Archive for the ‘transit’ Category
This is the third, and final, instalment on my trip to Italy. And, as is common to blogs, it’s backwards, in that Rome is where our trip began.
On the way from the gate where we got off the plane, to the baggage carousel, there were all kinds of the usual retail opportunities that airports offer, and, indeed, depend upon. One of them was for the mobile phone company TIM, that internet research had shown to offer the best value for what I wanted. I bought a SIM card for my smart phone. It cost me 30€ ($46.87) of which about half was prepaid for calls, and the rest for 2G of high speed data (and unlimited low speed thereafter) and unlimited texts for the month. I think. The clerk’s English was barely adequate and all the documentation is, of course, is Italian. I was given documents to sign, and I though I was saying I did NOT want adverts by text. But it was the reverse. I got a daily barrage of incomprehensible offers by text from TIM the whole month. But now I was not dependent on wifi, and could access the internet anywhere. My phone also has Word Lens that is supposed to translate signs and stuff, and was almost entirely useless. I needed something to translate the translations. More than once I was glad of the data link to access Google Maps and sort out not just where we were but what direction we ought to head off in. It also meant that when I booked our trip to Venice, all I had to do was show the conductor on the trains the automated text message the FS system had sent me.
We were picked up from the airport by prior arrangement, and the journey into Rome was one of the scariest experiences I have had in a motor vehicle short of actually being in a collision. Afterwards we solemnly abandoned any thought of renting a car in Italy.
This is on the street where we rented an apartment. This car is not pulling out of a side street. It is parked. It is not unusual to see cars parked on the corner. They more usually park at an angle. The corner is usually the only place where there is a space to park. As pedestrians, we found that we were always taking what in a Canadian context would be very risky activity. If you wait at the curb, cars do not stop. You have to step into the traffic to show you are serious about crossing. Even then, motorcycles and scooters will simply weave around you as you cross. Fortunately many roads are narrow and often parked up on both sides. Most urban areas have one way streets, which result in much faster speeds.
Testaccio used to be part of the ancient Roman port facilities. It was redeveloped at the end of the 19th century as an industrial area with workers’ housing, and hosted the city’s slaughterhouse.
The river was prone to flooding, and the embankment process greatly reduced access to the waterside. Look at the height of the embankment and imagine that imposed on the Richmond dykes: or the waterfronts of Vancouver. Rome had to face floods every spring as it is surrounded by mountains – as we are. The rich lived on the hills: the ghetto regularly got flooded. That changed at the end of the nineteenth century for them. I suspect that it will have to change for us too, and in much shorter order than we are currently contemplating.
Trastevere, on the other side of the Tiber, has this two way cycle and pedestrian trail. I was lucky to be able to catch a cyclist actually using it. The Lonely Planet Guide has this to say about cycling “The centre of Rome doesn’t lend itself to cycling: there are steep hills, treacherous cobbled roads and the traffic is terrible.”
We saw several of these stations, but never any bikes. The only information I can find on line is entirely negative. There were no bikes in 2011 either. Lonely Planet does not mention bikesharing.
Ancient Rome is still in the centre of the City and most is unrestored ruins. This is the Forum – a view taken from Il Vittoriano. What is very noticeable about this view of the Eternal City is the amount of tree canopy, and the absence of modern high rise buildings.
There is a connected network of these streets across the Centro Storico.
I would like to see greater use of these barriers to car use in more cities. Robson St might be a suitable candidate, with trolleybus activation of barriers/signals.
Our neighbourhood had seen some traffic calming with this protected bike lane, and bumpouts for pedestrian crossings. Though you will note the pedestrian taking the more direct, diagonal route across the intersection. I did not actually see anyone use the bike lane, but I admire the vertical stanchions along the curb to prevent any danger of dooring.
There are many famous public spaces in Rome. Below is Piazza Navona – which was at that time the subject of some dispute between the authorities and the artists who rely on the tourists for their living.
Others are very impressive spaces, but seem to serve very little actual purpose. Or perhaps had one once that has now been lost.
This is Piazza del Popolo, once the site of public executions. At least they managed to keep it clear of traffic unlike the similar Place de la Concorde in Paris.
