Archive for the ‘pedestrians’ Category
The need for this post stems from the use of twitter. In 140 characters you can be witty, snappy, concise – though a lot of people aren’t. And the back and forth can look like a debate, or sometimes just a trading a fixed positions. This one started because Gordon Price tweets the posts on his blog – just as I do mine. But instead of there being a debate under the blog post, this one took – or rather – is taking place – on twitter. And it needs a bit more ventilation than that.
It started with A Radical Old Idea for the intersection of Burrard and Cornwall. “Essentially it would square up the intersection, making it much more like a typical part of the classic Vancouver grid, adding some green space while retaining the number of lanes and capacity.” I suggested that more could be achieved if it was given a more radical treatment. And Richard Campbell responded that shared space is less safe for cyclists and pedestrians – especially pedestrians with disabilities.
This has now cropped up again with the release of a new video about the reconstruction of a major intersection at Poynton in Cheshire, UK. While a lot of shared spaces treatments have been successful in residential areas (“Woonerfs” for instance) their use on urban arterials is still controversial
Exhibition Road in Kensington London is another example of shared space treatment of a very busy combined arterial road and urban shopping street. I am pointing to a discussion of that scheme as opposed to a diatribe – or even a peer reviewed learned journal article, because I think there is indeed need for an exchange of views. As opposed to trading blows between preconceived positions.
One thing does need to be stated at the outset, and that is that places are – and should be – different, and local people need to be consulted about what they want to see happen in the places where they live. Even a peer reviewed paper can be distracting when the “before” situation looks a lot more like shared space already (compared to typical Vancouver arterial intersections) – and the objectives seem to be a lot less clear than Poynton.
Obviously Burrard and Cornwall is not directly comparable to Poynton. There is much less retail activity in the immediate vicinity, for instance. And the only thing that the current City proposal seems to want to achieve is keep the intersection working as it does now, but get some more green space. Poynton’s objectives were much grander – lets try and rescue our village from economic oblivion. I also found it very encouraging that there are now more cyclists there than less- and that vulnerable pedestrians (a mum with a stroller and toddler, a lady in a wheel chair, blind people with and without guides) all find the new arrangements preferable. There is also a sort of chorus, from locals who were at least skeptical if not outrightly hostile but who now support the scheme.
It is indeed possible to find other examples that were less successful, but that does not damn the whole approach. It simply illustrates that these things need to be designed carefully, and you may well need to go back and redo some things in the light of experience. What is clear is that our present obsession with concentrating on keeping the cars moving quickly is not working from the perspective of other road users. Furthermore, the conventional road safety approach of adding barriers, signs, signals and hard landscaping not only proves unsatisfactory in terms of improving overall safety – but fails in terms of place making. Because what Poynton wanted to do was create a place where people would want to linger. If they spend more time there, they might well spend more money. They might actually enjoy visiting Poynton, and go there more often, instead of the out of town superstores and big box centres.
But what is also clear is that when humans are enclosed in steel safety cages, and look at the world through a screen, they miss all the signals that we are so good at sending each other – nonverbally. Which is why pedestrians tend not to collide with each other very much. Unlike motor vehicles. And when motor vehicles collide with pedestrians and cyclists it is not the driver of the vehicle that gets hurt. Taking cars out of the mix works – but only by creating more car only streets. Places where people who are not driving are forbidden – and speeds are increased. Collisions are fewer but of much more frightening intensity. Cities evolved long before motor vehicles were invented, and the experience of getting cars – and car drivers – to behave better within cities has always required them to slow down and pay attention to other road users.
Shared space does seem to me to more productive of overall urbanity than an all out war on the car, and one that is likely to be much more successful – on a whole range of measures, including collision numbers and severities.
Jeffrey Tumlin at SFU City Program
Eight simple, free transport solutions for healthier, wealthier cities
This talk was made possible financially by a contribution from Translink. The blog post was updated on February 15 to include two videos, one of the talk and one of the Q&A session.
It is worth stating out the outset that Tumlin sees Vancouver as the future for the rest of North America. The talk he gave was clearly one designed for the average American city. He stated that he felt he was “visiting the future” by what has been done in the City of Vancouver. The problem for most places is that they bought into the lie that having a car will bring you more and better sex. “Where have you been told lies?” And, how can we use their methods against them.
The first series of slides illustrated the startling growth of obesity by state in the last thirty years. The Centers for Disease Control have data that shows how this problem has grown
The animated map below shows the history of United States obesity prevalence from 1985 through 2010. Unfortunately the way WordPress has imported this graphic has lost the animation but it is well worth following the link above to see the trend.
Americans are no longer able to have a significant amount of walking in the daily lives. This is due to civic policies – the rules, metrics and performance standards – that make it illegal to build anything but auto oriented suburbs.The statistics for traffic fatalities per 100,000 residents show that sprawl = death.
“Road rage is a clinical condition”. When you observe a crowded sidewalk you notice that pedestrians do not run into each other. We learned a large number of essential social signals in order to hunt in packs. In cars these social signals are blocked and the brain chemistry shuts down social behaviour, because instead of co-operating the way pedestrians do, the fight or flight instincts have been triggered [by andrenaline]. Traffic is literally driving us crazy and leading to permanent changes in the brain. We are less able to think, to predict the consequences of aggression and therefore become more antisocial. Tea Party membership is positively correlated to the absence of sidewalks.
Policy ought to recognize the limitations of humanity and what makes us happy. That translates in urbanity to the sidewalk suburbs of two to three story buildings. The suburbs we built in the 1920s and ’30s were leafy, walkable and auto optional. We have to increase the number of walkers and cyclists, not just build things for the “hard core lifer crowd”. See D Appleyard “Liveable Streets” [the link goes to Amazon, but this book is very expensive - look in your local library first].
The speed and volume of traffic on residential streets determines who you know and how well you know them. If the traffic is fast and heavy, there will be far fewer people who you are likely to give your keys to, for use in emergencies. Social cohesion and participation in democracy increases when residential streets have less and slower traffic, making it safe and easy to cross the street.
There is a direct casual relationship between mental health and outdoor exercise. Oxytocin “the cuddle chemical” that is released during breast feeding and orgasm is also released by human eye contact and outdoor exercise. It is different to dopamine, endorphins and morphines as it lasts longer.
So now we have has established that driving makes us fat and angry, while walking and cycling makes us happy and sociable, what can we do?
1 Measure What Matters
We need to “measure transportation success in a less stupid way.” Transportation is not an end in itself but allows other things to happen – and it is those activities that we need to facilitate – the benefits come from accessibility not mobility. Movement of itself doesn’t serve a purpose. Instead of measuring Level of Service on shopping streets we should look at retail sales per square foot. We are obsessed by congestion, which means currently we aim to reduce vehicle delay when what we should be looking at is quality of service. A busy shopping street (he cited Market St in San Francisco but Robson Street would be our best case) looks “bad” from the point of view of the traffic engineer (LoS F) but successful to the economist – lots of people spending money.
Make walking a pleasure for all types of people at all times of day.
2 Make traffic analysis smart
[Four step transportation] “Models are no better than tarot cards at predicting the future.” Traffic forecasting is much better seen as a branch of economics than of engineering. What we see all around us are the unintended consequences of model based planning. Making it easier to drive makes it difficult to do anything else. The “solutions” (more road) create the problem they predicted.
