Archive for the ‘Transportation’ Category
This talk was given on April 1st. I think it is a great credit to SFU that they have managed to get it onto their youtube channel so quickly. I cannot now recall why I did not attend this talk in person. Perhaps it was because Michael (I may call him, Michael, mayn’t I?) has his own blog and I should not steal his content. I do remember twitting him prior to the talk to make sure that he covered transportation in this talk. He said that he might include something on walking. Well of course a great deal of it is about transportation. We share the same enthusiasms – for pedestrian streets for instance. I started the flickr group Places Without Cars in 2008. And trams.
I warn you in advance that he talks for over an hour and the video does not include any of the discussion which I am sure must have followed. But it is indeed well worth your time.
By the way, Translink did look at increasing the number of ferries across the inlet. Unfortunately the outcome was that few of the possible routes tested offered any time savings – which, of course, is entirely predictable. The reason we don’t have scramble crossings here any more, he said, was that they slow the cars down. Which, of course, is precisely the point. And of course there is a scramble crossing in Steveston.
What we do not seem to understand is the reason we think other places work better when we visit them is that as tourists we actually want to slow down and enjoy the place. Unfortunately that is not comprehended by the people who plan our transportation systems who are still hung up on speed as the decisive factor.
There are indeed decorated utility boxes all over Vancouver. I was sure I had pictures of some of them. Maybe I will find them later and add them.
Our strange way of finding out if we really should be collecting more tax to pay for transit expansion reaches the hallowed pages of the Economist . I would post a link but it points to a paywalled article which quotes Todd Litman. He, of course, makes his research freely available on his web site.”Twelve Reasons to Support Vancouver’s Transportation Tax” was published on 28 March 2015 and is a thorough piece of work, all properly referenced of course. You can download the entire fourteen page document as a pdf.
Vancouver households spend less on transport than any major Canadian city except Montreal and Winnipeg, and the smallest portion of all cities. Vancouver households save about $800 annually compared with the national average.
Vancouver households spend a smaller portion of their budget on transport than in any other major Canadian city
The Vancouver region has 3.9 traffic deaths per 100,000 residents, one of the lowest among North American cities.
As Heeney and Yan (2015) explain, “One in five, or 20% of all Metro Vancouver workers take public transit to work, well above the Canadian average of 13%. This is light years ahead of every metropolitan region on the Pacific Coast from Seattle (8%) to Portland (7%) to San Francisco (15%) to Los Angeles (6%) to San Diego (3%). Calgary, by the way, is 16%. If we were to slip to Calgary levels, Metro Vancouver would need to accommodate another 117,000 drivers on the road – imagine the new roads and bridges we would need for that!”
Greater Vancouver has about average costs per passenger kilometers for Canadian cities, and much lower costs than peer cities in other countries
The Vancouver region’s subsidy per transit passenger kilometer is about average for Canadian cities and much lower than peer cities in other countries.
The Vancouver region’s farebox recovery rate is about average for Canadian cities, and much better than peer U.S. cities.
Greater Vancouver has relatively high per capita transit ridership compared with peer cities.
Between 1985 and 2011, walking, cycling and public transit mode share increased by 42% [in Metro Vancouver] , indicating growing demand for these modes – residents increasingly want to use these modes but can only do so if they are convenient, comfortable and affordable.
The TransLink Efficiency Review [which so many of the NO side “experts” like to quote] compared TransLink with transit agencies with much smaller and more compact service areas, which made it look inefficient.
It’s huge. Eight lanes wide, it was the only bridge in the region which was never associated with congestion. Until the even wider Port Mann opened. There have recently been some proposals to dedicate the centre lanes of the bridge to a linear park.
These pictures are of course all from my flickr stream where they form an album or set. I have the feeling that people there no longer read the set description – if they ever did. So I make no apology for repeating that here. By the way the set is called “Vancouver’s High Line?”
There is much talk in urban circles of finding similar linear structures to the High Line capable of being converted into public space. In Vancouver, that has centered around the Georgia and Dunsmuir Viaducts. Which in my view should simply be removed altogether to create a new development opportunity.
On the Granville Bridge people have been suggesting a new pedestrian area in the centre lanes. This seems to me to be even sillier than the viaduct idea. If I am going to walk over a bridge, I want to see what I am crossing over not three lanes of traffic on either side. And no doubt a pair of solid, unclimbable safety barriers too.
This set is of the views from the Fir Street off ramp, where there is a sidewalk on the west side, overlooking Kits and Granville Island. An elevator directly down to the Island would be good too.
In the foreground the CP railway (Arbutus Line) crossing and then the other Granville Bridge off ramp to 4th Ave. That’s West Van in the distance.
The High Line in New York is actually midblock – it threads itself in between buildings, which used to be the factories and warehouses it serves. So neither this bridge nor the viaducts will work in quite the same way. But they do provide a view down the streets – sorry Avenues in our case – they cross. Much quieter than the streets of Lower Manhattan.
Just as the High Line there are good views off to the distance. And I happen to think the Burrard Inlet is a lot more picturesque than the Hudson River, but your view may be different.
The playground is a very happy addition to this corner site.
The CP Arbutus tracks are off to the right, hidden by the trees
Count them – six lanes – on West 4th Avenue. That makes it a stroad: a major arterial road and a shopping street. I would suggest that it is a candidate for traffic calming – or maybe bus lanes for the #4, #7, #44 and #84 – but of course that would set off the same outrage we had to weather from the Point Grey Road changes. Which of course have not actually lead to the decline of Western civilization as we know it.