We did use the two line underground Metro. There is a third line now under construction, but progress is slow possibly due to the huge haul of archaeological material uncovered whenever you dig anywhere in Rome. It was reliable in some of the worst traffic disruptions, but not actually pleasant to use due to the crowding and the persistent presence of piano accordion players – some very young children. Begging – and demanding money with menaces at railway stations – is a real problem. We prefer surface travel, but one trip on Tram Number 3 from Piramide (near our apartment) to the Modern Art Gallery at the other end of the line took all morning! Trams do have some exclusive rights of way – but they often have to share them with buses and taxis and seem to have no ability to affect traffic signals.
There are two “albums” on flickr of public transport in general and trams in particular. Rome used to have an extensive tram network, but unlike other cities never abandoned it completely and has upgraded some lines in recent years with modern low floor articulated cars and reserved rights of way. Route 8 through Trastevere is one the better efforts. Our local service, route 3 along Marmorata, was curtailed during our stay due to track maintenance. We did best by choosing some of the designated express bus routes, which simply stop less often than regular services, rather like the B Line. Bus stops in Rome have very detailed information on them about services – but rarely have real time information. And the sale of bus maps is a commercial activity, not a public service. In the event of service disruptions, having a smart phone was no help as no information was available in English.
We did a lot of walking in Rome. There are lots of parks – Villa Borghese for instance, which is no longer an actual villa just its gardens. And we were next to one of the nicer neighbourhoods, Aventino, sort of a Roman Shaughnessy. So we saw a lot of a relatively small area, and not very much of the rest of the city, apart from one trip out of town to Ostia Antica (fantastic) – and on a our return an overnight stay in Fiumicino, which is not really worth visiting if it were not for the airport. The biggest issue was the tourists. Many more people are travelling these days, especially those from Eastern Europe who were once forbidden to travel but can now afford to do so. They all want to go to the same places, so the Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain and Mouth of Truth are beseiged all day. Rome of course still attracts pilgrims. If you are not one of those avoid the Vatican on Thursday mornings when the Pope addresses the faithful in St Peter’s Square and the Colosseum on Mondays when it is one of the few sites that is open. And if you have the guide book and it promises you “secrets” you can bet your life every other tourist has the same guidebook in their own language and is headed the same way. How else to explain the line up to peek through the keyhole of a locked door on a monastery – to get as glimpse of the dome of St Peters, more easily seen from a park a few metres away?
We are leaving here tomorrow. It is a shame to have to say this, but I am actually glad to be going home. Our landlady in Florence told us that there was no point in staying for two weeks, there was not enough to keep us here. We have been in Venice last weekend largely as a result of this advice. We fell in love with Venice, and would have liked to have been able to stay longer. The expense alone was enough to deter that thought. If we could have got back to Vancouver from there … well anyway. Let me tell you about today, which is all about the sort of issues that get discussed on this blog all the time.
Last weekend, on Saturday, before our departure for Venice next morning, we took the advice of our Lonely Planet guide and decided to “get out of town”. Fiesole is a beautiful Tuscan hill village with stunning views and amazing archaeology. You can get there on a #7 bus, from Piazza San Marco within the 90 minute validity of a single ride. So tram ride ride from the apartment, walk across the Centro Storico, and up the hill we go, with a bus full of American art students. When we get to the village square – where the #7 turns round and goes back down the hill – there is a sign on the bus stop. Something obviously rushed out at the last minute on the office printer. No service on the #7 after 15:00 because of a road race – the 100km super marathon – a big deal – through Fiesole which means road closures and who knows when regular bus service can be restored. We saw the view – stunning – had lunch – ordinary but twice the price because of the view – and then caught the next bus back to town in case we got stuck and missed our train to Venice in the morning.
Today we tried again. Fiesole deserved a second chance, if only for its archaeology. Not just Etruscans and Romans but Lombards too. The bus stop for the #7 was beseiged. Local buses could not get near because of a flood of tour buses. In Livorno a massive cruise ship had landed, and tipped off its human cargo onto fleets of coaches full of punters sold on the idea of seeing Michaelangelo’s “David” for real. They get to see Florence in the morning and Pisa in the afternoon (or vice versa). The #7 bus stand is close to the Academy where this version (the real, authentic, actual statue as seen on tea towels and t shirts) could be seen. If you are waiting for a #7 local bus and many tour buses occupy the space where your expected municipal service is going to be, you get anxious. What if the local bus drives straight past, unable to pick you up because of this huge, throbbing airconditioned landwhale is unloading its cargo of bemused, earphoned tourgroupistes onto the one person wide sidewalk? It was chaos I tell you.
