I’m back. Actually got in Wednesday morning four hours before we left Sydney: the flight back crossed over the intersection of the equator and the international date line. Jet lag and the lingering colds we picked up at the end of the cruise have been combining to limit our activities but the laundry got done and I fixed the toilet and the sliding patio door that wouldn’t close properly. Pictures from the last four weeks are going up on flickr. More will be added steadily over the next few weeks.
I really liked Sydney: arriving in a new city the other side of the world without jetlag was a very pleasant experience. Great buses, nice new LRT but new downtown development is massive and seems to me to be very tightly squeezed in.
[The original post had a press release here about a Translink consultation process that has now closed.]
I am going to start this post by looking backwards. I cannot now be sure of the exact date but it was forty five years ago that I started work in my first proper job in the transportation industry.
Not my picture but one by Les Fifoot. The docks were then run by British Waterways Board and were pretty successful in terms of tonnage moved, if not exactly money making. I am not counting my stint on the buses at Nottingham City Transport over Christmas the previous year: or the summer job as a Research Assistant in the Department of Industrial Economics of Nottingham University – which led to a new free bus service in the centre of Nottingham.
Over time, it became clear to me that transport ought not to be studied in isolation, and that land use planning – especially at the regional level – was critical to transport demand. How we arrange ourselves in on the surface of the planet is at once influenced by transport networks – rivers, canals and docks among them – and determines how much we use those networks.
Last night I went to a meeting of Transport Action BC where amongst other topics the subject of the removal of the downtown viaducts came up. When I said that was driven by land use and development concerns, that seemed to be seen as something of challenge. We also talked about the way that transit funding – for major capital projects only of course – has been a been front and centre of all three parties announcements in the current election campaign. Our ability to tap into those funds is now in doubt since we cannot come up with our one-third contribution. Although there is nothing actually chiselled in stone that requires one third of transit building funds to come from each level of government. In fact in Ontario, the province is funding 100% of their new LRT lines. The province of BC only does that for major highways and bridges. They have also pretty well taken over Translink and are making a fine mess of it. The Evergreen Line is late and overbudget, mostly due to the bizarrely designed tunnel. Instead of two small bores – one for each direction – there is one large one into which a separating wall needs to be inserted. Something to do with the Fire Marshall no doubt. Anyway due to soil conditions and the proximity of the tunnel roof to the surface, sinkholes have been a problem and the TBM is not making progress at present.
The decision to have only one fare zone for buses, as the Compass card reader on board the bus cannot be made to work quickly enough, will lead to more revenue loss to add to the already unsustainable drain of the SkyTrain faregate fiasco – hundreds of millions spent in an attempt to stop the loss of at most single digit millions in fare evasion every year. Also thanks to the province, the downloaded Patullo Bridge has to be replaced – and may have to be be paid for through tolls due to lack of other funding: New Westminster is hoping to keep the new bridge down to two lanes each way (the same as the existing bridge) although it is not clear that Surrey will agree. Nor will Translink be able to provide much more service across the parallel SkyBridge due to lack of new trains.
Anyway next week I am going to be on board MS Volendam headed for Seattle, Hawaii and then the South Seas headed for Sydney. On board internet is going to be pricey, so I do not intend to spend much time – if any – online. There was a book sale at the library, so we have some dead tree reading matter that we will not mind leaving behind to lighten our baggage for the flight back. So even though you would probably not have noticed, given the slow rate of posting to this blog recently, I do not intend to be posting here, or tweeting or posting to facebook and flickr for about a month. Maybe more. But I am sure I will have lots of pictures and stuff to write about when I do get back. No Light Rail in Honolulu yet – indeed that is already over budget before it starts. But much to see in Sydney and only a couple of days to do it in.
Be nice to each other!
Yesterday evening we attended this free City program lecture by Larry Beasley and Jonathan Barnett. The large room was full and in his introduction Gordon Price said that bookings had filled up over the weekend after it had been posted late one Friday afternoon, something that had never before happened.
The event was video recorded is now available on YouTube
Here are two extracts from the SFU City Programme site announcement
A couple of North America’s best urban designers have distilled two careers’ worth of knowledge into a new book:Ecodesign for Cities and Suburbs. The SFU City Program is pleased to host both Larry Beasley and Jonathan Barnett for a lecture that will explore the important themes from their book and their experience.
