Archive for the ‘Transportation’ Category
Photo by Alyson Hurt on Flickr
I went this morning to a workshop called “Getting to and Moving Through Granville Island”. It is part of Granville Island 2040, “a planning initiative that will set out a comprehensive direction and dynamic vision for the island’s future” organised by CMHC and Granville Island. The session, facilitated by Bunt & Associates, collaboratively reviewed current infrastructure, mobility services and travel patterns as well as seeking ideas and opinions on critical transportation elements for the Island’s future. It was a group of about 20 “stakeholders” which included local residents’ associations, City of Vancouver staff, Translink, both of the ferry companies, the local business association, BEST, Modacity and Ocean concrete.
There had been a meeting the previous day dealing with land use, and there will be many more opportunities for people who are interested to get involved. You can even Instagram your idea with the hashtag #GI2040 – which I have already done. But there’s a lot more to this idea that I want to write about.
First of all I think it is very unfortunate that the process separates out transportation and land use, since I am convinced that these must be considered together: they are two sides of the same coin. Secondly the process centres around the vision for what people want to see by in 2040, and then there will be thought about how to achieve that. I think it is immediately apparent that CMHC has its own process for deciding how to replace Emily Carr University when it relocates to False Creek Flats. This long term vision has to assume that it sorted out, and that CMHC has achieved its own objective of seeing increased levels of activity on the Island.
The workshop started with a presentation by Bunt & Associates of some recent transportation data they have collected last month, compared to data collected on the same days in August 2005. I did not take notes, thinking that there might be a handout or perhaps material on the website. So I am forced to summarise the findings without any of the figures in front of me. There has been an increase in the number of people going to the Island, but a drop in the number of cars. The increases come from increased use of the ferries, pedestrians and cycling. They conducted cordon counts between noon and 6pm midweek and a Saturday and a very limited interview survey, to help identify where people came from, how many were in the group and how much they spent. Car occupancy has increased. The Island is now also on the itinerary of the Hop-on/Hop-off service which wasn’t the case ten years ago.
There were some very obvious weaknesses in the data. For instance, transit passengers were only counted at the cordon when they got off the #50 bus. It is my observation that many people walking into Granville Island have come from the bus stops at the southern end of Granville Bridge. While some of that “multi-mode” travel is apparent from the interview survey, it is not like a trip diary. There were also no counts in the evenings, when the use of Granville Island shifts considerably to the theatres and destination restaurants like Bridges and Sandbar.
There were the usual workshop activities of putting sticky notes on maps and talking in breakout groups, and some of the common ground was apparent early on. Reuse of the abandoned Historic Railway to connect to the mostly empty parking lots and Olympic Village station, for instance. By 2040 that may even extend to the tram envisioned for the Arbutus Corridor, and even if that can’t be achieved by then, the Greenway linkage to the Seawall was a favourite too. Currently while pedestrians and bikes have a few options, vehicles have only one, and I am relieved to report that no-one thought there should be more. In fact the traffic count shows that the current four lane access is excessive, and could be replaced by two lanes with the space better utilised by dedicated bike lanes, wider sidewalks and possibly a tram line.
The idea I want to examine in a bit more detail was popular with the transportation people, but might have some resistance from the “Islanders” i.e. the people who work there everyday. But I will get to that later.
There is a 50 meter channel between the east end of the island and the separated pedestrian and bike paths of the seawall. There is very little boat traffic into the pocket of False Creek: the main exception being people in kayaks and dragon boats using the docks south of the Community Centre.
My first thought was that the almost useless Canoe Bridge at the other end of False Creek could be relocated.
But it is both too short (only 40 meters) and has that really ugly support in the middle. I also dislike the fact that the entrances onto the bridge are narrower than the middle, which seems to me to be utterly pointless. I also wonder about the flat underside, and whether an arched bridge might be better both operationally – for boats given rising sea levels – and aesthetically. My inspiration is from one of the newest bridges in Venice, Ponte Della Costituzione also known as Calatrava Bridge after its designer.
This is much too big for our location – 80 meter span and up to 17.7 meters wide in places. But you must admit it is very beautiful: in fact it well illustrates my dictum about a lot of architecture – it looks pretty but it doesn’t work very well. It has a lot of steps, some of them very steep, which makes it a barrier to people on bicycles (intentionally) and people with disabilities.
Actually bicycles aren’t permitted anywhere in Venice, but although this bridge might present a challenge, evidently not enough of a challenge, hence the presence of the local plod.
No, I don’t know how often they have to be there, but they did have quite a few folks to talk too while I was there.
The lack of accessibility meant that as an afterthought a suspended gondola was added
and, unsurprisingly, was out of order at the time of our visit. Wikipedia notes “The official budget for the project was €6.7 million, but actual costs have escalated significantly.”