Eventually things sorted themselves out and the #7 arrived and we boarded within our permitted 90 minutes. It was a struggle for the bus from there but we just sat and observed how the usual dramas of urban life unfold. An MVA involving another bus, a BMW and a motorscooter, closing three of four lanes. A delivery van, double parked, while urgent packages are rejected for damage incurred while dealing with … a sudden intervention by several varieties of cops (carabineri, local plods, security company wannabes) misdirecting – an ambulance with the horrible wailing siren, unique to their kind, makes all thought impossible. Daily life in Florence.
We got there. Roman ruins were seen. The difference to Etruscan ruins was noted. Lombard burials were studied in minute detail. The play of mottled sunlight on Tuscan hillsides was dutifully recorded. Lunch was eaten, beer was drunk, Fiesole was given its due. Time to return. The #7 is waiting in the square but somehow some other distraction means that it has – how sad – circled the roundabout and gone back down the hill, without us. We find a bench in the shade, where we can wait the quarter hour that must elapse before another #7 will appear. And as we sit observing the human life around us, we note the numbers of others who place themselves between us and the bus stop. There is no orderly queue. The bus has three doors, and all are fair game for entry. And the capture of the very few seats – let alone those that face forward and allow a view out of a window – requires strategy and cunning.
When the bus does arrive, two schoolgirls nip aboard and occupy the seats designated for those over 65 – to which I am entitled and feel that I have earned, being at the bus stop a full 15 minutes before they appeared. My partner deals with the smart cards (proximity reader not being proximate to the desired seats). They get the window seats and pretend not to understand my protests.
But all is well and we are seated, if not optimally at least satisfactorily, and eventually the girls get off and we can arrange ourselves … wait, what, some scruffy individual, wants to inspect my ticket?? No uniform, no apparent authority?
It seems when the “smart card” was waved in front of the reader, no new ride authority was actually established. My partner’s card is fine, mine despite its three ride validity remaining is deemed “expired”. FIFTY EUROS cash to expunge the offence, once the details of the UK passport I carry with me to get free entry into National Monuments (but not, be it noted Fiesole Museums or archaeological sites) are copied onto a three part, no carbon required, form. He even digs into his clothing and produces photo ID which shows that he is actually the Yoda of ATAF – so there is no point in arguing – and a new crisp €50 note saved for “a rainy day” is handed over. The alternative is not worth contemplating. The shame, the publicity, the headlines. Far better to sign on the dotted line on a form – being Italian – that I have no hope of understanding. Your card reader, ATAF, failed but I must pay the price, or face ignominy.
I note, from a distance, that once again the Compass card is under assault. That Cubic is once more fair game in the fare evasion/faregates/fare or foul fraud foofooraw. Meh! Life goes on. I will be back next week, refreshed. Able to sleep all night and function on Pacific Summer Time. This too will pass.
A City Conversation held at SFU downtown today.
Transformed in the 1970s from a declining industrial area into a centre of arts, culture and food, Granville Island is one of Canada’s most popular attractions, for tourists and residents. With Emily Carr University of Art + Design moving from Granville Island to Great Northern Way, and the loss of almost all the old heavy industry, is it time to refresh the island’s eclectic mix and, perhaps, its caretaker administration? In a recent article, the Vancouver Sun suggested exactly that. Or will it be enough to just find a new tenant, or tenants, for the 200,000 square feet of buildings that Emily Carr leaves behind?
To frame the conversation, we have Daphne Bramham, author of the Sun article, architect Norman Hotson, creator of the hugely successful 1970’s design, and Dale McClanaghan, Chair of the Granville Island Trust.
I have put together a quick storify – only 30 tweets and most of them from City Conversations!
Norman Hotson and Dale McClanaghan opened with a presentation that I could not see. The room had standing room only and I was lucky to be squashed into a corner with a seat and a surface for my tablet.
Dale said that development on GI is “mixed up, tumbled and random” by design. It was originally a sandbar used by the Salish for fishing with a potlach house. It bacame Vancouver’s “first industrial park” until in 1977 a federal government initiative started to review how the Island would be used in the future. They included a group of local people in that process. One of the diagrams showed how the configuration of streets is based on how railcars were moved. Materials arrived by barge, were transformed by industrial processors and then transferred to rail. (Or, presumably the other way around.) The original land use plan did not using zoning so much as the idea of “realms”. They mentioned Urbanics [who I have learned were consultants on the study]. They created a set of principles that have covered use and development and are well followed. Now there is an opportunity for a rethink as 20% of the usable floorspace on the island will become vacant as a result of the Emily Carr decision to relocate. Granville Island Trust advisory, less of governance, operational focus CMHC good stewards. It is fundamentally a place for the residents of Vancouver: “if tourists come that’s icing on the cake” tourism development could be a threat.
