL WE HAVE IN MIND

    in France. Cars trips in most major cities are now down to 45 to 49 % (all trips: workplace, schools, shopping etc.)… They used Lyon as an example, the subways (4 lines + a cog rail line), the trams (3 lines), the commuter trains (17 lines from/ to Lyon), buses, trolleys, and city owned bikes for rent. …the reduction in the use of cars was due, according to the users interviewed, to the price of gas and the drastic improvement of the transit system.
.. Lyon is roughly comparable in size to Vancouver: 450 000 population, 1.2 millions with the adjacent, oldest suburbs, 2.4 millions total in the Greater Lyon (figures are + or – depending on sources).

    LRT in the Lower Mainland should be at grade, for the reasons of street revitalization, neighbourhood intensification, taking R.O.W. back from the car, and introducing “islands of safety” to reduce pedestrian crossing distance. LRT in the Lower Mainland should look like the picture at the top of this string instead (i.e. Olympic Line). [LNV]

    our values as tourists are different from our values as commuters [Almost all my experiences in transit have been as a tourist]

    HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE

    Though the elevated metros or ‘Els’ did the job well, they were ugly; an eyesore. During the same time came the rise of the tram which was far cheaper than metro, and operating on-street was very user friendly.

    In the 30’s it was realized that by operating on ‘reserved rights-of-ways’ used exclusively by trams, the commercial speed of a tram increased to almost of that of a metro… giving an almost metro type service at a fraction of metros cost.
    With tram or light rail also came the phenomenon of urban renewal as properties near light rail lines became desirable for both merchants and residents. In Portland, merchants along the new streetcar route saw an increase of 10% in business.
    Vancouver [has] the ‘density myth’ that there isn’t the density for ‘rapid transit’… There is plenty of population to support LRT/tram, but only just enough population to support SkyTrain…

    Livable cities have prosperous merchants along their routes, where car oriented cities have massive malls built conveniently at metro stations or visa versa…. most agree that at grade transit is generally better for the urban landscape than an elevated one

    Skytrain is successful at shaping growth, we [may or may not like the resulting] urban form, but [that] is another story.

    [It would take time to prove, but in Richmond, Surrey Center, New West, Coquitlam Center, Lougheed TC, Edmonds, and Metrotown implementation of SkyTrain has come hand-in-hand with building towers. One of the issues that I am interested in bringing out into the open is that as long as we do not combine transportation planning with community planning, we're are not going to get it right. In these SkyTrain/Tower zones the transportation choice and the building form "turn a back on the street and the public realm". While many have argued that towers are a good choice of urban form for spectacular sites with constrained footprints (Hong Kong, our downtown peninsula), the gigantism of tower scale has an alienating effect on the street for which we have no answer. Furthermore, we can achieve equivalent densities to tower neighbourhoods through incremental intensification of places like Sapperton].

    TRAM vs. BRT

    [Hot topic. I mentioned "both-and" thinking, or complexity, for resolving issues like these. What we need are facts of "good" streetcar corridors and "good" BRT right here in North America. Both modes would appear to be in play.]

    LRT/tram 2,000 pphpd (peak/people per hour per day?)
    Metro 15,000 pphpd

    with LRT commercial speed increases dramatically as well as capacity (in excess of 20,000 pphpd!).

    [one of these numbers is not right. we need pphpd for buses and Guided BRT]

    It must be remembered that for buses to match light rail/tram performance, they must be guided.

    At 400,000 customers per day, one must grade separate to accommodate longer trains.

    “transportation efficiency” is not reducible to the system capacity only, but include travel time, reliability, accessibility, operating cost,…

    Optimal station spacing 500m to 600m (LRT/Tram)
    [Optimal "Quartier" footprint 800m diameter]

    Rail is far superior to bus when it comes to dwell time. Go watch the Olympic Line and notice how quickly people get on/off and compare this to a full 99B bus.

    [A worthwhile experiment here will be to shoot a video of the 99B loading; and a video of the Olympic Line—including time to pull in/pull out].

    Also missed, is that the time taken by buses to pull out of bus-stops, which is also is time consuming.

    In Europe, 15 second dwell times for trams are what most transit agencies aim for.

    URBAN DESIGN

    Put transit close to pedestrians

    It must be remembered that for buses to match light rail/tram performance, they must be guided.

    [The urban design perspective suggests that we want to have either Tram or BRT operating in the centre of the road allowance, separated by continuous rows of street tree planting. In addition to the advantages for transportation efficiency, there are also advantages for achieving more livable streets. Pedestrian Crossing Distance—my own term—surface Tram on Hastings or Broadway would break the scale of the street down to crossing distances manageable by all pedestrians. A maximum of crossing distance of 2 lanes or 22' (7m) before reaching a curb or a median would be optimal.]

    the catchment area is also heavily dependant of how pleasant is the walk to the station

    Revitalization and higher density are pretty much the same with a SkyTrain type or a tram judging by other cities.

    [Some of us—but not all—are saying that the resulting "urban quality" will not be the same. BRT or Tram will be far superior contributor to neighbourhood design].

    design for “sedentary people” and “nomadic people”

    [Some elements in urbanism work for both "stationary" and "moving" experience (another example of "both-and" thinking). We said that Sapperton Park, encountered at the middle of a 12 minute walk to LRT would function as a kind of "place marker", telling us that we are about half way on our journey. However, if we were to find a cafe table on its perimeter, nothing would be finer than a moment spent sitting across the park, sipping 'jo, and chatting about transit & urbanism;-)]

    Lewis, I suggest going for a walk or a bike ride on #3 Road… A planner referred to the proposed surface rail as kind of a “Berlin Wall”, down the middle of the street.

    [Urbanism is culture. It is not built in a vacuum. We have a good data set on what is required to achieve the experience of urban quality. North of Granville, and north of Westminster Hwy., No. 3 Road is a barren wasteland in terms of urban quality. This is not my "opinion". We could go out there and survey for some 20 "urban facts" and we will discover that they are AWOL on No.3. I've designed there, I know. Consider these facts. The streetwall to streetwall distance at Landsdowne Mall is 210 meters. Fully half of what we consider "easy walking distance" or the radius of the "Quartier". That means that we could build 33% of Sapperton along a 210m stretch of No.3 Rd. simply by using the mall and strip mall parking lots, and the No.3 R.O.W. Keep in mind we would still build streets, sidewalks, front door yards and rear gardens…The BRT bus mall that was built and torn down at tax payer expense on No. 3 was a Berlin Wall. Aforementioned planner must have been part of the original design team (note how the same arguments were used on North Road for the Evergreen Line). Let's keep our eye on the ball, and shift planning paradigms instead. You could infill No. 3 Road, and bring back urban quality. However, as is the case with the Evergreen Line on North Road, the scale of the elevated guideway clashes with street-oriented urbanism.]

    EVERGREEN LINE

    [The proof is in the pudding. How do our ideas stack up against the next transit line to be built in our region?]

    … [Tram is] a fraction of the cost of SkyTrain.

    [If anyone has the numbers, for the amount of money that has been set aside for Evergreen up to now, can we do Tram?]

    The City of Coquitlam had the right idea. They designed Guildford Way for future high capacity transit [on Google that looks like 140' (42.5m) R.O.W.]

    Put transit close to pedestrians: Evergreen planners decided to put LRT onto Lougheed and the freight rail corridors, places with horrible access for pedestrians. Taking transit to the people works much better than trying to entice the people to come to the transit.

    I attended a couple of open houses about the Evergreen line last November. Many of the homeowners living in the low rises on North Road are now quite upset. Originally they were against a tramway… as they didn’t want to loose a couple of car lanes… Now they belatedly realize that anyone living on the 2 upper floors of these [buildings] will loose a big chunk of their view … One real estate salesman is convinced that suites on the 2 upper floors facing North Road will loose at least 1/3 of the their value.

    The TransLink rep said that there is no changing now as they want to avoid an extra transfer at Lougheed Station.

    In Germany, the transfer free journey trumps speed completely in attracting ridership

    at grade is the worse solution for implementing a Skytrain, since it imposes a divide in the community. [That's the Evergreen plan for Port Moody]

    [Please feel free to correct statements, add to them, etc.]

    Lewis N. Villegas

    February 17, 2010 at 10:56 am

  37. Car trips in France are not down to 49-45% they now represent 49-45 % of ALL trips..(while in the past 30 years they were over 50 %. actual figure not available) rereading my message I understand that this is misleading for you guys. Being European I automatically understood that “ALL trips” means using cars, buses, rapid transit, bikes, walking. Europeans that live in the heart of cities often don’t have a car, if only because old apartment buildings, even those with big luxury apartments, don’t have indoor parking. I remember a 1 bedroom in London selling for 1.5 million pounds a couple of years ago with “parking available in the street on a first come basis”

    Red frog

    February 17, 2010 at 1:54 pm

  38. Lewis,

    It is hard to really agree or for that matter disagree with what you have said as the success or failure of an urban environment or a transit line often depends more execution and getting the details right rather than the overall form or the type of transit technology used. As fun as it is to have these type of high-level debates, they rarely result in any in sites that are useful in specific contexts.

    The “real estate salesman” could just be trying to convince people to sell their places now so he can buy them up cheaply and sell them at a nice profit after the line is built or plain just not really know what he is talking about. People often have an irrational reaction to change and predict the worse. Remember, these were the same people who didn’t much care for a tram either so they don’t really seem to really up on the issues. North Road is really not that pleasant now, it is comparable to #3 Road before the Canada Line was built. It is hard to see how SkyTrain would make it any worse. It expect housing prices will stay the same or even increase as SkyTrain will at least decrease the number of buses and likely cars along North Road.

    The at grade portions of the Evergeen SkyTrain will not “imposes a divide in the community” as it is along the rail corridor which is already a divide. The project will hopefully lessen this existing divide by creating more crossings of the tracks. A bicycle pedestrian path along the guideway would also be good as it both creates better access to the stations and provides a corridor with few intersections that is a distance from traffic making it safer and more pleasant. These are the types of “details” that will determine the success of the Evergreen Line, not the choice of technology or whether it is at grade or elevated.

    Richard

    February 17, 2010 at 2:06 pm

  39. Richard says:

    “It is hard to really agree or for that matter disagree with what you have said as the success or failure of an urban environment or a transit line often depends more execution and getting the details right rather than the overall form or the type of transit technology used. As fun as it is to have these type of high-level debates, they rarely result in any in sites that are useful in specific contexts.”

    I agree with this. Both Skytrain stations and LRT stations are an opportunity to establish new district centres simply by being a place that a lot of people have to pass through. If we can adapt the public spaces around the station to the station and if we can adapt the private spaces around the public spaces, we can turn any station into a successful district centre.

    At 29th Avenue and Nanaimo, the stations have scarcely been acknowledged as the centres of their districts. There is little or no retail nearby that could extend the centre into the larger district, to Kingsway. The private space is largely made up of single-family houses, when rowhouses or small apartments, as examples, would better frame the public spaces. At Commercial, the station was placed in an established district that had no public space adapted to the station.

    I see no reason why Skytrain stations should not capable of turning bad spaces into better spaces. We’ve just been slow to adapt our established (and previously centre-less) districts to their new centres. At the same time, we’ve been quick to adapt our undeveloped industrial lands.

    mike0234

    February 17, 2010 at 4:46 pm

  40. I call that “opportunistic rezoning”.

    The City will rezone already consolidated industrial lands (or commercial lands, such as Oakridge Mall) to residential because the neigbourhood will agree to the change (it’s “prettier”).

    However, the City will cater to the NIMBYs and refuse to rezone an existing residential area for greater density where it would upset the neighbourhood (by leading to the consolidation and redevelopment of single-family homes). (i.e. look at the opposition to EcoDensity).

    Recent comentary in the press and others have, however, been more critical of the City of Vancouver for failing to rezone precincts around rapid transit stations (i.e. especially with the Canada Line stations opening up) – so hopefully the City will finally change its policies and allow more transit-oriented development on sites other than for opportunistic rezonings.

    Ron C.

    February 17, 2010 at 7:07 pm

  41. “It is hard to really agree or for that matter disagree with what you have said as the success or failure of an urban environment or a transit line often depends more execution and getting the details right rather than the overall form or the type of transit technology used. As fun as it is to have these type of high-level debates, they rarely result in any in sites that are useful in specific contexts.”

    I second this comment…

    I also think there is 2 misconceptions:

    yes we need to hierarchies transit, but not in term of technology but in term of system function:

    As an example, TTC (Toronto) doesn’t have a specific hierarchy for its streetcar, they are indistinguishable from bus on their map, and it makes sense because they offer basically the same service.

    Translink put the 99B line with a clear distinction on its map (and integrate it on the “subway” map) and it makes sense also.

    When we agree on the main function of a transit line usually the technology choice become easier…
    (it was also the sense of the Jarret post referred by Mezzanine), but unfortunately transit fans are more often than not driven by “love of a certain technology” (be it Monorail…or other…) and for this reason, it is often the opposite way which prevail in the transit fan circles.

    Some will give some number which could be more or less reliable and anyway could be of marginal interest for the context we are concerned with, and here are a couple of example trumping some conceptions:

    Paris express subway RER E (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RER_E):

    Double deck train of 250 meter each every 4mn, (~50000 pphpd)
    ~ridership 200,000 /day, stations are 4 tracks,…and the line is saturated.

    Canada line, “mini” train of 40 meter long only, every 4mn (~7500pphpd): ridership last week-end 210,000/day.

    why this discrepancy? travel pattern

    BTW, pphpd means “person per hour per direction”, but there is a rather weak relationship between it and the final total ridership, and even weaker between it and fare revenue…

    Paris Subway line 1 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paris_M%C3%A9tro_Line_1)
    6 car train set (80meter long x 2m50 width) every 2mns or so in peak hour carry ~730,000 rider every day.

    Expo line,
    has a very similar capacity (4 car train set (60 meter long x 2m45 width every 90s in peak hour carry ~200,000

    everyone here agree that the Expo line is saturated (that is the reason we have now 6 car train set).

    why we consider our train saturated when a one with similar pphpd in Paris carry nearly 4 times more people?

    travel pattern…

    (By the way, the line 1 is probably the only Parisian subway line carrying more than 400,000 people/day, most of them carry in the vicinity of 300,000: and if you have been in Paris, you know in what condition…and could not have wait to reach this number on surface before digging the ground to keep people moving)

    Paris tramway(streetcar) T3: with long train of 45meter every 4mn, all in its own ROW, carries more than 100,000 people per day.

    It is saturated! the consequence is steep degradation of the average speed: A French official audit “cour des comptes”) has concluded that the average speed was of 16.5km/h instead of the 20km/h touted during the design phase. For refrence it is roughly the average speed of the bus 9, which is way slower than the 99B.

    …But the Hong Kong tramway with vintage cars carries near to 400,000 people (but if you have been in HK you know in what condition)…while the Ottawa’s TransitWay (all buses) carries 240000 people a day…

    Normally transit agencies have elaborated tools to model the travel pattern of their customers,…What is hard to grasp for people like us, judging just by how full is a bus on our ride, and having not more clue on other passengers, so all of the discussion we have on a technology could prove pointless due to this important missing information.

    BTW, pphpd means “people per direction per hour”.

    On the statement that “[Tram is] a fraction of the cost of SkyTrain.”…this is probably an over statement if we look at example surrounding us like Seattle, or Toronto, (see http://voony.wordpress.com/2009/10/05/a-streetcar-named-16-million-desire/) and agian when we start to talk about cots, we need also to talk about benefit…

    voony

    February 17, 2010 at 11:14 pm

  42. I second the Richard comment

    I also think there is 2 misconceptions:

    yes we need to hierarchies transit, but not in term of technology but in term of system function:

    As an example, TTC (Toronto) doesn’t have a specific hierarchy for its streetcar, they are indistinguishable from bus on their map, and it makes sense because they offer basically the same service.

    Translink put the 99B line with a clear distinction on its map (and integrate it on the “subway” map) and it makes sense also.

    When we agree on the main function of a transit line usually the technology choice become easier…
    (it was also the sense of the Jarret post referred by Mezzanine), but unfortunately transit fans are more often than not driven by “love of a certain technology” (be it Monorail…or other…) and for this reason, it is often the opposite way which prevail in the transit fan circles.

    Some will give some number which could be more or less reliable and anyway could be of marginal interest for the context we are concerned with, and here are a couple of example trumping some conceptions:

    Paris express subway RER E (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RER_E):

    Double deck train of 250 meter each every 4mn, (~50000 pphpd)
    ~ridership 200,000 /day, stations are 4 tracks,…and the line is saturated.

    Canada line, “mini” train of 40 meter long only, every 4mn (~7500pphpd): ridership last week-end 210,000/day.

    why this discrepancy? travel pattern

    BTW, pphpd means “person per hour per direction”, but there is a rather weak relationship between it and the final total ridership, and even weaker between it and fare revenue…

    Paris Subway line 1 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paris_M%C3%A9tro_Line_1)
    6 car train set (80meter long x 2m50 width) every 2mns or so in peak hour carry ~730,000 rider every day.

    Expo line,
    has a very similar capacity (4 car train set (60 meter long x 2m45 width every 90s in peak hour carry ~200,000

    everyone here agree that the Expo line is saturated (that is the reason we have now 6 car train set).

    why we consider our train saturated when a one with similar pphpd in Paris carry nearly 4 times more people?

    travel pattern…

    (By the way, the line 1 is probably the only Parisian subway line carrying more than 400,000 people/day, most of them carry in the vicinity of 300,000: and if you have been in Paris, you know in what condition…and could not have wait to reach this number on surface before digging the ground to keep people moving)

    Paris tramway(streetcar) T3: with long train of 45meter every 4mn, all in its own ROW, carries more than 100,000 people per day.

    It is saturated! the consequence is steep degradation of the average speed: A French official audit “cour des comptes”) has concluded that the average speed was of 16.5km/h instead of the 20km/h touted during the design phase. For refrence it is roughly the average speed of the bus 9, which is way slower than the 99B.