However, I am pretty sure that someone can come up with a better design of a bridge for the 50m gap, and a way of ensuring that it is not a cycle freeway, but a gentle stroll for pedestrians. The reason is not that I am anti-cyclist, merely tired of the constant aggravation of the “shared space” on the seawall, which the City is now dealing with. It is also essential to the mandate of Granville Island 2040 that none of the Island becomes a through route to anywhere. One of the reasons that mixed use and shared space has worked so well here is that the Island is the destination. It is an exercise then in placemaking, not making through movement faster or more convenient. Indeed unlike so many places in Vancouver which now advertise “this site may have an antiloitering device in place” we must come up with lots of ideas to implement loitering devices – things to encourage people to linger. Or as Brent Toderian likes to call them “sticky places”.
There is one such place now at what would become the landing place of the new bridge. Ron Basford Park is one of the few quiet places on the Island, where people who work there seek peace: somewhere to have a picnic lunch or breastfeed their babies. It is the end of the Island and there is a footpath around its perimeter. I think it is quite possible to design the end of the proposed pedestrian bridge to ensure that this peace is preserved. If the bridge is used as way to get people on bicycles on and off the Island more quickly, there will be considerable conflicts at both ends. But Ron Basford park is also home to amphitheatres: there are concerts and all kinds of activities at other times. So the Granville Island management is going to have to display some pretty nifty consultation expertise here.
Granville Island is a unique place. It seems to defy all reason and logic, but it undeniably is very successful as a destination, and whatever happens will need to preserve as much of the place’s eccentricity as possible. Or even enhance it.
As Dale Bracewell remarked at the end of the session, Granville Island actually needs several transportation plans for different times of day, days of the week and times of the year. In the summer, the Island attracts at least half of its users from the rest of Canada and other countries – people who probably only visit the Island once. In the winter, the Island – and its market in particular – is the place that most people in the vicinity rely on for groceries. As the residents’ association rep pointed out, they are the people who keep the market going in the winter. There will be further traffic counts later on in the year, to measure the different pattern that emerges when tourists are a less significant part of the mix. And, of course, there will need to be some reflection of what happens once the University leaves: there are around a thousand students now, plus staff and support workers.
There were some hints about how the land use will change. The buildings underneath the bridge, currently used as parkades, are likely to be repurposed. The area at the west end of the Island, currently where there is free parking for the Public Market, will likely see reuse that better utilises its location. But all of this depends on getting more viable choices for transit. So the other really important idea is the installation of elevators up to the bridge deck with new bus stops. Sadly, the City is still wedded to the notion of a centre median greenway – which is utterly daft. The reason people walk over the bridge is the view. No-one is going to want to walk a long way across the Island and the creek with no view other than four lanes of fast moving cars!
You probably know already that proposals to expand coal exports at several ports in the United States have failed to get the necessary local approvals. Unfortunately, in Canada, we do not have local control of the ports like they do down there. Here the port is a federal concern, and under Stephen Harper they got used to doing pretty much whatever they wanted. The ports in Canada are actually controlled by the industries and companies that use them and hence they are immune – to a large extent – from concerns expressed by the people who live next door.
Except that there are some remaining powers, which under the new Liberal government may actually have some force. provided that Justin actually keeps all those promises he made before the election. Case in point is the idea that Fraser Surrey docks could be used by BNSF to load thermal coal from the US Powder River Basin for export to power stations in Asia. Given that the size of ships that can navigate the Fraser are currently limited by the depth of water over the Massey Tunnel and the headroom under the Alex Fraser bridge, the idea is to use barges to tranship the coal from the railhead in Surrey to Texada Island where a new, deep water ship terminal would be built. The desperation of the coal exporters willingness to even consider this kind of expense is borne out of two considerations: the market for thermal coal is shrinking, and the US federal government is beginning to wonder why it is giving away coal at knockdown prices from public lands. Given the endorsement of the Paris Agreement by the US and China, the days of expanding coal fired generation of electricity are clearly numbered. Together with the plummeting price of both solar and wind power, and ways to cheaply store that.
The Dogwood Initiative is fighting the proposal. They wrote to me as follows:
Yesterday, regional bureaucrats approved a wastewater permit for the Fraser Surrey Docks coal export proposal, moving this climate-killing megaproject one step closer to construction.
This is our chance to stop millions of tonnes of U.S. thermal coal from slipping out through the Lower Mainland to be burned in Asia.
Metro Vancouver must now consider whether to issue an air quality permit that would allow Fraser Surrey Docks to pollute our lungs and our communities with coal dust and diesel fumes.
The good thing is Metro’s board is made up of elected local politicians — accountable to you. They’re on the record against any expansion of coal exports on the Fraser River, and they have the power to put the brakes on Fraser Surrey Docks.
If enough people speak up, we can empower Metro Vancouver to protect our communities and our climate.
