Stephen Rees's blog

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

Arbutus Greenway

with one comment

Once the transaction between the City and CP was completed, work to remove the track and formation proceeded – and faster than expected. Since the Arbutus right of way was always one of my regular walking routes I have been documenting the process on Flickr. Looking at my latest effort there made me think that perhaps the blog reaches a different audience, and this might be a place to start a conversation about what the Greenway is going to look like. My impression is that there cannot be a standard end to end treatment, though some elements will need to be continuous. The integration of the Greenway into the neighbourhood is going to be critical to its success.

Arbutus Greenway

Between King Edward and 16th Avenues there is now a wide smooth pathway, awaiting blacktop. Very much more comfortable to use than the old railway and informal path. Nothing has yet been done with the crossings, nor the transverse pedestrian paths.

Arbutus Greenway

Grading south of King Edward Avenue W

The new greenway path is at least 7m wide in this section, with considerable amounts of land on each side.

Arbutus Greenway

Apparently someone wants the crossbucks preserved in place. I am not so sure that is a Good Idea: road signs should inform or warn of real present situations not outdated ones.

You can search Orders in Council but I couldn’t find one using that number.

Arbutus Greenway

Very little has been done to the right of way between 16th and Broadway. Inevitably parking is spreading like a plague across the available space behind the car maintenance businesses at the intersection of Arbutus and 12th Avenue.

Arbutus Greenway

Abandoned ties that are not much use for landscaping as they would have been treated with creosote: the contractors seem to have been remiss in not removing these

Arbutus Greenway

This section has Quilchena Park to the right and Maple Crescent to the left. I am baffled why this park isn’t green on Google Maps.

Arbutus Greenway

Informal access to Quilchena Park

The designers of the greenway will need to consider how to integrate it into the adjacent properties. A railway needs to have a barrier to limit trespass, but a bike a pedestrian way needs something else. Cyclists need to be deterred from using it as a racetrack, and pedestrians need to have reasons – and opportunities – to linger. There has to be more than the occasional bench, drinking fountain and securable bike parking – though all three are essentials. A Greenway is not a sewer to pull traffic through like a stroad, but a place in its own right. A destination as a much a passageway.

At this particular point, it looks like stairs may be required. Fortunately alternate flat access is not far away.

Arbutus Greenway

I think it’s daft that the railway crossing signs have been left in place

Arbutus Greenway

Even dafter is removing the City’s own signage before the work is even started, let alone completed!

Arbutus Greenway

This pathway and its connections to the local road network need better definition and surface(s).

Arbutus Greenway

The amount of land available along the route varies considerably, but most bas been left to vegetate, mostly shrubs, scrub and the invasive, prolific himalayan blackberry. These sites must not be neglected but deliberately adapted to improve both their community utility and landscape value.

As matters progress I imagine that I will return to this topic. So for now I have given it its own category

Written by Stephen Rees

July 25, 2016 at 7:20 pm

Bike share comes to Vancouver

with 3 comments

It has been a very long time in gestation, with at least one false start, but today was the first day of operation of Mobi, Vancouver’s bike share system. Ever since I used Velib (seen above), the system in Paris, I have been waiting for one to start here. I have also used systems in New York and Denver.

Mobi

 

This is the station on Bute at Robson: two parking  meters have been suspended until the end of the year to accommodate the station. Presumably, this is to allow for some assessment of need and the potential exists for the station to moved and the meters restored.

Mobi

Because we are in BC every bike rider has to have a helmet – and you can see how they are currently padlocked to the bike. In other places where helmets are mandatory, bike shares have been unsuccessful. Vancouver hopes this time it will be different. Of course our brain dead provincial government could not conceive of the possibility that its helmet law is based on falsehoods, and refuses to reconsider it in the light of current knowledge and, yes, data.

The current offer is for an unlimited number of rides for a year – and there is a discounted price for early adopters that ends at the end of July. It is not an offer that I feel inclined to accept. Nor does my partner. As I mentioned I have tried other systems, and none of them required a significant upfront investment from the user. Usually a credit card was necessary as a deposit in case of an unreturned bike, but the ride itself was cheap or even free. There were significant sponsorships on all of the bike share systems that I have seen. Barclays Bank had their name all over the bikes in London: even so everyone calls them Boris Bikes. Here the city has made the up front investment –  and I do understand that experience elsewhere has shown that bike shares that actually work reliably do not come cheap. Whatever the model was in Rome, for instance, that didn’t work.

The home zone does not extend south of 16th on Arbutus, so it doesn’t actually get close enough to me. A bit like Modo, whose nearest car to my front door is in Kerrisdale. So that’s another mobility aid that is out of my reach.