Another six development sites are currently available. Over 2,000 people took part in the Speak Up public process. The general consluion was that “We should not mess too much with a Good Thing.” Other modes of transportation do need to be improved. Public spaces can also be improved, but its the “best public market in North America” so only minor changes are expected there.
Daphne Bramham. “To me its very personal – from the 1983 job interview when I first came here. I now live near there. I walked across it to get here.” But recently she visited San Francisco and saw the new Ferry Terminal where an old building has been repurposed into a market. While aimed at tourism something about it “feels more modern”. Emily Carr leaving gives us that same impetus to see what needs updating. We need to ask people what they want from a day on Granville Island. It is, she said, “pretty close to perfect. We don’t need to copy other places. We need forums like this.” Need to preserve green space. “I don’t want it to be the Gastown of old. Its our island. We do pay a premium to shop there.” She also pointed to the governance model of the port and airport as examples of how federal institutions became locally controlled.
Marguerite Ford opened by asking how the EC site could become an incubator for new businesses
This has been a persistent theme with arts and culture. The problem is that “incubation does not pay its rent.” Balance with nonprofit. Economic model or “where does the money come from?” Local management will need to come from outside CMHC
Someone asked about “spin offs of EC” the library, Opus,
Opus preceeded EC. “It might become a real art store.” One of EC’s staff said the library would move with the rest of the college
No one tenant should dominate
TRAMS Mathew Laird asked if there was anyone who would willing to help fund reopening the Downtown Historic Railway’s streetcar service between Oylmpic Village and GI. He also asked if anyone had considered opening a museum space as they also have a collection of historic buses.
Food, maritime and arts have been the traditional focus but they would not exclude anything.
You don’t build any more parking. Less than half of the people coming to GI drive now.
CMHC could not maintain one old building, so now it’s a parking lot due to lack of CMHC funding.
There is a desperate need for student accommodation in Vancouver – not just for Emily Carr and not just for overseas students. Residences will be part of the new EC site.
A GI printer said that the local CMHC office has no power to make decisions. He wants to rebuild his print works into a sustainable, off grid buidling but can get nowhere locally. He said “students do not contribute to the economy of GI as they are too focussed on thewir school work”. He said the EC buildings could be much needed space for artists, a place to work, purpose built space, tool crib space. He said he was “Totally invested”. The need is for education for people not in school.
Michael Geller asked a question about “respective jurisdiction”
GI is Goverment of Canada land, but there is an agreement with the City – just as there is for the port.
A merchant from the market disgareed with the printer .”Over half of my staff are EC students”. They are also customers for food. “Merchants pay top rents. The market is in fragile state, and we fear of loss of the business EC brings. If the market fails, the island fails.”
Another commenter disagreed on price of produce: she said that local supermarkets charge more
“This conversation should have occurred when the cement plant lease was up”
It is the last industrial operation on False Creek and GI is committed to keeping it.
“I don’t hear proposals.”
We are at an early stage
Frank Ducote housing?
Residents have a different view of “peaceful enjoyment” If housing is developed on GI the other uses will be forced to close
There is a need to dovetail development with South False Creek and the “volatile” harbour area
Gordon Price observed that it could become an LNG terminal [joke]
Transportation is a critical issue
Bob Ransford: we need a new group: Friends of Granville Island
I was disappointed to see so few tweets. It is extremely difficult to keep up with a fast moving discussion when typing one fingered on a tablet, and I was not sure if there was any recording going on. Clearly this is something that stirs up a great deal of interest and emotion. Much more now needs to happen both to tap into the information about how GI works now – lots of facts and data please – and more needs to be understood about what is likely to be doable on this site. Clearly, given the lack of resources available from CHMC who cannot even maintain the buildings they’ve got, a new local champion – or group of champions needs to take over. I suspect that the federal government will only be too pleased to download the Island to local organization. It also needs to be independent of the City, in my opinion, to maintain that “its for the local community” first feeling. The greatest threat I see is that someone like Tourism Vancouver or a BIA takes over.
Daphne Bramham is misguided if she thinks the port or YVR are examples of how good things are done in a local community. Neither is the slightest responsive to local needs or desires – and both are direct threats to our region’s sustainability. They are solely focussed on their bottom line and growth.