Come learn how cities can reshape themselves to limit global warming, re-energize suburban commercial corridors with bus rapid transit, reclaim wasteful transportation infrastructure for public amenities, and make cities more attractive for family living.
Specifically, Larry and Jonathan’s talk covers the following:
- Solutions for a city’s environmental compatibility
- Diversifying movement choices
- Urban consumers’ aspirations for quality livability
- The pros and cons of community amenity contributions
About the Speakers
Jonathan Barnett is an emeritus professor of practice in city and regional planning, and former director of the Urban Design Program at the University of Pennsylvania. He has extensive experience as an urban design consultant as well as an educator, and he is the author of numerous books and articles on the theory and practice of city design. Along with his PennDesign colleagues Gary Hack and Stefan Al, he teaches an online course called Designing Cities, available on Coursera.
Larry Beasley is the “distinguished practice” professor of planning at the University of British Columbia School of Community and Regional Planning. Along with Ann McAfee, he was the long-serving co-director of planning in Vancouver during the transformative years for the core city. He now teaches and advises cities around the world through his consultant firm, Beasley and Associates. He has been recognized with an outstanding alumni award and an honorary doctorate degree from SFU. He is also a member of the Order of Canada.
The event was a book promotion but was sponsored by Concord Pacific. There were copies of the book for sale at the back of the room and most of the illustrations used in the presentation were taken from the book. I was somewhat surprised to hear that the two authors had not physically been together during the book’s writing. I was also expecting – given the title and indeed the predominance of the design community in the room – that the content would be mainly about design. The term “ecodesign” was apparently coined by Kim Yang an architect from Singapore applied to buildings. The authors stated that they were applying it to cities. There was almost no reference to design thereafter. Most of the talk from both presenters was about policy and implementation – and much of it concerned transportation. Very little of what I heard was either new or even very remarkable. Much of it would be very familiar to readers of this blog, and I feel that it would be pointless for me to type out the extensive handwritten notes I made during the presentation, which would be my normal mode of operation. As noted above for those who could not get in last night, they will be able to see a video in due course, which would be both more accurate and less coloured by my opinions.
I was also very surprised that both presenters read slabs of text from their book to top and tail their presentation, and while they did so the screen displayed what they were reading. Larry Beasley did not appear to have noticed too that there were slides to go with his opening introduction. Given that he is an educator, Jonathan Barrett’s presentation style was not exactly sparkling either.
In the section on mitigating the impact of climate change they concentrated on sea level rise – or rather the way that storm surges amplify that issue. They used New Orleans as one example. There is indeed a design issue here – as the US Army Corps of Engineers has now admitted. They also referred to the Thames Barrier in London, which was installed in the 1980s, long before sea level rise due to climate change was in the political cross hairs, but was said at the time to be a response to the south east of England slowly sinking. At least, as an employee of the Greater London Council at the time, that is what we in the Department of Planning and Transportation were told. It has apparently been raised far more often than was originally intended and will be inadequate by 2030.
I was also somewhat taken aback by a slide which showed a “regional solution” – which was not actually described in detail but shown on a map as red lines across the Juan de Fuca Strait and the outlet of the Salish Sea at Port Hardy. It was said that this would require international co-operation. Quite how the ports of Vancouver, Seattle and Tacoma would continue to operate was not revealed.
Larry Beasley’s section on how to get buy in from the suburbs was all about “experiential planning and urban design” by showing examples of what has worked in other places. By that he meant that people “spontaneously and of their own accord buy in to sustainable and more interesting practices” (as though the High Line had not been skillfully promoted for years). The book starts with examples and then tries to extrapolate common themes rather than starting from a theoretical construct. All the examples were familiar and a lot of them I have my own pictures to illustrate. Not Cheonggyecheon or Boston’s Big Dig, I’m afraid.
Promenade Plantee in Paris
Highline New York
False Creek North (Yaletown)
The big challenge will be the suburbs, and change there will of necessity be incremental simply because the area they cover is so large. Cars will continue to predominate travel for a long time even though traffic congestion is a symptom of “suburban dysfunction”. Growth boundaries are essential and work but behind them is business as usual. Tysons Corner VA was cited as a good example where an extension of the Washington Metro will facilitate TOD, but for others places Bus Rapid Transit was actually referred to as a “silver bullet”. But not a B Line as we know it.