    …But the Hong Kong tramway with vintage cars carries near to 400,000 people (but if you have been in HK you know in what condition)…while the Ottawa’s TransitWay (all buses) carries 240000 people a day…

    Normally transit agencies have elaborated tools to model the travel pattern of their customers,…What is hard to grasp for people like us, judging just by how full is a bus on our ride, and having not more clue on other passengers, so all of the discussion we have on a technology could prove pointless due to this important missing information.

    BTW, pphpd means “people per direction per hour”.

    On the statement that “[Tram is] a fraction of the cost of SkyTrain.”…this is probably an over statement if we look at example surrounding us like Seattle, or Toronto, (see http://voony.wordpress.com/2009/10/05/a-streetcar-named-16-million-desire/) and agian when we start to talk about cots, we need also to talk about benefit…

    voony

    February 18, 2010 at 7:55 am

  43. @voony

    “Double deck train of 250 meter each every 4mn, (~50000 pphpd)
    ~ridership 200,000 /day, stations are 4 tracks,…and the line is saturated.

    Canada line, “mini” train of 40 meter long only, every 4mn (~7500pphpd): ridership last week-end 210,000/day.”

    Sorry Voony, your math doesn’t add up; 50,000 pphpd certainly carries more than 200,000 a day, but then you compare with the Canada line with a capacity of about 3,000 pphpd!

    And here lies the real problem with transit in Vancouver; a die-hard SkyTrain lobby, continually manipulating numbers to suit their own ends. It must be the water or the BC Bud that has affected things here because SkyTrain as well as light metro has been continually rejected by transit planners around the world.

    The whole argument of population density, etc. is nothing more than a smokescreen to build more SkyTrain/light-metro!

    BTW, both Seattle’s LRT and Toronto’s planned LRT are and will both grade separated, which propels them into the light metro category. Seattle is a very good example of a costly and overbuilt LRT/light-metro line where engineers, not transit planners (the more engineering done = more engineers hired!) took hold of the projects and milked for dollar they could. The SkyTrain lobby is more of the same.

    Again, the SkyTrain lobby cares little for cost or the taxpayer (and there is only one) and continue to invent and manipulate statistics to suit their cause.

    In the end, it is the transit customer that deems what transit he/she wants and prior to the Olympics, the car rules supreme.

    Base cost of tram/LRT on-street construction including electrical overhead only, $5 million/km to $6 million/km the higher costs then added are for cars, maintenance facility, land acquisition, and engineering! The more engineering, the higher the per km cost.

    At one point during the Millennium Line debate, BC Transit would have us believe that elevated LRT would be more expensive to build than SkyTrain, in the end the claim was SkyTrain cost about 7% more to build!

    Both the Millennium Line and the Canada line have made us an international joke, with the SkyTrain lobby being the chief jokers!

    Malcolm J

    February 18, 2010 at 8:39 am

  44. You guys keep in mind that we are talking about both transportation and urban design, and keep the good comments coming. I’ll post in a day or two, sticking to the facts.

    Lewis N. Villegas

    February 18, 2010 at 9:14 am

  45. The major difference between Vancouver and other places with a much better transit system for a similar population (no point comparing Vancouver to Paris, London, Tokyo) is that there is no “transit culture” amongst Vancouver/ Victoria politicians, businessmen and wealthier people. Transit still has the stigma of being mostly for the financially disadvantaged, though this is slowly changing due to the cost of parking and gas (even though the later is still very cheap compared to other countries).
    An obstacle to rapid transit is that most of Vancouver is very low density, unlike many towns in Europe and other continents, where buildings of 3 to 6 stories (equivalent to 5 to 8 here due to higher ceilings) have been used for centuries.

    To me the bigger obstacle is the lack of political will. Here private developers work in secrecy, without any concern for the common good. The attitude of mall owners not to allow a transit station to be built within a mall is typical, along with the appalling waste of land that surface parkings are. And the local politicians meekly approve that shoddy planning, if only become they don’t know better. They barely know Toronto and Montreal, never mind the rest of the world.
    Other countries have several thousands of years of experience with town planning by Emperors, Kings and now mayors. Mr. Villegas cited Versailles but there are thousands of “planned cities”– very old ones–around the world.
    Railway and city ransit companies were originally private in Europe then became public and are now quite often a mix of both. The planning for a town transit rest in the hands of the council of the greater city, with the mayor taking the lead role. Transit companies in major towns have a real estate division to develop the area around stations. Private developers have a place too, but they work with the city, not against it.
    Here we have an emasculated TransLink, without vision and financial means, led by a Premier that knows nothing about transit (having a NDP Premier wouldn’t change the picture). Of course in other countries a Regional/ Provincial politician is often also a mayor that is, or has been, a politician at the national level and is familiar with trains and transit.

    Transit in some countries is funded, amongst other things, by a business tax based on the number of employees (small businesses are exempt) rather than by a property tax.

    To finish my ramblings..Les Halles is nothing compared to the Osaka-Kita area. Around a small square there are 3 rail stations belonging to 3 separate companies (2 are private companies, the other was government owned and is now private). Above each station is a department store belonging to the rail company (one department store has 16 floors!). Underneath is a 2 stories underground shopping mall. The area around all that is packed with hotels, offices, businesses etc. many of them linked by underground hallways and malls (It took me quite a while to get the feel of the layout). Several subway lines service all that. Just north of this complex is a big freight railyard that is slowly being covered by slabs that will be ultimately the ground floor of parks, housing, offices etc.

    Red frog

    February 18, 2010 at 10:02 am

  46. On February 20, The Olympic Line – Vancouver’s 2010 Streetcar will hit new milestone!
    300.000 riders in 30 days.

    2010 Streetcar

    February 18, 2010 at 4:07 pm

  47. A good posting on the advantages of automated rapid transit.
    http://www.humantransit.org/2010/02/driverless-rapid-transit-why-it-matters.html

    The late night and weekend frequencies of SkyTrain are a big plus. While LRT or streetcars may put eyes on the street, is this really much of a benefit if the frequency is only once every 15 or 20 minutes late at night where the eyes on the street are really needed. It could very well be the case that, by having more frequent trains and thus more passengers walking down the street to the stations, that SKyTrain actually leads to more eyes on the street when the eyes are really needed.

    Richard

    February 18, 2010 at 9:46 pm

  48. I’m happy being called “Lewis” or “LNV”. I’m switching to post by topic, rather than author, hoping we can identify common ground, and places where we just disagree.

    First: the elevated guideway. I thought the historical perspective offered by Malcom J was spot on. History presents facts, and thus can be a source for building a consensus. Here are some of my experiences as a tourist of “trains in the air”. It would be better if I had experienced living next to them, preferably for several seasons…

    In Paris,

    La Villette—a site famous for a Ledoux’s “Rotonde de la Villette” (1798) and a post-modern park (1980′s)—an elevated line crosses one of the main urban spaces. In my experience, it spoils the place for neighbourhood and visitor alike. However, life goes on in spite of it, probably for over 120 years. [I am showing in "double quotes" the search terms I used on Google Earth together with city/country name to bring up the sites].

    800m to the west, the same elevated track plays back stop to one the Haussmann team’s most successful examples of place-making. Now an immigrant neighbourhood, its footprint is formed by a cross-street plattern: the intersection of “Rue Perdonnet” and Rue Louis Blanc.

    In exactly the same way that walking around La Villette is an interesting, yet less than intense experience of urban quality, approaching Rue Louis Blanc along Rue Perdonnet is nothing short of remarkable.

    You feel it under your skin, and it is an experience unlike any I’ve had in any other urban site anywhere. By all accounts, La Villette should be the place most charged with emotional energy, afterall Ledoux was quite the craftsman. However, it is the sense you get walking into the cross-street pattern that produces the strongest effect, and there is a thriving neighbourhood there to suggest that maybe this is a shared characteristic of place, rather than my own quirkiness.

    Reaching the end of Perdonnet and turning the corner, the elevated railway is back. Built over Blvd. de la Chapelle, the elevated line blights the Haussmann era Maissonettes that permeate the entire high-density quartier. Although I didn’t research it, it seemed quite obvious that units directly fronting the El are the worst affect by elevated transit. Certainly the quality of fronting street retail dropped a bit, without losing its ethnic continuity.

    In Chicago

    The El goes to Frank Lloyd Wright’s first houses, and his first residence, in the suburb of Oak Park. Nice trip. Good view. Oak Park itself is a progenitor of the TOD (transit oriented development). However, my focus was more on Trinity Temple than on checking out the underbelly of the El. The densities were suburban for their time (1889 – 1913).

    When visiting the Art Institute of Chicago (home of the Pop icon “American Gothic” by Grat Wood, 1930) my memory of arriving at the Institute was of crossing a vast loading dock to get to the front door. Google shows that my recollection is not quite correct. The front door of the AIC is located 150m or one block away from the El. However, what the elevated guideway doesn’t put into shadow, the rest of the towers do. The door terminates the vista on Adam Street, but that urbanistic intention is blocked by the El.

    In Seattle

    The Monorail passes over the store that I go to for milk, juice, etc., when we bring the kids there. Day or night, the presence of the double guideway overhead—really a less obtrusive design because it has a gap in the middle—is unmistakable. Does it block the rain? Yes, but in our latitude, I think the more important consideration is that it blocks the sun.

    Thus, from a perspective of the human experience of place, or urbanism, I would argue that an elevated guideway is not an appropriate choice in places used by people.

    I saw a SNCF-TGV flying on pilotis across farm fields as I approached Grenoble along the freeway—pas de problem. But, if that train were to come into the urban footprint on stilts, the consequences for urban quality would be undeniable.

    Richard, voony, I think you guys are closest to understanding the other side of this issue, so point to the weaknesses in my presentation. My sense is that if “resulting urban quality” is brought into the discussion, the transportation options weigh differently.

    It’s probably not productive to look at the past, so let’s look ahead. The examples here would suggest to me that North Road Evergreen is a mistake. I am quite happy to accept that local people may have felt another way. I am most interested in the idea that perhaps we are experiencing a turn of the tide, of sorts, and that people may be willing to give up road capacity if they understand that it only comes into play during the rushes, when transit would provide better service by, what, ten-fold?

    PS

    Voony. Just spent the afternoon in our Olympic downtown and rode through Commercial Station twice. I really like the design (man those trains were coming one a minute). But, we clearly have two experiences (which you know): the experience of the transity user, and the experience of the person on the street not going on transit that particular day. We gotta get it right for both.

    Lewis N. Villegas

    February 18, 2010 at 11:22 pm

  49. “Sorry Voony, your math doesn’t add up; 50,000 pphpd certainly carries more than 200,000 a day…”

    It isn’t my math, it is fact I have compiled from wiki, (detail are in the french wiki, I have taken care to provided the English entry which link to the french one…)

    yes it is counter intuitive, and that is reason I have posted it, to show as some spec. provided without context doesn’t means that much…

    If one think “die hard Skytrain lobby” has corrupted the wiki, he can still “corret” the entry on the wiki.

    “BTW, both Seattle’s LRT and Toronto’s planned LRT are and will both grade separated, which propels them into the light metro category”

    To make sure that the reader knows what it is: here is the “light metro” of Toronto: http://www.toronto.ca/involved/projects/sheppard_east_lrt/

    Other counter intuitive idea, about density, as lewis as mentioned is to correlate building height an density, district like Strachnona or Arbutus can and achieve higher density than Lougheed one.

    But let see at the bigger picture:

    *If Vancouver was in the USA, it could be the second densest city after New York, neck in neck with San francisco.
    *If Metro Vancouver was in France, it could be the second densest metropolitean area after Paris.
    *Vancouver Downtown density is in the 20,000 people/sq km, That is the Paris density, one of the densest city in the world.
    for reference Manhattan density is 27000 people/sq km

    Vancouver city itself is less dense as big french cities like Lyons, but it is also ~3 time the size area (and if we compare similar area of densest neighborood, we could be surprised).

    So that is to give some reference to the density argument.

    So the problem of Vancouver could not be much that “most of Vancouver is very low density” but rather “how the density is organized in [metro]-Vancouver”.

    Should we follow a traditional pattern with degressive density starting from the center of the metropolis or rather use cluster of high density spreaded around or other scheme? What could be better for the livability of the area? What kind of transportation choice this involves?

    What kind of city we want: a vibrant center? a collection of urban village? both? what kind of transportation choice this involves?…

    if you think a vibrant center is important, you would like eventually read this post, http://www.humantransit.org/2010/02/driverless-rapid-transit-why-it-matters.html.

    Lewis, Regarding the “blight” provided by Viaduct: it is also a question of taste:
    Personally, I think the viaduct you mention at la Villette became so much part of the district DNA noone seems really notice it. It is may be a bit of the same for Chicago, the loop has became part of the City identity. that said, I could agree it could be better without.

    Regarding viaduct in urban environment: One will find interesting 2 preserved viaducts
    the Viaduct des arts at Paris (http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Viaduc_des_Arts )
    Though the line has been decommissioned a wide ago, people didn’t want to see the viadcut go away, so it has been restored.
    The high line one in New York, again here the line is decommissioned, but as show here (http://www.thehighline.org/design/high-line-design ) the tearing down of the viaduct doesn’t seem in the card.

    People has learn to live with their viaduct and surrounding architecture/urbanism to adapt and so the become integral part of the district.
    Note that the Villette viaduct you mention is a median vaiduct, probably the most intrusive implementation, while that the preserved one are either side street or in “alley” equivalent…

    Note also that The most celebrated landmark, in Paris has been for a longtime considered as such a “blight” ruining the value of the neighborhood….I obviously talk of the Eiffel tower, so sometimes history speak otherwise.

    Regarding History, I think that the report given by Malcolm is rather tendentious, and real history is probably different…but it is not that important.

    voony

    February 19, 2010 at 1:34 am

  50. Here is how they have made the viaducts work in the urban environment in London.

    Transforming Railway Viaducts in Central London
    http://www.crossriverpartnership.org/downloaddoc.asp?id=1002

    Richard

    February 19, 2010 at 1:58 pm

  51. “As fun as it is to have these type of high-level debates, they rarely result in any in sites that are useful in specific contexts.”

    This one’s too good to let just hang on the branch, Richard.

    It sounds like the “old paradigm” modernist planning, not planning based on “urban design”, or concrete facts that we can observe and measure. I myself remember quite clearly when I crossed that line—rejected modernist assumptions, so to speak—so I think that it is important to talk about “ideology”. As Canadians we hate the word I am thinking about—”theory”: ideas backed up by observation, measurement, and proof.

    The old paradigm was centred on the modernist idea of the “end of history”: there was nothing we could learn from the past. The new paradigm is influenced to a very high degree by digital information technology, where information not created today is essentially “knowledge gathered from the past”.

    Never mind what conclusions we may take away from the break neck pace of technological innovation. Even Google Earth didn’t work like it does today five years ago. We now have the ability to reconsider a data set vastly greater than we could ever handle before, and with far superior processing tools.

    Something’s gotta give from that!

    The high-level you reference is the theoretical level. It deals with facts or characteristics common to human-scaled places in the case of urban design theory. Places that work for people, but cars and transit can also operate. However, even if these principles are based on statements of observation and measurement, they are properly general statements, and the translation into the local context requires able and practiced hands.

    It also requires very skillful, open and transparent public consultation. The results speak for themselves.

    We are still blogging here today to urge that we consider urban design outcomes when making transportation choices (and vice versa). However, it is very clear that no such process was followed in the Evergreen or the Gateway project. Only today is the City of Vancouver planning the Cambie corridor, for example.

    Wouldn’t they have been better off to have four or five years of tax increment coming in from Cambie-sited TOD developments? Wouldn’t the Evergreen line be under construction if we had looked at outcomes in urbanism, and arrived at a consensus that the street oriented neighbourhood is the form of density that best fits an intensification approach to urban sprawl sites?

    So, in the final analysis, can we do worse than listen, and learn from each other?

    Which is what Frog is on about by raising the spectre of “political will”… I re-read his “rant” [i mean that respectfully], it’s very good.

    My best answer to that theme is to say that if we can just identify facts that we all feel strongly about, that we all can agree about, and keep track of the ones where we disagree, then we will be in consensus building mode. That is a political reality. In it is also a very strong position to hold.

    One hates to admit it, but when we turn to the nasty bits, the ones we don’t agree on, the best remedy may be (1) keep a sense of humour about it; and (2) try to learn from one another.

    Lewis N. Villegas

    February 19, 2010 at 11:35 pm

  52. Bad news… a small accident on the O-line last night. If were were to get the o-line permanent, we could invest in more ROW design and driver education to prevent this in the future.

    http://www.ctvbc.ctv.ca/servlet/an/local/CTVNews/20100220/bc_streetcar_100220/20100220?hub=BritishColumbia

    “A Bombardier streetcar collided with a Jeep in False Creek late Friday night.

    Vancouver police say the Jeep was in the right-hand turning lane of Moberly Street approaching 6th Avenue shortly after 11 p.m. when the crash occurred.

    The streetcar, one of Vancouver’s Olympic Line fleet, was carrying roughly 70 passengers. None were injured.

    The Jeep’s two occupants were also unharmed. “

    mezzanine

    February 20, 2010 at 9:56 am

  53. Mezzanine, to be sure, this kind of unfortunate accident are something to expect of streetcar / LRT.

    It is what I was referring under the generic term “reliability”.

    Sure, driver in Vancouver are not used to streetcar, and this one could have an higher rate of collison with general traffic in its first service months, but I invite you to examine the number of collision experimented by french tram network which has been around for 20 years or more in some case….:

    Nantes trams experiment a collision every other days
    (~180 collision per years)…and it is in line with other network of similar size…

    A collision can affect pretty sizable part of the network due to the trunk and branches pattern used…
    (one time two tram has collided between each other in Strasbourg virtually shutting down the all network !)
    (unfortunately also, fatality and injury rate are order of magnitude greater on trams/LRT than on “metro” type system).