We should fix the four step model as it fails to incorporate induced and latent demand. We also need to better understand how land use affects travel – not simply import data from observations of trip generation made in Florida in the 1970s.
Fortunately, only small changes in traffic demand are need to release it from congestion. You will frequently hear people saying “You can’t expect everyone to take transit” but you do not need to. All you need to do is persuade 10% to change mode – and you can persuade 10% of the people to do anything!
3 The best transportation plan is a good land use plan.
4 Adopt the right street design manual
Much of current traffic engineering practice comes from rural highways. Wider roads, better sight lines wider turns accommodate driver error – but this only improves safety in rural areas. In urban areas instead of speeding traffic, drivers must be made to slow down and pay attention. Do not give them a false sense of security. And there is now plenty of data that shows what people predict (“you’re gonna kill people”) doesn’t happen. see nacto.org
5 Plant trees
But note that the costs cannot accrue to the traffic department but the property owners along the street if the trees are to be cared for properly
6 Price it right
Congestion pricing in Stockholm
“Poor people place a high value on their time”. The price elasticity of demand means that it is actually very easy to get enough [vehicle] trips off the road to produce free flow. The right price is always the lowest price that equates demand with supply.
7 Manage parking
Read Donald Shoup ”The High Cost of Free Parking” (free pdf).
In urban centres, 30% of the traffic is looking for a parking spot.
The price for parking has to vary by location and time of day – popular places at peak times must cost more. The target price is that which produces enough free spaces to reduce driving. The reason for charging for parking is not to raise money. Invest the parking revenues in making the place better – give it to the Downtown Improvement Association!
Unbundle and share parking, and separate the cost of parking from the cost of other things. Don’t force people to buy more parking than they need and create “park once districts” – rearrange the land use to facilitate walking. So for a series of trips drivers can pay, park and leave the car but visit several different types of activity (work, school, play, shopping).
8 Create a better vision of the future
We are still trying to live in the future that GM displayed in Futurama. Disneyland is an orgy of transportation. The imagineers have yet to come up with a new vision of the city of the future. We are still stuck with the Jetsons.
The new vision has to be based on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
1 Walking is a pleasure for everyone, everywhere, all the time
2 Cycling is comfortable for people of all ages – that means separated cycle facilities
3 The needs of daily life are a walk away
4 Transit is fast, frequent, reliable and – above all – dignified.
Everyone knows and loves their neighbourhood whereas the big region is impersonal. We need a sense of belonging. Food and energy are local and precious, and social networks are fostered.
“On a bus I can use my smart phone. I can’t do that while driving”
“Young people move to cities to get laid.”
Flirtation is actually more valuable than the activity it is aimed at getting. Informal lingering and eye contact is what makes this possible. We should apply the same factors that retailers do in the shops to the pubic realm. Beauty is ubiquitous. The brain is hard wired to appreciate beauty [insert slide of Brockton Point view of downtown]
He also has a [very expensive] book Sustainable Transportation Planning
Q & A
Use of malls to encourage walking by seniors in poor weather? - fantastic
Use fruit trees in urban areas? – city concerns are fallen fruit mess and risk of slipping
Can’t we just use nostalgia instead of a powerful vision of the future? – no humans crave novelty, nostalgia is not enough
Buildings without Parking? – The cities fear that someone will park in front of someone else’s building, and impose minimum parking standards that are excessive. There is an over provision of space = huge subsidy to motordom. Abolish the minimum parking standards. Impose very low maximum parking standards but provide shared cars everywhere.
How do we address the concerns of the Fire Chief? – respectfully. Emergency response time matters but we need to focus on net public safety. There are more ways than one to cut response times, including more stations, smaller trucks, traffic signal priority, grid of streets to provide more routes to the fire. Over professionalism is a widespread issue and we all need to care more about what matters to other people
“I saw you” ads seem always to refer to transit. Can we capitalize on that? - Leave it to the French. look at Strasbourg trams – no wraps, low windows. In the US there is a prevailing attitude that transit is the mode of last resort. Transit is like the dole – you have to be made to suffer to use it.
“Dignify transit” How do you do that on a bus? – provide a comparable level of investment as you would for rail. Very hard for financially strapped transit agencies faced with the “Sophie’s choice” between better buses or more service. There is now a program of providing basic mobility for those who have no choice. To move beyond that we have to ensure that the benefits of better transit accrue to the system provider not the adjacent land owners. Benefit capture pays for more transit [and creates a beneficent spiral]
To make bus transit more comfortable you need more transit priority measures – bus stop bump outs, bus lanes, signal priority
Zurich – all surface transit since local funding requirements meant that subway building was not feasible. Streets are narrow – treasured ancient urban fabric – so very little road space allowed for cars despite extremely wealthy population 80% of whom use transit simply because it is more convenient than the car – no hassle of parking.
Orange Line BRT in LA exceeds all ridership forecasts because there are no forced transfers. And service quality offers “basic level of dignity”.
Boulder CO has very high rates of transit use – all bus service, all low density development – very high service standards
None of this should be of any surprise to readers of this blog. I have been saying the same things here – and for many years previously. I just have not had the fortune to be able to say it with such charm and charisma – and often with less supporting data.
For instance, when BC Transit (as it was then) was designing what became the 98 B-Line Glen Leicester (then head of planning) insisted on the forced transfer from local service (“It’s just like SkyTrain”) despite the very convincing data from the Ottawa transitway that this was the wrong thing to do. The service had to be redesigned three months after it started.
I have been banging on about Richmond’s use of private parking provision in the town centre for years. And only the “hard core lifer crowd” would think Richmond’s cycle network was adequate. The dyke is for recreation not transportation. Only No 3 Road has separation – and that is far from satisfactory.
I felt, when listening to him talk about parking, or pricing, as though I was hearing myself. The good news is that he does it so well that more people listen.
The talk was oversubscribed – and their was a wait list for seats. But even so there were plenty of empty seats when the talk started and no-one moved to the front. Please, if you reserve a seat, but realize you won’t be going, cancel your reservation so someone else can go.
I am now aware of some Car2Go issues – and for two of them, users can do something. Do not leave the car open but keep the key with you. Seems obvious, may just be absent mindedness, but is truly annoying. Just like the lady who takes the car2go to her gym, parks the car in a private locked underground garage (gym members have access, the public doesn’t) and ends the rental. This saves her money but makes the system show it as “available” when it isn’t. She also has her ride home guaranteed.
It was that thing about not unreserving your seat for a City Program talk that reminded me.
Don’t be thoughtless – or selfish.
And while we were waiting for the #16 on Granville St I used my smart phone to find the nearest Car2Go. By the time it had done that, the bus came. This may be more useful than real time next bus information.
There was a proposal to build a path along a new seawall from Kits Beach to Jericho. This part of the shore is underwater at high tide, but there are several access points and it is possible to walk between the two beaches at low tide. I did that today in about an hour. A shoe salesman told me that my walking shoes have “aggressive soles” – which I think means a deep tread. This certainly seemed to be useful as the beach is often covered in sea weed, wet sand and loose mussel shells.