I must admit I was a bit taken aback at this assertion. The 98 B Line was actually quite close to BRT standards on part of No 3 Road and might have been convertible to LRT had the province listened to what Richmond actually wanted. Within Vancouver, of course, the City’s Transportation engineers insisted that no bus priority of any kind was acceptable. And Linda Meinhardt ensured that parking along the curb lanes and access for her deliveries would never be compromised.
So the solution to our problems is – they said – adopting more generally the regulatory and management techniques pioneered by Ray Spaxman, the collaboration and public engagement as practised by Anne McAfee and regulatory reform which would expect rather less from Community Amenity Contributions than the current practice here.
I did not stay for the Questions and Answers. Sorry.
I am going to be travelling and will not be able to blog the following
The Urban Studies Program at Simon Fraser University is pleased to announce a pair of lectures from leading experts in urban transportation, who will be joining us this Fall. On September 22, Professor Jeffrey Kenworthy will reveal the challenges and opportunities of “Planning for Peak Car” and on October 28, Professor Robert Cervero will explain why “Mass Transit Needs Mass”.
These lectures are free of charge and open to the public, but they require advance reservation, and will fill up quickly.
Reservations can be made online at: www.sfu.ca/reserve.
This letter showed up in my email inbox this morning. I do not know what other media this may have been sent to. I hope it is circulated widely – it certainly deserves to be. Many people have decided to walk away from this process in disgust since it is so obviously biased. Adrienne gives her reasons for staying the course. Like her, it seems to me highly unlikely that they will pay the slightest attention.
The original is posted with a Green Party of Vancouver heading
Earlier today, I submitted my official Letter of Comment to the National Energy Board (NEB) Review Panel on Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion proposal, urging the NEB to turn down this reckless proposal that threatens our economy, our quality of life and our environment, both locally and globally. I would like to share my letter with you below:
I am participating in this hearing with trepidation. I have lost faith in the National Energy Board in general, and in your hearing on the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion Project in particular.
Failure to consider the broader impacts that this project will have on greenhouse gas emissions is unconscionable and tragic in the light of scientifically-verified and rapidly accelerating global warming (think of the droughts, fires and heat waves in BC and Canada this summer). Considering the vast quantities of fossil fuels that the proposed Kinder Morgan Trans-Mountain pipeline expansion project is intended to deliver over its lifetime, its negative impacts on carbon emissions are relevant and are of both Canadian and global significance.
Besides not weighing the overriding climate consequences of the project, your board has done much to limit discussion by not allowing verbal cross examination of witnesses by interveners and by siding with the company’s decision to not fully reveal pertinent information about spill clean up preparedness. Your decision to allow Kinder Morgan to withhold such information is particularly egregious given that authorities in Washington State—but not Canada—have been given the information. Such actions contribute to making this hearing a sham. The public has good reason to be cynical. Like many, I believe that no matter what I or anyone else presents to you at these hearings, you are going to approve the project. How tragic for democracy.
Notwithstanding the frustrations I express above, I cannot boycott this hearing. I feel that it is my duty and responsibility to act in whatever way I can to protect the interests the citizens of Vancouver—whom I serve as a City Councillor—and my children and those in the future who will have to live with the decisions being made today. Here are my comments for your thoughtful consideration.
I was born in Vancouver, am married and have two grown children who live in Vancouver, too. I own a condo in Vancouver’s West End, a few blocks from English Bay and Stanley Park. My husband and I chose to invest here because of its proximity to the beaches that I played on daily every summer as a child, and the globally-reknown seawall and park that we use regularly. On a personal level, my quality of life and my property value would be negatively impacted should a spill of diluted bitumen occur either during transport in our harbour or at Westridge Terminal.
Both as a Geographer (MA, UBC) and as a former member of the Executive Team at Western Canada Wilderness Committee, which participated in the clean-up of the 1988 bunker C oil spill from a barge off Washington State that fouled some of the beaches in Clayoquot Sound, I understand the potential of tides and currents to spread an oil spill and how difficult it is to clean up even only a small percentage of it. Perhaps fifteen percent can be recovered under ideal conditions. The rest persists over many years, with negative impacts on water, marine life, shorelines, and beaches.