Will you take two minutes to write to the Metro Vancouver Board and ask them to stand firm in their opposition of Fraser Surrey Docks?
With prices collapsing and coal projects being cancelled around the world, this delay could be enough to permanently end the threat of an expanded coal port. In the past five years, seven thermal coal export proposals have already been stopped in the U.S.
The tide is turning against coal, and we need the elected members of the Metro Vancouver Board to show real leadership by saying ‘no’ to Fraser Surrey Docks.
We’ve made it quick and convenient, so please take a couple minutes to write to them right now.
We can stop this project, but not without you. Please take action today.
P.S. In 2015, there was so much public interest in the wastewater permit that Metro Vancouver offered a public consultation period for the first time. An unprecedented number of local residents voiced health, safety and environmental concerns about the management plan for wastewater at the coal port expansion. It set the project back by a year. Now the real fight over the air permit begins. Will you be one of the people willing to stand up and speak out?
So of course I agreed and sent the following missive to the Metro Vancouver Board
Dear Metro Vancouver Board Members,
Across the west coast of the United States, communities have stood up against the expansion of coal export facilities. Quite apart from the immorality of increasing fossil fuel exports at a time when our climate is nearing the limits of what it can cope with and remain livable, these communities raised real concerns about the impacts of coal dust on the local population. Carrying pulverised coal in open rail cars at speed spreads fine dust over a wide area. We already see this in Greater Vancouver due to current coal export movement. We also see that the supposed mitigation measures offered by the railway and terminal operating companies are worthless.
Metro Vancouver Board members ought to be concerned about climate change and the very doubtful economics of coal exports, but sadly you have no legal ability to act on those concerns. You do however have the opportunity to prevent more damage to our health and the environment. The existing coal export operations show how careless these operations are, and how weak our control systems have been. We simply cannot afford to be so reckless with human health any more. You must refuse the air quality permit given the shameful performance of these operations to date.
And to date I have had three replies which give me some cause for hope
Thank you for contacting our office, your message has been received.
Please note, staff will look into your correspondence and follow up as soon as possible.
To report a City Service related problem or time sensitive matter, please visit www.surrey.ca to connect with the appropriate department.
Linda M. Hepner
City of Surrey
Well, ok that one is just an automated acknowledgement, but the next two are better
Thank you for writing to me on this matter of the proposed coal transfer facility at Fraser Surrey Docks, as I appreciate the opportunity to clarify that my position and the Metro Vancouver Board position continues to be in opposition to coal shipments from the Fraser River Estuary. On June 12 2015, the GVRD Board passed a Notice of Motion to write to Port of Vancouver and FSD indicating this and I have included the minutes of the meeting for your convenience. (item H. 1 )
While the Sewage Control Manager did issued a liquid waste discharge permit to Fraser Surrey Docks on September 6, 2016 in relation to their proposed coal transfer facility, it continues to be Metro Vancouver’s position that before the facility can operate it must also obtain an air quality permit and Metro Vancouver has not yet received an Air Quality permit application. This position of requiring an Air Quality permit is not without opposition from the proponent, as the facility is on federal land and there is a potential constitutional issue of jurisdiction.
The Sewage Control Manager is directed by GVS&DD Sewer Use Bylaw No. 299 2007, to independently evaluate applications based on technical merit and in accordance with bylaws and the BC Environmental Management Act. When the technical criteria are met, the Sewage Control Manager is required to issue a Liquid Waste Discharge Permit. Had the Sewage Control Manager rejected the permit application, FSD could have moved forward with other wastewater control measures, including applying to the province for a permit to direct discharge to the Fraser River.
To be clear, the issued permit is very narrow in scope and only allows for storm water runoff and wastewater from activities like dust mitigation and equipment wash-down from the potential FSD facility to be discharged to the Annacis Wastewater Treatment Plant.
Acting Mayor Raymond Louie
Vice-Chair – Metro Vancouver Regional District
Thanks for your email. Surrey City Council stands opposed to the coal export terminal and has passed a resolution to that effect. Furthermore, with the price of thermal coal, it is highly unlikely that the proposed export terminal and the transportation from the US will make economic sense for the foreseeable future. Thank you for your concern in this matter.
Councillor, City of Surrey
Now if you have read this far, you know what is coming
Wouldn’t you like to add your thoughts to this process: not as a comment to this post (though a copy here would be interesting) but your own thoughts: it seems that the Metro Board is actually listening.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
I think it’s daft that the railway crossing signs have been left in place
Even dafter is removing the City’s own signage before the work is even started, let alone completed!
This pathway and its connections to the local road network need better definition and surface(s).
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
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.
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.
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!
POSTSCRIPT a set of recent tweets
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.
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.
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.
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
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
Gordon Price, Director of the SFU City Program
Graduate Student Society at SFU
HandyDART Riders Alliance
Heart and Stroke Foundation
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