While I thought that the Parks Board had put off the idea, there are those who are concerned it might be revived and there is to be a meeting about that on Wednesday October 3, 2012 at 7:30pm at Kitsilano Sailing Club. It may be helpful to those who have not visited this part of Vancouver to see what it looks like. Hence the set on flickr.
The set covers the foreshore from Trafalgar Street (the end of the current pathway) to yacht club at the eastern end of Jericho Beach, and then back along Point Grey Road to show all the access points along the way.
No doubt if a seawall was constructed it would be wider and not have steps in it too allow for use by bikes, roller bladers and so on, as with the rest of the seawall. Actually, I am not sure that this is a virtue. At present, the area is not accessible unless you are willing to do a bit of clambering and rock hopping. I have seen people carrying their bikes along here, and wondered why they bothered. I have also been in a minor contretemps with a female cyclist on Point Grey Road outside Brock House. She was riding on the sidewalk – with a child on a bike trailer behind her, and simply rode “through” me – not stopping to apologize, if she was even aware of my existence, since she was talking over her shoulder to the child. Not that this is to characterize all cyclists, of course, but it is one of the things one remembers.
This plaque by the end of the path seems to sum it all up nicely. If there were a seawall along here to Jericho, it would become all about speed, as it would be treated in the same way as the seawall around Stanley Park which is a one way race track for those on wheels – and a bit of a hazard for the pedestrian flaneur. I told you at the top it took me about an hour – but that was not intended to be a challenge. After all I was stopping all the time to take the pictures. I was also on my own, but I think the walk would be much more fun with a small child or a marine biologist, and make the whole thing last even longer (keeping an eye on the tide, of course).
The seafloor is actually interesting even without the flora and fauna. Shelves of sandstone jut out interspersed with areas of gravel. There is, mercifully, not a lot of mud along here.
Some of the riparian owners have quite elaborate arrangements to give themselves access – and keep others off their own property.
Others have neglected upkeep. But all along is plenty of evidence that while the foreshore is indeed a natural and wild area the edge of land is anything but. In many places significant amounts of effort have been expended either to secure additional space or to prevent erosion – which I suppose amounts to the same thing.
Local street artists have done their best to reduce the dull greyness of the concrete used in these installations.
There are intermediate access points along the way if you want a shorter walk or if the tide takes you unawares. These steps are about halfway along at the foot of Balaclava Street.
There do seem to be places where the property owners have very little concern about the visual impact of their “improvements”. I suppose because these have been in place for so long that they would have grandfathered “rights” if the City did decide to impose some kind of code of practice here. Also bear in mind that Point Grey Road has some of the highest priced property in the region. It also seems to me to reduce the value of the “wilderness experience in the heart of a big city”.
When I first heard about the idea of “completing” the seawall, I must admit I was initially attracted to the idea. After all you can never have enough routes that are completely forbidden to motor vehicles and adjacent to the water. I also expected that the loudest protest would come from the property owners. But it now seems to come from “the Point Grey Natural Foreshore Protective Society”. Actually one or two of the property owners actually seem to welcome people to the beach.
I did provide a link at the top to the Parks Board meeting July 23 highlights, but just to be clear here’s what it says about the current position
The first motion: that the Park Board, as the organization that manages the seawall with City Engineering, direct Park Board staff to work with city staff as appropriate to develop options for connecting the seawall from Jericho to Kits Beach and provide a timeline and cost estimates for these options, as well as address any environmental and First Nations concerns with the proposals, was deferred.
This is my second attempt at posting about the continued closure of Robson Street between Hornby and Howe. Originally the closure was supposed to be temporary, ending on Labour Day, but has now been extended. My first effort was to have been linked to my pictures of the Viva Vancouver “Pop Rocks” which are posted as a set on flickr. I must admit I got a bit frustrated with the WordPress layout, which did not seem to work the way I wanted it to. I also began to realize that the issues are more complex.
The closure applies to cyclists as well as motorized traffic – but enough cyclists seem to ignore that to create conflict.
Trying to get those two images side by side instead of on top of each other was where I got stuck last time. I also began to realize that this opens a whole new can of worms. Originally I just wanted to celebrate the closure of the street to cars – which happens a lot everywhere else around the world but hardly at all in Vancouver. Not only that but Charles Gauthier of the DVBIA was already pontificating – he is very predictable in his opposition to such ideas – and I felt that there needed to be some response.
This morning, I got a copy of a letter from Transport Action British Columbia that has been sent to the City Council. As I have said here before, I am a member of that organization. I am reproducing the letter here as I think it deserves a wider audience. It raises the issue of how this street closure impacts transit users – which is why I chose the Translink notice as the top picture on this post. Instead of using Granville Street – the main artery and linear exchange for transit in downtown – Route #5 now goes via Burrard Street.
Transport Action British Columbia is NOT against street closures to traffic (like the DVBIA seems to be, on principle) but rather how street closures need to be carefully examined when they impact transit users. Cities are also much better places when they give priority to pedestrians – as the City of Vancouver’s Transport Plan has long recognized but has not implemented very effectively. Some of our pedestrian places – Robson Square and Jack Poole Plaza ( Google doesn’t label it) do not work very well at all. So my initial enthusiasm for this particular closure is waning rapidly.
September 4, 2012
Vancouver City Council
Mayor Robertson and Councillors:
Re: Permanent Closure of Robson Street Between Hornby and Howe
Transport Action BC is concerned with the City’s decision to extend the Robson Street closure between Howe and Hornby Streets for an extended trial that is seems intended to become permanent. The closure has serious implications for transit users that must be considered.
The bus re-route around the closure is circuitous, particularly for those on Robson wishing to use the Canada Line or southbound buses on Granville Mall. TransLink schedules five to seven minutes travel time from Robson & Burrard to Pender & Granville. Transit users wishing to travel south then spend more time getting back to Robson Street. Thus, transit riders are penalised over ten minutes for every one-way trip compared to the direct route on Robson. Walking to Granville Street from Burrard & Robson is quicker for transit connections but this is unattractive for seniors or those with mobility aids, and even less attractive in the wetter, colder months. Additionally, the re-route forces an additional transfer on those who wish to board the Canada Line at City Centre Station.
The net effect of the closure from a transit customer’s perspective is highly unfavourable. Anyone with a choice between transit and driving will find driving relatively more direct and attractive while those without access to a car are taken needlessly out of their way and forced to make additional transfers.
Creating active, pedestrian plazas is laudable. However, it is ironic that in a city aiming to be “green”, the two streets chosen for long-term “activations” are major transit corridors. By routinely diverting transit from these streets the City is reducing the legibility, directness and overall attractiveness of transit. Meanwhile, no effort is spared in providing on-street parking on other streets where corner bulges and wider sidewalks could make permanent improvements in walking conditions throughout the city. Existing plazas, such as those at Robson Square, the Art Gallery and Main Library function far below their potential, presenting off-street opportunities for improving pedestrian amenities.
We suggest that the City take a more holistic view of its transportation priorities before making a final decision on permanently closing the 800 block of Robson to transit. Such considerations must also figure prominently in Viva Vancouver’s seasonal closures.
Buses will play a major role in Vancouver long into the future. It is time surface transit received more respect from City Hall.