I also know that there has been significant lobbying by the established bike rental operators that Mobi not cut into their business, and the current pricing structure is clearly a real deterrent to use by visitors. Which is a shame, I think, but I can understand how the people who rent out bikes feel.

So I will watch what happens with a sense of detached interest. And will watch for the comments of the readers to see if they like the deal better than we do!

Written by Stephen Rees

July 20, 2016 at 3:57 pm

My Air Canada United experience

with one comment

United  N496UA at YVR

I am going to Chicago tomorrow. Following the advice given on the documents I printed off from the Air Canada booking I made, I went to the Air Canada web site to check in, using my Air Canada booking reference. The documents warn that the flight is a code share with United but nowhere do they inform me of the United flight number or, even more importantly, the booking reference used by United, which is different from the one given me by Air Canada. Both airlines are members of the Star Alliance, but apparently the degree of integration between Alliance members is far from complete, or even adequate. I wait on hold for someone from Customer Care listening to AC tell me all the exciting things I could be doing instead of listening to the adverts.

When I finally get through I am given the United booking code, and the person I am talking to even waits while I use that to log in to United’s check in on line. Once I know that has recognized me, I hang up, and start re-entering the information about my booking that the booking reference ought to have provided and then go through the on line check in process. Now I know that they do like people to use their app and get the boarding pass sent to their cell phones, but since I am not a United frequent flyer I am not really happy with that process. I have used cell phones for such things in the past and frankly the paper document seems to be much more likely to work first time with most gate readers. Though even then I have stood and watched while gate attendants type in my data manually. So I opt to print my boarding pass at home.

No, that won’t be possible. In fact, I get a message to tell me that I am not actually checked in. United says that it doesn’t have my passport number on file. So until a United representative can actually see my passport or I use the self service check in at the airport to scan my passport, I cannot have a boarding pass.

If United actually kept track of who flies on its planes, this might have been avoided. Since I have flown United. In fact my family has a store of United stories. Most recently I flew to New Orleans, via Chicago, on United: that was in May last year. So I would have used my current passport then: and none of my information has changed since. But, once again, because I am not a United Frequent Flyer I get treated like a second class citizen.

I used to think that maybe the treatment I got on United was something to do with how much I paid for the flight. Perhaps there is indeed even more market segmentation that is apparent from their loading preferences. Since my outbound flight on United to New Orleans was so grim, I actually upgraded to “better” seat for the return journey. That seat was actually in the row in front of the emergency exit, and would not recline. I cannot imagine how United could justify charging me the higher price for that seat and no-one has ever even tried to.

There is now a direct Air Canada flight between Vancouver and Chicago – though not at a time which I find acceptable. United, of course, will grimly hang on to its gate slots. There are clearly differences between allies and the extent of their co-operation is limited.

I remember a time when flying was enjoyable. When the journey was a fun part of the trip. When the skies were actually friendly.

Crepuscular Rays over MSY

POSTSCRIPT After posting this I heard from AirCanada on Twitter – who prefer to keep their conversations with customers private by using Direct Messages. Which I shall respect. But I will note that this DM thread extended back to last year, and I saw then that I raised exactly the same issue. I thought then that it had something to do with me paying for the flight with AirMiles, who of course handled the booking. I had rather expected that if I booked through Air Canada this time the experience would be different. I was wrong about that. I also think the problem lies with United and not Air Canada. I have never had any contact from United other than speaking to their employees during my travels.

Written by Stephen Rees

July 7, 2016 at 10:52 am

Posted in Transportation

Open Letter from The David Suzuki Foundation

with one comment

I am currently on holiday in Edinburgh, but this just arrived in my in box. Hopefully it is getting picked up by the mainstream media and creating a stir. I hope so.

 

Please be advised that the attached open letter was delivered to the Metro Vancouver Mayors’ Council and B.C. Premier Christy Clark this morning on behalf of the David Suzuki Foundation and 31 other stakeholder groups and individuals across the region.

 

 

5/18/2016

 

The Hon. Christy Clark

Premier of British Columbia

Office of the Premier

 

Metro Vancouver Mayors’ Council

Cc: Hon. Todd Stone; Hon. Peter Fassbender

Re: A call for leadership to invest in transit and transportation in Metro Vancouver

 

Dear Premier Clark and Members of the Mayors’ Council,

 

We the undersigned are a diverse group of organizations from business, labour, health, environment and student associations working together to advocate for investment in Metro Vancouver’s transportation system.

 

We are writing to urge you to act quickly and take advantage of the opportunity afforded by the recent federal budget to improve transit and transportation in our region. As you know, in its budget, the federal government made a commitment to a $370 million “down payment” toward the 10-year Metro Vancouver Transit and Transportation Plan.The federal government has also shown tremendous leadership by agreeing to pay 50 per cent of all capital transit costs provided agreements can be struck with the province and local mayors.

