Archive for the ‘placemaking’ Category
This was actually my first visit to the SFU Woodwards campus: tribute was paid to Warren Gill – this was the third lecture in his honour – and he was credited with the initiative to establish SFU in downtown and in Surrey.
Attendees were encouraged to tweet using the #sfucity hashtag. I have produced a storify from them. Credit should also go to SFU for providing free wifi access. Thank you.
Chief Planner and Executive Director
City of Toronto
At SFU Woodwards
Cities are our greatest hope and our greatest risk. Vancouver and Toronto (where the mode share for transit is 23.3% for the journey to work is comparable to ours when using the Census Metropolitan Area (CMA) rather than the city.
She has identified critical success factors that are going to be necessary for securing a different future to business as usual.
Canadian cities are suburban, auto oriented. We are not as rich we thought we were. WE have a number of perverse subsidies that have led to suburban sprawl. We need to increase density to increase the utilisation of existing infrastructure. Areas that don’t change will be left behind. The legacy we are leaving our children can be seen in the weather. Echo boomers want something different whether the city changes or not.
Illustration of city suburbs “expensive mistakes”. [For an instructive comparison see also the recent SFU lecture by Charles Marohn on "Strong Towns" which is one I missed but the video has now been posted on the Stroad to Boulevard tumblr.]
In the city of the future everything will be within short distance, which means less commuting and more time for everything else. Is this vision what our suburbs might become? We continue to build suburbs. Consensus on how to change eludes us.
Three Critical Success Factors
1 the need to believe in a better future
She used the frequently cited prescience of the builders of the Bloor viaduct, which had the ability to accommodate the subway under the roadway 48 years before the subway opened. [As a transportation economist I have a somewhat different view of overbuilt infrastructure]
“I don’t get the baby platforms of the Canada Line” [I agree with her there]
Leaders don’t use polling to determine direction
2 the need to cultivate deep understanding about drivers for change
Clear coherent vision for the future essential for consensus. Walkable neighbourhood is better term than ecodensity
Learning and respect – fundamental to democracy
3 the need to engage to build broad and deep constituencies for city building
Chief planner round table
Our urban fabric
Next generation suburbs
Partnered with LEGO
One imaginative giveaway was used for on platform TTC surveys and other locations giving respondents free pack of tissues with the feeling congested? web site address on them.
80% of those polled after this exercise now agree with new funding sources for transit
[Saw this today in the National Post "I don’t much care where the money comes from, just tax me however you see fit and build, for God’s sake."]
Belief understanding and engagement
Individual action ..every time you make a choice
Collective action .. Finding ways to shape political decision making
q Do City staff follow the advice of living where they work?
a City of TO is actually very weak at walking the talk for staff. Divisions working together on Complete Streets initiative building internal consensus. Water
q What Provincial and Federal policies are needed?
a Social housing … Regent park … Impossible for muni tax base to support affordable housing. Transit funding reward for density.
a Compare the NY subway to TTC and Canada line. Capacity!!
q Affordable housing
a Mid rise stick construction lower price point
q How to frame conversation with professionals
a Not everything worked … you have to take risks
Look at what worked best practices as reference
Right now took it in house with councillors to ward level workshops
TO has not been as ambitious as other cities to get great buildings ( “Despite the talk, it’s now clear Keesmaat has succumbed to the same timidity that has kept Toronto from achieving the greatness it so badly wants.” Christopher Hume Toronto Star)
Canadian cities do pretty well
Building is not the lynch pin
Great urbanism is about the neighbourhood not the building. [She said that we visit New York to see Greenwich Village or Soho not just the iconic buildings. Don't say that to the people who run the Empire State Building, or Rockefeller Centre, or the Lincoln Centre. Or am I alone in being an architectural tourist?]
Profound mistakes with heritage
“I’m very concerned with the implication that sexy buildings define a city. I don’t have stars in my eyes about starchitects.”
Gehry thinks that only two buildings in Toronto are worth preserving
q Cities to watch?
a Washington DC currently mid rise but now looking at variances for high rises
Portland OR they did it in the seventies. They stuck w the plan
New York resilience legacy of Blomberg
Removing cycling lanes “Other people do dumb things too!”
Vancouver West End plan
Old Montreal “architects with a gentle touch”
I apologize for driving you to a paywalled article. Francis Bula is reporting on what Geoff Freer (executive project director for the Massey project) says about replacing the tunnel and why transit won’t meet that “need”
60 per cent of the commuters are travelling to Richmond or Surrey, the U.S. border or the ferries – so are unlikely to use transit anyway.
The chutzpah of this statement takes one’s breath away.
It is not as if the Canada Line was not already changing travel patterns in Richmond. And the introduction of useful inter-regional connections to the transit system (over many years since it was entirely focussed on downtown Vancouver) with direct service to Metrotown and Newton shows that when the transit system actually looks at how people are moving, as opposed to used to move, even ordinary bus services can be successful. When I first arrived in Richmond and had to commute to Gateway in Surrey I initially tried the #410. Then it was infrequent, with a huge one way loop through Richmond wand was always very lightly loaded. Over the years it has become one of the busiest bus services in Richmond and the only one in the Frequent Transit Network.
The other huge change was when Translink backed off the long held belief that it ought not to compete with Pacific Stage Lines and run a direct bus between the ferry at Tsawwassen and downtown Vancouver. The new service they introduced initially required a transfer to the B-Line at Airport Station, and now requires a transfer to the Canada Line at Bridgeport. It coincided with increased vehicle fares on the ferry so that walk-on traffic grew exponentially. (BC Transit had long met ferries with an express bus from Swartz Bay to downtown Victoria). The #620 now requires articulated buses and frequent relief vehicles. Just like the express bus to Horseshoe Bay.