CC: Councillor A. Carr; Charles Gauthier – Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association; TransLink Board of Directors
Secretary – Transport Action British Columbia
There is now a nice video by Spacing Magazine – they have it on their blog and so does Gordon Price. But I thought I should embed it here – just becuase I can. Worth seeing in HD and fullscreen if you can
Hat tip to Ron Richings who circulated this to the trans-action Google group
For more photos of successful urban places that have removed cars, go to the flickr group I created “Places without cars“
SFU City Programme “Designing Broadway” Monday, May 30, 7 – 9 pm, SFU at Harbour Centre
Broadway, extending across almost the entire city, is not only an important street for walking, living, shopping and work but is also one of Vancouver’s busiest transit corridors. How can we make it better?
Allan Jacobs, former Director of City Planning for San Francisco and author of Great Streets, and Elizabeth Macdonald, Professor of Urban Design at the University of California, Berkeley, will speak to best practices in street design and provide advice on the design of Broadway and how it could be a ‘Really Good’ Street, if not a ‘Great Street.’
In his introduction Gordon Price mentioned that the evening was sponsored by the City of Vancouver, in the same way that they had sponsored the recent presentation on the viaducts
I have quoted the SFU blurb above since the two introductory speakers were not on the programme. The value of these contributions is, I think, debatable but the effect was that they both took up time that would normally have been available for discussion. By 9pm I had to leave – and a lot of people decided to go before that. So I did not get all the discussion points
City Engineer Peter Judd
Spoke about the City’s Transportation plan update. The original targets of the last plan were said to be optimistic but they were exceeded early on. Both jobs and population in the City are trending up, but both automobile use and miles driven are trending down. These trends are due to land use changes. Transportation planning has to be done in the context of land use, transit and economic development. We live in a time of change. “Today’s kids” have a different set of values fort hem transportation is not all about owning a car. The City is now consulting about what the vision of the future should be – talkvancouver.com
Broadway is the second highest concentration of jobs in the region. There is a distinct change in the nature of the street at Arbutus divide. East of Arbutus traffic flows are heavier – 30,000 at Cambie (Knight is 40,000) six lanes wide – and Broadway is also the only continuous truck route north of 41st. There is heavy transit use 100,000 passengers per day which is similar to the Canada Line and double the Millennium Line. He also noted that the expectations of Canada Line use were quickly exceeded. There is a significant amount of demand for transit that cannot currently be expressed due to capacity constraints of the system. Eats of Arbutus it is a long way to cross the street and there are only limited opportunities for amenities such as public art or street seating.
West of Arbutus, Broadway is very different. There are awnings over the sidewalk and it is seen to be a place to have your business. There are the same number of transit trips but only 20 to 25,000 vehicle trips per day.
In recent years the number of cars entering the city declined 5% (downtown 20%). In the past 15 years of growth has been accommodated on walk, bike and cycle, and New York is similar. We have been able to support a rate of economic growth that could not otherwise have been accommodated by automobile.
On Central Broadway the mode split is more similar to the rest of the region. 21% of trips are on transit but improvements to transit are the most essential as there are currently more than 2,000 pass-ups at peak hour. If we had the same mode split on Broadway as downtown the automobile volumes would fall. It would then be entirely doable to have parking on street, with bus bulges, sidewalk widening and all the rest. Rapid Transit would make that possible – and make it a better street.
Lance Berelowitz – is currently working for the City as a consultant to update policies for the Central Broadway area. He read from the City’s Terms of Reference for his work and it mentions Great Street, a vibrant public realm, and community consultation later this year. the study has a 30 year horizon and a policy decision is expected in 2012.
Broadway is both extraordinary and very vexing. It is unique: it is the only continuous east west route across the City and into Burnaby (where it is called Lougheed Highway) and is wider at 99′ than most arterials (not the 66′ typical of Vancouver). It is the pre-eminent east west corridor, with significant buildings along it and its intersections with all the north south routes are important nodes. The opportunity of rapid transit of some kind is that it will “take the heat off an over-subscribed piece of real estate”. What Broadway might look like with rapid transit is currently what Translink is studying. “If you get rapid transit underground, you no longer need the B Line.” Therefore it is possible to re-engineer the street to attract more people, and better buildings. Public realm is underwhelming. Its lack of attraction stems from the absence of street trees. The linden trees in Kitsilano west of MacDonald, saved by public protest shows that substantial trees can survive on Broadway . The built form is spotty at best. The buildings are old and tired and many are only 1 or 2 stories high. This is simply not high enough relative to the great width of the street.
On Broadway – a possible future Great Street
We can take more lessons from you than you can learn from us – you are doing so well. ”They talk about Great Streets but they never give any damn dimensions.” We measure streets: for instance – how far is it between doorways? On Queen Street in Toronto they are 16′ apart. We also count people as well as cars.
Broadway is many streets over its length – but it is not a great walking street. Ultimately we believe it will be the main street of the city.
Central Broadway [I need to point out here that he mainly showed many pictures, and it will take me some time to research and find illustrations. He relied heavily on people seeing what he was talking about rather than explaining it.]
There are some common physical and designable characteristics of great streets. The first is that they are places where people to walk with some leisure – a street in Rome, Queen St TO, Robson St, Davie St were all given as examples. On Strøget in Copenhagen they counted a pedestrian flow of 16 people per metre per minute. The greatest flow is found on Avenida Florida in Buenos Aires at 24 – which is probably the maximum. They noted also that people were strolling back and forth – they were not necessarily travelling through the street, but enjoying it.
“Be cautious about standards – I challenge them all the time”
The best streets are comfortable: he showed a picture of a street in San Francisco where the wind [vortex] created by tall buildings blew people over. We need physical comfort – shade when its hot, sun when its cool – and that is the role of [deciduous] trees.
The best streets are defined by a sense of place, they have boundaries. The ancients understood this and had a rule that the building height had to be at least half the width of the street. He showed Brooklyn brownstones at 4 storeys which do that. “If the buildings don’t do it, trees can.”
Transparency – the ability to see and know by sight what it is behind is what gives definition to the street, and creates a feeling of safety. You don’t get it with the Nieman Marcus store in San Francisco [picture of blank wall] whereas Macy’s on Union Square invites you in. Glass doesn’t always do it – black glass creates Darth Vader buildings:[you think] “nothing good can be happening in there!” But he also showed a narrow alley in Venice with high walls on both sides where trees and branches were visible over the top of the walls – this also creates a sense of comfort, knowing that there is a garden there
Buildings that are complementary – not all the same. Princes St Edinburgh
Quality and maintenance – a control on fly bill posters, clean windows,
Qualities that engage the eyes – cornices “ins and outs” – which creates shadow lines that attract the eyes – the eyes have to move
Trees give you the greatest bang for the buck. Ideally at 15 -35 ft spacing – and come to the corners – do not be deterred by the claimed need for clear sight lines for car drivers at corners
- many buildings rather than few
- marked beginnings and endings
- places along the way – he illustrated this with a small square that the people took over – “mini parks” often no more than one or two parking spots taken over
- special design features – fountains in Nuremberg
Elizabeth MacDonald spoke about Balanced Streets
Balance is needed between
- different types of movement
- movement and in place
- hardscape and greenscape
There are many competing interests: success is when no-one gets everything but everyone gets a lot, and the public realm serves all interests.