While I have the greatest sympathy for TRAMS and the DHR, I think what is needed are much better links back into the community. That means something much better than the #50 bus. It also needs to be understood that the DHR is not somehow in competition for funding with the Broadway Subway, on which the City has decided to focus all its efforts. There are different markets and different needs. The DHR is the equivalent of the San Francisco cable car. Jarret Walker expresses clearly the difference between cable cars and actual local transit.
The huge, underused parking lot at Olympic Village Station is the resource I would bring into play. The use of this lot to meet the parking needs of the island would free up space and make the rest of the mixed use traffic areas much less car centric. The “woonerf” idea is working on the island – traffic speeds are slow and collisions infrequent. But that does not make walking pleasant. Nor does the amount of space devoted to parking make best use of a very limited resource. It seems very strange to make people pay for the space under cover but encourage people to circulate looking for “free” 1 hour, 2 hour and 3 hour spots. I would reverse the priorities. Much of the traffic is currently people looking for parking spots. Put longer term parking at Olympic Village and ensure that the parking stub acts as a free shuttle ticket for a modern tram service. Of course the service must be restored to Main Street too – and some extension will be needed at both ends. Sorry Starbucks.
The role of the ferries was pointed out. We have used them a lot, but because I got lucky and won free tickets. I am not sure I would be quite so ready to pay their fares so often. Ideally there ought to be integration of the tram shuttle, ferries and Translink. It’s the sort of thing the Swiss manage easily: and did so long before the days of smart phones and wifi.
I think the idea of “a day on Granville Island” is appalling. I would not want to spend more than three hours there – and that is when two of those hours are at the theatre (we have season tickets for the Arts Club). We go there frequently, we shop at the market, eat at the SandBar, Bridges, Whet … We buy bread at the bakery, fresh fish and produce at the market. There is a terrific hat shop, and brilliant place for old fashioned pens and paper. We like walking the seawall, so its a good stop along the way for that – and one of my favourite walks along the old BCER Arbutus right of way, when I dream of what it could have been and might be again. Its also a short walk to Kits for the beach or the Bard. It is not sui generis. It is part of the city – and a very significant component of its urbanity. It looks like the change in the beer rules that a visit to the brewery might last a bit longer in future.
Granville Island is great but it is not now, nor ever has been “perfect” and the very idea is anathema to me. It has to be constantly changing and adapting, but true to its values. It is NOT about “objectives” or “targets” or ROI. It is about being aware of a sense of place and how to keep it vibrant and vital.
I just got this from a tweet about Chicago being starved for funding for transit. I must admit I was quite surprised to see Vancouver as a comparator – and that we come so high up the list. In 2012 we got only slightly less than Toronto and were doing better than place alike Berlin or Boston. We had more operations funding per capita than Toronto, who seem to be getting more capital spending that year. Given the lumpy nature of capital spending that is no surprise. This year the building of the Evergreen Line would bump that up quite a bit.
Of course, we did not get anything like enough but that isn’t the point. Transit – especially in North America – does get short shrift compared to road funding. And of course London and Paris fund much more per capita than we do. But it does seem newsworthy to me that we came out of this comparison so well.
Press Release received from Eric Doherty via Twitter
Seniors vote needed for transit referendum win
For immediate release –Thursday February 27, 2014
Data obtained through freedom of information requests shows that people with disabilities and seniors were denied HandyDART service over 42,000 times in 2013, an eight-fold increase in four years. There were 5,075 HandyDART denials in 2009, 18,188 in 2011, 37,690 in 2012 and 42,418 in 2013.
“Other folks in society are sentenced to house arrest for committing a crime,” says HandyDART Riders Committee spokesperson and former Vancouver City Councillor Tim Louis. “We have committed no crime and yet are sentenced to house arrest when demand for rides outstrips capacity to provide rides because politicians won’t make transit funding a priority.”
HandyDART service was increased by about 5% annually to meet growing demand between 2002 and 2008. However, 2013 service hours were slightly lower than in 2008.
“HandyDART service levels have been frozen for five years while the population of older seniors and people with disabilities has grown dramatically” says transportation planner Eric Doherty the author of the 2013 report Metro Vancouver’s Aging Population and the Need for Improved HandyDART Service. “The number of people over 70 in Metro Vancouver will increase by 40% in the next decade.”
The HandyDART Riders’ Alliance says that three 80,000 hour increases, each costing about $7 million or 0.5% of TransLink’s present budget to operate, is needed to catch up after five years without an increase. After that, smaller regular increases will be needed to keep up with growing demand.