    (You will note that when an injry happen on the Skytrain network, it makes newspaper headline, in Nantes, this happen basically once a week)

    http://www.presseocean.fr/actu/actu_detail_-Un-accident-de-tramway-en-moyenne-tous-les-deux-jours-_9182-717567_actu.Htm

    It is not say “trams” are bad, but eventually to say there is some limit to the “trams” choice for a city…

    and eventually this limit has been reach in some city like Karlsruhe, with their pretty innovating “tram-train concept” (see here for more: http://www.humantransit.org/2009/10/karlsruhe-the-tramtrains.html in french…)

    Eventually because “rapid reliable transit”, and “mixed traffic” are oxymoron, they are replacing their system by a “metro-train” one, so more similar to the Parisian RER than to the “trams” model. (see http://www.diekombiloesung.de/kombiloesung/aktuelles/news/Flyer_Fragen-Antworten.pdf in german, …but notice how they advise pedestrian streets free of streetcar ).

    BTW, currently CoV is looking for input on the principle guideline for the Boradway corridor:
    My input was on the safety which I believe is missing of their guideline…

    I would like develop more on the Lewis comment, will do later…

    voony

    February 20, 2010 at 1:12 pm

  54. That was not my point at all. I am definitely in favour of ” concrete facts that we can observe and measure”. Urbanism should be more about the human scale details that really define the success or failure of a space rather than high-level planning “principals” like surface transit is better than grade separated transit or the grid is always best. When one really looks at successful urban spaces, it is hard to find compelling proof supporting these types of principals.

    The problem is that people often are using selective examples from the past to support their positions rather than taking a compressive more scientific examination. As a result, this often results in the incorrect identification of what made an urban space successful or not.

    Richard

    February 20, 2010 at 1:27 pm

  55. ^interesting link voony.

    some highlights:
    -Nantes averages 1 accident every 2 wks. According to the article, nantes is the average amts of accidents in france.
    -although there are more collisions with the bus, it leads to less dramatic problems than a tram.
    -rapid bus has a slightly higher average commercial speed than the tram due to flexibility.
    “The system is extremely secure and also allows a commercial speed slightly above the tram”

    mezzanine

    February 20, 2010 at 3:13 pm

  56. “The problem is that people often are using selective examples from the past to support their positions rather than taking a compressive more scientific examination. As a result, this often results in the incorrect identification of what made an urban space successful or not.”

    You’re are right on the money here. If you look at Allan Jacobs “Great Streets” where he asks the question “what are the physical, designable characteristics of the best streets?”, he is doing what we are talking about. But, then the question comes up “is this just a personal choice, or a true scientific sampling”.

    We are misplacing the role of science with the second question, in my opinion. The scientific part is measuring human sense perception in public space (the first part of Jacob’s quest).

    Some examples: from our posting, the 5 minute walk and the 20 minute trip length (the latter just a suggestion we are still batting about). We could add 800m as the distance that we can perceive a human being as a distinct, moving form (about the size of a grain of rice). A third, voony you weigh in on this one, is given by Heggemann in his 1920′s “Civic Art”: the distance of the Louvre’s East Facade, seen from the center of the Ponte Neuf is 1100 feet or 335m, perhaps the furthest distance at which we can appreciate a building as a possible destination. You can stand outside of SFU downtown on Hastings and look towards Victory Square, about 350 meters away; and towards the Marine building 450m away: Which one looks more “achievable”?

    The central axis by Burnham for the Chicago Exposition was also 1100 feet. Finally, we might add the classical ratios for urban space as given by Vitruvius in the time of Augustus; repeated by Alberti and Palladio in the Renaissance centuries; and employed with the mastery of high-art by Michelangelo in the Campidoglio, Rome. The project was completed well after the master had passed away, yet it achieves a total effect that writers, artists and historians have consistently reported since the 17th century.

    There is a collection of data out there that when brought to bear, consistently returns quantifiable, predictable results. Modernism has offered no explanation for the value of turning away from this data-set. Yet, in its place it has given out urban sprawl and the automobile strip. Hardly a bargain.

    Thus, using the scientific method for the selection of the case study site, I would propose, is misplacing the intent of the discussion. We don’t want a representative group of sites. We want to use personal, idiosyncratic choice to point to the best ones possible. Yes, like with choosing fine wines or high quality coffee or tea, we want to rely on the opinion of experts, and then we want to taste for ourselves. If the the choices are informed by a lifetime of work, research and experimentation, we may get a better sample. But no matter, it is a community project in the end, and the crowd will let us know.

    It comes to understanding that urbanism is a normative science, and it draws equally from scientific research and from consensus shaped over centuries (we’ll leave out a discussion of typologies for the moment, another term that is not understood in current parlance).

    The reason why “examples from the past” are important is that, if we agree that urbanism is about the measuring and making “the human experience of place”, then the project of buidling the city for the walking experience of place came to a grounding halt about 1940 in North America.

    Walking in Vancouver’s pedestrianized streets proves the value of the experience. I also think it shows that we are missing key elements for the walking experience of this place. You know, like places to walk to.

    Leon Krier is fond of taunting his critics with a choix fatale: If you could keep only one set of buildings, which one would it be: (a) all the buildings built before 1940; or (b) all the buildings built after 1940.

    Even in our pioneeristic frontier I think the choice would be one fairly easily made.

    Lewis N. Villegas

    February 21, 2010 at 9:03 am

  57. Richard is right. A big problem is that many urban planners, architects etc. will visit a city on the fly then write a learned paper that is hardly based on reality. It isn’t really their fault as they can’t afford to spend lots of time in a city but their incorrect findings are then taken as THE truth and disseminated thanks to the internet.
    The Globe and architecture critic wrote, in a recent column about Vancouver, that Granville street looks great without trolley wires and is now a pedestrian street.
    Another example of misleading info is found in most guidebooks in English where elevated VAL transit systems and our SkyTrain are routinely called “monorails”.

    Trying to find accurate info about pedestrian streets around the world is nearly impossible. Even the info on Wikipedia is limited and years out of date, so how can people be aware of them?

    I KNOW for sure that the majority of towns in Europe and Japan have them but people over there are so used to them (many of these streets are 30-40 years old) that even the official tourist info of most cities don’t mention them. The thinking is likely “of course we have streets with cars and streets without! what’s the big deal! all town have them”
    To find out about the permanent pedestrian areas in the town of Bordeaux-France, and also about the once a month car-free area (bigger than the pedestrian one), one must search though a city-site for the locals, in French only..the rewards is that one gets a list of streets, along with maps..

    Regarding about incidents on the SkyTRAIN..this is a closely guarded secret. As a daily user I am pretty sure that when there is a long delay, with the PA talking about “a serious medical emergency” it means more often than not that they have to scrape the tracks clean…
    That problem could have been prevented from the start by installing the platform screen walls that most of the automated systems in the world have (The first couple of VAL systems built in Europe and Japan had them in the early 80s, before SkyTrain was built). Some towns–Paris for one–are slowly retrofitting their old metro lines with these screens (the automated line 14, the latest line built, had them from the start)

    Red frog

    February 21, 2010 at 1:33 pm

  58. Frog, you gotta chose your experts carefully. In the back of Allan B. Jacobs’s “Great Streets” you will find a table with pedestrian counts in streets he has visited.

    His count method is interesting. He stands in a place, counter in hand, and picks a meter of sidewalk in front of him. The he clicks once for every person that steps on it, and generates a persons-per metre-per hour or minute (I forget what time interval he uses).

    What are you interested in determining? The possibility of keeping some Olympic street closures permanently?

    Lewis N. Villegas

    February 21, 2010 at 2:26 pm

  59. Just some quick point to keep rolling the interesting discussion:

    “Leon Krier is fond of taunting his critics with a choix fatale: If you could keep only one set of buildings, which one would it be: (a) all the buildings built before 1940; or (b) all the buildings built after 1940.”

    Interesting view, but one could say it is an architecture view: the safety of the proven past (remember not working building of the past has probably disappeared and forgotten) versus the uncertainty of the today experiment

    recently at a SFU talk on the view cone policy, Brent Toderian was formulating the question differently by showing 2 more or less panoramic vista of Vancouver, one of the 50′s era and one of now.

    The audience response was unequivocally leaning toward the later…

    How you resolve this paradox?

    Purpose is not to make the trial of the urbanist and architect…but I have an anecdote to report:

    I have a niece doing currently some architecture study, and she did a study trip in Europe…

    They have seen “wonderful” public pedestrian space in Roma and other capitals like Covent Garden in London, or Montmartre in Paris…

    Not clear the reason why… I guess they enjoy also the place as tourists (like I do), and seems to forget the context:
    Didn’t they notice that the place they have visited are primarly filled by tourist and not “real citizen”

    apparently not really?

    Montmartre is certainly interesting because it gives a good idea of what the pre-Haussman Paris architecture and street grid was (Le Paris of the Victor Hugo’s Miserables was) but the thinking that “you can install a couple of busker on a nice pedestrian plaza at the top of a hill disconnected of everything, and people will crawl their way there just to enjoy” is eventually what they will retain…

    I see here in NA routinely recipe for pedestrian space failure in action, and the townshift proposals for Surrey are no exception…

    On the topic I have developed my though for Newton area here:
    http://voony.wordpress.com/2010/02/22/newton-new-town/

    I would like develop other more transit related aspect of the discussion but will do later

    BTW, Mezzanine,

    -it is one accident every 2 days (not every 2 weeks)

    voony

    February 22, 2010 at 1:54 am

  60. When Saturday Night Live started in the late seventies there was a segment entitled “The Cone Heads”. Yes, make-up was used to show a suburban family with bald heads shaped like cones. At about the same time, the city of Vancouver initiated the “View Cone” policy. Ever since, whenever someone mentions one, I think of the other.

    “View cones are for cone heads”.

    Montmatre, I was interested to discover was “designed” in the 17th century, more or less at the same time as the New Town of Versailles, and with equal skill. Montmatre is like the Vancouver streets are today, during the Olympics. Constantly experiencing crush loads. So, it is a wonder, and testament to its urbanism that it survives.

    This preoccupation with tourism is interesting. Leon Battista Alberti had friends in high places, and he lived and worked in Roma, then wrote the first treatise on art and architecture (including urbanism) since the time of ancient Rome. Palladio was not as fortunate, he travelled to Rome on several occasions to measure the ruins and interpret for himself the work of Vitruvius, the ancient Roman source. He too published a treatise on architecture and urbanism. However, he also published a guide to visit Rome.

    As we search for buildable examples, we pick up many bits of esoteric knowledge. Doesn’t discredit the research, does it?

    Alan Jacobs is fond of saying who much useful work can be done pleasurably sitting on a cafe sidewalk table. If you want to experience street oriented urbanism, you have to travel, and Europe is definitely on the itinerary. As you can afford longer stays, and car rentals, you get to see more of the country. But, guess what? The rest of the country looks a lot like the tourist areas.

    I’ve seen many local villages in France that resemble Montmatre. But what is more important for us to understand, I have seen many urban centers in Europe, in continuous habitation since the Romans because they still show the Castrum as their street plan.

    I’ll post the “numbers” that I think an urban design plan needs to know/incorporate for a transportation implementation next.

    Lewis N. Villegas

    February 22, 2010 at 9:14 am

  61. Lewis ask: “What are you interested in determining? The possibility of keeping some Olympic street closures permanently?”
    Yes of course. I have written letters on that subject for the many years I have been here .
    Why is it that so many towns in Europe, Australia, South America, Asia, the Middle East..etc. have pedestrian streets that are successful but we don’t want them here? “We” being the Downtown Business Improvement Association or whatever it is called. If it works in so many countries with different cultures, what are we waiting for?
    we don’t need numbers, only the will to do it.

    I MUST point out to Voony that Montmartre has been an overly touristy place since at least the late 1950s…and that most streets there still have cars.
    The biggest pedestrian area in Paris is the Les Halles-Beaubourg-Montorgeuil area and, while there are lots of tourists there, many Parisians actually live there too, something that become pretty obvious when you look at the buildings’ upper floors and at mail boxes by the entrance doors.
    There are pedestrian streets in other areas of Paris as well.

    I was raised in downtown Bordeaux, just off the main shopping street (already a major street in Roman times.)
    Since 1977 it is part of an ever-expanding network of pedestrian streets and squares. The building where we lived is still a condo, and many of the buildings in the pedestrian area have housing on the upper floors. Most of the shoppers are local, not tourists (I can tell by the very typical local accent of most people, not to mention the absence of cameras, maps and a slightly confused look).
    I have noticed the same thing in pedestrian areas in other European towns and in Japan (my #1 buddy is Japanese).

    At any rate tourists don’t care if a town has a pedestrian area or not. it is the locals that care.

    Tourism wasn’t born yesterday..Bordeaux is one of many European towns located on one of the many roads to Santiago de Compostela…some of the pilgrims came from Denmark, Germany, England etc.
    The reason that so many towns in Europe have a huge cathedral with relics from a saint is that they wanted to attract tourists (if you have read the Canterbury tales you know that praying at a shrine was only one of the many reasons for going on a pilgrimage. The fact that a pilgrim was having his/her expenses paid by his/her boss, co-workers, neighbours etc. was quite an incentive)
    The Japanese of old also went on trips around the country, ostensibly to pray in such and such shrine or temple, but also for the adventure and the discovery of one or several regions of the
    country.

    Red frog

    February 22, 2010 at 10:06 pm

  62. “If you want to experience street oriented urbanism, you have to travel, and Europe is definitely on the itinerary.”

    That is certainly true, and I was not questioning it.

    “As you can afford longer stays, and car rentals, you get to see more of the country. But, guess what? The rest of the country looks a lot like the tourist areas”

    “I’ve seen many local villages in France that resemble Montmatre”:

    yes, I understand what you means, but those village resembling to Montmartre are on a certain scale…what eventually work for a village doesn’t work that well for a city…
    and eventually it has been recognized by Haussman that the urban plan need to be different for Paris (it was not the main reason but it was one).

    You mention some other references which look interesting.

    And also
    “As you can afford longer stays, and car rentals, you get to see more of the country.”

    You can also afford to take train in Europe. You should have arrived to Grenoble by TGV (sure you couldn’t have commented on the viaduct;).

    In a older post you were mentioning the “Cambie corridor”. The point is that whether that thinking of “corridor” is OK for a local transit (frequent stop), it is not necessarily appropriate for a regional one…after all, when you are at Oakridge station: there is no more reason to develop density in the North-south direction (Cambie) that the East-West (41th)…

    Other station are anyway to far apart of each other (though Langara is quite in walkable distance of Oakridge), to develop a continuously homogeneous urban space only supported by a Canada line.

    It needs to be complimented by a local transit, the #15 and this 2 levels of transit (regional station / local feeder), involve eventually a different thinking of urban planning.

    In Richmond, it can be similar Westminster road can, and apparently is, part of a “corridor” centered on the Brighouse station”, where one could decently think of implementing there a streetcar at more or less long term (idem with more acuity for 41th).

    voony

    February 23, 2010 at 12:12 am

  63. 1. CANADIAN TRANSPORTATION NUMBERS

    Stephen Rees posted a shinning photo of the “Olympic Line” Tram. I thought that would be a good trigger to engage in a discussion about what it would meant to build street-oriented neighbourhoods, or what I call “quartiers”, with either the LRT pictured, or BRT running on dedicated lanes in the centre of one of our arterials, with signal activation in place.

    Now for an answer to that question: WHAT WOULD STREET-ORIENTED CANADIAN URBANISM LOOK LIKE?

    The lack of “numbers” used during this discussion is somewhat surprising. Opinions are fine, but let’s have some facts too. The most common references were: pphpd (4); ppd (6); headway (5).

    The numbers I have are:

    1. population (people per km2)
    2. built form (units per km2)

    From StatsCanada we can get some idea of the number of people per unit in a neighbourhood, and I use a “standard” unit size of 80m2 (in the final analysis we are measuring total built area).

    The kinds of numbers I need for Canadian transit are:

    3. ridership (people per hour per direction; people per day)
    4. catchments (radius from station; station spacing; line spacing)
    5. system length or reach (km & travel time)
    6. Seed (kph; stations per km)

    7. cost to build
    8. cost to operate
    9. revenue (annual)

    The systems we are comparing are:

    6. Trolley bus
    5. BRT (centre r.o.w.; signal activation)
    4. LRT (centre r.o.w.; signal activation)
    3. Light Metro (SkyTrain, elevated guideway)
    2. Metro (below grade)
    1. Commuter Rail (West Coast Express)

    I find it interesting that there is a heck of a lot of to-and-fro in our discussion, without these numbers having been posted. Wouldn’t looking at a table establish common ground and help us get to the critical facts that we don’t agree on?

    Voony, you proposed a measure of “transportation efficiency”. That sounds like a good idea. Can we make a “transportation index”? By identifying measurements on this list, or others, that we feel are critical, then scoring them for each system, we can arrive at a total “value” based on a common set of data?

    CANADIAN URBANISM

    Growth is the engine of change. The best way to deal with urban problems of all kinds is not to raise taxes, but rather to create new ones. In places that are experiencing protracted periods of growth, we can enhance the tax base (i.e. the tax increment).

    What does that look like? Well, it is both suburban sprawl, and urban intensification. We will consider the latter.

    A single house on a lot (the suburban phase of build out), yields densities between 6 and 12 units per acre. In this building type 18 units per acres is a practical maximum. However, we can re-develop one house lot at a time, and achieve 10-fold intensification to about 60 units per acre using zero-lot line, free-hold (one owner), human-scale (3.5 storeys to the street), ground-oriented buildings.

    If we measure density at the scale of the neighbourhood as a whole, or “quartier”, rather than on a lot-by-lot basis, we see something remarkable. It is possible to achieve equivalent densities to high rise neighbourhoods (such as False Creek North) with free hold, high density, human scale houses. To be sure, land values play a significant role, and the cost of one of these units will vary greatly depending on where it is being built.

    That’s where transit comes in.

    In addition to the land prices imposed by market conditions, there is the problem that ground oriented, high-density building types do not turn a back on the street. That is a seldom discussed feature about residential “quartiers”: the quality of the resulting urbanism. Not only are we talking about Jane Jacobs (1961) idea of “Eyes on the Street”, keeping policing costs down, but we are also talking about making a street urbanism where it is fun to go walking in the neighbourhood (remember downtown during the Olympics?)