We can get balance between modes at either the street level or at a city-wide level. Not all streets need be the same but no streets should be sacrificed to fast movement. Some streets should be for transit, bikes or walking
She illustrated this by showing the various Amsterdam transport networks. One example was the IJBurg “linear tramway district”. They chose not to give vehicles priority.
Portland OR is well balanced downtown because all the streets have a narrow right of way with short blocks that limit streets. they have also introduced curbless shared streets – Teachers Park
She showed a Paris shopping street with mixed traffic where pedestrians outnumber cars. There are movable bollards that only residents and local businesses can open – and they drive at walking pace.
Textures are used in Copenhagen to define car, pedestrian and bike areas. “Everybody young and old rides bikes because they feel so safe”
The new cycle track on Hornby Street achieves the dame thing with hardscape. There are a few aesthetic issues but it is a great idea and safer than an on- street bike lane.
San Francisco is reducing lane widths, and removing parking and turning pavement into parks. They have created street parks in former parking places. Because they were deemed temporary they were easy to do: then they become permanent as people show they like them and use them.
In The Castro there are curved streetcar tracks through a park taken from the street – the curve limits the speed of the streetcars in any event.
They have made a number of commercial streets better with the use of narrow medians with planting
Portland green streets – stormwater runoff issue – vegetative swales
Comprehensive rebalancing – SF Better Streets plan – common framework -
Rebalancing big streets
International Blvd Oakland CA 100′ row – 72′ roadway – but is also the neighbourhood shopping street
Fruitvale BART station – moved surface parking to create transit village – traffic calming – new plaza – centre median – pedestrian refuge and slows down traffic but appropriate for neighborhood
Octavia Blvd SF – removal of freeway at Market Street – Hayes Valley -
133′ wide – rebuild frontage – in some places lots less than 15′ deep – could be student housing or other temporary things. Narrow side access roads with a mountable curb to meet the demands of the fire department. A pedestrian realm created in the median
Park at end of street – Patricia’s Green – named after a local activist on freeway removal
Pacific Blvd Vancouver – a key policy in the city Transportation plan was to keep current capacity: that meant that on Pacific the City engineers identified excess roadway. There were to be three different lengths: two outer parts with “one-sided multiway boulevards” and a central area where 122′ of asphalt was replaced by two 25′ roadways, a parking lane “flex zone” and central median with trees. There was also to be a bus lane and 16′ side access roads to keep speeds down. [I was there recently and simply did not recognize any of these features - so I have changed the tense of what I wrote.She must have been talking about what they proposed not what was built.]
In its current state its is “snaggle tooth, haphazard, trees don’t add up to anything, too narrow sidewalks”. It is a bad pedestrian realm overall but some bus stops have been made better with wider sidewalks due to greater set backs of the buildings.
“It can’t be everything”
[Question inaudible] Tomorrow there will be a design charette with city staff
Pedestrian realm should incorporate porous surfaces to deal better with surface water issues
Q: Viable street trees
A: There are lots of ways – importance of not letting the budget be cut
Q: Broadway bike route is on 10th – transit is the key – if we don’t have direction on [the type of] Rapid Transit [surface or underground] we can’t do design
A: Agreed – we will look at both alternatives – going underground frees up the right of way for other uses – and it gets people excited about the possibilities
Q: Why don’t we build cheap housing for students at UBC to reduce need for travel?
[Celia Brauer hit the nail on the head with that one. It is the land use at UBC that's screwed up - lots of housing but only at market prices and hardly any for students. There was, of course, no response]
Q: Bikes – helmet rule – Copenhagen and Amsterdam don’t need them.
A – depends on speed of moving vehicles but at 25mph it becomes lethal – it depends on the degree of separation of bikes from cars
Q: very concerned about seniors in wheelchairs, scooters
A concerned about paving and curb cuts
There was further discussion after 9pm – hopefully some of those who stayed might fill that in as comments. Gordon Price was asking about trucks as I left.
My reaction was that while we looked at a lot of places that have either been well designed or managed to develop as civilised places (i.e. they kept the cars under control and allowed people to use the pubic realm) there was not much that emerged about what could or should happen on Broadway, simply because the rapid transit question remains unresolved.
While writing this I learned that the Evergreen Line has been put off once again. And, of course, that is the first priority for rapid transit in this region. Vancouver is quite right to point out how bad things are on Broadway. The problem that I see is that it is much worse everywhere else in the region, and we are currently busy pointing fingers between levels of government. Having totally hobbled municipal government, the province has the chutzpah to blame them for every delay. And all the talk about new sources of revenue seems to be just that. Talk, not action.
The last time I heard talk of Great Streets here, the context was No 3 Road. There, the overhead ALRT guideway seems to guarantee failure. Though the height limit on buildings doesn’t help. It is still a place I avoid as much as possible. Something I learned when I came to Richmond, and has yet to be disproved. You certainly do not see anyone walking at some leisure there!
The Richmond Review decided to run this story on their front page. Which says a lot about free local “news”papers. It is taken from an annual Money Sense survey – and seems to me to lack even the most basic common sense. Our “best” ranking (according to the Review) is in the number of new cars in the city – we’re No 3! Whoopee.
We rated cities based on climate, prosperity, access to healthcare, home affordability, crime rates and lifestyle with subcategories in each area.
Yeah, it’s that prosperity indicator. Am I worse off now that I was in 2007? That was when I bought my car. It is now getting on for three years old. It works just as well as the day I bought it, though thanks to depreciation it is worth less now. That was true the moment I drove it out of the showroom - but of course if it lasts long enough to become a classic collectable item that could change too. Though in the case of cars, patina does not add value they way it does with furniture and bronzes on the Antiques Roadshow. (Actually in the case of this survey it makes no difference at all since “new” means “up to three years old”.) Monetary value is actually not a very good way of measuring things. For one thing the Roadshow never mentions inflation. If someone had bought me something in the year I was born that cost $100, it would need to be worth nearly $1,000 now just to keep pace with the decline in the value of money.
Is the number of new cars a good measure of “the best place to live”? Somehow, the fact that some of my neighbours like to trade in their cars every three years does not make me any happier with Richmond. At the same time, the ranking of affordability is applied to houses: but once again it is perverse in that the way the information is displayed suggests that Vancouver gets top ranking as it is even less affordable than Richmond is. As far as that goes, since I am mortgage free where I live got “cheaper” in terms of its value – but now seem to have returned to what I paid for it. Once again, I don’t see house prices actually make much difference to my perception of the city over time – factored by average incomes or not. The indicator is called “time to buy a house” (Average house price divided by the average family income) where Richmond ranks third (#53 overall) with an indicator of 177. The most affordable place is Portage la Prairie in Manitoba with an indicator of 1, which is ranked #73 overall.
What they are really saying of course is that Richmond is, in the words quoted from Derek Dang, “highly desirable”. Unless that condo you bought now has the elevated Canada Line a few feet from your bedroom window. Accessibility is great, privacy and the view not so much.
Actually you need to read the somewhat complex methodology to see how these ranking were weighted.