 

These commitments have changed the landscape for transit funding in our region, but with this opportunity comes a challenge: we need to be ready with regional and provincial funding, or else these federal dollars, collected from local taxpayers, will go to other cities and provinces that are ready. For the good of our economy and the health and livelihood of citizens, this cannot happen. We are calling on the province and the Mayors’ Council to work together to ensure that we are ready to get Metro Vancouver moving again.

 

Expansion of transit services — especially when they’re electrified — is crucial for Metro Vancouver to improve air quality and health, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote economic development and job growth.

 

A growing number of studies confirm that congestion costs our region more than $1 billion each year due to lost productivity, increased operating costs and lost business revenue and regional GDP. It has been estimated that investment in transit could save the health care system at least $115 million annually, and likely considerably more if the benefits of increased physical activity were also included as part of the cost-savings analysis.

 

We ask you show leadership by putting history and political differences aside to work together and ensure we are ready to take full advantage of federal support and start improving transit and transportation. Adding new federal dollars is an essential prerequisite for moving ahead with stalled transit improvements so badly needed for the Metro Vancouver region, and for B.C. as a whole.

 

Lastly, we wanted to take this opportunity to highlight the importance of using newly available federal funds to implement the full set of regional transportation improvements outlined in the Mayors’ Council Transportation and Transit Plan rather than a few projects here and there. A regional approach to transportation investments will ensure that Metro Vancouver residents and businesses throughout the region will benefit. Local and provincial governments have the power to help us make history in B.C. and Metro Vancouver through implementation of a world-class provincial and regional transportation plan.

 

Should you require more information, we would be happy to meet with you or your staff.

 

Thank you for considering this request.

 

BC Federation of Labour

BC Healthy Living Alliance

BC Teachers’ Federation

British Columbia Golf

Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives

Clean Energy Canada

Connecting Environmental Professionals – Vancouver Chapter

The David Suzuki Foundation

Dialog Design

Disability Alliance BC

Downtown Surrey Business Improvement Association

Downtown Vancouver Association

Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association

Dr. Lisa J. Jing Mu, Medical Health Officer, Fraser Region

ForestEthics

Gordon Price, Director of the SFU City Program

Graduate Student Society at SFU

Greenpeace Canada

HandyDART Riders Alliance

HASTe BC

Heart and Stroke Foundation

HUB Cycling

Offsetters

Perkins+Will Architects

Peter Ladner, Columnist, Business in Vancouver Media Group

Public Health Association of BC

Renewal Funds Company

Transport Action – British Columbia

Vanterre Projects Corp

Victoria Lee MD MPH MBA CCFP FRCPC, Chief Medical Health Officer, Fraser Health Authority

 

Written by Stephen Rees

May 18, 2016 at 10:53 am

Posted in Transportation

Southwest Area Transport Plan

with 7 comments

Translink bus in Steveston

Translink bus in Steveston

I had a call today from Graeme Wood who writes for the Richmond News. He wanted to talk about Translink’s Southwest Area Transport Plan. He wanted me to predict what sort of changes people in Richmond might want to see in the transport system in the future. I’m afraid I wasn’t very helpful as it does not seem to me to be very important. First of all because the way to plan for a future system is to do some really good data collection on how they travel right now, and why, and then come up with some realistic proposals on how that could change based on what we know about things like population growth, land use plans and technology changes. Just asking people what they might like is a bit pointless. Secondly holding open houses and inviting people to fill in a web based survey form means you only get the opinions of a self selected (i.e. unrepresentative) group.

But it’s worse than that here now – and here is where I went off on a rant which I somehow doubt will appear in his newspaper, but you never know. They might be desperate to fill the space.

Here’s what the Translink web page has to say

In June 2014 the Mayors’ Council developed the Transportation and Transit Plan which identified investment priorities across the Metro Vancouver region. These priorities identified the need for types of services, but not the specific routes or specific areas that would benefit. An Area Transport Plan will establish a blueprint for the unique transit and transportation needs of the Southwest sub-region. Once funding is available, we will have a solid foundation for implementing the priorities that meet the needs of the community now and in the future.

I have added the emphasis: if you think funding is going to be available, and you live in Delta or Richmond, then you might like to wander along to one of their open houses or fill in the survey. Don’t let me stop you, or the thought that it is very unlikely indeed that much is going to change any time soon. Unless the stupid bridge actually gets built, in which case, forget it and buy a car. And if that is not a practical choice for you then you might have to take Jean Chretien’s advice and consider moving.

