Stephen Rees's blog

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

Archive for the ‘good news’ Category

We have been changing

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censusSFhomes

This graph appeared on my flickr stream today. I was surprised, both by the relative position of Metro Vancouver compared to the other Canadian metro areas, and the steepness of the decline. I do not usually get into the land use, density, urban design stuff but what I see from other blogs and discussions had given me the sense that somehow we were losing the battle against sprawl. I know that people are quite rightly concerned about large houses in the ALR – that people in Richmond now refer to as AirBnB hotels – and that so much recent development seems to have followed the freeway expansions into areas which were not identified as of the Growth Concentration Area identified in the LRSP. But what this graph shows is that the conventional single family home on its own lot – or one that shares a lot – is no longer the dominant form of the region. And that we are outperforming both Montreal and Toronto in delivering other types of residence.

This is indeed good news, and a strong indication of why we not only need more and better transit, but that it will be successful because we have the density to support it. This also seem to be the subtext of a lot of commentary I have been seeing about why the BC Liberals did so poorly in this region. That includes, of course Peter Fasbender (former Minister for Translink) losing his seat (Surrey-Fleetwood).

And the source for this graph (Neighbourhood Change Research Partnership, Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work, University of Toronto) was new to me too.

Written by Stephen Rees

May 13, 2017 at 5:10 pm

Suburbs lose out to the bright lights of downtown

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The Globe and Mail reports today that there has been a shift in location decisions of companies. They are now willing to pay more for a downtown location, both reduce their carbon footprint and to “attract well-educated, sophisticated workers.” There’s quite a lot of anecdote here, but also some data on vacancy rates. The examples are from Toronto and Edmonton but there has also been increasing interest in new office developments in downtown Vancouver. It is encouraging that LEED certification is mentioned – though much of the discussion  would seem to point to employee travel behaviour. LEED ND isn’t mentioned.

One of the great issues with regional planning here was the suburban office park – which was not anticipated in the LRSP. These are not going to go away any time soon, but they will have to start adapting. I would expect that developers will try to retrofit these places to become more like traditional urban “central places” with a variety of uses. If we had wise leaders, they would be increasing travel options at such locations, and looking at fiscal measures to encourage the “highest and best use” of land currently devoted to “free” parking. That would require some effective support for transit – and a lot of investment in better walking and cycling access to such locations. I would be interested to see a movement like this develop here. It could be a bit like the way that redundant suburban shopping malls in the US are now being redeveloped for mixed uses.

Written by Stephen Rees

January 24, 2011 at 4:10 pm

Posted in good news, land use

Twenty ideas that could save the world

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Guardian

A good positive way to start the week. Humanity faces a crisis, and much angst is spent on the dithering of our politicians who seem to be incapable of grasping the importance of actually doing at least some of the things they keep talking about.

The Guardian organised a meeting in Manchester to review some of the “countless ingenious ideas for tackling the problem emanating from universities, thinktanks, front rooms and sheds across the planet” and to select some of the best of them.

Not all were technological. One or two I have actually heard of, and in one case an organisation I volunteer with is already implementing. innovativecommunities.org has been distributing the ONIL energy efficient woodstove to impoverished Mayan villages in Guatemala. Global warming was not our first concern – but a useful by product. Women who have the stoves do not need to spend so much time collecting firewood, their children are healthier since the stoves get the woodsmoke out of the house, and the damage to the forest  of fuel collection is reduced. There is also a much reduced risk of children burning themselves which happens a lot when there is cooking over an open fire.

Two ideas that I find immensely appealing are Rosemary Randall’s ““carbon conversations” in which she encourages people to explore their attitude to consumption, identity and status. People who have been on her course of six meetings typically reduce their emissions by a tonne immediately and then plan to cut in half within two to five years. Andrew Simms of the New Economics Foundation offered an even simpler prescription: consume less. It might even make us happier too.” But I am sure that you will have your own ideas and I encourage you to check out the links and learn more, a well as voting for your favourites.

Written by Stephen Rees

July 12, 2009 at 9:42 pm

Pub Goers Trade Home Grown Produce for Beer to Beat Credit Crunch

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money.co.uk

Barter is alive and well and at work in Norfolk.

Pub manager and brain child of the popular scheme, Cloe Wasey, enthused “We find the home-grown stuff is often much better than what we can get from the suppliers. When we get the good stuff, and it gets on to the specials board, it’s brilliant.”

Odd turn of phrase that – I think they meant that is was her idea. But I would love to see somethign similar start here. Though I bet the needle nosers from Revenue Canada would have something to say about it.

Written by Stephen Rees

August 15, 2008 at 4:32 pm

Posted in good news

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This blog renews a friendship

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I had a delightful lunch today with someone I have not seen for over four years, and frankly, did not expect to hear from again. I am sorry if this seems immodest but I was delighted to hear that someone in another city far away reads this blog to find out what is going on here – and to catch up with what I am doing – and finally figures out a way to call me.

We also caught up on developments at the place where we used to work together, and I must say that things there have been changing in ways I did not expect. I will refrain, however, from predicting what might happen next. For one thing, I have had to take my crystal ball back to Canadian Tire for repair. Again.

It is possible to work out from the information you can find on here how to email me. It is not spelled out clearly simply because of the dreadful little software programs that trawl the web looking for email addresses to send spam too. Look at the top right under the words “about and contact information” – or click on about and there you will find a slightly less cryptic explanation. I also have another blog. Since no-one has ever posted a comment to that and I think the hit counter is broken I do not think anyone reads it. It is not about the relationship between transport and urban areas. My idea was that I would take the “off topic” posts from here and put them there. But I understand that for some readers these irrelevant posts are part of the attraction. So I am not going to mess with what limited success I have had so far – certainly not to send you to a blog that apparently no reads but me.

mount-baker-from-tsawassen-bc-2007_0704.jpg

And from there, on a clear day, you can see into Washington state. The curious effect that this image captures of the tip of Mount Baker seemingly floating above the ground is actually the result of transport pollution. Ground level ozone (confusingly known here as “smog”) is created by the action of sunlight on the combination of nitrous oxides (NOx) and hydrocarbons (HC). Since it has suddenly turned nice here, the effect is more pronounced today. No photoshop trickery here I promise you. Since much of the industry in the region has moved away, most of the NOx comes from vehicle tailpipes. HC is mainly the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) which these days are more likely from natural sources like pine trees or cranberry beds (hence the famous quote from President Reagan that trees cause air pollution). Since we abandoned carburettors for fuel injection, put vapour capture into gas pumps and now check gas caps regularly, VOCs from cars are much less than they were once.

I think it is worth remembering that while greenhouse gases are the major concern now, air pollution is by no means solved.

Written by Stephen Rees

July 4, 2007 at 3:57 pm