Some of the indicators I actually like
WALK/BIKE TO WORK – 7 Points – Data taken from 2006 Statistics Canada reports
TRANSIT – 5 points – Based on the percentage of the workforce utilizing public transit according the 2006 census
So we get no credit at all for the Canada Line, yet it has had some effect on transit ridership since the last annual survey, there’s just no census data on that yet. But only commuting counts, even though it has had significant value for me (and, I suspect quite a few others) in changing my views about how easy it now is to get to events of all kinds in Vancouver, without having to pay an arm and leg to park. In Richmond walking and cycling still seem to be perceived as recreational activities – not serious transportation. The only real change recently has been again due to the Canada Line which meant the new bike/walk bridge to Vancouver and the bike lanes on the north end of No 3 Road. Not that either of these connect to a continuous network of course. And walking anywhere other than the dyke or within one of the larger parks seems to be an exercise in masochism. I live within a mile of the nearest shopping centre – but that mile is along Steveston Highway. There is a sidewalk (on one side only) no bike lanes, and traffic which averages 70 km/hr (posted speed 50 km/hr – speed enforcement negligible). So (nearly) all the drivers like this route. Like most of the straight, wide arterials in Richmond it seems to offer a fast way to get around, with few pedestrian crossings and restricted volumes of traffic emerging from side streets or entranceways. I do see a few brave cyclists – and some harried pedestrians – but none of them seem to be willing to linger. Conversation on the sidewalk would be next to impossible, most of the time. I cannot leave my back door open in good weather – or sit in my back yard for long – because of the noise.
CULTURE – Bonus points. A city could receive up to 5 points based on the percentage of people employed in arts, culture, recreation and sports.
This seems to me also to be perverse. Surely the measure of culture should be something to do with participation rates. Thanks to cut backs in all levels of government funding for the arts the number of people employed has been in steep decline for some time. But that does not stop people making art – they just find it hard to make a living at it. And again “recreation and sports” counted this way means that the Vancouver Canucks are seen as important and your daughter’s softball league counts not at all. (Richmond hosts regional and national girls’ softball tournaments at London park.)
In cities, as with most things, what gets measured gets attention. Trouble is, we don’t usually measure things that are very significant but hard to count. Or rather, “mainstream media” seem to get all excited (front page news is an indicator) about some things which turn out not to be very important at all. At one time, crime rates got all the press. Since they have been falling, you do not see so much about that – but stories about crime (customers of a local restaurant robbed at gun point) and the “failings of justice system” (i.e. we don’t punish those found guilty harshly enough) are still lead news stories. Richmond has significant problems – flood risk, lack of preparedness for earthquakes, loss of farmland and green space, shortage of parks in the central area, loss of industrial employment, lack of transit to employment locations, lack of public and affordable housing, no shelters for the homeless, rising rates of foodbank use, impact of the cuts in education funding – I could go on. Some of this might be captured by this survey – but most of it isn’t. And anyway just ranking us against other places in Canada does not tell us very much either.
Are we doing well? Are we doing any better than we were? Are we keeping up with other countries? I don’t know. Not from reading this anyway.
I spent much of the weekend at the Northern Voice blogging conference – and, being contrary, did not take the netbook or the MacBook with me. All around me people who were at the front of the line to get a seat in a session were busy. Listening perhaps with one ear to the presentation, but mostly doing other things – tweeting, live blogging (though perhaps not as much as in previous years) but also I saw Gmail and even people building web sites. I thought it was a good idea to take notes in a paper format – using a ball point pen in a real notebook (which also meant I didn’t need to spend any time looking for a power outlet). But a lot has been happening, and I wanted to draw attention to some of the stories in my inbox this morning piled up from the weekend. If you follow the same listserves I do, some of this may be repetitive of that.
On trans-action the long running debate of rapid transit versus streetcars, that has long occupied the commenters on this blog, continues. This evening I am going to be at the launch of Patrick Condon’s new book and there is also some overlap, now apparent, with the recent controversy here on environmental justice. Richard Campbell posted all of “In Praise of Fast Transit” – so I won’t, but it is worth noting the overlap.
“This perspective” being American, and based on their “suburban dispersion of the poor” – or if you are poor and live in New York you have to live in places like Queens because the better connected areas are not affordable. Now to some extent that might also hold true here – but is not, I think, quite so definitive. People here tend to follow the “drive until you can afford to buy” rule too, but there are other ways of achieving affordable living, often starting with the decision not to own a car – or maybe only having one car in the household. The change of land use around Joyce Colingwood being a good example – and one that is, sadly, all too rare. With the exception of West Coast Express, we did not go for “expensive commuter rail options” – unlike Greater Toronto. And there I used to have to listen to TTC executives spout “no concessions for fat cats from Oakville“ whenever the topic of fare integration got raised. Actually, the people on the GO train I boarded every day had also been forced out to suburbs like Malvern, where the TTC was often the only option for most of the remaining lower paid jobs in the industrial areas as free trade hit. Park and ride was about the GO’s only saving grace. But that is, I think, exceptional in Canadian experience, and in Greater Vancouver we had intended at least to provide people with a grater range of choices. Not that we succeeded, due to the calamitous decisions that drove industry out of Vancouver into the suburban fringe and usually to the freeway exits, instead of the “regional town centres”. Most Metro planners concede that “office parks” were never part of the LRSP. And putting UBC at the end of the peninsular, and SFU on the top of a mountain, and then declining to provide anything like enough of the sort of accommodations that students need was even more contrary.
Patrick has his own riposte on Human Transit. And it is worth reading. But the point I want to make to readers here – and especially those who spend so much time commenting – it is not the transit technology that we ought to focus upon. It is about the sort of place we want to live in. Obviously in a long established huge urban area like the New York megalopolis, much retrofitting needs to be done – and it obviously ought to be more concerned about everyone – and not just the well to do – than it was in Robert Moses’ heyday. But in this region we have to weigh also in the balance where growth is going to happen next – we can expect another million people in the next twenty years or so. And also where we have been spending most up to now and how little difference there has been in mode choices as a result.
I think the speed question can also be reframed in that speed of itself imposes higher costs on society – firstly because a fast trip burns more energy per passenger kilometre than a slower one, but also – in personal transport – carries with it a higher risk of more serious casualties. Add to that, the extent to which personal transport is tied to fossil fuel use, the inevitable environmental degradation – of which a large chunk is the sprawl it continues to generate. Clearly the debate should be more about transit versus freeways – especially the extent to which recent decisions can still be reversed – than about trams versus SkyTrain. For the ‘burbs the prospects of “rail for the valley” seem to me to be diminishing, not improving. I hope I am wrong about that, but for now Translink cannot even find a way to pay for the much needed Evergreen Line – so the whole “what kind of transit do we need on Broadway” seems to me to be pointless. Whatever Translink concludes in its current round of planning is irrelevant. Translink cannot afford ANY expansion. Anything that does get built will be decided by the province (and the availability of federal funding) not what Translink and its consultees might prefer. If anything at all.
In the Globe and Mail, Frances Bula reports on an important shift in priorities at the City of Vancouver. No longer just “no more roadspace for cars” – the rule in recent years – but now less space for cars.
Urban-planning research has found that roads typically account for about 35 per cent of a city’s total land area.
The days when cars had free rein in that era are long over. Planners and city politicians look at which stream of locomotion should get priority and where.
