YouCity Innovation Contest
“Below the fold” is another Press Release. This one gets through my very fine sieve since it is actually relevant to the readers of this blog. Who knows, someone reading this might actually get a trip to Berlin out of it. If you do, please let me know.
BUT – there’s always a “but” from the acerbic Mr Rees – I want to throw some cold water on the idea that innovation is what is needed – at least in terms of gee whiz technology. We know what works in cities – and we know the places which have been showing the way. Generally speaking the ideas were concepts which have been around for a while and most meet consistent opposition from the embedded spokespersons of the elite and corporate interests. In no particular order, here are some of the innovations that we have already seen work to make cities not just sustainable but more livable. All of them could be adopted here. Most of them will be, eventually, as the oil runs out and the climate gets steadily worse. I would like to see them here in my lifetime – I should only live so long! And a lot of them are not innovative at all – they are putting back what we once had, that did work but did not suit the suits.
Get in the way of the cars
This is simple to do. Just about any changes that impact urban traffic are opposed by car drivers and those who make their money from selling cars and their fuel. But cars are the problem in cities – and if you are upsetting motorists then you are probably doing the right thing. For instance, look at the pathological opposition to bike lanes – the Burrard Bridge being one of the best and most unequivocal stories in this region. Taking a lane away from cars was supposed to bring about chaos and economic decline. It didn’t happen. The same thing is being said about bike lanes downtown – and will be said if anyone dares to come up with any proposal that counts people as opposed to vehicles. The metric of vehicles per hour must be replaced by persons per hour. In Central London many years ago, we did this to the traffic control system. We did it by using the same cost benefit values that we had already been using for years for capital projects – which kept down the noise from the engineers, who tend to be car drivers themselves. The result was a whole raft of bus priority measures. Janet Sadik-Khan did it in New York. She simply observed that in Times Square pedestrians far outnumbered car users – a percentage of whom did not actually need to be in midtown Manhattan at all since they were just passing through.
Some road reduction measures actually improve traffic flow. For instance, turning the standard four lane arterial into three – with the centre lane used for left turns only (bi-directional) and the curb lane being used for bicycles instead of parking. Williams Road in Richmond got this treatment many years ago, it works beautifully, but it has not been replicated. Roundabouts also work this way – and greatly reduce both collisions and collision severities. Yet they are still regarded as alien invaders.
Speed is still the biggest traffic problem, and speed limit enforcement using cameras works. Photo radar still is in operation to enforce red lights – and ought to be brought back for speed limits. Average speed cameras would make most bridges much safer and reduce collisions – the major cause of traffic delays in this region judging by the coverage on AM730. If it is called a cash grab (and it will be) just smile sweetly and tell ’em there’s an easy to avoid paying – just don’t speed.
Tear down the viaducts – sooner rather than later. Just do it.
Impose a congestion charge. This one is actually tricky here since it cannot be the sort of straightforward cordon price used in London so well, and which paid for so much improvement in bus supply. Road pricing works – we know that – and we need the money. The arguments will all be about how we do it and how to prevent diversion of traffic off the arterials and on to the back streets. But this needs to happen – so we might just as well bite the bullet and get on with it.
We have known that we are undersupplied with transit service for many years. Until people have a viable alternative they will keep driving. Spending billions on widening freeways was stupid and short-sighted but at least proved that we have both the money and technology required to expand the transportation system. Expecting that the new lanes of highway would not fill up with traffic just because the Port Mann bridge will be tolled is sophistry.
The easy fix is to get a lot more buses rolling and increase service frequencies – and put in bus lanes (not HOV lanes) with effective enforcement again (cameras on the front of the bus controlled by the bus driver). Only buses in bus lanes – and the lane surface should be coloured – then there is no argument about what should be where.
Again, this happened in London with the congestion charge and worked. Rail is needed (see below) but takes too long to build to have the immediate impact that bus service expansion had.
More passenger rail – choosing appropriate technology by need. The arguments about streetcars vs light rail vs grade separation ought to be resolved by looking at the purpose of the service and the expected load. Different tools to perform different jobs. In urban areas where getting a new right of away is either difficult or ludicrously expensive making use of existing under-utilized or abandoned rights of way should be obvious to everyone. And the concept of a “heritage boulevard” should fool no-one. We need streetcars – which get their own reserved lane – and we need light rail and we need high speed trains for longer distances. The electric interurbans were really effective – and the line is there and what freight moves along it now can easily move overnight, leaving the track free for people. No, it is not an ideal route, but like I said, waiting for the best is no longer an option.
Don’t let the truckers plan your transportation system
I acknowledge my debt to Gordon Price for that thought. One of the reasons it is top of mind is one of the press releases that didn’t make it here. It began
Talk of transit and how to finance it continues to make headlines. While finding new ways of funding subways and LRTs is essential, this single-minded focus has left the freight industry — and the transport infrastructure they use – out of the conversation. With this in mind, Transport Futures is proud to be hosting the first-ever Goods Movement and Mobility Pricing Forum …
If the Gateway has taught us nothing it is that the armageddon forecast by the truckers would not have happened either – but the one forecast by the Livable Region Coalition sadly will.