As for cross border services, it would be easy to set up a “walk across the line service” at Peace Arch, with connections to Bellingham. There are just much more pressing priorities – mostly getting students to post secondary institutions thanks to UPass. But bus service across the line has seen significant commercial traffic with both Bolt bus and Quick Shuttle in head to head competition. Some of the casinos down there run their own shuttles too. The best thing that has happened so far on this route has been the introduction of a morning Amtrak train departure for Seattle.
What is actually needed is transportation planning that looks at the future pattern of development in the region, and integrates land use planning to meet population growth and travel needs. Strangely the desire of Port Authority for deeper draft for vessels in the Fraser River is not the first and foremost consideration. Port expansion is not a driver of economic growth. It is path towards calamity, since it is driven by the desires of a few very rich people to export yet more fossil fuel at a time when anyone with any sense recognizes that we as a species have no choice but to leave the carbon in the ground.
I think that one of the great benefits of rail transit development would be protection of the last bits of highly productive agricultural land left after the ruinous performance of the BC Liberals to date. People riding on trains get fast frequent service through areas which see no development at all, because it is concentrated around the stations. What part of Transit Oriented Development do you NOT understand, Mr Freer? Expand the freeway and sprawl follows almost inevitably.
It is perhaps a bit hard for people here to understand the idea of fast frequent electric trains that are not subways or SkyTrain, but they are a feature of most large city regions – even in America. As we saw in yesterday’s post even LA is bringing back the interurban. West Coast Express is not a good model as it only serves commuting to downtown on weekdays. All day every day bi-drectional service demands dedicated track – or at least the ability to confine freight movements to the hours when most people are asleep.
Transit to Delta and South Surrey has to be express bus for now, just because there is so much catch up in the rest of the region. But in the longer term, really good, fast, longer distance electric trains – which can actually climb quite steep grades equivalent to roads over bridges – must be part of planning how this region grows. It requires a bit better understanding of the regional economy than just assuming that somehow coal and LNG exports will secure our future, when they obviously do no such thing.
I do try to get out to the often SFU organized public lectures and similar events, partly just to keep my brain engaged but also because the existence of a blog demands content. And it should not all be pointing to other web pages. Well, not all the time anyway. I usually go in person, but on this occasion there was a webcast. It was a live event and I do not know if at some later stage it will be on the web as a video.
However, I do think that the webcast itself says a lot about the process.
Greenest City Conversations, an innovative, interdisciplinary and wide-scale research project aimed at developing multiple channels for public engagement on municipal sustainability policies. Its two main goals were to facilitate discussion with the public on a variety of sustainability policies, and to provide a comprehensive understanding of the content and impact of different modes of public engagement.
Some of those modes involve “social media” – or information technology if you will. And on this occasion new technology was showing both its best and worst sides. Things got started on time with the usual throat clearing and acknowledgements which always seem to me to be protracted but, grudgingly, necessary. A lot of people were involved, and a lot of material was going to be covered. Some of it was already of questionable value as it had “failed to meet its objectives”. It is not clear quite what that was about as the first speaker is already showing that she was unaware that there was a webcast. Instead of the right laptop (there were two) she has her own tablet and she is talking about how much time children already spend with tablets. The people at the Wosk Centre are being shown pictures, but these are not being broadcast despite a split screen arrangement.
Then the whole screen goes blank – for quite a long time – and when the webcast restarts someone else is talking about land use and how to use “stamps” to create Utopia. What she has been dealing with is the standard problem in public consultation. The only people who come out to open houses or public meetings are the people who come out to open houses and public meetings. You feel you are talking to the same five people. The issue is one of engagement – how to reach a more significant number of people. It is also cleat that what we are currently facing is not simply a top down “education” program, where the experts who know what must be done convince the unwashed of the necessity of cooperation in a predetermined solution. They found, unsurprisingly that of they used new media like Facebook, more women wanted to be involved. If they used smart phones more young people got involved. I was especially frustrated to miss much of the talk on the City’s transportation plan which engaged people by asking them if they were happy with their commute and if not what they thought could be done about it. (Exploring Vancouver’s Transportation Future) Apparently there was a “heat map” which answered the question “Is Facebook Useful” but I didn’t get to see that: all I saw was a talking head.
The next presenter had managed to persuade people to be tracked by using their smart phones to study their travel patterns and modes. They tried getting them to answer questions like “paper or plastic?” when they went shopping but – not surprisingly – people seem to be a little tired with that one. I think it would really have helped me stay interested if this presentation had not been mostly him reading great grey slabs of text – and apologizing to the audience for the tiny size of his illustrations which were not visible at all on line.
Then we got into land use. They tried to engage citizens in place based design. In fact the city had already decided to update the Grandview-Woodlands and Marpole neighbourhood plans. We have of course discussed those at length here. They did this by creating a “sandbox” – a generic neighbourhood of as a 2D and 3D board game. They had only three variables – Land Use, Energy and Quality of Life. The City has, of course, already set its goal of a 33% reduction in GHG by 2020 so the only question is what does that do for our quality of life. I cannot tell you the answer as the PhD candidate is still working on his thesis – so watch for more on the next webcast.
The workshop materials are available online at http://gcc.sites.olt.ubc.ca/findings-and-results/exploring-neighbourhood…
The last speaker was actually in Newfoundland and joined in by Skype and managed to illustrate all the the things you should not do during a live webcast – including setting up an infinite feedback loop, and allowing the dial tone to be heard while someone else was speaking. I think that they might be better off giving the professionals at the SFU Creative Centre the evening off and bringing in a bunch of Grade 12 students to handle the technology. He was the presenter who had the enviable task of introducing art into the proceedings. He managed to use the words epistemologies, disingenuous and disenchantment all in the same sentence without creating poetry. Apparently we have to “shift away from linear engagement”. He asked how do we arrive at “truth” and “value” – and to help in that had hired a poet, an architect, a composer and a theatrical troupe. They produced “You Are Very Star” at the Space Centre which I told you about when I covered Northern Voice.