    Yet, here we encounter a problem. Our streets, our arteries today, are clogged with traffic and poisoned by emissions. Rather than represent the “Public Realm” our main streets are horrible places on which to erect and front human-scale buildings. Who wants to open a window or a door on that? Better build high, and put as much distance between the “dirty, dangerous street” and our homes (same I fear applies to the confluence of tower and Skytrain).

    Thus, we have said that surface transit implementation should be accompanied by planting trees in double rows for the full length of the route. And, we have also spotlighted the role of transit implementation for taking cars off the street (10,000 vpd per lane, typical implementation occupies 2 lanes, or removes the equivalent of 20,000 vpd).

    My next post will describe the results we can achieve by doing transit planning and community planning together. Add only one or two more issues, and we are doing urban plans.

    Lewis N. Villegas

    February 23, 2010 at 11:24 am

  64. 3. THE CITY WE GET

    The “quartier” combines with Transit Oriented planning (TOD), to create the following conditions throughout the Fraser Valley:

    1. One vehicle families

    Where two people work, we can be fairly certain that at least one work place will be within transit reach. Savings of about $8,000 per year achieved by not having a second car. Those savings turned into mortgage payments amount to about $150,000. That is from half, to one third of the cost of the house, depending (always) on location and market conditions.

    2. A transportation network

    Families in TOD Quartiers walk to LRT or BRT, and travel to their regional centre in 20 minutes. There they can connect with regional transit, and travel downtown in 20 minutes. Access to a third regional centre would involve a second transfer and another 20 minute trip. 20 minutes or less gets you shopping; 40 minutes gets you downtown; 60 minutes gets you to a full array of other regional centres and work places.

    3. Bikes and automobiles add flexibility and enjoyment.

    Riding bikes inside the quartiers will be a very rewarding experience. The footprint of the “quartier” measures 120 acres or 0.5 km2. That is a postage-stamp size area for riding a bike.

    Automobiles will still remain a factor. It’s just easier to pack the family and go. However, Quartier-based vehicle co-ops may flourish. The Olympics have shown us that the most dramatic change to vehicular use stem from the personal decision not to take the car.

    The outcomes that will follow from transit implementation “add value”:

    1. Providing comparative advantage
    2. Providing convenience

    Both factors should combine to make TOD Quartiers hot sellers.

    Some of the consequences of this kind of urbanism will also be important (ranking is not by order of priority—all outcomes are in play at the same time):

    1. Densification
    2. Pedestrian streets (street oriented urbanism)
    3. Taking cars off the street
    4. Ecological repair

    One of the questions we have left to answer is: How many “quartiers” are required to support a single transit line implementation?

    We have used the Evergreen Line in this discussion to shed some light on that progress. A new transit line with population density at Coquitlam TC and Port Moody TC seems to be short on funds.

    The second question left to be answered is: Can transit pay for itself?

    As long as the answer is a clear “no” then we are left to ponder the benefits of subsidizing the enterprise. However, we have explored the example of Portland Metro, where both TIF and LIP financing strategies are employed to make the “experiment” work.

    Lewis N. Villegas

    February 23, 2010 at 10:58 pm

  65. Lewis,

    all the number you are asking can be probably found in the APTA literature (www.apta.com).
    on the point 7, as mentioned before I have gathered some information at http://voony.wordpress.com/2009/10/05/a-streetcar-named-16-million-desire/ you could find a significant deviation (like nowadays LRT cost from $40million/km to $100million/km) that illustrates the generalization doesn’t work that well.

    On the “transportation efficiency”, I don’t have an index, but it ca be expressed in economic term: it is called “multi criteria evaluation” (translink folk seems to call it “multi account evaluation”: )

    A consultant (Macquarie I believe) did one for the Canada Line, and probably it is a worthy reading to understand the intricacies of transit planning…

    In short you put a $ value on all benefits, and other externalities that the transport system under study has an impact on.

    You can consider 3 type of externalities:
    Economic, Social, and Environmental…

    Economic: value of time, reliability, tax base,…
    Social: value of health, life, opportunities access for “disadvantaged” population,…
    Environment: value of Green house gas…

    then there is the direct cost/benefit : operator has some operating cost…but it can find also some saving in bus service reorganization more or less important according to the considered transit features. At the end it has also revenue from fare/advertising…),

    All this is eventually dependent of the ridership, modal shift,…

    You do the sum of all positive contribution minus all the negative one including the annualized capital cost of proposed solution and see how it balances… and take the maximizing maximizing the equation.

    You have to add the “risk value” (what happen if ridership is x% above or below ridership: (if it is below we have less for the money, but if become too big, investment become quickly obsolete, and need to be replaced prematurely (waste of money)… (The Macquarie study I have read didn’t have a risk evaluation).

    In a second comment you mention: “we are left to ponder the benefits of subsidizing the enterprise”: I hope the previously listed externalities give an answer (it is basically the same “externality” which justify road development,…) and give also an idea of who should finance the investment…

    there is some externality you mention like the car ownership reduction usually not included in study.
    Well, not sure that save $8000 /year because if people don’t drive a car they will still need to move, and gonna spend in transit, taxi,…but it still left money to be spent/invested elsewhere:

    Does it has a better impact on the economy that car ownership?

    …in brief there is some externalities more or less difficult to quantify and per sei more or less debatable…

    voony

    February 24, 2010 at 12:42 am

  66. As LRT/road intersections are about 10 times safer than road/road intersections, planners designing LRT lines take into account the savings in emergency care, insurance, etc., when they look at the economic benefits of LRT.

    It was actually the jeep, ignoring signals, that came into collision with the tram and also remember earlier that evening three people were horribly burned to death in an auto accident on HWY 17.

    A more accurate comparison would be to compare the number of intersection accidents in Vancouver, with the number of collisions on the Olympic Line.

    The death rate on SkyTrain is 2 to 3 times higher than comparable LRT lines, but then that fact is quietly forgotten by those advocating SkyTrain and/or metro.

    The base cost for an on-street tram is $5 million to $6 million per km. (track & OHE); trams are $4 million to $6 million a copy (depending on size); station costs vary from a few hundred dollars to over $10 million (depending on size and location); then comes the real reason for high light-rail construction costs engineering (tunneling – about $100 million/km.); land acquisition and utility relocation.

    The problem in North America is that there is much over-engineering of LRT projects that they became unrecognizable from light metro, with Seattle being a good example.

    Our engineers and planners have morphed LRT into light-metro and it is high time we get LRT back onto the right track.

    Voony and Mezz can try as hard as they can to justify SkyTrain, but the debate between LRT and Light-Metro is long over; LRT won that debate and SkyTrain remains a transportation curiosity.

    zweisystem

    February 24, 2010 at 8:47 am

  67. Well, I have enjoyed mixing into the fray, and offering an “urban design perspective” as the common ground that may deliver on consensus. Thanks voony for the link, and sweisystem for the construction numbers.

    If we return to a “quartier” analysis, we can say of the Skytrain/Tram debate that SkyTrain, or Tram running on main trunk, would be an acceptable application on the edges of the “quartier”. Coming into the “quartier” footprint, from the perspective of the quality of the resulting urban space, elevated track is just not a good option.

    The second place where urban design can make a difference is here:

    “then comes the real reason for high light-rail construction costs … land acquisition and utility relocation.”

    Because we can argue from an urban design perspective that LRT or BRT down the center of the R.O.W. creates the best results for improving urban quality—what I mean here is making arterials “livable” or functional for residential zoning—then, urban design principles can help by delivering the R.O.W. for surface application.

    I am told by friends who participated in the EVERGREEN planning, that a full set of documents exists for LRT in the R.O.W. option. As a matter of fact, until some time in the recent past, the documents were posted for download.

    Thus, one is lead to believe that it may have been deficiencies in understanding the specific urban design principles involved that may have got “the right option” off the table.

    “Voony and Mezz can try as hard as they can to justify SkyTrain”

    I don’t get that sense from their postings. In fact, the discussion here feels very open-minded. Voony & Mezz, would you guys go for an “Olympic Tram on the Evergreen” if we did some urban design analysis for comparative results along the transit implementation routes of both elevated & surface?

    Lewis N. Villegas

    February 24, 2010 at 10:36 am

  68. LNV: the Evergreen LRT planning docs are here:

    http://www.llbc.leg.bc.ca/Public/PubDocs/bcdocs/408594/

    Planned cost = $970 million (2007)
    Length = 11.2 km
    Elevated guideway = 0.8 km
    Tunnel = 2.8 km
    Max capacity 4800/hr/direction

    I look at the objectives – the evergreen is part of the regional rail network at is planned to connect the tricities with the wider metro area, not for local service. To that end a local service tram may be best for urban design, but not provide time and capacity requirements for regional transit.

    As richard has mentioned before, guideway impacts can be lessened – the no 3 rd is a good example of this.

    And different perspective sometimes helps – this is acomment from Pantheon wrt choosing skytrain over LRT from Jarrett Walker’s series on transit and urbanism in vancouver:

    “In 2008, the B.C. government overruled a prior decision to make the Evergreen line LRT, and made it ALRT (Skytrain-like) instead. They explained that ALRT would result in higher construction costs, but significantly lower annual operating costs, higher frequency, signficantly shorter travel times and 2.5 times more ridership by 2021. The B.C. government’s goal is to double transit mode use by 2020, and they found that only ALRT technology was consistent with that goal….Why isn’t that kind of political commitment, foresight, and leadership shown south of the border?”

    http://www.humantransit.org/2010/02/driverless-rapid-transit-why-it-matters.html

    mezzanine

    February 24, 2010 at 10:56 am

  69. THE EVERGREEN LINE AT GRADE

    [From Mezz's link. My comments in square brackets].

    … at Lougheed Town Centre, the Evergreen Line features an elevated station, the line remains elevated, passing over Austin Avenue and heading north along the centre of North Road, touching down to street-level just south of Cochrane Street

    [Remember voony's comments that the El in Paris was problematic for being in the centre of the street. Lougheed Mall is not "street-oriented urbanism" so the decision to go elevated more or less matches the built form there. However, from Cameron north, the alignment is along well-established neighbourhoods where transit implementation can be part of intensification and revitalization. If we want to put it another way, of transitioning from a suburbanism to street-oriented urbanism].

    … street-level just south of Cochrane Street. A station will be located at Cameron Street [and the line continues]…

    street-level in a centre median with the next station located in front of the existing Burquitlam Plaza

    … the alignment crosses Como Lake Avenue and then enters a 2 km tunnel on Clarke Road near Morrison Avenue, emerging in Port Moody at the bottom of the hill

    … From the Port Moody tunnel portal, the Evergreen Line continues eastbound at street-level along the centre of St. Johns Street, with 4 stations

    [Note that both the location of the alignment—on St. John's, with residential on either side—and the number of stations (4) is urbanistically superior to what is being proposed.]

    … Line continues at street-level in a centre median along Barnet Highway with 2 stations

    [Guilford would be a better alignment from the point of view of serving a resident population. A Guilford route 2.7 km long, might generate (4) stations. The distance between Guilford and Lougheed Highway is 800m an seems counter-urbanist]

    … the line drops below grade, continuing to Coquitlam Exchange

    …. The Evergreen Line then continues under the Lougheed Highway/ Pinetree Way intersection, returning to street-level just south of Anson Road in the centre of Pinetree Way and terminates at Douglas College.

    [End of route description]

    What needs to be stressed is that the effect of taking back road space from the car, while delivering a viable transportation alternative, should be seen to have positive, regenerative effects on: North Road, Clarke Street at Burquitlam, St. John’s Street, and Lougheed Highway (although Guilford would be a better choice), and Pinetree Way.

    The resulting urbanism from this implementation, I think we all can agree, would be superior.

    The conflict appears to be with the goal to make this a regional line, rather than accept the need to transfer either at Lougheed Mall, or the West Coast Express at either Port Moody or Coquitlam Exchange.

    Lewis N. Villegas

    February 24, 2010 at 1:14 pm

  70. On the point 4 (line spacement…) You will find some interesting finding in the last Humantransit post:

    http://www.humantransit.org/2010/02/vancouver-the-almost-perfect-grid.html

    Interesting, it also mention in a comment the spatial organization of the city:
    http://www.humantransit.org/2009/07/how-paris-is-like-los-angeles.html

    It happens that the civic leader in our area have (wisely) in my opinion opted for the “Paris/LA” model rather than the “NYC” one, and eventually so far perform better…
    To make this model working for Transit, you need to have a “RER” equivalent for our area: it is our skytrain network, again I would like stress that in such model high density is not supposed to happen along the “rapid transit” alignment, but at “node” of the rapid transit network…

    Now, those node, need eventually to adopt an urban form signifying that they are more than a village, but have a regional significance…

    that is eventually the guiding idea for the Evergreen line…If you want have it as a regional node, you need to connect it soon or later to the “regional grid”…

    That is the growth management, macro level urban model apparently adopted by the Metro…

    Eventually, they don’t fray too much in the urban form detail that this regional node should adopt, it is where the thing become eventually weird in Vancouver.

    In the “multi criteria evaluation”, I didn’t mention “the quality of the urbanism”…Eventually one could find that good quality urbanism leads to less social problem, higher property tax,….so associate a $ value to this externality for a more complete evaluation of a transit system

    Nevertheless, there are some good reason to not do it: 1/ is lack of visibility on end result.

    As an example, people could and often states LRT provide better urbanism than “metro”: problem is that the US are littered with LRT failure on that account…even seldom successful North american LRT in term of ridership like the C-train in Calgary didn’t have impact at all on the urban form of the cities it serves, so one could reasonably argue as good urbanism is not necessarily an LRT externality.

    2/ It is something Translink, the agency ordering study, has no control on urban planning at all. They see a transit system thru the prism of a transit agency…they are not in charge to decide where growth should occurs…so it is a parameter they have no visibility, and even if so, the uncertainty of it, could be too high, to bring it into the equation,…

    Province thinks otherwise and eventually fray into the Urban growth form of Lower mainland, and given the LRT Evergreen number posted by Mezzanine, could have decided to prefer connect tricities to the “regional transit network grid”…

    That said, to give my opinion, from the surface level, it could be better to address existing transit capacity issue on Broadway first, because bringing additional ridership on an already saturated network make little sense… that said I don’t know too much the Evergreen case, but I have the feeling it is driven more by politics game than by rational economic…

    voony

    February 24, 2010 at 6:17 pm

  71. The fallacy of the node development scheme is that new development is never limited to the nodes and spills out into the surrounding area not serviced by stations. Unless the local government resists the lure of the tax dollars that come from loosened zoning node development almost always morphs into a ribbon following the path of the rails. Much of that ribbon is too far from the nodes to be effectively served by the trains.

    Witness the long strip between Royal Oak and Edmonds that is, by necessity, auto-oriented. Billions were spent on rapid transit and the net result is more cars on the road. I don’t think that’s a good use of public money.

    David

    February 24, 2010 at 10:25 pm

  72. Many years ago I was a SkyTrain fanboy like some of the people here. I read the very first study on Evergreen done by an independent engineering group. On the surface it seemed reasonable, but I never stopped thinking that something seemed fishy. Years later I finally figured out that the flaws weren’t in the body of the report at all, but in the initial assumptions and the phrasing of the poll questions.

    Then Evergreen LRT was proposed. The route didn’t make a lot of sense, but at least it looked like something we could afford to build and the technology would allow inexpensive extensions in the future.

    Then someone got the ear of the provincial government and convinced them that more SkyTrain was the answer. In order to sell it to the public a business case was produced. The only term I can think of for that particular document is propaganda so please keep it out of what has otherwise been a very stimulating and well mannered discussion.

    David

    February 24, 2010 at 11:16 pm

  73. We can use facts in many ways. I have suggested, and employed descriptions of place as a demonstration, that facts can be the basis for “building consensus”.

    Facts can also be used to drive an agenda, or create division in a community. Two examples at hand, where tower urbanism was rammed through Council with at least 50% opposing, are White Rock and Nanaimo.

    Voony, I don’t remember RER on an Elevated track, and we said that the places in Paris where there is elevated track are problematic. Alternatively, you suggest that people should “learn to like it” or “don’t really notice it”. Well, perhaps it is a function of one’s visual abilities, but I can stand at La Villette and imagine the Guideway gone, and trust me, the place becomes transformed (oh, I can also imagine the traffic pattern becoming much more simplified too).

    You are much closer to describing “concrete fact” in the following observation:

    “high density is not supposed to happen along the “rapid transit” alignment, but at “node” of the rapid transit network”
    This, I suggest, is a second reason in urban design to demerit the elevated guideway. It soon reminds us of a third [lianglaise etait un peu epaise] so I’ll provide the language:
    The TC designation along ALRT lines (Coquitlam, Port Moody, Metrotown, New West, etc.) has really come to mean “Tower Centre” not “Town Centre”. And it is soon clear that both the elevated SkyTrain and the tower-and-podium partake of the same paradigm: turn a back to the street. That paradigm, of course, is the old paradigm. Street space, or the public realm is the most economical way we have of constructing socially viable, or walkable communities.
    Which brings us to another fact that is proffered without proof:
    Eventually one could find that good quality urbanism leads to less social problem, higher property tax,….so associate a $ value to this externality
    The facts don’t agree with this point, and we do not have to leave Canada to prove it. One could look at Toronto’s Cabbagetown, as we have at CIP, and come away with the view that in fact “urban quality” means gentrification. However, if we move to Canada’s most important city of the 19th century, Monreal not Toronto, we see something completely different.
    In Montreal, the same building type, the free-hold, zero-lot house, is home to the full spectrum of social strata. There are some class-segregated, up market neighbourhoods like Mount Royal. But around places east, like Saint-Denis, mix not segregation seems to be the order of the day. Further, it is along these neighbourhoods that the Metro was implemented.
    I don’t know Calgary well enough. If among the failed systems of US LRT we were to count Houston, then the problem would be easily explained. Houston is an entirely auto dependent system with LRT thrown in downtown, in a ten-square-block area that is wholly lacking in a residential population. I suspect much the same conditions would prevail in the other US sites. Houston’s big story is the traffic gridlock that extended into 4 a.m. by one account, when they hosted Superbowl (compare to our Olympic experience of a reduction in vehicular traffic).