They are also looking closely at how much room cars take. They require 140 square metres when they’re travelling, 37 square metres when they’re parked. And, Ms. Reimer said, one recent calculation she heard was that there are four parking spots for every one of the 1.5 million cars in the region.
“If you could figure out a more efficient use of allocating all this pavement, you could do all kinds of things,” she said.
One thing that we could do is take space from cars (1.3 people per vehicle on average, or 1,300 people per hour per direction per lane) and give it to transit. That gives an order of magnitude increase in people carrying capacity – as Gordon Campbell acknowledges. Even the very limited, down to fixed price budget, Canada Line can carry as much as five lanes of freeway each way - or ten lanes of Broadway. But you can also do that with surface transit. And don’t bother with the issues of should be it be steel wheels or rubber tires. It doesn’t matter. What matters is any exclusive lane transit option is far cheaper to build than a subway – and it gets in the way of the cars! Slowing cars down is a worthwhile target as part of the strategic objective of making a city better for people. Less space for moving cars – and parked cars too in the longer term once there is adequate transit – means more space for tables and chairs as well. It is not that streets are just for moving the maximum number of vehicles through as quickly as possible: streets are the public realm. Streets are where we live. Lively streets have lots of people – and they are not moving very fast – or often at all. Yes we need to get about – but that is only part of what cities need to be workable, and pleasant at the same time. Not that you will read that In Bula’s piece.
You also have to make it possible – or even attractive – to get across the street. Especially at intersections. Even more importantly where stupid transit planners have neglected to put in enough entrances to the subway (i.e. nearly every Canada Line station). Once again, please note that your nice new train might be “fast” (and could have been faster had it not had to stick to the bends in the road around Queen E park) but it is the overall door to door journey time relative to the car that matters in mode choice. And access time, in any simulation, is always twice the value of in vehicle time. Washington DC is bringing back the Barnes’ Dance. I have mentioned that here before too. This is a better name for it than the “pedestrian scramble” which I think has all the wrong connotations as it makes me think of eggs and their fragility. The important thing being that all vehicles face all way red signal – and no sneaking around the corner either! The current practice of giving turning movements priority at signalized intersections and making pedestrians wait ever longer also sends all the wrong messages. The priority in Vancouver’s plans has been (for many years) pedestrians first, then cyclists, then transit, then, finally, motorized vehicles. But that is still not seen on most streets.
In news of transit in other cities, New York saw a nasty incident on the Staten Island Ferry, which is being blamed on the high tech Voith Schneider Propeller. I didn’t get a ride on what is truly the world’s best harbour cruise (beats SeaBus and anything in Hong Kong becuase it is free) because we spent so much time in line for the Liberty ferry. Maybe just as well. Seattle is looking at alternatives to its aging fleet of trolleybuses with the likely crunch issue being hill climbing ability. We ought really to have looked at trolleybuses for SFU, North Van and New Westminster. Or, as my trips last weekend reminded me, extending the #41′s wires to UBC. Actually my personal desire is to see poles put on some of the new hybrid buses, so they could use the wires where they are currently installed but little used . A bit of roof stiffening and some extra power control technology might be more cost effective than more kilometres of the world’s longest extension cord. And less wirescape. Note how nice this street looks without all the cables commonly seen on so many arterials in this region. Not just trolleybus wires either!
And finally, the SFPR P3 contract was awarded on Friday. Laila Yuile has all the ghastly details. (Hat tip to Eric Doherty for the link.) As it happens London has got rid of its appallingly bad P3 deal on the tube. Interestingly, under the aegis of a conservative Mayor Boris Johnson.
Johnson was quoted by newspapers as saying the deal freed London Underground and private contractors from “the perverse pressures of the Byzantine PPP structure.”
Bob Crow, general secretary of transport workers’ union RMT, said the buyout was a “recognition on a massive scale that transport privatization does not work” and said RMT would continue to campaign for the renationalisation of Britain’s rail network.
SFU City Program – free public lecture at SFU downtown April 22, 2010
Dan Burden spoke last night summarizing his extensive experience in remaking places for people instead of cars. He used a lot of illustrations which I have not been able to locate on line. He does have a collection of images on flickr using the identity walkablecommunties some of which I have used below as well as one of my own (Bryant Park) and some others I have found on the web. SFU were making a video of the presentation as well, which will be on their web page eventually.
He opened by saying that Vancouver is the lead city for bringing about change for what we need. He intended to “validate that you are in the right field”. There is going to be a profound change for North America which for the last sixty years has been designed around the car. His job has been taming the urban highway. This mean dealing with both building form and street form – to make them relate to the human being – and do a better job of moving cars.
Bryant Park New York City – the only activities here in the 1960s were drug deals. But only little things needed to be tweaked. “We needed to find the right height for the wall around the park so that people could see in”. It has become a social gathering place – we changed the wall and put in over 3,000 chairs which are portable, and only 30 a year get stolen.
We are going to measure everything by the foot. All areas are going to transition as we return to health and social equity. There will be bigger and more massive storms (illustrated by the picture of the Fallen tree in Stanley Park) and this will effect every waterfront.
Density does not generate traffic – it generates pedestrians and cyclists. By maximizing sight lines we create public realm. All over America there are places were the streets have been laid and the sewers put in, but no houses will ever be built. This suburban expansion was the wrong concept at the wrong time – all the housing stock in Florida will not be sold in ten years.
We now see places like Calgary, Vernon, Edmonton where the spillover of knowledge and technologies in making human places has happened. But it must also be acknowledged that overcoming change in order to not have the worst possible change takes courage “Just ask Fred Bass” – Burrard Bridge.
In Seattle they are taking out the McDonalds and Burger Kings and putting in coffee houses as part of mixed use developments.
“Our cars matter. I am not anti-car but I am pro people”
There is a serious problem with SOVs. The traffic system will always break down. Car buyers are very fickle. Just two years ago fuel efficiency was 17th on list of what people look for in a new car. A long way behind cup holders. That changed, but gas prices have not come down as far as they were, and will not again.
West Lafayette Indiana – in showing how the narrowing of streets worked he remarked, “It’s the intersection that mediates traffic” not the width of the street.
After WWII we designed cities for cars. It was the federal housing administration that discouraged through traffic and mandated cul-de-sacs. It was not one class that was responsible. He showed a picture of 11 Mile Road in Detroit, Michigan. “That is now a scary place. Not exactly of what the modernists predicted.”
As recently as 1972 a traffic engineer in Los Angeles was quoted as saying “If it weren’t for the damn pedestrians there wouldn’t be a traffic problem.”
Tennessee Ave in Tallahassee – an arterial road 7 lanes wide that kills one pedestrian a year. It will be narrowed to 4 lanes and will move more traffic.
Today people are returning to cities for their health. He told the Cherokee 2 wolves story to illustrate how we can no chose which way to go.
Using a picture of the inner harbour in Victoria be highlighted several people who were “loitering” – change that to “lingering” and it becomes a good not an evil.
“How do we count the capacity of streets?”
For a long time we simply looked at vehicle capacity. We now need to look for other indicators such as the number of weddings on a bicycle.
He compared two roads and said that “the one that is safer makes more money”
Marine Drive, Dundarave, West Vancouver
West Broadway, Vancouver – tripled density along the street
Robson Street, Vancouver “streets that are full of life”
Many cities have the original “bone structure” – the street system that predated the car and that can be revived. Seaside Florida was based on drawings from 1928, and simply designed to recreate the sort of place people had known int heir childhood.