The issue you see is that no-one actually knows what a sustainable community is: what it looks like or what it might be like to live in. One of the things that artists are supposed to be good at is imagining possibilities. What baffled me is why no-one thought of bringing in some science fiction writers. I suppose they thought that might be too depressing for words. Certainly a recent collection of stories about a warmed up planet is not proving to be useful bedtime reading for me.
The final speaker was supposed to have produced “Cross Channel Evaluation” which he characterized as “herding academic cats”. In the end he decided to concentrate on the outreach to various age groups – as long as they were over 19 (something to do with the ethics of market research) which sadly left out all the kids involved in the first project. The people reached by this research were by no means representative of the population of the City but this is apparently not a Big Issue. The – very unsurprising – conclusion – digital channels attract younger people compared to public meetings and web based surveys. He compared processes and not outcomes since those are “emergent” and “contingent”. Because the process is pluralistic and poses open ended questions.
In the sum up John Robinson said that his intention was to scale up the process so that it could reach a significant number of “citizens of all stripes” – 200,000 would be good – in an interactive dialogue. The issue is no longer a one way flow outward as “we don’t know the story” that we have to get out to the people. They have to be engaged in creating the story – What Can Sustainability Really Mean?
Q & A
The first question related to the “white coat” (expert) syndrome – apparently participants in the studies did not see the researchers in that light.
The second commenter noted that none of the proposal to reduce GHG emissions seemed to aimed at big business “They got us into this mess”. The response was that people who participated did not share that view and were interested in learning about what they could do.
The City had already established its goal, so that framed the problem which meant the studies were about which levers you can pull. In some respect this created a “sense of security for government folks” concerned about an open ended process.
The distinction has to be made between “persuasive communication” versus an “emergent dialogue”. We do not know what a sustainble community is, and therefore we have to work with people in deciding what kind of community we want.
PICS wanted to encourage questions from those watching on line and suggested they use @PICSCanada as the twitter feed. They did not specify a hashtag. I subscribed to that feed and saw no activity – in fact they still have not said anything since I subscribed and the only commentary on it last night was from @carbontalks. Do you really think these folks know enough about how social media works?
In response to another question the response about the attitude of children was that they did not see “some predetermined world that their parents had messed up.”
A very keen observation was by someone who had seen the ”Fantastic Four” movie and the enthusiastic public response to it. He compared that to participation in in local government planning consultation. But conceded the movie cost $100m to make. “Does it take that much to get people involved?”
The response was withering. The people who saw the movie plunked down $12 and gave up two hours of their time to be entertained. The commitment was wide but very shallow. This contrasts with the high level of commitment required in the processes they had been studying – the questions were not so much about cost but motivation and payback. Much of this came from the researcher who had worked on the transportation channel and I wish now that i had been able to hear more of her presentation.
The final question (and by now we were well into overtime) “Will the real and the imaginary use the same arithmetic?”
John Robinson: Getting the real into people’s heads won’t stop but we are looking at something emergent. It is worth noting that in mathematics the elegance of a solution is also an important consideration. We need to wary of the Dragnet theory of truth “Just the facts, ma’am. Just the facts.”
The next webcast will be on October 23rd at 6pm check the PICS website.
Having looked at Glasgow for a comparison on Compass, here’s another very instructive comparison, a bit closer to home. This op-ed piece appears in the Toronto Sun and is by R. Michael Warren who is a “former corporate director, Ontario deputy minister, Toronto Transit Commission chief general manager and Canada Post CEO”. He was present when the decision was made to buy “the province’s untested “Intermediate Capacity Transit System” (ICTS)” which we know as SkyTrain.
The parallels between us and them are obvious. The tussle between city and suburbs, the choice of technology – it’s all exactly the same
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has been on the wrong side of this issue longer than anyone. “Stopping the war on cars” to him means putting rapid transit below ground or making it grade-separated. Out of the way of cars.
It seems to me that an endorsement by Rob Ford should be enough to deter anyone. But Vision Vancouver wants a subway under Broadway. And for very similar reasons. What is even more striking is the way that the link has been made in local planning for Grandview - where towers were suddenly added to the plan, much to the surprise and dismay of those who had been consulted. And one suggestion has been this is necessary to show that Vancouver is committed to increasing density (in the form of high rise towers) at subway stations. The quid pro quo being that if the City wants rapid transit then there has to be supporting denser land use. No repeat of what happened along the Expo Line – with no development happening at all at Broadway, Namaimo or 29th Avenue stations. By the way exactly the same effect was seen along the second subway in Toronto. The Bloor-Danforth line cannot be seen as clusters of towers around stations the way the Yonge line can be.
It is also worth re-iterating that the idea that a subway can be inserted underneath an existing street without interfering with it is foolish. Sure cut and cover subways and surface light rail create disturbance all along the street, but subway stations are significant objects at major intersections and have to have connections to the surface. And despite the nonsense that was peddled by the Canada Line constructors, entrances are needed at all street corners, not just one of them. If only to handle transfers to other transit effectively.
But also if you build very expensive subways, and you want fast services, there are going to be fewer stations – and most development is going to have to occur within a short walk of the station entrance. Do not think you can do that without upsetting the neighbours. Or you can have enough new development without increasing building heights significantly.
To make the headline a bit clearer, politics is always going to decide how public money is spent on major infrastructure projects. There is no way this can decided simply by technical considerations. These are not engineering decisions. They are planning decisions. They are about place making. We have already plenty of experience of what happens to places when decision making is based on engineering standards. It is absolutely right that both politicians and communities get involved. The important thing is that the final outcome is not decided on short term political advantage.
The Scarborough RT was supposed to have been extended north and then east from Scarborough Town Centre to serve a new area of affordable housing known as Malvern. But the route, protected from development, ran though a neighbourhood that got built before the line did. When the TTC got ready to start building the local politicians listened to the protests of the neighbours who did not want trains running past the end of their backyards. Malvern, by the way, is now one of the greatest concentrations of visible minorities in Toronto – and one of the poorer and most troublesome areas for crime and social problems. Which cannot be blamed on SkyTrain!