I understand, too, the disastrous negative socio-economic impacts that a spill can have. As a co-author of the Globe 90 Sustainable Tourism Strategy and former lead campaigner with the Wilderness Committee, I have expertise in the field of eco-tourism, which relies on maintaining a pristine natural environment. As Vancouver’s first elected Green Party city councilor (re-elected at the top of the polls in 2014) I am deeply concerned about the potential impacts—both short and long-term—of an oil spill on the health of Vancouver citizens and on our city’s reputation and economic well-being. Our local economy is highly dependent on a thriving tourism industry. The long term impacts of a spill—especially of thick, heavy bitumen which sinks to depths where clean-up is virtually impossible—are now well known after the Kalamazoo River spill in Michigan which is still not cleaned up. Vancouver is striving to be the world’s Greenest City. This goal will be unachievable if we become the West Coast’s major Tar Sands oil port.
The danger of a spill is real. The near tripling of the capacity of the Westridge Terminal would mean an estimated 10 tankers a week: 520 tankers a year that must pass through the Second Narrows in Burrard Inlet, what is considered by many the riskiest oil tanker passage in the world. The big tankers carrying 500,000 and 700,000 barrels of bitumen must leave at high tide. At high tide there are only about 2 metres of draft under the keel. The waters in this narrow passage are swift and turbulent and the tide drops quickly. There is no room for error, but we all know that human error cannot be full eliminated. The risks are too high to allow this project to move forward.
Those risks were brought home to me in April of this year when the MV Marathassa grain carrier spilled about 2,700 litres of bunker fuel in English Bay, just offshore from Vancouver’s Stanley Park. The spill was first noticed by a recreational sailor. It took 13 hours for our city to be officially informed of the spill. Small releases continued from April 8 to April 13—five days—until the point of leakage was finally identified. The Coast Guard and Department of Fisheries and Oceans did not have any scientists on staff to sample the waters and wildlife for contamination. In the absence of government scientists, sampling was independently undertaken by scientists engaged by the Vancouver Aquarium. The City of Vancouver also engaged experts to scientifically monitor contamination effects on the environment. The oil dispersed to beaches in Vancouver and to the north shore of Burrard Inlet where clean-up efforts began on April 10.
It is still unknown how much of the oil sank to the ocean bottom.
As a member of Vancouver City Council I asked the city staff reporting to us on the Marathassa spill whether or not there was a multi-agency integrated oil spill emergency response plan for our coast. I was told that, previous to the Marathassa spill, staff had inquired about such a plan, but none had been forwarded to the city. In dealing with the spill, they were not aware of such a plan. A few weeks later I attended a meeting of the Lower Mainland Local Government Association that was focused on emergency planning. I asked representatives of Port Metro Vancouver and of IMPREM (Integrated Partnership for Regional Emergency Management) whether an integrated multi-agency marine spill emergency response plan exists. I was told “no”.
This is not acceptable. The City of Vancouver is responsible for the safety, health and well-being of our residents. The completely inadequate response to the relatively small Marathassa spill, raises huge concerns about the risks, lack of emergency response preparedness and potentially devastating impacts of the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion project.
This project should not be approved.
The opposition to this project is overwhelming. It includes all the First Nations surrounding Kinder Morgan’s Westridge Terminal. Based on the literally thousands of conversations I have had with local
citizens and the results of the November 2014 local election in which the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion Project became a key issue, with those opposed now forming a majority on Vancouver City Council, I believe opposition to this project includes a clear majority of Vancouver residents. They have nothing to gain and everything precious to our city’s quality of life to lose if this project is approved.
Please consider my comments, and turn this project down.
Green Party of Vancouver · 207 W Hastings St, 403, Vancouver, BC V6B 1H7, Canada
This email was sent to Stephen Rees
I am quite sure that none of what I write on this blog is of any surprise to my regular readers. The purpose of this post is simply to host an important piece of research which clearly has had no impact whatever in this part of the world. Oddly enough I am now able to offer you the complete pdf version of the publication because it has been used to support the case of the removal of the Gardiner East expressway viaduct in Toronto.