    The San Diego Trolley, a Max-like application, running since the 1980′s tells a different story. It’s route is the place where TOD was born. The Seattle, Washington charrette called “Pedestrian Pockets” relied heavily on the experiences of Peter Calthorpe in California. All TODs (transit oriented development) are not the same. One of the most recent, Rio Vista, really has some features we would rather not see. However, the transit function is well intertwined with the development pattern, and one can clearly see an influence from one to the other.
    I think your final points are closer to where we find ourselves now. Politics on the one hand, and the transit authority thinking like a transit authority, which is politics put another way. Both have to change.
    On Broadway, a surface LRT would have the advantages of
    1. Cost
    2. Shaping the urbanism
    3. Taking cars off the road, while providing a viable alternative.
    I don’t get the:
    “on Broadway first, because bringing additional ridership on an already saturated network make little sense”
    We agree, do we not, that LRT over BRT represents a 50% increase in ridership. Especially since BLine is on the curb lane and LRT would be in the centre?

    Lewis N. Villegas

    February 25, 2010 at 7:34 am

  74. David, I agree with you that “tower development” is really “high density sprawl”. Driving this building type is not the desire to build a higher-level urban unit (the neighbourhood or “quartier”) but to generate land lift profits.

    My favourite view of the Burnaby fiasco is driving north on the Alex Fraser Bridge. Metrotown, Royal Oak, Edmonds; Plop, plop, plop: Why are there towers there? The unfortunate result,is that it is auto-oriented development fails to deliver the promise of transit: taking cars off the road.

    The advantage of surface LRT is that it takes road away from cars, thus ensuring a reduction in vehicular space and consequently vehicular use.

    I hadn’t read the Evergreen Docs. Mezz saved me a lot of time with the link. Aside from the fact that we learned here that Guilford—and not Lougheed—was first considered for the surface rail implementation, I didn’t see a lot not to like about the Evergreen-on-the-Street option.

    However, I am prepared to accept failure in the building of the city. It seems it is ever thus. So, we should imagine Evergreen-on-the-Street, and a “Tower Centre” at Burquitlam, and another at the Coquitlam Exchange, etc. However, we should also imagine St. John’s Street, and maybe Guilford, transforming into true street-oriented urbanism. These things have their way of working themselves out. If not here, then somewhere else.

    However, David, I would be interested to know if you reacted to Stephen posting the picture of the Olympic Line the same way I did: as a cue to discuss surface vs. elevated LRT. In that discussion… hang on, I have to shift the arm lock I’ve put on voony… it seems that one of the key missing elements has been the ability to measure the quality of the resulting urbanism. If we had been able to discuss that meaningfully at these community consultation fora, then the outcome may have been very, very different.

    We have to dig into the past in order to imagine the future.

    Lewis N. Villegas

    February 25, 2010 at 8:25 am

  75. @ David:

    “I never stopped thinking that something seemed fishy. Years later I finally figured out that the flaws weren’t in the body of the report at all, but in the initial assumptions and the phrasing of the poll questions.”

    “Then Evergreen LRT was proposed. The route didn’t make a lot of sense”

    Those are fair arguments, what are the details? What assumptions did you find incorrect with the initial evergreen report? Why does the Evergreen LRT route not make sense? Lewis just gave a very detailed opinion on why he thinks the Evergreen LRT route is preferable on a neighbourhood-fit point-of-view.

    mezzanine

    February 25, 2010 at 8:26 am

  76. I’ve been trying to locate the TransLink documents that show LRT on the CPR corridor, but I can’t find them nor can I find that original engineering study comparing ALRT, LRT and DMU on the NW and SE corridors.

    All the documents I can find now talk about running trams down the middle of St. John’s Street, yet I know that wasn’t the original plan.

    I wrote someone at TransLink questioning why the tram wasn’t in the middle of the street where the rest of the world runs them and received a reply saying they couldn’t displace any vehicle traffic in Port Moody or anywhere else. I’ll look for that email in my archives, but it’s probably long gone.

    So the plan changed and I didn’t notice. I still think Guildford is a better choice than Barnet because the existing transit service is on that route and there are significant residential areas on both sides. Barnet, on the other hand, has no sidewalks and features two car dealers, an appliance wholesaler and a lumber yard. Yeah that’ll bring in pedestrians by the thousands ;)

    Of course car dealers can be re-located and the big empty space quickly converted to what Lewis calls tower oriented development. Given who funds the election campaigns in this province we must accept that a route offering such potential will always be the first choice.

    @Mezz

    What initially seemed so fishy were the projected costs and ridership figures, but I couldn’t put my finger on the reasons because all the math added up.

    After some research I learned that LRT had been built elsewhere for a small fraction of the projected costs. Being a SkyTrain fan I tried to find good justifications and settled on the cost of the tunnel and the maintenance facility.

    In retrospect I was just fooling myself. An LRT facility would likely be able to support significant future expansion whereas Edmonds may not have the capacity to support Evergreen after all.

    The ridership projections were another thing. Supposedly they came from public consultations in the Tri-cities area so it was hard to argue with them, but they just didn’t seem logical. More stations in more convenient locations should generate more passengers not fewer.

    The traditional defence of such figures is that people are attracted to “faster” and a grade separated system with higher operating speeds and fewer stations is “faster”. I can’t think of anyone who would prefer a 25 minute ride from Coquitlam Centre to Lougheed over a 15 minute one, but nobody lives at the mall. Every potential passenger has to make his/her way to a station. Putting stations in parking lots, railway cuts and the middle of multi-lane highways virtually guarantees all your passengers will need to drive or take a bus to reach the station and to get back home again. That increases the complexity of the trip and greatly increases travel time. This time cannot be easily estimated, even in aggregate, so it’s usually ignored. Thus ALRT looks faster than it really is. Add the fact that a sizeable majority of suburbanites wouldn’t be caught dead on a bus and you’ve got a recipe for empty SkyTrain cars and big property tax increases.

    I recognize that getting people onto transit in Coquitlam is a huge challenge, especially north of Barnet. Most of the people live up on Eagle Ridge or Westwood where winding streets and steep slopes make driving the only practical option. Even in the valley where walking is possible the street system is focused on preventing through traffic on all but a handful of arterials. While that makes for quiet streets it seriously deters walking anywhere. It’s almost always easier to get in the car even to go a few blocks and once you’re in the car you’re unlikely to get out and switch to any form of transit.

    David

    February 25, 2010 at 2:09 pm

  77. I think the comment about Broadway that Lewis is struggling with can be explained as follows.

    Building Evergreen would potentially dump thousands of additional passengers onto a B-Line that cannot handle current demand. Thus Broadway needs a capacity increase before Evergreen opens.

    It could be done too. In Europe they build tram line segments in a matter of weeks. If we did the same thing here the line from Commercial to UBC could be completed in under two years.

    I also envision a second line from VCC Clark to Main Street, along the proposed Downtown Streetcar route to Granville Island and then along 4th Avenue to UBC. Such a route would have huge future potential since it could be connected to the BNSF main line and thus reach such destinations as Port Coquitlam, Maple Ridge, Mission, Surrey, Langley, Abbotsford and Chilliwack at relatively low cost.

    Both Broadway and 4th Avenue lines could be built for under $1 billion and the rail yard between VCC-Clark and Main Street is the most logical place for the vehicle storage and maintenance facility.

    David

    February 25, 2010 at 2:52 pm

  78. I didn’t think I’d come back to this blog after being insulted by an overly cavalier comment about “unsuferably smug” Vancouver residents a couple years ago.

    But here I am, largely due to the much improved quality of debate. It’s nice to read comments by Lewis, Mezzanine, Voony and others here as well as in a couple of other notable blogs. As far as I know, only Voony has his / her own blog. I still think Lewis should write a book on urban design.

    The Broadway corridor debate is not new here as any review of past posts will testify, and my following points have been made more than once before. I feel they need to be made again at this juncture.

    There are 38 intersections on Broadway from Main Street to Alma Street, eight are major arterials, and 30 are secondary cross streets. Over 90% are signalized. There is no other heavily used arterial with such a high density of crossing points (primarily used by pedestrians) in Western Canada. It is very unique.

    In the Central Broadway corridor (Main to Arbutus), ALL 23 cross streets are signalized. Every last one of them. The intersections are 120m – 170m apart. The secondary cross street signals are activated primarily by a remarkably high number of pedestrians and bicyclists, and commercial / service vehicles regularly take advantage of them too.

    A look at Vancouver’s Greenways and bicycle maps confirms that they cross Broadway at several fairly evenly-spaced points across half the city.

    Given that there will likely be six stations on Central Broadway with any rail transit option (Main, Cambie, Oak, Granville, Burrard, Arbutus), and possibly a 7th at Willow to serve the busy hospital district, the remaining 16 currently well-used signailzed crossing points are placed in the dark.

    What is the fate of the crossings with surface light rail?

    Surface rail will likely (i) run in either a dedicated fenced median, or (ii) run in the traffic possibly one lane out from the curb.

    In (i), all signalized secondary crossing points are severed across half the city. How are Vancouver’s Greenway and bicycle intiatives not tossed into the bin with this option?

    In (ii), how are streetcars stuck in traffic different than the existing B-Line bus? Why spend quadruple the cost of the B-Line to merely replicate — or barely imnprove — its service? This is an important point made in Jarrett Walker’s blog, and I contend that Broadway would make an excellent case study on this folly should (ii) win the day.

    I have lived within one block and one kilometre of Broadway for 30 years, and I had direct experience with Vancouver’s unfortunate and pathetic bus service from Main Street to UBC in the 80s. I am also fully aware of the external benefits of streetcars, like their ability to stimulate appropriate forms of urbanism. But Broadway is special, and a huge portion of the current and rising ridership consists of transit commuters to UBC who would not benefit in any way from a milk run.

    Then there is the issue of surface rail safety. I have received some very interesting responses whenever I brought this up in the past. With such a high density of crossings, the potential for tragedy is higher on Broadway than almost any other arterial where light rail would be feasible in the region.

    Calgary’s C-Train killed almost two dozen people at crossings in the 10-year period 1990-99. The one accident I am very familiar with involved a malfunctioning signal, a supremely poor response to fix it, and blizzard conditions at a pedestrian crossing. The payout by Calgary transit to my cousin’s family was in the mid 6 figures. C-Train has probably hit the three dozen deaths mark by now.

    The responses to my bringing up this accident included a blowhard reply that SkyTrain has killed more people than Calgary’s C-Train system. What the commentor neglected to mention was that he callously included suicides and operations accidents. Calgary’s system had 6 suicides during the 90s, but I purposely omitted them alsong with the deaths during maintenance and operations functions to focus on preventable accidents at rail crossings. SkyTrain, by comparison, may have had more suicides and maintenance deaths, but not one person has died at crossings because there are none.

    I have yet to see an adequate reply to these issues by light rail afficianados.

    Lastly, the above concerns exist primarily about Broadway, which has led me to write to the “UBC Line” planners to state my case for a full extension of the Millennium Line in a subway to UBC, but implemented much better than the flawed Canada Line project (twin bored tunnels, 100m platforms, covering the station box excavations with a steel roof during construction, compensation for neighbouring businesses, major urban design remake of Broadway ….).

    Having said that, I would love to see modern light rail in the hundreds of kilometres south of the Fraser and eleswhere, and about 1,500 more buses, preferably trolleys or hybrids. And also a major increase in our bike trail netowrk and a policiy to convert streets for exclusive use by pedestrians in all of our “town centres”

    In other words, our transit response to the region should never be from a one-note song. It must be a symphony.

    MB

    February 25, 2010 at 6:04 pm

  79. Lewis, I didn’t mention the “RER” example to support Elevated track (thought it has some elevated section here and there, and more noticeably on the western edge of the “Defense”), but to draw a “network” functionality parallel.
    Both Paris “RER” and Skytrain, provide a regional “grid” (Hong Kong MTR does that too).

    You seems to draw a parallel between “skytrain” and “tower center”, but Bellevue near Seattle is also a forest of Tower, and there is no “Skytrain” here, not even an LRT yet, Long Beach (LA county) is also a forest of tower, and there is an LRT here (but no Skytrain)….
    And as you mention, the Montreal subway didn’t transform the urban shape of its already established neighborhood.

    Glad you mention the San Diego LRT:
    I have noticed a fair taste of “vancouverism” in the most interesting part of San Diego.
    City life revolve around a Central Mall, and the most interesting street is probably Market street…their LRT evolves in some more peripheral, and let say, dull area of the downtown, and as soon as you take a ride, let’s say toward Tijuana, the LRT stations looks not much more different than a shuttle stop lost in the middle of an airport parking lot…
    So I have some difficulty to fathom all the hip about San diego’s “TOD” where LRT ridership is far to be stellar (considering how extensive is their system).

    May be I didn’t ride the right line, and could be happy to be pointed good San Diego TOD example.

    Iit is interesting to know that Rio Vista ( http://www.promenadeliving.com/homeset.html ) is touted as a “TOD” (but good to listen it is a poor example)
    for the reader, how it looks from Google map:
    http://maps.google.ca/maps?hl=en&source=hp&q=Rio+Vista+station+san+diego&ie=UTF8&hq=&hnear=Rio+Vista+Station&ll=32.774556,-117.141337&spn=0.010482,0.012982&t=h&z=16&iwloc=A

    You will see that the LRT station looks almost “privatized” for the use of the “TOD” residents, and if a bus had the bad idea to connect to it, it needs to make a detour (anyway, you can see there is no room for a bus to stop here!).

    But what is the difference with this development in Irvine (http://www.rental-living.com/Communities/The-Village-at-Irvine-Spectrum-Center/)?

    http://maps.google.ca/maps?f=q&source=s_q&hl=en&geocode=&q=Village+at+irvine+spectrum&sll=33.67064,-117.675247&sspn=0.317727,0.415421&ie=UTF8&hq=Village+at&hnear=Spectrum,+Irvine,+CA+92618,+USA&t=h&z=16

    Basically none, it is a development template typical of South California, it just happens that in the Rio Vista case, the LRT is passing in the back of the development, so they call it a “TOD”!

    We don’t have too much development built on this model in Vancouver, thought as I think http://www.polyhomes.com has some Richmond Development like Lions Park, Meridian Gates bearing some similarities in the building form.

    and still San Diego is considered as a model in US, because worse is existing (San Jose even if it is better lately, Sacramento, Denver, Buffalo, you name it…)

    A good example of TOD: Richmond Brighouse,…yes I know it is not a “master planned community”, but it has almost all it right: right mix of shopping/office/residential with right spatial organization:
    transit user doesn’t need to go in a dead end alley, as beautiful it can be, but arrive right on the arterial street (N3 road) which has an urban feeling (looking North, but south will follow…) and where life is…he doesn’t need to go to a depressing bus loop where nothing happens (what Translink is specialist of), but wait the bus just there where he can see life and does the daily shopping he needs before heading home…yes I know it is not per design (Translink was wanting to knock down a building to install an hidden sterilized bus loop of its own “dull” flavor), but it works well…

    You mention:

    On Broadway, a surface LRT would have the advantages of
    1. Cost
    2. Shaping the urbanism
    3. Taking cars off the road, while providing a viable alternative.”

    1. I could ask: cost of what?
    if you mention capital cost, it is more expensive that a bus, so if you read me, you want do a multi criteria analysis for it, which eventually measure the impact of suppressing traffic lane (not that Broadway has HOV in rush hour, and what could be suppressed is mostly street parking).

    2. Is not Broadway already built, and urbanism pretty much frozen here, what a LRT could change?

    “We agree, do we not, that LRT over BRT represents a 50% increase in ridership. Especially since BLine is on the curb lane and LRT would be in the centre?”

    for the sake of the discussion, let’s assume this hypothesis, then I invite you to consult http://vancouver.ca/ctyclerk/cclerk/20100119/documents/ttra4.pdf which is the city guideline for the Broadway corridor, stating among other that


    Key Considerations:
    • Ensure transit capacity is resilient to support transportation targets as demand increases
    over time:
    o Double provincial transit ridership by 2020 (Province, 2008);
    o Achieve 50% non-auto mode share in the region by 2040 (TransLink, 2008); and
    o Achieve a corridor transit mode share of at least 25% (24 hours) and 38% (peak
    periods) by 2021 (City, 1997);
    • Ensure that initial implementation and ultimate capacity of the system includes
    expansion plans to meet medium term (20 years) demand and the long term (50 years)
    demand for the corridor;”

    In this 2 Olympic weeks, we have seen a reduction of auto traffic of 30% in Downtown…and get a taste of how much stress that means on the transit system…

    so maybe 50% extra capacity could be a lack of foresight for Broadway…especially if some expect growth to be concentrated in its eastern confines.

    ..but the more important question is not necessarily the capacity of the system but the attractiveness of it, which is key to achieve the above mentioned goal.

    So, you twist my arm, I don’t feel the pain ;)

    voony

    February 25, 2010 at 11:22 pm

  80. Good points as usual, Voony. David is right, it never would have occurred to me to think that by building Evergreen we would be adding load to the B-Lines.

    6. NOT TURNING A BACK ON THE STREET

    1. We can link towers and raised guideways from the perspective of urban design: both “Turn a Back on the Street”.

    Both result in a poor quality public space. That means reduced personal safety, impacted property values, increases in vandalism and need for policing. We may find that pedestrians are put at greater risk, and we know that rent turnover increases with vehicular volume (vpd).

    The street oriented urbanism puts an end to all that by a very simple concept. The street is treated as “human space” not just “automobile space”.

    Good things result. Doors to units open onto the sidewalk. Windows open to the sidewalk. People walking in the sidewalk get a bonus—you can look inside. But, as Jane Jacobs pointed out in 1961 the “eyes on the street” make the neighbourhood safe. Montreal is a perfect example of that, as is Cabbagetown, at a different price point.

    2. The preferred mode of urbanism in North America is the six lane street (60,00 vpd).

    One of the things that I do not think work in Rio Vista, San Diego Trolley TOD, is that it is a domain turned into itself (one developer, by the way). Just outside its gate is a 6 lane street separating Rio Visa from the Safeway and the K-Mart.