Come to think of it what we do need here is what works so well in Europe. An electronic tachograph in every truck “the spy in the cab” which enforces drivers’ hours and is so useful after collisions in determining responsibility. This can be coupled with going back to earlier levels of random roadside inspections for vehicle safety and checks on overloading. Are there any weigh scales next to the highway in the region that are actually in use?
Priority for walking, cycling and transit
That was the principle espoused by the City of Vancouver Transportation Plan which took a while to get implemented – and is now on a roll. It must be adopted region wide – and the province must accept that.
Public space in cities is not mainly so that cars can speed through. The idea that people like to sit down and enjoy the place is not new – but its application is done much better in most other places.
Governance and funding
The present arrangements do not work. We have to stop kidding ourselves that other people think we are some sort of example to follow. On the contrary, we are an object lesson on what is wrong. Of course it would be different if Canada had a national transit program – but we cannot wait for that. We also know that local government does not have the revenue stream it needs to play an equal role with federal and provincial contributions. A so called “balanced” approach has always favoured road building. Democracy is the least worst form of government we know. Metro Vancouver needs to adopt it . We need a directly elected regional authority that does all that Translink and the former GVRD and its other acronyms have been doing – and much more. Yes, that will provoke howls of outrage from local councillors and provincial politicians alike. So when did protecting their turf become the deciding principle and not what was best for the region? Again, the idea is that we have regional services where that makes sense (transport, waste disposal, land use planning, major parks) as well as local ones. And some recognition that this is not about either/or but always about both levels working together.
Make the rich pay
The fiscal revolution of the last thirty years has not delivered what it promised. It has manifestly failed even in its own terms. It is time to return to a progressive taxation system. Public services are important – too important to be left to the profit motive. This applies to health and broadcasting as much as urban development and transportation. Expecting poor people to pay the same as rich people is unjust – but is the effect of moving from income tax to sales tax, and all the other fees and levies – and that also applies to fares. This will be unpopular, but the socio-economic justification for UPass is pretty weak. It did help UBC avoid having to put in lots more expensive parking structures – but that is not an objective that trumps social inclusion, mobility and accessibility. And, by the way, government ought to be getting back into the business of providing housing – current levels of homelessness and the ludicrous housing market here should be reasons enough.
Protecting the environment
Amazing, isn’t it, that this even needs to be said. But it is everywhere under attack – and mostly by the government itself. Enough. Clean air, clean water and food that is actually nutritious is essential to life – and not just for us humans. The economy is a subsidiary to the environment, not the other way around. We are rapidly running out of the resources we have become dependant upon – mostly because we did not place the right value on the things too easily dismissed as “externalities”. The market has failed. Inter planetary travel and mining asteroids are still too far away to save us. We only have one habitable planet and this one cannot support all of us the way a small percentage manage to live now. We – the rich developed nations – have to change. There is no alternative except extinction.
Looking for innovative ideas about the future of public transportation in cities – The Bombardier YouCity Innovation Contest
Bombardier, a global leader in aerospace and rail transportation is inviting people to submit ideas for sustainable mobility in the urban environment.
The YouCity competition http://youcity.bombardier.com/ seeks to identify a whole spectrum of new innovations and ideas to demonstrate what smart urban mobility will look like in the future.
Ideas can be presented for projects in existing well developed cities or as theoretical projects for emerging cities of the future.
The YouCity contest is receiving some very unique and innovative project ideas.
Here are some of the creative submissions posted:
MegaProp Transport System – Automatic transport, pollution free without a driver.
Basic Principle – Take two magnets and a sheet of cardboard. Place one magnet M1 above the sheet and one magnet M2 below. If you will move the magnet M2 the magnet M1 will also move. You can test it by placing a toy car with ferrous base above any cardboard. Place a magnet below the cardboard surface on which toy car is standing. Now if you will move magnet along the surface of cardboard, the toy car will also move along. This is the basic principle of MegProp vehicle.
New Polyvalent Hybrid System for Intermodal Transportation.
This proposal is an increased capacity multimodal monorail system which allows for a new class of small electric vehicles to be integrated into the system in an organic manner that enables the entire system to operate as one.
Connect Public Traffic System with Individual Traffic
Connect public traffic System with Individual traffic! Create system that combines narrow streets with broad ones! Combine existing traffic systems with new ones! Adept system to target city of London!
The YouCity Bombadier contest is open to students and professionals from anywhere in the world. Ideas can be submitted from individuals or teams of up to 5 participants. Ideas can focus on:
- engineering (product definition, technical concept)
- business (business model, stakeholders, financing strategy)
- urban planning (network layout, urbanism concepts, integration)
Winners will receive 2,000 euros (approximately $2,600) and receive an all expenses paid 4-day trip to Berlin, Germany to participate in an exclusive Innovation Workcamp, the results of which will be presented on September 20th, 2012 at InnoTrans in Berlin, the world’s largest trade fair focused on the rail transport industry.
Ideas are posted online where people can review and comment openly. Candidates get the opportunity to receive feedback and exposure from people all over the world. The most active and valuable community participant will also be invited to join the winners in Berlin for the Innovation Workcamp.
To submit ideas and for more information visit: http://youcity.bombardier.com/