The provincial government has delayed transit improvements, including HandyDART service increases, pending a transit funding referendum likely to be held in June 2015. The TransLink Mayors council will apparently be setting the HandyDART service levels to be voted on, although the provincial government has not released details of promised governance changes.
HandyDART is a door-to-door transit service for people with disabilities and older seniors who cannot use the regular transit system for at least some trips.
“Seniors like me vote. The transit funding referendum likely won’t pass unless we can vote to meet the needs of an aging population, including better HandyDART service” says Elsie Dean, a HandyDART Riders’ Alliance member. “It is time to make the investments in public transit, including HandyDART, needed to make Metro Vancouver a livable and age friendly region.”
The newly-formed HandyDART Riders’ Alliance is open to HandyDART riders and allies. The group will be holding their first public meeting and electing board members on Saturday March 1st 1:30 to 3:30 at the 411 Seniors Centre, #704-333 Terminal Ave. Vancouver (5 min east from Main Street SkyTrain station).
Metro Vancouver’s Aging Population and the Need for Improved HandyDART Service was commissioned by Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1724 and is available from http://www.ecoplanning.ca/selected-projects. ATU Local 1724 also commissioned the FOI requests described above: Trip Denials http://ecoplanning.ca/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/FOI-Release-2014-009-1-2013-Denials-Refusals.pdf & http://ecoplanning.ca/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/FOI-Release-2013-179-Denials-2008-12.pdf HandyDART Service Hours http://ecoplanning.ca/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/FOI-Release-2014-012-2-Service-Hours-02-13.pdf
I took this graphic from Moving in a Livable Region. In a discussion recently with Ken Hardie I had asked about this statistic. So when at the Andrew Coyne event someone handed me a card from this web site I thought I should check it out. This is some information there – just not nearly enough. This chart has a link to the Translink web site but the page it links to is not found, which comes as no suprise. I think there is definitely a real need for data to be easy to find and have a credible source. I suspect given the years that the data represents this comes from the Trip Diary Survey. And I suspect it is based on all trips region wide, since so often with transit the figure that gets quoted is journey to work – since the census was a reliable source for time series and the sample size was huge. And it was easy to do comparisons to other city regions in Canada.
The figure I have in mind is the target that was set for transit mode share: 17%. Trouble is I cannot now remember the year it was assigned to. Was that 2011 or 2021?
Anne Golden at SFU Woodwards on January 28, 2014
Actually I have shortened the title: what was advertised was “Breaking the Political Gridlock to Address the Transportation Challenge: Lessons Learned from the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area”
The first of a new lecture series with the title “Rethinking Transportation: New Voices, New Ideas” by the City Program. Gordon Price announced that the next two lectures will be by Andrew Coyne and Charles Montgomery, but he is also asking for ideas of new people we have not heard from before to address the topic. He invited suggestions to be sent by email to price (at) sfu.ca
I found myself by chance seated with “the great and the good” name dropping Mike Harcourt, Nancy Oleweiler, Clive Rock, Mark Allison, Ken Cameron, and many other familiar faces.
The evening started with a video on the Greater Toronto Areas transportation challenges. Sadly so far all I can find now using transitpanel.ca address is this statement from the Minister.
I have created a storify from the tweets of other people present
Anne was the Chair of a Transit Investment Advisory Panel set up by the Premier of Ontario to examine funding options for transit expansion in the Greater Toronto & Hamilton area.
UPDATE Jan 31
Making the rest of this blog post redundant, PriceTags now has the “complete and slightly revised text of Anne Golden’s lecture”.
She said that the issues in Toronto are different to Vancouver but similar. Population growth is rapid – and the region of 6m now is expected to reach 10 m in 18 years. The tipping point of congestion has already passed. “The situation is intolerable. Everyone agrees it’s a crisis but no-one wants to pay for it.” The region is already exceeding earlier population forecasts and has reached the level now expected for 2021.
Vancouver was always seen as leading the way with its land use policies – the Agricultural Land Reserve and “intensification” of urban development 18 years ago when Translink was proposed. The Premier of Ontario was uncomfortable with the present situation but she doesn’t have a majority government
The Premier required a fast turnaround: the panel was given three months to produce its report and was already appointed when Anne was approached to Chair it. “The Mayor of Toronto was already misleading the public on a number of topics including transit.” It was widely recognized that finding a solution to congestion would be the “cornerstone of success” but there was considerable doubt it could be achieved.