    The second thing that is wrong at Rio Vista, is that the ravine that runs parallel to the track is not crossed by a ped/bicycle bridge, so non-automobile traffic is forced to go around the long way. There is more, but it gets into assessing building types.

    Back to the 6 lane street: vehicular volume and speed are problematic for fronting residential. This point has been missed by city design professionals in our region since at least 1970 with the opening of the Knight Street Bridge. Look at single family residential fronting Knight between say 49th and Marine, and you get a good feel for the problem of the 6 lane street. The neighbourhood was driven “down market” and the only solution proffered by the planners is the monstrosity at Knight & Kingsway, on the old Safeway site (look at the buildings fronting this project on all sides to gauge what this “urbanism” got wrong).

    3. Putting LRT on an elevated track would not help improve the 6 lane street problem.

    However, we have ripped the lid off on something very different here in this blog—beneath a the color pic of the shining new Luxembourg LRT.

    4. On a 99-foot R.O.W. (Broadway, Hastings, …4th Avenue is 80 ft R.O.W.) we can build LRT on the street, and still keep four lanes. Off peak that means one curb side parking lane, and one moving lane.

    5. What I hope demonstrations like the B-Line and the Olympic Tram have enabled is for local residents to look at the trade-off between surface LRT and vehicular capacity in a way that was not possible until today.

    This is the good news: The capacity that we are taking off the road with street LRT is only needed at rush hour.

    If you consider St. John’s Street, Port Moody, the time of day when it presents a threat to human life is at night, when the road is empty and many times too big for the volume of traffic using it. It is a natural reaction of drivers to speed up when their way is unencumbered. The low level of urbanization ensures that the lighting levels on St. John remain low at night, compounding the neighbourhood safety issues.

    Enter the LRT. We take away road space at all hours of the day—including when it is dangerous—and we increase carrying capacity when it is needed—at peak time—with a system that actually delivers 10x more trips (100,000 trips per day? If 2,000 pphpd then lower than that).

    The design of the R.O.W. is important since we want both street revitalization and neighbourhood intensification. We want a street that is “soft” enough to front it with high-density, human-scale buildings that put doors on the street.

    Using LRT to introduce a double row of street trees, in medians that act as “islands of safety”, is important. It is also important to note that noise levels, carbon monoxides, and tire-wear pollution all move in the right direction with street LRT.

    We can achieve comparable densities to podium and towers with the doors-on-the-street, zero-lot buildings, 3.5 storeys to the street, fee-simple ownership (no strata fees, but rental basements providing affordable, flexible housing). We also achieve a better result in urban quality.

    6. Once you pop the top on how these concepts interlink, how urban design and transportation decisions interact, David’s post from yesterday shows what we can achieve in a relatively short period of time, with less dollars.

    Does anyone have the amount of $$$ currently dedicated to Evergreen? It would be interesting to put that total vs. the costs of the surface implementation vs. elevated guideway.

    7. However, David trips on some issues raised earlier: removing B-Line and adding Tram/LRT. The numbers are all over the place, but it seems possible to say:

    7(a) The middle of the R.O.W. implementation with activated signals (the preferred choice from the urban design perspective) delivers additional capacity, as much as 50% more.

    Voony’s willing to go along with that (apparently neither of us can wrestle, ’cause our metaphors are all over the place on that sport).

    -1- On cost, I would think its a comparison with cut-and-cover (oh, I can hear the laughter now, not 10 years ago); or elevated guideway.

    -2- “Is not Broadway already built, and urbanism pretty much frozen here, what a LRT could change?”

    The urbanism is very much not frozen, if you look at it carefully. There is room for both street revitalization (my mom can’t cross the street on the duration of the light cycle, and she’s trying to get to her physio therapist, which adds a bit of black humour to it). And there is room for residential intensification, in places, within the “catchment area” or “quartier footprint” of any LRT stop.

    -3- “maybe 50% extra capacity could be a lack of foresight for Broadway…especially if some expect growth to be concentrated in its eastern confines.”

    David’s idea is that you run LRT on Broadway and 4th Avenue. Broadways is 9th Avenue, so the spacing is starting to become clear. Additional east-west lines would develop to the south.

    7(b) “..but the more important question is not necessarily the capacity of the system but the attractiveness of it, which is key to achieve the above mentioned goal.” [voony]

    Elevated guideways on Broadway would be an eye sore. Here, they would block mountain views. The surface implementation we would associate with street-oriented urbanism (I offer more on that vis-a-vis Broadway in reply to MBs comments, below).

    8. Thus, in the final analysis, I think we can associate Elevated LRT with tower-and-podium urbanism. Certainly, both forms have what we might term a “low regard” for the quality of the resulting urbanism (i.e. the “sense of place”). I refer to this as “Turning a Back on the Street”, a term that is equally applicable to attitudes I see reflected in architecture, community planning, and transportation engineering.

    There is an entire paradigm built around “Turning a Back on the Street”, and it is time to shift that paradigm. What I find most refreshing about this discussion is that by considering the resulting urban quality, and the transit design together, we seem to be able to get to the critical facts better, and faster.

    Thus, because we seem to agree that surface-LRT can be designed to bring both street revitalization and neighbourhood intensification, we can link this type of implementation with street-oriented urbanism.

    Street-oriented urbanism, ultimately, delivers the highest urban quality. This is a contest we can win. One of the strangest places to measure that result is in the quality of social interactions on the street… You know, when strangers say “hi” instead of leering at you with suspicion.

    7. ON BROADWAY

    I do have some points to offer MB, and Voony, on what I perceive to be the “urban quality” on Broadway. Since you live near there MB try an experiment.

    With the sun at your back (in the afternoon) stand near the BowMac sign and look towards the Lee Building on Main Street.

    Marvel, first of all, at the fact that you can see it. The distance is 1.33 miles (2.14 km). Next, look at the shape of the ground plane, the lay of the land… its concave.

    There is another street that measures 1.33 miles, and is concave along the long axis, that comes to mind. It has been the focus of urban design obsession, I think we can say, since the Renaissance century in Paris: the Champs Elysees (1.33 miles from L’Arc du Triumph to Place de la Concorde obelisk).

    I submit to you that if we do “good” urbanism on Broadway, as David proposes, we could build Vancouver’s “Green Mile”: a leading-edge demonstration of how “good” urbanism builds from achieving consensus—from a series, or sequence, of well wrought decisions backed up by measurable facts.

    Lewis N. Villegas

    February 26, 2010 at 10:55 am

  81. David: “I also envision a second line from VCC Clark to Main Street, along the proposed Downtown Streetcar route to Granville Island and then along 4th Avenue to UBC. Such a route would have huge future potential since it could be connected to the BNSF main line and thus reach such destinations as Port Coquitlam, Maple Ridge, Mission, Surrey, Langley, Abbotsford and Chilliwack at relatively low cost.”

    Voony: ” I didn’t mention the “RER” example to support Elevated track … but to draw a “network” functionality parallel.
    Both Paris “RER” and Skytrain, provide a regional “grid” (Hong Kong MTR does that too).”

    Are we talking about extending the regional grid on BNSF?

    Lewis N. Villegas

    February 26, 2010 at 11:13 am

  82. Here’s another experiment Lewis. Place my mother at the Bow Mac sign (between Spruce and Alder on Broadway) and ask her to cross the street to her doctor’s office with a dedicated light rail line running down the middle of the road.

    BTW, my mother is in a wheelchair.

    This is what I call the Octogenarian Grandmother Test, and it should be applied to all transit design (and for that matter, all street design) in the city. Accessibility should be inherent in the design, not an afterthought, especially in an area with a high concentration of seniors and medical facilities.

    Test conclusion: Mom will have to travel a half kilometre (1.5 blocks to the Oak crosswalk + 1.5 blocks back) just to cross Broadway. She’ll be hooped in anything but receiving assistance in ideal weather conditions.

    MB

    February 26, 2010 at 3:10 pm

  83. OGT (Octogenarian Grandmother Test): I’m on.

    Worst case first. Let’s assume there is a station at the center of the R.O.W. at the BowMac sign. She crosses 2 lanes of traffic and one LRT lane (30′ or 9m). The pedestrian light has stopped the Tram. Then she is in a 15′ or 5m center island with trees. She can wait for the next light cycle in safety there. 30′/9m are crossed to the sidewalk on the other side.

    At a corner without a Tram Stop, she crosses 2 lanes of traffic 22′/6.75m and has a 5′/1.5m “island of safety” to stop and see what the trams are doing. If the pedestrian light is green, the trams are stopped and she can cross the 17′/5.2m double track to a second 5-foot median. There she can wait for a second light cycle if necessary to cross two lanes of traffic.

    Off-peak, the two lanes of traffic scale down to one lane parking, one lane movement. However, at the corners, the right turns will complicate the pedestrian movements, and it will be two lanes of movement pretty much the whole day long.

    However, if we are going to build the “Green Mile” we really want to introduce pedestrian crossing at distances less than the intersections are 120m – 170m spacings you report. A more pedestrian-friendly spacing would be closer to say, downtown Portland, 250′/75m.

    That means mid-block crossings where there would be no right turn movements. And redevelopments with thru-block links at mid-block. In turn, that means we need an urban design plan to coordinate all of these critical measurements.

    Lewis N. Villegas

    February 26, 2010 at 3:26 pm

  84. Yes Lewis I’m talking about tram-train services from the Fraser Valley all the way to Vancouver.

    South of the river the SRY occupies the old interurban line and is the first choice to link proposed tram systems in Surrey, Langley and Abbotsford. But the SRY stops in New Westminster making through services to Burnaby and Vancouver impossible unless another north of Fraser right of way is employed. And through service, ideally with food service and washrooms, is what is needed to get people out of their cars.

    Any Broadway LRT will need a vehicle storage and maintenance facility and the rail yards east of Main are the obvious choice. The City of Vancouver plans to put their Downtown Streetcar facility there once the currently envisioned routes are fully built.

    The 4th Avenue route isn’t actually needed right away because rail will have to be laid to connect the maintenance facility with Broadway and that will allow trams from Langley, for example, to run all the way to UBC. The 4th Avenue line is simply an example of long term planning. It’s a relatively easy and low cost solution to high demand on Broadway that gives regional trams a second option for connecting with the Canada Line and UBC.

    I firmly believe that discussions of Evergreen or Commercial to UBC that do not include future network links are a waste of time and money. The fact that nobody in a position of power seems to notice that Evergreen is an inefficient way to get to Surrey is proof that there’s a shortage of long term vision in this province.

    David

    February 26, 2010 at 3:47 pm

  85. I think Lewis wins the OGT. His mom can’t cross Broadway (or any other 6-lane street) today because she can’t negotiate two curbs and 6 lanes of traffic in the time allocated by the city. With LRT down the middle both she and MB’s grandma would not only get across, they’d have a safe place to rest along the way.

    David

    February 26, 2010 at 4:00 pm

  86. @David, I’m not so sure it is safe to rest in a median with LRT tracks when trains would be coming at an average of every 1.5 minutes. Watch out granny!

    Richard

    February 26, 2010 at 5:09 pm

  87. MB brought some interesting points:
    On the issue of traffic light, it is one I am planning to address more deeply on my blog…
    but in short
    there is an incompatibility with signal protected corridor and high frequency: you need sometimes to give way to crossing traffic, and there is a minimal value a traffic cycle can have…
    It happen that most of the Vancouver radial bus line are crossing Broadway. giving priority on the Broadway route is detrimental to the crossing ones, and that has an eventually negative impact on the overall efficiency of the transit system (in brief by accelerating movement on Broadway, you eventually slowdown more bus with more people on crossing arteries).

    For the crossing of large avenue, I agree it is not pedestrian friendly but I don’t think you need a LRT to implement the island concept.

    MB, mention also fatality due to suicide…just a couple of words here:
    Are people saying “Eh, a Skytrain! let’s commit suicide!” or “Let’s commit suicide! Why not use the skytrain?”

    In other term, the question should be is Skytrain increasing the suicide rate? if not, it is not an Skytrain externality (the skytrain is not responsible of the suicide action). Suicide probably has an impact on the reliability of the system, and should be count as such but not more. That is exactly the same for bridge, bridge kill noone, but lot of people kill themselves from bridge…

    Lewis, on the Luxembourg LRT project, I think you refer to its implementation along “Bd de la Liberte”…a current 5-6 lanes single direction boulevard which could be transformed in a LRT corridor + 2 traffic lanes both way and street parking:
    This boulevard seems pretty short, shorter than the 1.33 miles you mention.

    I don’t know Luxembourg too much, but I know that Strasbourg I used the tram to reshape the traffic pattern:
    before it, it was major thoroughfare crossing thru the city, now there is none, you can not go by car from one end of the city to the other thru the center, you need to use peripheral ring road: I guess it could be the scheme also adopted by Luxembourg. So what they essentially did is cutting the “thru” traffic and reshaping the road for “local service”

    That is eventually the weak point of the comparison
    What you seems suggesting is a “local service” road with one lane/direction in normal usage.
    So doing, you shift the purpose of Broadway from its major thoroughfare role.

    But Broadway is way longer, sure not anyone need to travel by car, but eventually people and business need efficient goods delivery…

    That said, I agree with the fact that road space is invitation to speed.

    Your parallel of Broadway with “Champs Elysee” is interesting, but I must admit not that obvious. It seems more obvious on Main North of Broadway: the concave slope is here between 2nde avenue and Broadway. Distance between Sea and Broadway is 1.33 miles: Marvel isn’it ;).

    and more, Champs Elysee has its length bounded by 2 grand cenotaph, the section of Broadway you mention is barely bounded by natural or man made feature. Main is bounded south by Broadway, or the more noticeable Main/Kingsway Junction. and North by the sea: we don’t have the “arc of Triumph” but we have the mountain vista.

    Couldn’t it be a prime location for a ““Green Mile” which goal could be also more directly social in this part of the city?

    By the way the 1.33 mile is interesting because it means a 30mn walk, time I was mentioning above which a trip become a serious matter.

    To finish on Broadway, I don’t think anyone think seriously of a viaduct there…but of a tunnel, probably some…

    On another topic, you mention:
    “We can achieve comparable densities to podium and towers with the doors-on-the-street, zero-lot buildings, 3.5 storeys to the street, fee-simple ownership (no strata fees, but rental basements providing affordable, flexible housing).”

    What is your model? it seems to be Montreal
    To be sure, I think Montreal is a very specific city, which is not subject to demography pressure like Toronto or Vancouver is.
    I think the Strata ownership structure has been introduced only fairly recently, in Paris after the war…that has been done to allow greater ownership accessibility. In a country seriously starving for housing, the “immeuble de rapport” (multiplex) like we used to call it was out of reach for the common people. In Montreal an average wage earner can reasonably afford to purchase a “bloc” like Montrealer call it, of ~3500 square feet, with 2 rental suites, what eventually help to the social mix of the neighborood, but what could happen if you couldn’t even dream to own your home?

    Or may be, you are suggesting this more Torontonian rowhouse of 18feet width: but nowadays, when they built it, it is with Stratafee, eventually to help to preserve the integrity of the development: what is wrong with that?

    By the way, the Podium/Tower allow Townhouse with door on the street: is not what is the Podium/tower concept, isn’it?

    Regarding David idea to have LRT on both 9th and 4th. It is certainly a solution but I could suggest you could also multiply the East West bus route. The point here is :

    What is the better? to give an incremental improvement of an transport system on a wide basis or narrow focus on key “trunk” corridors?

    it will be no lack of people gonna explain you that with the money spend on a looking expensive system, you could have crisscross the region with streetcar or put 1000 more buses on the road servicing more population…

    This is a ongoing forever discussion, which can be eventually answered by the “multi criteria evaluation”,
    but the olympic experience can give some headups:

    the Translink ridership has double in the last 2 weeks: but it has increased only by 30% on the buses, when it has increased by up to 300% on Canada line…

    At the end of the day people react more positively to a kind of an investment than another,…

    France got this kind of debate at country scale 20+ years ago with the high speed train (TGV) network:
    Why build a few set of expensive new TGV lines, meaning lost of express train service for lot of communities, and not upgrade the existing network?

    the TGV success has basically allowed to close the debate (or rather to redirect it on quality of the connection with existing network)…

    voony

    February 27, 2010 at 12:17 am

  88. Median safety.

    On the stations, the median would be 5m/15 feet. Everyone will have plenty of room, and the trains would be slowing down.

    On the 1.5m/5 foot medians, on blocks without stations, will work fine for pedestrians. I have stood on a 5-foot tree built median down the center of Broadway in Oakland, California, and it feels just fine.

    Voony is right, there was no LRT on Broadway when I last visited, but the tree median or “island” had been there for some time judging from the size of the trees. However, to put an “island concept” on any of Vancouver’s arterials without either BRT or LRT may prove difficult. There is always the problem of the established paradigm. Without LRT we would be taking away capacity and giving nothing in return.

    Traffic lanes can narrow at the intersection. If what we are after is creating a “refuge for wheel chairs”, then we can achieve that without much problem. In White Rock, the trains exceed 30 kph when they pass alongside the public walkway.

    Shifting Broadway

    “So doing, you shift the purpose of Broadway from its major thoroughfare role. But Broadway is way longer, sure not anyone need to travel by car, but eventually people and business need efficient goods delivery…”

    Yes, the 1.33 “Green Mile” is just a segment, and the transportation folks would have to weigh in on how long you can run a tram line. I see a stop at Commercial and Broadway, but see no reason to end the line there. The R.O.W. just increases as you go east.

    The 99-foot R.O.W. (1.5 chain) will not allow for LRT corridor + 2 traffic lanes + parking. The parking has to be off-peak on the curb lane.

    Customers will arrive on the tram in greater number than by cars. New businesses along the Green Mile are doing cart-wheels to provide parking. The Toys-R-Us is a good example. Very expensive rooftop parking, that by the time you put access ramps and elevator, doesn’t deliver many parking spaces. Their on Broadway spaces, and the side street parking on both sides of Broadway do the heavy lifting for a retailer that must clearly draw clients from more than just local residents.