What the headline means is that politicians tend to make decisions based on what is best for their party, or will be most popular with current voters. Politicians who act with an eye to the long term future are much rarer. But the decision to build the Canada Line underground beneath Cambie was based on those kinds of calculation. Or rather, the decision to refuse to consider light rail – either along the existing CP right of way in the Arbutus corridor or along the “heritage boulevard” of Cambie Street – was all about placating the existing voters, not about accommodating the people who were going to move to the Vancouver region. Or looking at something like “the best benefit-for-cost solution”.
Metro Vancouver Sustainability Community Breakfast at BCIT downtown Wednesday June 12 at 7:30am
I went along to this outreach event. The link above should also eventually link to the presentations as these are made available some time after the meeting – look at the top left of the screen that opens for “Previous Presentations”. They also had their own hashtag so I have a storify link too, which includes some pictures of the slides.
Before I get into the detailed transcription of my notes, I want to make a couple of observations while they are fresh in my mind.
The meeting was chaired by Derek Corrigan, who is both Mayor of Burnaby and Chair of the Metro Regional Planning and Agriculture Committee. He made introductory remarks, and then ran the Q&A session after the presentations, interjecting whenever he felt the spirit move. I seriously think he constitutes a strong case for considering term limits for municipal politicians. While there is clearly value in having elder statesmen, and people with extensive experience, there are now a number of these Mayors-for-Life. Rather like Hazel McCallion of Mississauga they become characters, and gather electability over time so that they effectively can no longer be challenged. This gives them an air of invincibility – and a distinct lack of humility. For instance, when someone, actually from the North Shore where no-one supposes rail transit is even a remote likelihood, raised a question about Translink’s current inability to make commitments to greater transit expansion, he responded by going on an editorial about how buses are more efficient and effective than rail, and people in the room should not think of Transit Oriented Development as being dependent on rail – which he said was unaffordable. Now that is in some senses true, but is really easy to say when you are Mayor of a City that has two SkyTrain lines and no need of more any time soon. He also intervened when someone was discussing community reluctance to embrace development and increases in density with observations about the importance of making commitments that developers can rely on. The important point to him was consistency so that no developer should think that “someone else is going to get a better deal”. That seemed to me to be tone deaf to the question which was about communities, not developers.
Peter Ladner also raised a very pertinent question about Christy Clark’s determination to hold a referendum on transit funding – which could well make the whole process of planning in this fashion pointless. He asked the panel members if they intended to campaign for the referendum – and again Corrigan intervened. Pretending to be humorous, I got the distinct impression he was issuing a warning to staff to not get involved in politics. He also said – with heavy irony – that all the Mayors were really keen on promoting tax increases to pay for transit.
The general tenor of the presentations was educational. It was a bit like attending an academic planning seminar – except of course this was actually about the future of this region – and what it could be. Although, if Corrigan and Ladner are right, might well fall short. All the transportation planning that was discussed was about walking, cycling and transit, and dealing with a more limited role for cars in the future. But the newly re-elected provincial government seems to be on an entirely different track.
Lee-Ann Garnett, Senior Regional Planner, Metro Vancouver
Her presentation was about the tools that Metro use to manage growth and in particular Frequent Transit Development Areas (FTDA) . She showed how the 1m population growth in the next 30 years is to be distributed across the region by municipality. The biggest changes are to be South of the Fraser – mostly in Surrey. The Regional Growth Strategy has been adopted by all of them, and each gets some growth. That growth will be shaped by a combination of the Urban Containment Boundary, Urban Centres and FTDAs. At the top of the hierarchy of centres is the Metro Core (downtown Vancouver) Surrey Metro Centre (no longer to be referred to as Whalley) seven regional city centres and 17 municipal town centres. Only 40% of the population growth will be in those centres: the current concern is about where the rest will go.
The municipalities are now in the process of producing their Regional Context Statements (due in July) which show how their Official Community Plans and zoning will accommodate this growth. There are already a number of FTDAs including the Cambie Corridor in Vancouver (in response to the Canada Line) around the Evergreen Line stations in Coquitlam and Port Moody as well as a proposed FTDA at UBC. The municipalities are urged to “think regionally” and across boundaries. [The significance of this became apparent when Surrey discussed development in its north west sector which abuts Delta - which was shown as blank space on their map. At least it did not have the annotation 'here be dragons'.]
The objective is to prioritize areas for development – where it goes first. She said that “the market is on board” and supports TOD for jobs and housing. The risks include the possibility that there are too many centres, that adding FTDAs will spread growth too thinly and that FTDAs on the edge of the region present issues of their own.
Andrew Curran, Manager, Strategy, Strategic Planning & Policy, Translink
[Much of what he said has already been covered here but is repeated for convenience of reference] Translink is currently updating Transport 2040 with more emphasis on co-ordinating land use development with transportation investment decision making.
Transportation shapes land use: Marchetti’s Constant - humans have long had a 1 hour travel time budget in their day. He illustrated what this means – the “one hour wide city” as a series of circles overlaid on the map: the walking city = downtown Vancouver: the streetcar city = City of Vancouver: the auto city = Metro Vancouver. He also showed how the use of single occupant vehicles increases at each scale. In the future “cars will have a role but we have no room for every trip to be by car”. T2040 aimed for a 50/50 split between the walk/bike/transit mode on the one side and car on the other. He then very quickly went through the “Primer on the Key Concepts of Transit Oriented Communities“, noting that transit orientation is really about walking and cycling -which determine transit accessibility. The Frequent Transit Network (FTN) are the routes which run at 15 minute frequency – or better – all day, seven days a week. He said on these routes “you don’t need to rely on the schedule” [which suggests to me that the rest of humanity must have a great deal more patience than I do].