The Vancouver Courier has an article by Mike Howell who cites Ian Adam to support the contention that somehow the removal of the viaducts east of downtown will be a disaster and somehow this inevitability has escaped the attention of those currently responsible for traffic management in the area.
Ian Adam, who retired in 2008 as the assistant city engineer of streets and structures, said he believes the loss of the viaducts will create more traffic congestion in Chinatown, Gastown and nearby areas.
“Anybody who thinks you can take down two major viaducts like that, which handles 60,000 people a day and a thousand heavy trucks a day — and not have some impact — they’ve got to be dreaming in Technicolor,” said Adam, who once held the position of what is now called director of transportation. “I would say leave them up. They’re a $100-million asset that’s doing a job.”
This is a common theme with the mainstream media. When the Vancouver Sun reporter Jeff Lee covered the recent SFU City Conversation on the Removal of the Viaducts he made a huge effort to chase down Marguerite Ford, a long retired NPA Councillor who has no faith in traffic engineers. She is convinced that they do not understand how traffic works and that things will get worse, although she says she is not against removing the viaducts.
Both Ian Adam and Marguerite Ford are unaware of the research done in many places where traffic lanes have been reduced, freeways closed, viaducts removed – all around the world – and somehow the traffic adapted. I got interested in this phenomenon when I lived in London and the venerable Albert Bridge had to be closed to vehicular traffic for safety reasons. The traffic simply adapted, congestion did not get worse, and life went on. Phil Goodwin was a colleague of mine at the GLC’s Department of Planning and Transportation and went on to a distinguished academic career. He was interested in how traffic models needed to be adapted to become more realistic. Because they have no way to forecast either induced traffic – trips that appear on the network because of additional capacity (a new freeway or a new bridge) – or disappearing traffic – trips that no longer are made when a network loses capacity.
Here is the abstract
Reallocating roadspace from general traffic, to improve conditions for pedestrians or cyclists or buses or on-street light rail or other high-occupancy vehicles, is often predicted to cause major traffic problems on neighbouring streets. This paper reports on two phases of research, resulting in the examination of over 70 case studies of roadspace reallocation from eleven countries, and the collation of opinions from over 200 transport professionals worldwide. The findings suggest that predictions of traffic problems are often unnecessarily alarmist, and that, given appropriate local circumstances, significant reductions in overall traffic levels can occur, with people making a far wider range of behavioural responses than has traditionally been assumed. Follow-up work has also highlighted the importance of managing how schemes are perceived by the public and reported in the media, with various lessons for avoiding problems. Finally, the findings highlight that well-designed schemes to reallocate roadspace can often contribute to a multiplicity of different policy aims and objectives.
The original citation is Cairns, S; Atkins, S; Goodwin, P; (2002) Disappearing traffic? The story so far. P I CIVIL ENG-MUNIC , 151 (1) 13 – 22.
Here is the full text as a pdf Disappearing traffic the story so far which you can download
Both Adams and Ford appear to believe that the number of trips on a network is absolute. That any change to the network must therefore accommodate all the trips currently being made – and, by extension, any forecast of future trip making. Typically, models used to predict travel have also fallen into the same trap – leading to the never ending cycle of predict and provide which has only ever produced more vehicle trips, and worse congestion. The gravity model treats motor vehicle trips as though they flow like water, and thus have to be accommodated to avoid flooding. In reality traffic behaves more like a gas that expands and contracts to fill the space available.
You also need to bear in mind that the engineers responsible have also observed that traffic into downtown Vancouver has been declining, and the network they are proposing can easily accommodate all of the current trips with some slight delay for cars entering the downtown during the morning peak from the east. Among the “behavioural responses” which will occur, once the viaducts have been removed are trips will be made at different times of day, trips will be combined – so that more than one errand can be completed in the same journey – trips will divert to other equivalent destinations and some trips will switch modes. There will be a few people who decide to stop driving their single occupant vehicle and try the same trip by walking, cycling or using transit. Many trips in this city are short enough to be accomplished in this way, and most people who try the alternatives will prefer them to driving. This is already apparent here, as elsewhere. Though obviously 70 case studies across eleven countries were not enough to convince some. Though this stuff is also really old: March 2002 publication. There have been many places since then that have followed this advice and found that it worked. We will too. Actually, we have. Point Grey Road and the Burrard Bridge ought to be enough evidence – even if all those protected bike lanes downtown which seem to be working quite well too are not convincing either.