    Good delivery is another issue, including loading space. I don’t know to what extent the big retailers are ready to adopt a smaller size truck to get ship into what is becoming the “urban centre”.

    I use the Champs Elysees because of the “concavity” in the long axis of the road (Main Street is a hill—I saw somewhere that in pioneer days riding down the hill on trams was free, but you had to pay to go up).

    On what I’ve called “the Green Mile” a feature of the lay of that land contributes to a sense of unity along what is otherwise a very long stretch of road (it is a hike to go from P de la Concord to the Arc de T—30 mn seems about right). However, that physical characteristic may well present as a defining feature, creating a special place.

    But, to summarize, “shifting” the role of Broadway away from being a “car thoroughfare” will improve the urban quality of that street, and the overall quality of the “quartiers” along its path. Right now, Broadways is a “river” dividing the neighbourhoods. We want it to function to bring the “quartiers” together.

    Hastings Street

    Voony’s got me down on the mat again… There is what I call the “Miracle Mile” on Hastings. This one is closer to a mile long, from Carrall Street (crossing of the old Interurban track) to Glenn Drive (or about where Hastings bridges over the rail spur). That’s also the heart of the so-called Downtown Eastside. We mentioned LRT on Hastings as part of a street revitalization/neighbourhood intensification at the top of this thread.

    8. BUILDING TYPE

    The zero-lot house (i.e. a residential building that is “check-by-jowl” with its neighbours) seems to have built everywhere in the world, except Vancouver. Montreal is the best Canadian model. Cabbagetown, Toronto, is also a model.

    The building type itself, however, I first see emerging in Palladio’s urban villas in Vicenza. Indigo Jones visited Palladio’s studio some time after the master’s death, returned to London with an annotated Italian copy of the “Quatri Libri”, and set to work for the Crown and other influential clients building what the English would call “row houses”.

    The Golden Age of Amsterdam came in the 1500′s, Palladio’s century, not Inigo Jones. Old Amsterdam was built in those decades, all of it zero-lot, most of it with not enough “breathing space” left mid-block. However, the invention/adaptation of a “canal” with 26-foot wide streets either side, was nothing short of brilliant. I have not been able to make an Amsterdam-London connection in the architecture or building type, although the connection between the Dutch and English is clear in matters of trade and commerce.

    Greenwich Village in NYC, and Beacon Hill in Boston, are also platted with this building type. Boston, dating from just after the defeat of Napoleon (1815 to the American Civil War 1855 or so) is probably the more instructive example. But, Greenwich is by far the strongest survivor. The original 2 storeys in NYC were “intensified” to the 4 storey brownstones we see there today.

    Google give you a very good idea of the blocks that work, and the ones that don’t. Just look for the green middles. Where the houses were kept to 50′ deep from the street, the streetwall distance to the neighbours is 50′ (street R.O.W.). However, the distance to the rear side neighbour can be as much as 100-feet, providing for a margin of decency.

    In Vancouver, blocks platted with 20-foot lanes, that rear side distance can be as much as 120 feet. For FormShift we showed how it was possible to achieve up to 60 units to the acre with this building type, parking four cars on a 33 foot lot on the lane side, and two on the curb out front.

    In Montreal we can see a morphology taking place, where these rear lanes over time evolve into neighbourhood streets, and long blocks subdivide along the narrow axis. There are also “lane houses” in Montreal, few in number, but very much part of the mix.

    The Podium-and-Tower houses are fake townhouses, Voony, with internal corridors and elevator access to parking. Typically, the mid-block is a “shared garden”.

    In the places we have been discussing, the rear garden is typically 16.5 x 32 feet with an 8 foot garden wall. It is private, with access from the ground level unit (these houses are typically divided with at least one income suite included—top unit gets a roof terrace).

    But, the worst part of the tower is the long shadow, and its effect on the feel of the “quartier”. It was remarkable walking downtown in mid-February during the sunny days of the Olympics, realizing that by 2 or 3 p.m. the sun was gone. You could see it shining against the face of the taller buildings, but you could not find it anywhere on the streets. The CPR failing to plat squares in its grid subdivision of Vancouver was never more obvious.

    That canyon street effect, a Manhattan brand, is not as evident in Greenwich Village, where the streets sometimes twist, are very lush with the greenery of trees in the summer, and the aspect ratio of the fronting buildings balances solar penetration with high density build out.

    On the bus debate

    This still sounds like an “either or” question, when the answer wants to be “both and”:

    “What is the better? to give an incremental improvement of an transport system on a wide basis or narrow focus on key “trunk” corridors?”

    Lewis N. Villegas

    February 27, 2010 at 6:58 am

  89. Champs Elysee
    =============
    Lewis, I understand you were talking about the slope concavity of the Champs Elysee…
    I believe it is also something we can notice on Main street:
    I found only this poor picture on the Net to illustrate it :http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Mainstreetvan.jpg

    For Champs Elysee, this one illustrate pretty well my point, http://www.pierretristam.com/Images/122806-champs-elysees.jpg

    there is more than concavity or length to be shared:
    when you sit at the bottom of the slope, (“Rond point des champs”) one side is a slope (toward Arc of triumph), but the other side is flat (toward concord and Tuileries)…On Broadway, I see the concavity typical of a valley, but not this rather rare occurrence we have on the Champs Elysee (and we can see on Main, starting of the False creek Flat).

    Also the Champs Elysee climb a hill too, the Butte Chaillot, the slightly convex part at the top can be eventually perceived from the photography I link. Due to the mass of the “Arc of Triumph” effect, this one disappear, contributing to a greater majesty of the avenue…

    To be sure we don’t have this luxury to put a traffic circle at Main-Broadway, it could have been nice, and Main is not the Champs Elysee, but it has interesting features to build on…

    Broadway
    ========
    To keep on the Paris analogy, Broadway in Kits, could remind me of Paris Bld St Germain, with which it shares the same width (26 to 30m), not because of the architecture but because of the fair “rive gauche” or gentrified bohemian feeling, provided by urban form, shop mix, restaurants style…:

    High end enough shop, for the well healed, but not the most exclusive ones in town, more or less expensive dinning experience but with this touch of refinement (some will say snobbish) you will not find in more “showing off” place.

    And by the way, you are right, light is important and it is good on Broadway, especially for the dinning time due to its orientation (the same as Bd St Germain by the way).

    Not to say that I would like the whole town like it, it could be boring, but personally I think it is a good thing to offer this kind of “high end street” or “Boulevard” feeling; Is it compatible with a neighborhood style street traffic like it could be with an LRT, and not a thoroughfare one like it is right now? may be, may be not…

    More generally, Broadway offers different but still interesting experience on its length…sure there is some sections more dull that others, but overall it is a pretty much interesting and vibrant avenue…

    Why I say it?

    You mention there is room for “residential densification”: Sure.
    But does there is a need for an LRT to foster it?
    I am under the feeling that the market forces play already well in that direction and would like more than the zoning allows, and if there is no more densification than we could desire, it is more due to local resident opposition than anything else:

    I could mention the fierce opposition of the neighborood against the redevelopment of the IGA parking lot near Arbutus (which mostly laughable argument, bringing the already famous NIMBY of the area to new “high” ):

    Also you mention:
    “There is room for both street revitalization (my mom can’t cross the street on the duration of the light cycle, and

    she’s trying to get to her physio therapist, which adds a bit of black humour to it)”

    It looks to me more a “streetscaping issue”, than a “street revitalization”.

    “Street revitalization” is certainly necessary on Hasting, Carral, eventually lower Main,…but on Broadway? I don’t see too much closed storefront with hundreds layers of “sub culture” posters on it and building in state of disrepair.

    May be we should agree on the meaning of “street revitalization”…

    We could like to see Broadway more or less gentrifying, more or less sub-culture, but that is more matter of personal taste, and I think Broadway offer a diversity mix on its length making this avenue interesting for a wide spectrum of the population. That said, I don’t think that the argument of “urban revitalization” can be invoked on Broadway to introduce a new system…

    Indeed, we have here a working equilibrium… Eventually a fragile one, built on decades of urban fabric evolution. the introduction of a new system introduces as much risk to break it than to improve it…

    Hasting, is a very different case in that regard…

    Tower Podium
    ============
    Finally on another interesting point you mention…
    (Thanks for all the reference, and noticeably on the Palladian explanation: we learn a lot of your contribution).

    Your arguments on the tower and podium are fair. You mention that in this model the mid block is typically a “shared garden”…If you can connect the front “row house” type to Palladio, may we connect the “shared garden” to a more arabic style like the riad (which itself seems derived of the Roman villa too, but turn its back to the street)? May be it connect also to the more general courtyard structure we can guess in traditional Chinese housing structure?

    For some reason, The courtyard structure seems fairly present in France too (cities are full of this private hidden jewel place, most of them unfortunatly transformed in private park lot), cannot speak for other country, but it looks absent in heritage North American urbanism…

    On the bus debate
    =================
    “This still sounds like an “either or” question, when the answer wants to be “both and”:”

    “What is the better? to give an incremental improvement of an transport system on a wide basis or narrow focus on key “trunk” corridors?””

    It can eventually be both, because the narrow focus on key trunk corridor can work so well that the resulting ridership will legitimate the improvement of the local “feeder” bus services…

    voony

    February 28, 2010 at 12:37 am

  90. On Champs Elysees, Voony, we have the point: really, from here on we would have to walk the site together and see its features up close. But it makes the point: in considering urban design, we become involved with the human experience of place. That is a productive place to have community discussions.

    We should let others on to the fact that the Champs Elysees began as a garden promenade in the back of the Louvre in the 1500s, much before most of what we now see at the Louvre was built. It evolved over the years. When Napoleon came to power, there was major reconstruction and re-leveling, so that many of the features you reference were carefully calculated, surveying tools and teams on hand.

    Lewis N. Villegas

    February 28, 2010 at 8:23 am

  91. Tower and Podium

    This I haven’t studied since my first year in architecture school, when some 4 years before Expo, we were designing tower and podium on North False Creek (my site was the off-ramps on the Granville Bridge). We quickly realized that:

    (1) we were not getting any better unit layouts than you could do within the first four storeys of the ground plane.

    (2) The podiums (I had two “big box” stores) were not contributing to the quality of the urban space.

    (3) The shadows were going to be a problem. North False Creek towers todays cast shadows two blocks up the hill.

    Adding the row houses to the base, instead of big boxes, hasn’t helped. These units are typically “double loaded” or built with a public corridor between them. That makes the building twice as deep as the prototype. And, it takes away from the center of the block.

    When these “shared gardens” appear, I don’t think it is fair to compare them to the Roman villa, the arabic courtyard, or the spanish courtyard house of colonial America. These are the only “aspect” or orientation for their fronting units. All the ventilation and light for the interior units comes from this one space, and one cannot imagine that there is any acoustic privacy to be had in this orientation. Furthermore, by the time you surround this mid-block with double-loaded row houses, there is not a lot of space left.

    The mid-block of the free-hold zero-lot line building, on the other hand, belongs to the unit, and at ground level, surrounded by 8-foot garden walls, there can be a feeling of privacy and outdoor amenity. It is still high-density living. The neighbours are still on either side, and in a CPR plat, one garage building, plus one 20-foot lane, plus a second garage building away.

    However, this mid-block space also gives every unit dual aspect or cross ventilation. I know it is morning because the sun is in the kitchen, I know it is afternoon because the sun is in the parlour. Try that with a podium-and-tower. Further, there are the rising problems for Vancouver of strata-ownership, monthly fees, and building management and maintenance. That scene looks to be going the wrong direction.

    9. THE PROJECT OF THE CITY

    There is a catch. We have just experienced yet another real estate bubble. If we recall your earlier comments about San Diego, I too have been in parts of San Diego where I shake my head and ask, “Am I back in False Creek?” So, not only the speculation in the real estate market, but the products themselves, have entered a kind of global phase.

    Thus, when we penciled out the cost of one of these 4,000 s.f. buildings on the BulaBlog a week or so ago, we came up with sale prices ranging in the one to one-and-a-half million dollars per unit.

    Enter transportation engineering. The same unit built on the periphery (lets say along the SRY line in Surrey) might have a price that brings us back to reality. Being part of a TOD, families can give up one car, and plow the savings back into paying the mortgage.

    This is more or less the way it is in the land where this building type was born. In London, the same house, the same building type, in the West End, fronting a residential square, is priced into a very selective market. However, that same unit, at the other end of a commute on one of the excellent transit lines, becomes more affordable. And, a “ladder” of home ownership sets up, where people buy and sell houses as they advance in their careers and family, building up neighbourhoods, social capital, and private wealth.

    Ultimately, urbanism has to deliver a system of transportation infrastructure, as well as a full range of residential and commercial products, that we can measure at the scale of the neighbourhood or “quartier” as a whole. On the residential side, they have to cover the spectrum from low density to high density. However, as you have stated in the past Voony, paradoxically, we do not have to do high rise to get high density.

    Likewise, we do not have to build six-lane streets to service high trip counts. Paradoxically, by taking back R.O.W. form the automobile, and giving it to transit, we can achieve a better overall level of service.

    In each instance, the decisions we make bring to bear important results in the quality of the resulting urban space. Thus, the choice seems to be between creating human-scale environments, on the one hand, or turning a back to the street on the other. Given that we experience our streets as the “public realm” it seems to be an important part of our professionalism to point to solutions that are supportive of positive and collective human experience.

    So, we are back where we started, walking on Main Street, Broadway, North Road, St. John’s Street, and the Barnet Highway, casting about for the right mix of concrete and measurable facts that can tip the balance towards an effectively functioning urbanism, and a recovery of the public world.

    Lewis N. Villegas

    February 28, 2010 at 9:05 am

  92. I view the existing rail corridor from VCC-Clark to Granville Island as a long term opportunity to expand the reach of the tram network at even lower cost than on Broadway. Eventually it will be needed, but in the meantime continue to run buses.

    However, as Voony so conveniently pointed out, people are more attracted to rail than to buses. So we should expect that a tram will collect more passengers than a bus running at the same frequency on the same street. Even so the tram has much higher capital costs so it’s only justified when buses can no longer get the job done.

    Broadway has needed something more than buses for years. A tram driver can deliver 5 times as many passengers as a B-Line driver making the tram line cheaper to operate than what Coast Mountain is doing now.

    Articulated buses are getting the job done on a number of other streets, but every one I know of passes through extensive areas of single family zoned land. Change that and demand for transit could easily surpass capacity in a decade. That’s why I think the current TransLink study of transit on Broadway needs to step back and take a broader view. Broadway is merely the first of what will likely be a half dozen streets in the city where buses cannot meet demand during my lifetime.

    Finally it seems clear that employment will continue to de-centralize. Surrey is building a downtown for itself, but at the same time it’s building the huge Campbell business park in what some would call the middle of nowhere. Only if we build inexpensively can we hope to deal with a de-centralized demand pattern. Only if we accept that some areas simply cannot be served without incurring huge loses can the rest of the system afford to operate at all. Business parks far from population centres and semi-rural areas probably shouldn’t have any bus service.

    David

    February 28, 2010 at 11:00 pm

  93. My own comments on Broadway Streetcar, of course, are based on a healthy ignorance of the functioning of our transportation system. Specific proposals like extending the Olympic Line to VCC-Clark (where I typically enter the system), and the construction of a maintenance yard in the area, all seem like practical next steps based on sound principles.

    The realization that people are more attracted to rail than to buses is very important. No one is suggesting getting rid of the buses and trolleys. A more immediate action than the Tram extension to VCC-Clark would be to retain the “Olympic Lanes” for the B-Line on Broadway.

    That put’s David’s next comment in a new light:

    “Broadway has needed something more than buses for years. A tram driver can deliver 5 times as many passengers as a B-Line driver making the tram line cheaper to operate”.

    We have, as I think we are starting to agree here on this thread, not so much a transportation issue, as a cultural one. Or, maybe both. The Broadway Olympic Lanes reserved for B-Line—if we can show an improvement in service, while arguing simultaneously that the lanes ought to be in the middle of the R.O.W.—simply demonstrate that we can give priority to transit without losing cultural values related to the private automobile.

    From an urban design perspective, however, this begins to look like an earlier point. We are setting up a “hierarchy” of transportation implementation:

    1. Bus/trolley first
    2. B-Lines next
    3. Tram or Surface LRT at maturity

    This staged or sequenced implementation is but a component of a regional system that still requires subway and RER in specific corridors in the system.

    Because of what can only be attributed to my own flawed personal nature, the last time I was in Toronto—last fall—I made a point of taking the Canada Line to the Airport here, and then transportation to Carlton and Jervis from the Airport there. The initial link in the journey is a bus ride to the end of the Bloor Line, as most readers will know.

    What a bumpy affair. I was on the cell phone calling home during the bus trip, to “report back on progress”. And, on a couple of occasions the damn thing just about flew out of my hand due to a bump on the road (I was seated near the front axel). The interior of the bus was not much like the Canada Line. Seats were hard, and the special rigging for luggage looked like an after thought. The TTC subway was efficient, and recognizable.

    The interior of the two articulated buses I saw pass by on Commercial the other night reminded me very much of the Toronto bus rides in-and-out of the city.

    The moral may be that when we finally opt for buses, we accept to make decisions in a framework of funding that puts us in a lower tier of options.

    Add to that what we are beginning to learn from places like Portalnd in matters relating to neighbourhood regeneration, and we have something new for our consideration. Two messages came through loud and clear from Mayor Adam’s 2009 presentation, reported here in this blog.

    1. Developers were having no qualms about redeveloping property along the tram lines. I can provide a back story to that statement. Portland has been methodically producing “Neighborhood Urban Design Plans” one location at a time. I was a consultant in the St. John’s Neighborhood Plan where I can report pushing the envelope in what the planning department felt comfortable considering.

    2. The Mayor also mentioned in passing that they had “removed density from the books” or some such statement. What he was reporting was a “down zoning” in the urban neighbourhoods. When the goal is street-oriented urbanism, the zoning used during the old-paradigm phase of planning turns out to be much too much.