There is no funding for more and better transit or very much for walking and cycling – which anyway gets decided by the municipality not Translink. And, given the present ineptitude of our provincial government, that is not going to change any time soon. I think the two immediate, pressing needs for transit would be to restore the annual pass for people with disabilities and – having taken handyDART back in house – make a considerable investment in making door to door trips for people who cannot drive or use conventional transit a daily possibility rather than a very rare treat. The way that a society treats its most vulnerable citizens tells you a lot about what sort of society we are and want to be. The way this segment of our population has been treated in this province is a disgrace. And that has been true for at least the last twenty years to my certain knowledge and actually much longer than that. I think that if there are to be more funds available that ought to be the first priority simply as a matter of social justice. Even Hillary Clinton has recognized that transportation is a civil rights issue.

Whatever detail Translink puts on top of its 2014 Plan matters naught, if it cannot get any more funds to match the needs for an increase in its operations and maintenance budget – let alone the very desirable and lengthy list of transit improvements listed in that plan. The Mayors identified very real problems in the present funding model, not the least of which is the decline in revenues from the gas tax and the pressures of population growth. Of course we are in a stare down over the potential for increases in property tax: don’t expect that to end either.

Already Kirk LaPointe has decided that the Broadway Subway is not going to happen.

Our viability and livability depend on better public transit – not in a decade, but today, because we have waited a decade. Trouble is, the line has taken only one teensy step forward and some significant steps back since it was identified as one of several core projects in the Mayors’ Council report on transportation in 2014.

Yup, he got that right. Oddly he also seems to think that streetcars might be the solution as though they could be implemented faster than the subway. Actually any transit solution is going to be very expensive, very unpopular with at least one loud and influential segment of the population  and will take far too long to implement to satisfy the existing users of the 99 B Line. It is about as likely as the Massey Bridge – or the Port Mann – will see LRT running across it in my lifetime: or along the Arbutus Corridor come to that. While the province always likes to say that their new bridges could carry more transit in the future, that is simply the old “jam tomorrow, never jam today” promise.  There has never been a real intention to implement those plans.

People in Richmond or Delta who go to these open houses and outline the sorts of improvements they would like to see in the bus routes of their area are simply demonstrating the triumph of hope over experience. Good luck with that, folks. Let me know how that works out for you.

Written by Stephen Rees

April 13, 2016 at 4:06 pm

Lax Kw’alaams Hereditary Chiefs Question Trudeau on Eviction Notice

leave a comment »

Lelu Island

The following items arrived in my inbox today from Greg Knox of skeenawild.org

Instead of trying to convert the pdf documents into text that is then pasted into the blog engine, I am posting them as pdf files which you can either download or read in many browsers.

The issue is the proposed construction of an LNG terminal on Lelu Island near Prince Rupert: I got the map from fisherynation.com

Lelu Island letter to Prime Minister Trudeau

Port Authority (1)

Port Authority letter (2)

Written by Stephen Rees

April 11, 2016 at 4:31 pm

Posted in Environment

Tagged with

Compass Hacked

leave a comment »

ct_compass_ticket

When I did a search of this blog for “fare evasion” I found 44 blog posts. I have not tried to read any of them but I do know that one theme I went back to more than once was that the faregates would not eliminate fare evasion, they would just change the way that it was done.

CTV now have a report on how the single ride ticket can be reprogrammed with a cell phone to allow more than one ride. They do not tell you how to reproduce this hack for yourself, but apparently it has been known for some time and has demonstrated on other Cubic systems such as New York. And apparently it is possible for Translink and the Transit Police to determine if a ticket has been hacked. Get caught with one and you face a charge of fraud rather than fare evasion.

I did not know about this hack when I was writing those posts, and I am not promoting its use now. What I did know was that every fare collection system has been a target of hackers: no transit system gets 100% compliance and the case Kevin Falcon tried to make was fatally flawed from the start. The only surprising thing about this story is that the ability to hack tickets had not been identified publicly earlier. Translink’s representative says they knew about it last year. Cubic could not be reached for comment – I suspect because they probably knew much earlier and kept quiet.

Postscript: once this blog post appeared on line,  Jon Woodward, the CTV reporter who produced the original story, did read my older blog posts and tweeted about one I wrote in 2008 about London’s Oyster card being hacked.

And in the interests of completeness Jeff Nagel of Black Press has been talking to Translink who say that the amount that this fraud is costing them is  actually not very much. They even say

“There is a solution, it’s just a matter of measuring the costs versus the benefits,” Bryan said.  “Obviously there is an ability to manipulate this. For us it comes down to a cost-benefit analysis of what kind of impact it is having. Right now, it’s very minimal in terms of cost.”

Which, of course, was exactly the same position that Translink adopted when they originally examined faregates before Kevin Falcon imposed  them ignoring the cost-benefit analysis.

Written by Stephen Rees

April 10, 2016 at 5:47 pm

Posted in Fare evasion

Tagged with , ,

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,612 other followers