Land use shapes transit: He quoted Jarret Walker’s principle of routing “Be On The Way” – which he illustrated with the Expo Line and the Liveable Region Plan of 1976. While a six Ds [destination, distance, design density, diversity, demand] matter a metastudy by Ewing and Cervero showed a relatively weak direct relationship between travel and density – which in reality acts as a proxy for the other five Ds. “Don’t get too hung up on density, but don’t put it in the wrong place.” He showed an iterative dialogue between a land use planner and a transportation planner developed by Jarret Walker for his book Human Transit. He also pointed for the need for transit to have bidirectional demand along a route, rather than the typical unbalanced “everyone goes downtown in the morning” route. By being more efficient, transit can provide more service for the same cost. He showed examples of recent transit plans for North Vancouver based on FTDAs, the pan for Main Street in Vancouver and also for Newton in Surrey.
He recognized the need for certainty to guide developers but acknowledged the need greater funding. Nevertheless he felt there was still a need for agreements between all parties to assure appropriate zoning. There is no requirement for municipalities to promote FTDAs but he felt they would recognize the value of partnerships.
Don Luymes, Manager of Community Planning, City of Surrey
Surrey is moving from the auto-oriented suburban development pattern of its growth until now, towards Transit Oriented Development (TOD). There are three key strategies
- Reinforce centres along corridors
- Define new centres on those corridors
- Identify future corridors as planning areas
This was being driven by health concerns, geography and the need reduce the impact of energy cost increases. The idea is to wean Surrey off auto-dependancy. Around SkyTrain stations density is being increased from 3.5 Floor Area Ratio (FAR) to 7.5.
(“A density measure expressing the ratio between a building’s total floor area and its site coverage. To calculate F.A.R., the gross square footage of a building is divided by the total area of its lot. F.A.R. conveys a sense of the bulk or mass of a structure, and is useful in measuring non-residential and mixed-use density.” source: Lincoln Institute) In other town centres like Guildford and Newton this was at a lower scale, moving from 1.5 previously to 2.5 FAR now. The calculation is made over the gross site area to encourage developers to relinquish part of the site to the road allowance needed for a finer grain street grid. Cloverdale is not slated for much development as it is not on the FTN.
Subcentres for midrise developments within 400 to 800m of transit, not in exitsing centres. So far four have been identified.
- Scott Road SkyTrain station is “a no-brainer” as a new centre
- Between Guildford and Surrey Centre on 104 Ave
- Along 152 St at 88 Ave and Fraser Highway
- Fleetwood West
No higher density will be permitted in Bridgeview to protect the existing community
Within these centres Surrey will encourage mixed use, pedestrain connections to transit, increase FASR on gross site area and relax parking requirements on developers – although there could be interim requirements until transit can be provided.
He then indicated on the map where there are candidate areas for future corridors.
- Will the market respond? See undeveloped sites in Surrey City Centre
- Timing of transit delivery – already have some dense neighborhoods without transit
His final slide illustrated three levels of transit – BRT, LRT and SkyTrain – but he must have run out of time to discuss this.
Q & A
1. There was no discussion of industry – which usually has a density well below that needed for transit
LAG – our focus on residential and commercial development in centres protects industrial land. The limited pool of funding for transit precludes provision for low density industrial areas
AC – it is very expensive to serve industrial areas. We do provide basic mobility (infrequent service) but there is interest in industrial intensification to provide more employment intensive areas. the key thing is to protect industrial land
2. There is going to be push back from the community to increased density. Are there better practices for communications?
DL – It is difficult to get the community engaged at this level of planning. More interest in immediate impact on neighbourhood. We have a well developed community planning process but there are different levels of interest in different areas
DC – Certainty and consistency [for developers]. Make sure that no-one else gets a better deal (see my introductory note)
3. There is no mention of food in your strategy. There is Metro Food Policy document but if you allow a small loss of ALR every year in 30 years most of it is gone. Have you considered rising ocean levels and the increases in cost of transporting food over long distances?
LAG – We have five goals – and I could have talked all morning Our policy protects food growing areas, we are also trying to make agriculture more viable and looking at local food strategies
DC – our prime concern is to protect the ALR
3. Housing for families in town centres? and minimum level of transit provision outside centres to provide an alternative to car use
DL – Our policies provide for a mix of housing types that includes three bedroom apartments as well as “skirt” of townhouses around centres. There are family areas adjacent to centres where we are stabilizing the community and providing “relative affordability”.
AC – Services in low density communities means that they need to be located along the FTN if they are to get good transit service. We are working to improve South of Fraser networks using the 6d score and wouldlike to develop more but the fudnign and resources are not there now. When there is a limited amount of money it has to go to higher demand areas.
4. Planning for a future village centre in the District of North Vancouver does have community support, but we have no confidence that Translink will deliver the service that is essential to support the development
AC – In the conversation about funding everyone wants everything but no-one wants to pay for it. We hope we will get new funding tools – but that is part of a larger conversation
DC – fixed rail is very expensive, buses are cheaper – improvements to the bus system are efficient and effective (see my notes above)
5. Access to transit: drawing neat circles on a map does not address the reality of cul de sacs in suburbs. Access is typlcially much longer than a straight line
DL – auto oriented streets frustrate direct access. We need new street connections and our density calculations allow the developer to benefit from the density otherwise “lost” to streets – they can “pile density on the rest of the site”. Pedestrian only links from street end bulbs have not been successful. It can be challenging to get new links without establishing a right of way.
DC – See Patrick Condon’s study that show how building new roads increases pedestrian access [can someone provide me with a citation for that please]
6. Bike Share?
in the absence of anyone from the City of Vancouver AC replied on the issue of helmets as slowing implementation
7 Car sharing and ride sharing can provide intermediate capacity where ransit not viable
DL – we have entered into agreements with developers to provide car sharing in return for less parking provision. In farther flung areas this can prove more challenging
Is car sharing included in the package?
AC – Translink has an Open Data policy and will share data more than just transit data now provided on Google apps through the API
8 Commercial development within mixed use can be very expensive to do. In the same way that we support non-market housing can we support commercial development?