    When we plan one neighbourhood at a time, rather than one site at a time, the build out achieves a finer grain of distribution, and net density on a lot-by-lot basis can drop to somewhere around 2.0 to 2.5 FSR.

    Of course, the recent Historic Area Height Review (HAHR) by the City of Vancouver settled on an FSR 5.0, failed to mention Trolley-BRT-LRT strategies, and set up the necessary conditions for the destruction of even more cultural assists in our Historic Area.

    “That’s why I think the current TransLink study of transit on Broadway needs to step back and take a broader view. Broadway is merely the first of what will likely be a half dozen streets in the city where buses cannot meet demand during my lifetime.”

    [Would you mind linking to that report?]

    Those half dozen streets that you reference, David, may well turn out to be the places where we build the first phase of the next stage of development in Vancouver’s urbanism (and they are likely to stretch beyond Vancouver City Limits).

    I’ve mentioned already that our FormShift entry calculated, on the back of an envelope, and over a telephone conversation one Saturday morning, that we could double the existing Vancouver population simply by redeveloping single house lots on the arterials.

    “Articulated buses are getting the job done on a number of other streets, but every one I know of passes through extensive areas of single family”.

    We called it a “Vancouver Arterial Intensification Strategy” (AIS), and we included centre of the R.O.W. rail implementation in our drawings. Nothing I have heard since from the organizers suggests that anyone in the jury room understood what we were showing.

    Last year at CIP, I presented an AIS strategy from Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. That historic townsite is linked to Halifax with a SeaBus inspired commuter water link. Planners there who spoke to me after the session (their offices are in the building of their SeaBus terminal) didn’t really know what to make of my suggestions.

    The transportation engineer in the room got it. One of his points to me later was that not only the residents within easy-walking distance of Dartmouth SeaBus, but also every job in the downtown are, should be counted as first order potential trip generators.

    Just like municipal engineers speak to me of meeting “warrants” to install pedestrian activated crossings, for example, I agree with David that Metro Vancouver and Translink should link expectations for transportation service with build out projections for patterns of growth.

    Urban design principles like TOD are not only planning tools for the future, but they can be used as yardsticks for analysis of the situation as it stands today.

    Finally, on cost (avoiding mention of Gateway, which is also a prediction tool for buildout).

    By linking transportation planning with urban planning, we can realize that some aspects of the investment in transportation infrastructure will present advantages outside the transpiration system per se.

    The examples I have in mind are:

    (a) street revitalization [Hastings, Broadway are two examples discussed above]; and

    (b) neighbourhood intensification [the Green Mile, and the Miracle Mile are two examples discussed above].

    The financial burden of carrying the so-called Downtown Eastside (in fact, the historic cradle of our city) is not obvious to us, but it should be. It is based on two planning fallacies, as wll show at next year’s CIP.

    First, that the historic neighbourhoods cannot intensify (the population is 20% of what the historic fabric or 2.0 FSR will supper).

    Second, that there is no money to pay for either Hastings revitalization or neighbourhood intensification.

    Of course, the conclusion we are coming to now is that by using transportation decisions to shape growth, that growth will act as the economic engine of change. Since every venture carries risk, it is imperative that our plans be backed up by concrete and verifiable facts.

    Lewis N. Villegas

    March 2, 2010 at 7:17 am

  94. correction…

    ” ….two planning fallacies, as I will show at next year’s CIP.

    First, that the historic neighbourhoods cannot intensify (the population is 20% of what the historic fabric or 2.0 FSR will support).”

    Lewis N. Villegas

    March 2, 2010 at 7:25 am

  95. Lewis, thank for your answers…

    since Lewis cite david saying: “A tram driver can deliver 5 times as many passengers as a B-Line driver making the tram line cheaper to operate”

    I think important to mention
    1/ longest tram carry not much more than 2 to 2.5 what an articulated bus carry (ex. could be capacity of the 45metre Paris T3 tram).
    2/ If operation cost was a sole function of number of driver, Skytrain could cost nothing to operate…

    We can clearly see the argument is not working that well. We cannot prejudge operating cost of a system by observation from a customer view point. isn’it?

    On the Broadway bus lane, Lewis, experiment has already been done with rather mitigated result:

    http://www.canada.com/vancouvercourier/news/story.html?id=2fe71027-7748-4016-a507-a4f541655b28&k=81868

    The article didn’t mention too much that in fact due to the multiplicity of bus route using Broadway, it isn’t rare to see buses on 2 lanes.

    On urban issue, Lewis, you mention:
    “Of course, the recent Historic Area Height Review (HAHR) by the City of Vancouver settled on an FSR 5.0, failed to mention Trolley-BRT-LRT strategies, and set up the necessary conditions for the destruction of even more cultural assists in our Historic Area.”

    I guess making reference to the introduction of tower in the East side. I am not sure I follow you.

    While I recognize the value of the heritage building in the historic area, they provide actually a disturbing toothless streetscape, giving the feeling of never completed neighborhood contributing to the depressing atmosphere of the neighborhood (It is also in my opinion the principle problem of Granville street, on which I will may be come back on it later on…)

    I see height review as an opportunity to integrate heritage buildings in more modern development doing a bit more than “in fill”…be it along the Woodward building line, or the “One King West” line in Toronto…Tower is not necessarily the only option: some other architectural form, like the Libenskind’s ROM extension, are possible too…

    That said, personally, I like urban form respecting heritage but not necessarily embracing the form or material of the heritage building (for that matter, the Pei Pyramid at Paris the Louvre stay still an unequaled piece of architecture…) but I can understand people can come with a different opinion.

    Also, I probably agree that the city fails to consider the streetcar as a possible urban revitalization tool to see it only as a touristic attraction only…the former could be better justified by the reuction of the “financial burden of carrying the so-called Downtown Eastside” that it can involves…

    I have last question:

    you mention: “(the population is 20% of what the historic fabric or 2.0 FSR will support)”

    Are you referring to the original population, or projection done on what population area can accommodate based on nowadays “standard of livability”.

    In other word, is it “overcrowding” or “density” you are referring?
    (a good point from Janes Jacobs was to make point on the difference).

    voony

    March 2, 2010 at 10:43 pm

  96. During peak periods many LRT systems couple two trams together. That’s how you get a huge capacity boost over 60ft buses.

    Trams are on par with buses for things like lifetime vehicle costs. Tracks last decades and the single overhead wire requires far less maintenance than the double wire plus switches system Vancouver currently has for the trolley buses.

    Labour accounts for roughly 70% of non-debt related operating costs in every transit system on the planet. Fewer drivers equals lower costs. Some LRT systems actually turn a profit and I firmly believe a Broadway tram would too. SkyTrain, on the other hand, costs taxpayers hundreds of millions every year.

    I think Lewis needs his own blog :)

    David

    March 2, 2010 at 11:43 pm

  97. A Primer on Urbanism for voony and the other readers… It is heartening to hear good questions from the other city design professions. We have to be more articulate in each other’s domain.

    The link voony quotes is from VANCOUVER COURIERJULY 20, 2007. That’s a bit of old news. The most interesting bit of it was that the curb lane was being used for “cue jumping” the Canada Line construction.

    The noted issues with right turns, and high pedestrian counts at the corners (waiting to cross a much too long crosswalk) are important. And we have all agreed, have we not, that the lanes should move to the centre of the road.

    There, the loading platform should be in the middle, and the bus door will be on the “wrong side”. Suggesting that the bus lanes should actually go in the opposite direction to traffic (which they do in Paris, for example). However, that is a risk to life and safety. As pedestrians, we are not accustomed to look both ways before crossing (unless we are in Paris). So, there is reason to think about demarcating those areas, perhaps with granite sets, and adding some colour and cautioning signs. BRT has its challenges.

    However, people seem to appreciate a complete presentation of facts. Overall, there seems to be a clear advantage to the Tram vs. articulated bus.

    I don’t mean “paradigm shift” as a trivial result. It is based on my own experience of the modern movement in architecture (dating from about the time of the introduction of the steel cable elevator, and the steel girder—the Brooklyn Bridge in NYC is probably the best candidate as the “first modern building” and its opening was accompanied by a horrible loss of life due to an unforeseen mob scene).

    Somewhere in our “break with the past” we lost the idea that urban places can be designed as a “whole greater than the sum of the parts.” For example, that the sensory experience of place—I talked about standing beside the BowMac sign and looking east along Broadway—is a meaningful event in our everyday life.

    To achieve that, built form must follow certain, long established principles for measuring the proportions of the resulting public realm. It’s about the ether, voony, not the buildings. The resulting urban quality is a function of how each building is designed to fit in with the others; and it is a function of how the street pattern and the block size (together, the “platting”) was laid out.

    Modernism forgot about that. Trust me, it is “lost information” that we are now trying to recover. And instead, the “modernists” went on an ego trip of designing each building as “an object d’art”. Some are, but most are not. The star-architecture (as one friend tells me) of Libenskind, and the two or three other “art pieces” in Toronto, are not taken seriously by the locals. I get “oh, don’t bother going inside, the picture is from the sidewalk” kinds of comments.

    I.M. Pei, to point to an american architect with mixed success in his buildings—I’ve preferred the work of his contemporary Arthur Erickson, almost every time—did something good at the Louvre because the Baroque palaces have much too much un-programed space in the courtyards. They needed “filler” and the glass pyramid does a majestic trick of hiding its scale.

    The end of the era of platting places to respond to human sense experience was coming at about the same time as the CPR townsites were being laid out in Western Canada. A more high-brow debate was taking place in Vienna, where the Ringstrasse was a kind of “ground zero” for Camillo Sitte and his followers. However, the automobile seems to have come just in time to push the other side of the debate.

    “I see height review as an opportunity to integrate heritage buildings in more modern development doing a bit more than “in fill”…be it along the Woodward building line, or the “One King West” line in Toronto…Tower is not necessarily the only option: some other architectural form, like the Libenskind’s ROM extension, are possible too…”

    Woodwards is bad architecture, and as urban design it is a disaster. I don’t know why anyone would like to do more “a bit more infill”. If the site that is under consideration, as for example our historic neighbourhoods, then infill is exactly what we want, along with the creation of some public open spaces, urban rooms, or green squares. And, we need to add transportation. To add value in the urban core, to add convenience the the neighbours, and to take cars of the road.

    Consider the traffic counts on Powell, Cordova, Hastings and Prior (I may not have the traffic pattern down just exactly right, I will be preparing those notes for later this year) and you have the key reason why the so-called downtown eastside is a mess. It is not “a social problem”, or a “property problem”, or a “drug addiction/mental illness” problem, all those issues are there to be sure, but the urbanism of the place has been decimated to the extent that there is barely anything left to call home. The neighbourhood’s fabric has been left in tatters.

    Taking all the buses off Hastings, installing LRT in the centre of the R.O.W., adding two rows of trees in medians on each side, rebuilding the sidewalks with one additional row of trees each (let’s plan mature trees, not the tiny specimens we see on Granville), and cutting back the space for automobiles, will trigger redevelopment.

    Then, returning Powell to neighbourhood function, as a local urban “spine”, and Cordoba to local, residential street, will make places like Oppenheimer Park livable again.

    That’s a thumb-sketch of how transportation planning and urban design would combine to turn the tables on a problem we have suffered far too long.

    However, notice that the whole process is about stopping to look and reconsider the values that are already in place. Plopping towers into it doesn’t really meet that test, does it? We have tower neighbourhoods, we need neighbourhoods that remain complete and of their era. There is no profit in re-designing a place. Use what is there, the resulting “continuity of place” is money in the bank.

    The population numbers are 15,000 (DTES Monitoring Report). If you read the DTES Housing Plan, and the Housing Strategy, you will realize that city policy is NOT to increase the local population, NOT do transit, NOT eliminate the Powell-Cordoba one-way coupling, NOT to do anything about it.

    There is no overcrowding there, there is “undercrowding”, the streets are empty and—if you go at the wrong time of day—full of cars. At 2.0 FSR (2.5 on the arterials) there would be no overcrowding. The same point about density and overcrowding has been handled in Canada by relating density to built form. That’s the idea I mention of measuring density at the neighbourhood level, or “quartier”, not on a plot-by-plot basis. However, the building industry looks at FSR, so we have to be conversant about both.

    Bad urbanism is the worst sort of poverty to befall us.

    Lewis N. Villegas

    March 3, 2010 at 8:54 am

  98. “the “modernists” went on an ego trip of designing each building as “an object d’art”.”

    I couldn’t agree more with it. In fact I didn’t choose the proper term, it should have been “contemporary”,

    and if I have named some “star-architect” it is just to give some reference to support general idea.

    At the exception of the Pei’s Pyramid, it was not to celebrate the architectural achievement…but not to say I didn’t find the Libeskind idea for the Toronto ROM uninteresting either…Scale model and artist rendering was very nice…final result have been rather disappointing on lot of accounts (material, scale…).

    I have my own opinion on the Henriquiez building, and find it not that bad. Also I am not necessarily sharing all the “hoopla” on Erickson…in the sense that you will not find me to oppose the tear down of its signature building in Downtown ..could prefer to save my energy on the preservation of the Canada Post building…

    you say


    I don’t know why anyone would like to do more “a bit more infill”. If the site that is under consideration, as for example our historic neighbourhoods, then infill is exactly what we want, along with the creation of some public open spaces, urban rooms, or green squares.”

    the idea is that the historic neighborhoods are too much toothless: there is more “empty gap” that building of interest in much of them to consider the neighborhoods anywhere near complete. That is the reason in my opinion why you need to do more than “infill”. also the building of interest are heterogeneous enough, in style, material, and more important in height, giving this disturbing sense of underachievement.

    But I think we could have different opinion on it and it is fair.

    voony

    March 3, 2010 at 10:03 pm

  99. It would take too space, and the research is not done so the risk for inaccuracies is too great, to map out here an approach to the preservation of the historic neighbourhoods with infill and reconstruction.

    I can offer one important consideration. In the building boom that coincided with the years leading up to the opening of the Panama Canal (1914, and too late to avert WWI) Vancouver’s first urbanism was completed with a high level of skill, in an area that has more or less the same footprint as the historic neighbourhoods.

    Considering that just one decade of construction separates the end of WWI and the Wall Street Crash of 1929, followed by a period of inactivity that would not abate until 1945, it should not surprise us that the historic neighbourhoods in Vancouver offer a remarkable level of consistency.

    There are missing teeth, I agree, and there is the stuff that was built after 1945. Woodwards and the Storyeum among the recent additions that will not go away. However, complimenting the significant concentration of historic buildings, there are a handful of distinctly platted neighbourhoods that I believe merit a “quartier” approach to managing growth.

    One feature that makes them important today is that they were planned for a walking experience of place (that too would change between 1918 and 1942). Thus, if we are interested today in building a street-oriented urbanism, repair of the historic neighbourhoods makes a lot of sense.

    More to the point for this blog, there are structural problems in the historic neighbourhoods presenting at the neighourhood scale that will not be resolved unless we get the transportation right.

    Lewis N. Villegas

    March 4, 2010 at 11:21 am

  100. I was away for a while..what a great discussion.
    A small point, if I may, about the problems that a Broadway LRT would have with all the intersections, pedestrian crossings etc. One of the first thing that I noticed, when I visited Strasbourg in the mid-1990s, was that the tramway had the green light ALL THE TIME. It took only a few seconds for the tram to cross an intersection so the cars on the cross streets barely waited a little more. They likely didn’t even notice.
    I assumed at the time that all the traffic lights in town were computer controlled as they have been for quite a while in many French towns and in other towns around the world. Is it the case in Vancouver, by the way?

    Red frog

    March 10, 2010 at 1:26 am

  101. [...] planners or cities are holding them or not; whether they are centralized on an official site or stretching on for 100+ comments on someone’s unofficial blog post on only a vaguely related to…. As I stated, these conversations are opportunities for engagement, involvement or [...]

  102. [...] Compared to even recent American design, the European tram design feature all low floor train,with “housed” coupler into an all “soft angle” front design, offering unobstructed view fro the driver…all this eventually help to prevent or reduce accident consequences (credit photo, Northfolk LRT: LRTA, Brussel tram in Vancouver: Stephen Rees) [...]

  103. While I didn’t read every comment on here.

    One aspect I think that gets lost in terms of skytrain not revitalizing an area. Or it has taken a long time in some cases. Is due to the fact that the people who do the transportation planning are not the same people who do the urbanism planning. So even if and LRT was built instead of “Skytrain” There is no proof that there would have been a faster revitalization.

    Basically it would be better if the people who planned both sides where one and the same group.

    Paul

    March 12, 2010 at 2:35 am

  104. Paul

    The reason that the Expo line did not change the areas around the stations is that the City listened to the neighbourhood. At that time Vancouver had a policy of extensive public cionsultation, and the people in the areas around Skytrain stations were firmly against any increase in density. So it has not happened at 29th Ave or Nanaimo – nor has it at 22nd Street in New Westminster, for the same reason. The single exception is Joyce Collingwood where previously zoned industrial land was rezoned for residential – but the developer persuaded the planners that since his residents would be taking Skytrain, he should be allowed to provide less parking. Instead he built the community centre.

    Do not blame the planers for the inherent conservatism of those concerned about their neighbourhood.

    Stephen Rees

    March 12, 2010 at 7:43 am

  105. Stephen

    I do agree and also realize that it was the residents of the area that turned down any increase in density in their area.

    I was more going on the point that even if they had built a street car system or LRT or whatever along the exact same route instead of skytrain. Those same areas still would not have seen and increase in density.

    You are right infact all of the higher density has happened in old industrial lands or commercial lands. Where it is easier to get higher density.

    I should have clarified myself more .

    But I so also feel that it would be better if both sides where on the same page at times. Once you zone an area for single family detached homes. It becomes harder to increase the density in those areas. It can be done, but not without a fight.

    Paul

    March 13, 2010 at 4:03 am

  106. [...] is a risk, in writing this piece, that I am going to restart the debate which raged in my absence in February. Amid unprecedented levels of urbanisation, designers must be trusted to fashion cities [...]

  107. [...] Olympic Line (short) closure notice February 2010107 comments [...]


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