Reaction to the announcement of the Panel was cynical: it was portrayed by the media as a way to postpone decisions. The Scarborough line was dominating discussion. The Mayor had rejected replacement of the existing SkyTrain like Scarborough LRT with a more conventional light rail system. He claimed that a subway extension was the only acceptable solution even though ridership would not justify the higher construction cost. Metrolinx was rehired to review its decision that LRT was the most suitable technology. The chaotic result destroyed public trust in the process. There is in fact $16bn worth of construction on transit under way now – including a heavy rail connection to Pearson Airport from an existing GO Transit line using diesel multiple units (see notes below).
The panel produced a plan that is “practical, doable” with unanimous support across the panel – which was drawn from a wide variety of interests inkling business and the Automobile Association. The simple solution chosen was to select a few revenue tools, and then borrow against this new revenue stream. It included a raise in gas tax, a “redeployment” of some of the HST and a half percent increase in Corporate Income Tax (CIT). The amount of borrowing is to be a low multiple (2.5x) of the stream and does not affect the provincial debt. It did not ask too much from any one group.
The were dozens of meetings with groups and the public.
- Subways are not the only good transit
- Transit does not automatically drive growth: transit must link up places effectively
- Construction is not the only cost
- Riders are not the only beneficiary: driving commute times in Toronto exceed that of Los Angeles and building transit will relieve congestion
The benefits are spelled out in the report. The myth was that nothing was happening, and also that we can pay for transit expansion by cutting waste in the existing bureaucracy. This is the mantra of the Mayor and the opposition but it is not the case. “Where’s the waste?” The province already has the lowest spending per capita - lowest in the country – and it is rising at less than the rate of inflation. Ontario is reducing its deficit. It is also unrealistic to sell capital assets such as land to fund transit.
After the report was released the tone of the media became more respectful. There was also some new research on employment patterns, which showed that the Metrolinx proposals no longer met expected demands so they had to “make some tweaks”. They did this by setting priorities in the plan – which previously had not been included. Transit investments must ease congestion, and the Yonge St subway line is already congested. People already travel north to board southbound trains as they were unable to get on full services further south. The “Big Move” proposal did not add up to a network. The major adjustment was to build a relief line first to reduce existing congestion in the system.
There is widespread distrust of transit accounting. It was proposed to phase in gas tax at 3c per litre initially eventually to rise to 10c, plus the CIT increase and HST diversion.
It is critical how these things are communicated. The CAA’s Executive Director felt it would be unpopular but “it’s the right thing to do”. The gas tax could be capped if necessary and the revenue replaced by a switch to more HST diversion. “Don’t have to go back and ask again.”
There is a two year “kickstart program” including desirable improvements such as real time next bus information at bus stops.
The price of gas went up 5c since the report was released. “No one noticed.” Gas tax will still be less than Montreal and the average impact was calculated at $80 per family per year. At the same time it was also projected that $800 would be the cost of more congestion but the mainstream media ignored that.
Business was in favour of getting a bigger, better labour pool. Companies that had moved to the outer suburbs were moving back into town to get better labour. And even after the increase Ontario will still have a comparatively low CIT.
Tolls are seen by the public to be avoidable. But even though they would have to be applied to every route they would take too long to implement, and the cost of collection would be high.
Road pricing will be needed eventually
As one of those consulted remarked: “Dedicated or fuggeddaboudid”
Transparency is going to be critical. Depoliticized decision making will replace decisions “unimpaired by any information”. Every project will have a published business case analysis.
The Scarborough subway is not justified by ridership: but even Karen Stintz of the TTC defended it on the grounds that “Scarborough does not feel part of the City”. Investments must be based on more than just self esteem. This had given rise to projects like the “Sheppard stubway” – “at least you can always get a seat on it!”
Each proposal is designed as part of an integrated network
Toronto Hamilton doesn’t have a region wide government. Many people suggest “Make it an authority like the airport”. Metrolinx does not have tax power
They would like to be able to capture land value increase but it is not seen as a reliable revenue source. She said that the Reichmann company drove the financing of Crossrail in London.
All governments have a role to play, but the feds are “missing in action”. Federal contributions are ad hoc and not programmed. Jane Jacobs said that large cities are what drive the economy of Canada (as opposed to natural resources).
Guidelines have to become policies with teeth. It is not about ideology. We must all be on the same side. We need champions. The strategy is not just about transit it is about transportation [and should also be about land use].