LAG – We have only looked at office development on a large scale
AC – Los Angeles County has a program for supporting commercial development at transit exchanges
DL – Legislation forbids that here: local government is not able to support commercial developments financially. Subsidy is not allowed
9 Are you setting aside money for separated bike tracks to improve safety? There is no room for bike lanes on North Vancouver roads
AC – it is an engineering challenge on existing streets and there is growing consensus on the need for separate facilities. We will cost share at 50% with municipalities but there is only $3m a year
DL – there is going to be a two-way separated bike path along King George Boulevard. We will fund all of it if needs be.
10 (Peter Ladner) All of these plans crash on the reef of the referendum. Are you going to take an active role?
AC - It’s early days yet, and the province has already given direction to the Mayor’s Council to develop a strategy [which is what they are doing]
DL – the pressures that give rise to the strategy are not going to go away. We will figure it out
LAG – It depends on the Metro Board
11. Are you going to change the zoning of corner lots to recognize that they have greater development potential?
LAG – established question actually directed at the City of Vancouver
The city in question is actually Copenhagen. Which is why it piqued my interest. You mean Copenhagen has a congestion problem? I thought they were the model we were supposed to be following. It has all those bicycles – and the space between the buildings is dealt with properly. People can not only walk they can also sit outside if they want to. But they still have congestion?
Partly the answer is of course they do because congestion is not so much a problem as evidence of success. Detroit does not have congestion any more. Moreover, in a flourishing city, traffic expands to fill the space available and congestion occurs at the times when most people want to travel. That is why traffic engineers and transport economists spend so much effort on peak hours and the journey to work. Indeed if congestion is just the banal observation that it takes longer to drive when everyone else does than when the roads are empty, it is a pretty pointless pursuit trying to “cure” it at all. Something Todd Littman has dealt with far more effectively than I could.
There is no magic bullet, but there is a set of approaches which can be adapted to the needs and geography of places – which are all different. No single solution or technology solves every problem – and not all “problems” are going to be completely resolved. We can, however, aim for better solutions and compromises which dissatisfy everybody to the least extent possible.
So what this article identifies is a set of schemes to serve areas which do not have the sort of public transport mode share as the rest of the city region. In fact it is the same problem we have. Copenhagen has a metro and all day, every day, bidirectional passenger rail services. I have to use that awkward phrase in case any of my readers still think “commuter rail” exists outside of a few North American cities. The reason they get 25% of the trips made by the population living near stations on trains is that there is a service all day and every day – and it goes to more than one destination.
Actually that in itself is a significant figure. What do you think they do for the other 75% of the trips? Yes bikes will take care of some of it, as will walking but most will be in cars. And these light rail lines are proposed for the areas that only get a 5% mode share for transit – just like most of our region.
I think it is also significant that the entire article has not a single money figure in it anywhere. If you tried to write a newspaper piece about transit here, someone is bound to ask “How much is this going to cost?” and “Who is going to pay for that?” (which actually means “not me!”) What it does stress is the importance of the network – and of selecting the “ best value corridors that the city ought to prioritise” – which sounds familiar, doesn’t it? “political opposition and questionable profitability could derail these and other proposed light rail lines” – is that Copenhagen or Surrey vs Vancouver? Except here no-one would use the words “profitability” and “transit” in the same sentence.
It also points out the silliness of thinking in terms of some future point when the present set of schemes have all been realized as an end state. It isn’t, and never will be, because there is always going to be more to do. The important thing is chose the right direction to go in. That was something we had done once – the Livable Region Strategy – which was not perfect by any means but did make the priorities clear. And then the provincial government simply ignored it and went on doing what it has always done – built more and bigger freeways. If those resources had been devoted to transit network expansion, we would be looking at a different set of problems – but we would not have solved them all. Let alone “cured congestion”. But then we weren’t trying to. We were just aiming at “increased transportation choice” – which was expressed as a target transit mode share at various dates into the future. Except that the mode share target was always 17% of all trips and the years just kept being put off into the future.
I understand that the Mayors and the Minster are now sitting down and trying to come up with some funding proposal for Translink. Presumably something that she can flourish on the eve of election day. Yawn.
“When free enterprisers have something worth fighting for, we win,” Christy Clark last night
“Win” meaning “win elections”. Free enterprise has also brought us ocean gyres full of plastic waste, global warming trending well beyond 2°C, unaffordable housing and persistent homelessness, the crash of 2008 … the list is endless. When they “win” everybody else loses.
Gordon Price posts several times a day to his Price Tags blog. I impose a much less demanding schedule on myself. But I also use flickr for pictures – because I can put text with them there, so it can be a bit blog like, now and again. One of his posts this morning is about photographing cherry blossoms. And why – in his opinion – the results are not as gratifying as seeing them In Real Life. It is of course quite true that our eye sees things differently to the camera – but then that is what photographers (and painters before them) have always played around with. And also be it noted that we are looking at these pictures on some kind of illuminated screen. So I have much less control over things like size or what else appears in the vicinity on your screen. Lots of flickr posters instruct their viewers to switch to a black background. I also print some of my pictures to go on the wall, or as greeting cards and one off books, which look far better than any photo album ever did. But on paper, they are different to on the screen.
The first one was actually used by the Vancouver Observer on their facebook page – they rotate through their flickr group regularly, but you can see more than one by clicking on their cover picture to enlarge it and then using the right arrow on that image. And the reason I put it there was I had seen a tree in bloom in Quilchena Park on March 18 – a day when the mountains were covered in fresh snow. I liked the deep blue sky as a background so I shot looking upwards into the tree. I would have liked the mountains in there somehow – but that angle wasn’t available at the time. Someone using one of my pictures has always seemed to me to be an endorsement (that’s why I use Creative Commons licensing). And they used a much tighter crop than mine.
Over the Easter weekend many more trees had blossomed. And when we went to get some groceries I took my camera along to take some shots of them.