“We will make more meaningful all spaces”
Examples of sustainable places he illustrated included
Seattle – High Point – were there is a wide mix of housing types and a strong emphasis on water retention
The most unsustainable – Abu Dhabi – where there were no pedestrians or cyclists – but it will become the most sustainable – they have the will and the resources.
Bogota – example of public transport/ bicycle integration
West Palm Beach – rebuilding city that had fallen into ruin – Espanola Way – south beach
Monterey CA – mixed use “jewel box” devt on one third of an acre
Vernon BC – “off the charts on aging in place”. It also shows the importance of scale and edges in bringing back people into cities. He used a graph that showed how pedestrain use increases and traffic declines based on the work of John Holtzclaw of the Sierra Club. As density increases from 3 to 4 units/acre to 20 units/acre, the number of car trips fall and the number of pedestrian and cycle trips increase.
“There is a difference between densirty and form. It is important to grasp that. It is not about sidewalks and crossings. It’s about the buildings.” They have recently rediscovered the importance of smaller scale grocers in urban places.
Michael Freedman – clustering to promote walkability – Highgate Village Burnaby
Dundarave shows how managing traffic better made a better, more vibrant place.
Hamburg NY – street narrowing
La Hoya Blvd Birdrock San Diego - reducing 5 lanes to 2 got speeds down to 20mph and people got home sooner. That is because they replaced the traffic lights with roundabouts. All of the shops are doing better.
Rubber band planning
Just by using pins and flexible string to determine routes, a six year old can do a better job of planning streets. The pins indicate where people are located and where they want to be. The string between them shows the shortest route. The flexibility of the string shows where these desire lines can be grouped showing where the pedestrian crossings and pathways need to be. You then just replace the string with pen lines.
“Transportation is too important to be left to transportation planners”
He showed a number of examples of people power, citing the founder fathers, and the need to inform people. It is essential that the process involve people. [Quite unlike the present practice here of "public consultation"] He spoke of “turning back planning”. Robert Davis the inventor of Seaside simply wanted to make a place like he remembered from his childhood. Many of his examples showed that it only takes on person to start
The Cycle of Strip Development
Land Use Planners set out what was needed to accommodate people and their activities which produced growth. This required the attention of transportation planners who expanded the system and encouraged further growth, which called for the land use planners to examine how to accommodate growth and so on. The only way of breaking the Cycle is to put the land use planners and transportation planners together with community planners.
Q & A
Q As a result of making cities more desirable we also make the city more expensive
A In Seattle they require developers to build workforce housing – a percentage of each development must be affordable. Or they pay for extra density to the city which the uses those funds to buy land for affordable housing.
Q In Vancouver we have the downtown East Side which is bisected by the 6 lane Hastings Street. There are a lot of low income income people and also problems of drugs and theft. Do you have experience of similar low income high risk areas?
A Yes. All parts of the community have to be brought back. The social services have to work. Division St, Grand Rapids, Michigan was the same. The problem is how to get people to come and take part in the process. We had a design charrette for 118th St Edmonton which is now one of the most beautiful streets in the city. Initially one six people came – five of whom were simply seeking shelter. But one of them was inspired and cleaned up – and then became a very effective change agent. “It is the wealthy who will get the first fruits – the are the first to come back – but everybody must get cared for”
Q Are mandatory parking minimums part of the problem?
A Yes. See Donald Shoup – The High Cost of Free Parking – minimum parking requirement is the problem
Q second part – what is it going to take to get rid of minimum parking requirements? Is anybody here going to make that commitment?
Q You spoke about the health improvements brought by these projects. For instance you said that Marine Drive in West Vancouver “lowered blood pressure”. Have you empirical evidence?
Walter Kulash has noted that road rage is worst on suburban streets that have higher speeds. “We should probably have in car BP monitoring”
Q Returning to parking minimums – parts of Burnaby are walkable but they are surrounded by single family areas and that’s where the demand comes from for on street parking.
Public streets are public. Having your own spot on the street in front of your house is not a right. We have to come up with right way to charge for parking. Look at the example of Cambridge where residents have to have parking passes. We also tried to get high school students paid for parking on streets which would then become a fund for street improvements. There should be a premium for priority on parking to increase turn over that then provides money to neighborhoods. “No one has taken me up on that yet.” But we also need to ask “Are we really using the street properly”. Many suburban streets are too wide and could easily accommodate angle parking.
Q How do we work with the “suburban mess”?
A I am currently staying in Richmond, which has lots of “super blocks” and hence broken connectivity. We need to remove the barriers but we are a conflicted society. 80% of N America is suburbs. Deciding where and how you stitch is a very big task. “It is not easy but it”s going to be fun!”
Q GVRD vs Translink – two authorities – one for land use one for transportation
See New Zealand. They reinvented transportation and land use planning to make it into one team. They then sent teams to cities like Vancouver and stole their best ideas
Q I am wondering about how long these streets are? How far before energy peters out?
A There is a need to change character of the street to reflect their neighborhoods: we tend to work in half mile sections.
Two good news stories this morning.
The Burrard Bridge trail looks like it has been a success. The report will go to the Transportation Committee tomorrow. Or you could could read the Vancouver Sun’s summary. (Or that of the Georgia Straight.)
Its popularity among cyclists – 90 per cent in favour, and pedestrians, with 79 per cent in favour — isn’t surprising, but the support among drivers may be.
Of those drivers who travel the Burrard Bridge without a passenger, 51 per cent support the continuation of the bike lane trial, with 31 per cent opposed.
So the promises of doom turn out to be wrong. Do you think there will be any public statement from the DVBIA aplogising? No, neither do I.
The other one is a bit further afield. The Guardian reports that one of the busiest intersections in Central London has been rebuilt. Following similar experiments in Kensington all the street furniture designed to pen in pedestrians has been removed.
This boosts available space for pedestrians by around two-thirds, as well as – the designers hope – encouraging all road users towards a more thoughtful, responsible attitude.
The biggest innovation is the use of diagonals for one pedestrian crossing phase. All vehicle traffic in all directions is stopped and pedestrians can cross diagonally, if they wish. This is known by the unfortunate name of a “scramble crossing”. The reason for the redesign was exactly the same as that for Broadway in New York. There were far too many pedestrians for the space allocated to them. But due to the street furniture they could not spill onto the street, the way they did on Broadway, resulting in considerable congestion and a field day for pick pockets.
Oxford Street and Regent Street are two of London’s busiest shopping streets. Oxford Street has been closed to car traffic for a while now but is heavily used by buses, taxis and, of course, delivery vehicles.
Now that the cyclists can use Burrard Bridge safely, I hope someone will start looking critically at some of the busier intersections of downtown and thinking about where diagonal crossings might make a reality of Vancouver’s claimed priority for pedestrians.
And while I am thinking about that, will someone please reconsider the idiotic decision to limit the number of entrances and exits at Canada Line stations that are underneath intersections. Since the trains are below the street surface, it should be possible to get directly to the platforms. It should not be necessary to have to cross two busy streets, and then do a labyrinthe of tunnels and staircases. You can see how that is done at Oxford Circus too.