I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with The Economist newspaper. I have at times been a subscriber and regular reader, but in recent years its rightward shift has grated on my sensibilities. And I do not feel like subscribing to it any more. Of course I follow them on Twitter and try to limit my clicks to stay within the limit of free articles. And as it is the start of the month I did manage to read all of an article on one of my favourite topics: the London Underground. And no that is not a political movement.
But as as so often the case these days there were a couple of things that I noticed. Now since these are things that I know about, I feel entitled to post about it. But is does make me wonder how much one can rely on this source for things I know very little about, and need enlightenment. Am I being misled?
So the article in question. Now the questionable statements
Money for improvements is limited. Fares are already eye-wateringly high (a monthly pass costs £225.10
Hold on a minute there: the fare table for the Underground takes up a full page (A4 size) in tiny type and that is just the adult fares – 12 columns and I lost counts of the rows – for there are 9 fare zones. You can see it as a pdf and the cited £225.10 covers zones 1 – 6 – or the whole of the Greater London Area without the lines that run into darkest Essex, Hertfordshire or Buckinghamshire. So it is an understandable choice – but by no means the only one. Incidentally, that covers about the same area as Metro Vancouver’s 3 zones and is CAN$460.40 compared to Translink’s at $170 so the eye watering is indeed understandable. Still feel we get ripped off?
There is also this comment
Moreover, if London’s puny mayoralty had the tax-raising powers of its New York equivalent,
which also seems at odds with what I am reading about how annoyed New Yorkers are with the Governor of New York State Andrew Cuomo and his lack of willingness to recognize that the MTA is in fact a state agency, and he is not willing to open up the state’s coffers to pay for much needed modernisations and extensions to the Subway but is happy to fund upgrades for La Guardia airport. Which sounds familiar to us, I think. For a neat summary of how Metro Vancouver gets stiffed go see what Price Tags has based on the longer series of articles by Nathan Pachal. Gord also has good stuff – as usual – on New York too.
But to go back to The Economist, while it may well be true that New York’s Mayor has more tax raising ability than London’s, that does not mean that it is enough to deal with the extreme decrepitude of much of its Subway. Anymore than Metro’s Mayors feel happy about dipping into property taxes again to pay for Translink. That is driven by a political doctrine – and I am not so sure that much of “Bagehot’s” isn’t equally so driven.
Once again I got a last minute plea from the CBC to appear on the evening news to talk about the announcement of an increase in tolls next month. It seemed to me that there was little to say, and that over an hour’s travel for a few minutes screen time not very productive, but they sent a camera man to Arbutus Village and I stood in the park. I did not know that the new technology they use relies on the cell phone network, which is why those trucks with dish antennas are no longer needed. When my segment got broadcast it was very obviously cut short as the sign off was missing. I had been asked what the solution was to increasing tolls – and clearly the CBC did not like the answer. I had managed to get in a shot at how the much vaunted lowest income tax in Canada has been brought about by increases in all kinds of fees and charges – tolls, MSP premiums, ferry fares – and how wages were not keeping pace with the increasing cost of of living in the region.
But it was only later that I realized that I had missed on a real solution. My moment d’escalier was the memory of how people coped with tolls (and SOV line ups) on the Golden Gate Bridge by forming last minute car pools. These days no-one has to risk anything by lining up at on ramps. You can – of course – do it on-line. If the increase from $3.00 to $3.15 a crossing is a real issue for you go check out car pool, rideshare and van pool information on Translink ‘s web page. You can easily avoid the congestion on the Patullo and halve the cost of the toll. You can also share rides on Hitch Planet.
There were a couple of graphics that I had sent the CBC producer that did not make it to air, which is a shame. The first is a good effort by Jeff Nagel using recent data to show how people have been gradually getting used to paying $3. I personally doubt the $0.15 will cause much more than a short term blip, but I do think people are right to expect more increases in future. The toll company blames their rising operating costs – but if interest rates start increasing that will be the real stimulus for faster toll rises.
The second one is a bit older, and is from Sightline, and shows how the real traffic data compares to the forecasts
The red line should just dribble across a bit further. It certainly has not been sticking up like the forecasters thought.