This last image is from a much smaller tree, newly planted, which still had a label attached to it which identifies the species. Hence my title. These are not actually cherry trees. They are, mostly, plums. This one is Night Purple Leaf Plum (Prunus Ceracifera Nigra) which is why when I now post the inevitable, irresistible blossom pictures to flckr, I use the Japanese word “sakura” to describe them. Because otherwise some tree expert will be sure to correct me.
Just enjoy the pictures. When the sun was shining you could have gone out and seen them yourself. Now the clouds have returned, I hope these images brighten your day.
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.
That’s the trouble with talk radio. In between the adverts for cars and the best deal on tires, someone accuses you of saying something you didn’t say. It is not “either/or” (roads or transit) – at least becuase the road expansion is well under way and in the case of Port Mann/Highway #1 nearing completion. And I really do not expect a magic bullet or a tooth fairy to fund it – both things that got discussed before we got to the callers. In fact I think the callers got lined up before I started speaking. They evidently weren’t listening.
But just supposing someone was listening to CKNW this morning and got intrigued this is what I am prescribing.
We spent $3bn on a bridge and have to pay that loan down, so users are stuck with tolls for the bridge until it’s paid off. Meanwhile we have to find a way to fund transit expansion. It is not enough to come up with a formula that enables Translink to carry on as now – or allow some modest increase. We need a way to to ensure that transit can grow its market share. The current plan for 2040 is way too modest in my view. We need much more and quicker than that.
I am also disenchanted with dedicated funding sources. The problem is that if you tie your funding source to something that is also going to change behaviour – and you are successful – then you are stymied. To some extent that has happened with the gas tax – and also happens with the carbon tax. I also dislike user fees – for the same reason. Pricing something is a good way to reduce consumption. It is also unfair to those who have little income – and therefore very little discretion on how to spend it. Of course those who are comfortable are quite happy to state that since they can afford the fee, everyone else should be willing to shoulder the same burden. Except, of course, they do not share the same ability to do so.
The right wing has seized the agenda on taxes and made us convinced that income and corporate taxes have to be reduced in order to make us more competitive. That has simply got us engaged in a race to the bottom. We now work longer – households need multiple sources of income – in order to just stay where we were. Real incomes have declined. We may have the lowest income tax but that is only because we now pay through a variety of fees and charges for the same services – or rather in many cases, a reduced set of services. Plus a greater reliance on sales taxes.
We continue to subsidize fossil fuels – both nationally and provincially. The latest expansions of natural gas exploitation are being achieved with a concession of NO payment of royalties to the province. The expansion of the oil sands in Alberta is only possible because of an extraordinarily favourable tax treatment. In both cases we would be much better off leaving it in the ground. For one thing the planet cannot tolerate the current rate of increase in carbon emissions. Since the IPCC’s warnings on climate change, CO2 output has not only increased, the rate of change has also increased. Fossil fuels left in the ground would also become much more valuable in future – because there are so many other things you can do with them other than simply burning them, all of which have much great value added and many of which are going to be very difficult to do in future.
So I am advocating a two pronged approach.
1. Stop funding silly things (subsidies to oil and gas, F35 jets, mega-prisons ….)
2. Increase income tax for the rich and corporations – as well as a switch of enforcement away from chasing small amounts from the poor to the huge sums squirrelled away illegally in tax havens.
You will note that these funds then have to come from the federal government as well as the provincial government. This is intentional. Canada is the only advanced western economy that does not have a national transit program.
Senior Government support has to extend to operating funds as well as capital funds. We also should stop collecting tax from transit agencies – it is ludicrous that we levy a tax to pay for transit on fuel burned in transit buses.
I am not going to suggest that we abandon private sector partnerships altogether. But if we are going to do them, we have to transfer the risk to the private sector. Translink revenues are being dragged down by the deal on the Golden Ears. It is unconscionable that money raised to pay for transit is being paid to a private company who built a road bridge we don’t need – and which cannot be paid for from tolls – which is what they promised initially. We also have to look long and hard at why Macquarie Bank is still getting paid long after the P3 for the Port Mann fell apart, and the project proceeded with public funding.
There are two aspects to this – what we build and where we build it.
Currently the priorities appear to be first the Evergreen Line and then – probably – a subway to UBC (though that is not set in stone, yet). Like the Port Mann, let us assume that the Evergeen Line is a done deal. It may not be the best one, but it is too late to change.
If we commit to building a subway to UBC it will be because the current B-Line “cannot be expanded” and is overloaded, and the idea of light rail down Broadway, or more elevated concrete structure for SkyTrain, is intolerable on the West Side of Vancouver (but not anywhere else in the Lower Mainland, apparently). It will also mean that the part of the region that currently enjoys the best transit service will get more and, absent a new funding arrangement for transit, that means less everywhere else.
The callers to CKNW this morning were appalled by the idea that they could be expected to use a bus. I cannot say I blame them, given what they know of bus service here. But if we are going to persuade people to get out of their cars and use transit, it is going to have to meet at least some of their needs some of the time. We also need to make the newer, better services widely available. Our current approach seems to – and does – favour some parts of the region over others. In part that is because the operator, being cash strapped, has to concentrate resources in areas where they get the most return. So if there is a ridership, there will be service – not the other way round. That is why things never change. Because we keep doing what we have always done.
So in future we will have to see some innovation. And in some cases that means taking a risk with a new kind of service, in a place that doesn’t see it now. When the railways first got into the commuter business, at the end of the nineteenth century, there were no suburbs. They built out into green fields, and hoped that those would become new subdivisions. A bit like the way the transcontinental railway was built – in the expectation that they would encourage settlement in what were then seen as “empty” areas. Indeed, that was also the way that the interstate highways got taken over by people driving to and from work. Because subdivisions popped up like mushrooms after rain, right next to the off ramps.