There is a “new world of ADD communication” Reporters is the “lock up” at the reports release were already tweeting and filing before the report document was handed out. These days, she said, everyone is an expert. [Actually I heard that forty years ago when I started work for the GLC: everyone with a driver's license thinks its an advanced degree in traffic engineering]
There is a “dumbed down” broadcast media driven by a short news cycle. They only rporte th gas tax increase with instant responses from live interviews with startled people at the gas pumps. “Informed people are [portrayed as] elites - who drink cappuccino!”
She said “Democracy works best with filters” and equated the Referendum with “mob rule”. She also pointed to an [Gary Mason's] article about the Denver transit referendum in Monday’s Globe & Mail [paywall] People had time to absorb what was proposed – and could see benefits for themselves. Business leaders got behind the proposals. There is “no short cut”.
A dedicated standalone fund is necessary but not sufficient. People are influenced by events like the Senate scandal and find institutions untrustworthy – including the church. But they
trust the airline pilot or the surgeon “because you have no choice”
There is no single rule for leadership – despite all the books proclaiming their own. There are always going to the inherent tensions requiring compromises and tradeoffs. There is no template for regional government: the Greater Toronto Services Board (which preceded Metrolinx) did not last. Land use and economic planning is not integrated – and TransLink does not meet the test of good governance.
Our reputation is at stake, “the region that does it right … mostly.”
The will be ten million people in 18 years time in the GTHA. City regions cannot rest on their laurels. Greater Vancouver produces about half of BC’s GDP: the GTA 40% of Ontario’s
1. Are there many other regions in same boat?
New York (pedestrians, bicycles, role of design) Washington (streetcar), Denver, LA (at long last). We did study what others are doing
2. Intermediate Capacity Transit Systems were not considered in Toronto. Do you have an a priori down on SkyTrain?
I don’t know nearly enough knowledge about technology to answer that. The business case is the analysis to determine mode choice. “Buried LRT” was chosen for the Eglinton Line (“to keep it out of the way of the traffic”) but its business case never published. It is now halfway built but great care was taken not to take away the road space from cars.
3. Were walking, biking, car sharing considered?
Our remit was very specific. We not have time to consider cycling
4. Transit Oriented Development: what research did you do on value capture?
Didn’t get into value uplift not done enough
5. What would you have done if you had had 6 months?
If we had we would have done more consultation, and considered options like no parking on King and Queen Streets [major streetcar routes in downtown Toronto] as well as reconsidering truck delivery rules
6. Does concentration on office employment makes peak hours worse?
An excellent relief line will help
7. Development charges?
These are under review. We don’t charge the true cost of debt in suburbs. They got hooked on Development Cost Charges: they are a perverse incentive “like a drug”.
8. You talked about congestion not Climate change or carbon taxes. Flooding Richmond might be a bigger cost than congestion
We didn’t look at Carbon tax not viable. Canada is becoming less interested in being green
People are stretched and cranky
Cost of collection of tolls is too high
Revenue from gas tax has a limited life. The 1m more cars the rein expects will help but it is time limited
9 Province doesn’t have a clue about munis
From where you sit is what you see. TTC is bigger than Metrolinx but they have to concentrate on immediate political situations. Maybe need a provincial office for the Metro area – that used to be the case in Toronto when Gardner Church ran it. BC should bring Metro Vancouver and Translink together
10 Do people understand opportunity cost (citing the avoided cost of congestion she referenced)? E.g. road tolls
“I am not optimistic that there is enough white space”. The speed of communications defeats the consideration of complex issues. “The big lie is winning”
GTA Toronto population is 5.8 million.
“Big Move” is a comprehensive 25 year $50bn transit plan for GTHA with a goal of a 33% mode share. Phase 1 is the $16bn under way now which includes $800m for a makeover of Union Station. The Bloor Danforth subway extension to Scarborough City Centre will cost ~$3bn. The Eglinton Crosstown line is 12 miles png and will open in 2020. The 7 mile Finch West line will start in 2015 with scheduled completion in 2020. An 8 mile Sheppard East LRT will connect the Sheppard subway terminal at Don Mills to Morningside starting in 2017 completion by 2021. The Union Pearson line will be open next year. 37 miles of BRT are being built in York Region and Mississauga. Tunnelling has been completed on a 5.4 mile extension of the Spadina subway to Vaughn. It will open in 2016 and is the first TTC line outside of the city.
source: Trains February 2014