At one time the CP track along Lamey’s Mill Road went through here, crossed the road at an oblique angle and then swung right up towards Burrard. But then Starbucks was built which in some people’s mind ended the possibility of reopening the Arbutus Line for trams, which would connect with the now abandoned Olympic Line. But the old Sockeye Special did not come through here. That line crossed False Creek at an angle on a long gone trestle. Anyway there’s a better alternative: I will get to that in a bit.
The Fir Street ramp leaves the main bridge around here. Granville Island is immediately below. One of the features of Granville Island is the large amount of space devoted to car parking. On a sunny weekend, the line-up of cars trying to get on to the Island backs up to the 2nd Avenue intersection and sometimes beyond. Traffic on Granville Island of course moves very slowly because of all the pedestrians, the service vehicles and all those people either hunting for a parking space or trying to get in or out of one. I think a pair of elevators either side of Granville Bridge with their own bus stops would be ideal to improve transit accessibility. I am not a great fan of the #50.
This shot down the length of the railway track next to 6th Avenue West illustrates my other great idea. The Fir Street Ramp could be taken away from cars altogether and repurposed for light rail/tram/streetcar – chose your own favourite term. As you can see the trains/interurbans had to climb from here to get up to Arbutus. The alignment could be used for a level rail structure that would connect onto Granville Bridge. That also allows for grade separation of the crossing of Burrard Street. On Granville Bridge the line would use those two centre lanes with a straight shot off the Bridge to the Granville Mall (does anyone still call it that) for transfers to the Canada Line, Expo Line, SeaBus and West Coast Express. The old CP Arbutus right of way could be turned back into an interurban as a cheaper alternative than expanding the stations on the Canada Line. It could also connect to a future conversion of the little used CP tracks to New Westminster and Coquitlam, via Marine Drive Station and the new riverside developments.
I retweeted this video this morning and as I sat watching it, I kept thinking about that question. Or perhaps we just need to rephrase: when Vancouver grows up, it will be like Zurich.
The bit of history that I think is important that is not mentioned in this video is about the trams. It is part of a European awakening. Cities like Amsterdam seriously considered replacing their trams (streetcars) with a subways. Others used a technique they called “pre-metro” to put the trams underground in city centres. And of course what happened in every case was the traffic expanded to fill the space available. So they stopped doing that. Places like Strasbourg designed the trams to be a desirable part of the city, not just a regrettable necessity. There is a lot about public transport in North America that reminds me of other public conveniences.
The same thing also happened in Toronto. When the Yonge Street subway opened, traffic in the City Centre increased because there were no longer streetcars on Yonge getting in the way of the cars. It might be significant that Toronto still has streetcars. It is also very significant that while the planners (transportation, urban and regional) all now think in terms of surface LRT, Rob Ford wanted a subway.
Some people have even referred to the referendum as Vancouver’s Rob Ford moment. And even Daryl dela Cruz is convinced that the choice of LRT for Surrey is increasing the No vote there.
In Zurich they did plan on a subway system. But the costs were astronomical. And they already had a tram network as well as really good railways, which provided both suburban and intercity services. The Swiss are very well off, of course, and Zurich is the centre of financial services. But they are also very keen on democracy and civic minded. An American in that video almost cannot believe that government can be genuinely concerned about people.
I have often thought that the reason we like SkyTrain so much here is that it keeps the transit out of the way of the cars. An elevated structure does provide a more attractive ride than a tunnel – and is considerably cheaper. But it also has an impact on area through which it runs. Not as horrible as the old elevated railways – which may have been taken down in Manhattan but are still the dominant mode of the New York subway in the other borros.
I wonder if in some future Vancouver, having finally got up the courage to rip down the viaducts we will start planning to get rid of the SkyTrain structures. Or perhaps turning them into High Line style parks. SkyTrain of course has to grade separated because of the LIM rail.
The British method of light rail is to use old railway lines wherever possible, but on street running in town centres. In Paris even though there is a disused Petite Ceinture railway line parallel to its route – grade separated at street crossings – the new T3 runs in the centre of the boulevard. The “art of insertion” is actually just removing space that is now taken by cars (moving and parked) and replacing it with people. Lots of people.
Here we seem to be much less concerned about people. The Cambie Street line had to be underground because the City had designated much of the route as The Heritage Boulevard. A broad strip of grass with some large trees. Not actually usable. No one plays on it, or sits watching the cars speed by. There are no couples strolling hand in hand on those lawns. Cutting down trees for a transit line – or widening the Stanley Park causeway – is a red flag. Oddly, not for wider sidewalks and bike lanes apparently.
The other thing I noticed about Zurich’s city centre was the absence of towers. This is also common in much of Europe. In cities like Rome or Florence the centro storico is four to six stories maximum. Unless it’s a cathedral or something. Paris does have towers – but only one at Montparnasse which is widely derided or clustered in La Defense (which is the location for shooting dystopian SF films).
You will also note that the film concentrates on the decisions to limit parking and the volume of traffic allowed into the centre.
One other thing that needs to be said too is that the Swiss are very particular about who they let in to live there. I haven’t looked but it seems to me highly unlikely that the Zurich region is planning on absorbing another million people in the next thirty to forty years.
Haven’t I written all this before?