So if we have the ability to build rapid transit, it can only go to places that will see rapid and sustained increases in population. When the Expo Line was built through the East Side of Vancouver the residents of the areas around the stations were mostly successful in resisting an increase in density. We cannot afford that again. This seems to me to be a linkage that would allow for investment – and is a model in use in Hong Kong. There, the Mass Transit agency is a property developer. If that makes you queasy, turn it on its head, and come up with an experienced developer who knows how to do high density, mixed use development and create some kind of vehicle that ties the risks and rewards into producing transit and transit oriented development together. Stop thinking about transit – and transportation – as an end in itself. It never has been. It has always been inextricably linked with land use. Instead of building a new transit line and handing much of the increase in land value to a few lucky land owners and developers, indulge in some “joined up thinking” and get a better built environment and less car dependance on the same dime.
But rapid transit is hideously expensive – almost as much as building massive highways and bridges – and relatively limited in its reach. And we need solutions for a very wide area, where mostly people drive themselves around in single occupant vehicles. So we start by tackling the paradigms of ownership and use – since most cars sit idle most of the time, and only one or two of their seats are ever occupied. That means breaking down the barriers we have erected – mostly to protect transit. The rules we now use came into being once car ownership began to spread after World War one, and “jitneys” threatened the viability of the (private companies’) transit systems. We are already seeing the impact of widespread, mobile information systems on car sharing. It would be even more rapid if it were not for these obsolete rules. Indeed, even those lucky enough to have operating licences apparently cannot make money because of the way the rules are applied.
I do not advocate a free for all deregulation – but I do think that there is obvious potential when entrepreneurs keep popping up with ideas that seem to work but get slapped down – mainly to protect vested interests. It is also the case that even where transit service is good, people can come up with other services that appear to meet local needs better. So obviously there needs to be some kind of oversight, but the rules need to be drawn up to protect the broader public interest, and not just the narrow “economic interest” of the industry, as our current regulator has it. In some respects, with the creation of a new smartcard payment system, giving multimodal regionwide access, Translink actually will have a useful tool to ensure cooperation. So the same card that you swipe to ride the bus or SkyTrain could also get you a shared taxi, or a even an exclusive ride in a shared car, like car2go. It is instructive that modo – the car coop – expands in areas that are well served by transit. It is complementary – not competitive – to the transit system. You cannot expand the reach of transit deep onto low density single family home areas with a 40 foot diesel bus. And there are limits to what can be done with shared rides and demand responsive systems. The DART in HandyDART once meant “Dial a Ride” – but you now have to book days in advance and be qualified. The service that results satisfies no-one, but contains the germ of an idea that ought to be allowed to flourish, and benefit from the extra-ordinary explosion of information abilities of smart phones.
It is significant, I think that the companies that need to hire bright young minds now provide bus service to get their employees to the workplace. The buses they use look nothing like a transit bus – they have wifi on board for a start – and do not pick up at bus stop signs. But a new app allows them to be mapped. I am willing to bet that the man who upbraided me this morning for expecting him to use something as slow and cumbersome as our current transit service would be quite happy to get on board one of these. The IT aspect means that all our current practices of mapping and scheduling can be discarded. The routes can be adapted on the fly, in real time, to meet changing need. The rigidity of regulation means that Greyhound can’t adapt service levels to changing needs the way Bolt Bus (its subsidiary) can. The same paradigm starts to make suburban shared ride services look feasible even of they don’t look a lot like transit does now – and maybe that is a good thing in and of itself.
One of the reasons young people do not want a car – or a mortgage – is because we have loaded them down with student debt. Until they pay that off, a car loan or a 25 year mortgage is neither practical or appealing. Moreover, they no longer use the same systems we did to get in touch with each other. They have texts, twitter and Facebook. Almost anything can be set up on the fly – just ask the Occupy movement.
I really doubt that it is possible to win over everyone to using transit and I am not even willing to try. There will always be some people driving everywhere all the time – just steadily less of them as a percentage of the total. After all, we could not cope with a sudden influx to transit – as the UPass so convincingly demonstrated. The way we built the Canada Line showed we had not really thought through what “change modal split” actually meant. There already enough people who want to use transit – and who want to use it more often – but are frustrated, to provide a significant increment in transit use. The increase in service just to meet those desires would also bring in more riders, as service frequencies and reach would make those services more attractive. This is the benevolent cycle of growth that has been seen in so many other cities that have stuck consistently to expanding transit. We, on the other hand, seem so besotted with short term point scoring that we are going to enter the other spiral – where cost cutting reduces service, and thus ridership and thus to further cuts. I am convinced that these systems will always respond to these dynamics. There is no steady state. It is either growth or decline.
So the strategy I am suggesting is for conventional transit to incrementally add to its service – which means, right now, more buses. And more exclusive bus lanes – by taking road space away from single occupant vehicles. As demand grows, more limited stop and express routes – creating a hub and spoke system based on town centres, supported by an intricate and much more varied web of feeder services. That means space at the hubs has to be provided for bike storage, or shared bikes, as well as park and ride, kiss and ride, shared cars and station cars and shuttle buses. Rapid transit stations are, of course, hubs – as well as centres of mixed use, denser development – because they are within walking distance of so many services and facilities. I doubt that there will be many new rail based services added for a while – but obviously if there is an underused rail corridor available it must be pressed into use. Freight gets to use the lines when people are sleeping. Where there are highways, there will be rapid bus services – with priority where needed. At the very least so that those who insist on driving can have the educational experience of seeing the bus swish past them while they are stuck in traffic. Elsewhere it will have to be more and better buses – and the whole panoply of related “Better than the bus, cheaper than your own car” services.
Since we have hobbled public enterprises, and are convinced of their ineffectiveness, the expansion has to incorporate private enterprise. But we should look long and hard at what we are doing before we do it. Compare and contrast BC Hydro before and after IPPs, for instance. Learn from the experience of Britain with its railway privatization – or the Underground in London – and benefit from their experience.
There is no one simple solution – because although the problem looks straightforward (how to pay for transit) it is in reality complex and difficult because of all the connections. Politicians like big capital projects because they get to cut a ribbon. But what is needed is a whole range of small, incremental changes, and a shift in mind set. Mostly it needs a change in the way that government behaves.