Stephen Rees's blog

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

Dead malls

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Once again, essentially all I am doing is to point you at another blog. I have visited and lived in North America for long enough that I did indeed spend quite a lot of time in malls. In fact our own Oakridge Mall, with the incredibly frequent sales at The Bay and the free wifi at the Apple Store – and Four Hours Free Parking – still manages to carry on. Elsewhere, the unstoppable rise of  Amazon – and staying home to let the UPS man in – has spelled the death knell of the enclosed mall.

This region has seen two new major mall developments recently – at the airport and the ferry terminal – but they are not enclosed. They now try to mimic town centres or even villages: at one time they snubbed such places.  As a young urban planner I tried to understand how they worked and fit them in to the places that we were supposed to be protecting from change. I knew that the impact of heavy traffic had make most High Streets unlivable. The idea of the traffic free street was only just getting under way. The Mall was place where the traffic was kept to the outside parking lot. Within the shopping area there was air conditioning for summer, protection from the weather in the other seasons and a predictable, limited variety of activities. But mostly there was Shopping.

Cruise ships still have malls. Vegas has them to surround the casinos. Elsewhere they are a tribute to the inexorable fate of capitalism. Huge, wasteful, pointless investments in past technologies. With none of the romance of old railway stations which can be revamped as museums, or – ok – shopping malls.

My prediction would be that International Village and Lansdowne would be the next to go.  Aberdeen (illustrated above) seems to defy gravity.

Written by Stephen Rees

July 28, 2017 at 8:05 pm

Posted in placemaking, Urban Planning

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Satisfaction – part two

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Espresso

Another response to the Weekly Photo Challenge: Satisfaction and not just a terrific jolt of caffeine but superb crema with (after a quick swirl with a teeny tiny coffee spoon) a nice accidental café art too. Also inspired by Jina Jay’s effort and my comment on it, yesterday.

Unlike my other responses to the Challenge, this picture was taken just for this post.

Written by Stephen Rees

July 27, 2017 at 11:43 am

TransLink on track for record-breaking ridership

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Source: TransLink on track for record-breaking ridership

I was expecting to actually see the Press Release and the stats from Translink instead of just a link, but this is easier than all the copy and paste I was going to have to do otherwise

Written by Stephen Rees

July 26, 2017 at 12:50 pm

Weekly Photo Challenge: Satisfaction

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Written by Stephen Rees

July 26, 2017 at 10:10 am

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Reform of ICBC needed

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Screen Shot 2017-07-23 at 5.44.26 PMThe front page of Saturday’s Vancouver Sun was the need to raise insurance rates identified by a leaked report that the BC Liberals asked for, and then kept quiet about. Over the next 24 hours the tone of the Sun story has changed on line since, of course, the corporation (Postmedia) that publishes the Sun supports the BC Liberals. So the banner headline on line now reads “NDP must come clean about plans for ICBC, Liberal Opposition demands” rather than “Huge ICBC rate hikes loom without reform:report”. The report comes from Ernst & Young and is critical of the policies of the BC Liberal government which cross subsidized mandatory basic rates from the profitable optional side.

The report was commissioned by ICBC’s board earlier this year, but was not made public. A copy was leaked to Postmedia News.

While ICBC premiums are among the highest in Canada, the report said, “they are not high enough to cover the true cost of paying claims.”

“More accidents are occurring on B.C.’s roads, and the number and average settlement of claims are increasing. Only recent government intervention has protected B.C. drivers from the currently required 15 per cent to 20 per cent price increases. This rate protection has eroded ICBC’s financial situation to a point where it is not sustainable.

“The average driver in B.C. may need to pay almost $2,000 in annual total premiums for auto insurance by 2019, an increase of 30 per cent over today’s rates,” the report said, adding that assumes that current trends persist, that ICBC is expected to cover its costs from its premiums and that significant reforms are not made.

There are a number of recommendations

The review suggested B.C. could follow the models of New Brunswick, Alberta and parts of Australia by capping payouts for pain and suffering on minor injuries from $4,000 to $9,000, while at the same time increasing accident wage and medical benefits.

It’s also possible to let drivers buy an optional “top-up” coverage that would, in effect, give the drivers back the right to sue to replace any reduced claim money they could have got through the courts.

Minor claims have soared in cost by 365 per cent since 2000 and are eating up 60 per cent of all total injury payouts, says the report. The size of cash settlements for minor injuries is also rising, as is the number of accidents on the road and the cost to fix technology inside modern vehicles.

Of course the Liberals are already accusing the NDP of wanting a “no fault” system – even before the new government has had time to get their feet under the table. The Liberals are also in full damage control mode since it was their decision to cancel photo radar that started the problem. Changing red light cameras to catch speeders would be a relatively easy thing to do, but the real speed problems are out on the open road. The intersection issues arise from contempt for other basic rules of the road, lack of common courtesy and patience, and an almost total absence of common sense.

Unfortunately there is no mention of the interval camera system. This uses existing technology widely used in traffic surveys to match number plates over a fixed distance. The owner of the vehicle gets a ticket when the car has covered the distance between two cameras in much less time than the posted speed limit allows. This system is more effective that the just at this point of the old photo radar – which was housed in a fairly distinctive vehicle, and thus fairly easy to avoid.

I think another reform is not just capping the amount allowed for minor claims, but also banning the present practice of lawyers advertising for claimants and being paid on a share of the payout. The incessant repetition of these ads during the CBC 6pm tv news means I now know them off by heart. And the message is that you can make ICBC increase the payments they offer if you sign on with a the named lawyer. Of course, what it does not say is the increase in the settlement goes to the lawyer and not the plaintiff. I find these practices offensive and they have only been permitted in recent years and should be reversed. It simply wrong to expect to make a profit from the suffering of others – and I think these adverts get very close to encouraging people to exaggerate their claims.

The mismanagement of crown corporations under the previous government is going to take some time to correct. If I were advising the BC Liberals, I would tell them to tone down the attacks, when clearly the current government has to do what it can to sort out the mess the Liberals left behind. The current tone taken by my local MLA Andrew Wilkinson, Liberal MLA for Vancouver-Quilchena is not one that is going to win him much support. Except from Mr Toad who enjoys speeding and relishes crashes as exciting intervals in an otherwise dull existence.

Written by Stephen Rees

July 23, 2017 at 5:48 pm

Weekly Photo Challenge: Unusual

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The photo challenge this week is to post “a photo that is unusual in some way for you“. I started by scrolling through my photostream on flickr – and they all seemed pretty usual for me. So then I tried a search of the stream using the term “unusual” – which picked out pictures where I had used that word in the photo’s title or description. Many of them seemed pretty mundane to me – but when I showed this one to my partner she confirmed my feeling by saying, “That’s a pretty neat picture!”

Underneath this one I had written

The snow melts a little during the day but freezes hard overnight – instant informal hockey rinks are now dotting the fields of Richmond. This one is at Steveston Highway and No 4 Road.

This was unusual weather for Richmond – if it had not been I doubt I would have posted it.

The photo was taken in January 2007. This kind of weather is common in Canada – as is the making of outdoor rinks. But it is not common in the south west corner of the mainland in BC where the climate is much milder than the centre of the continent. I have not seen anything like this since, even though we had a lot of snow this winter, there was not the same freeze thaw cycle which produces enough ice to skate on safely. Although the Parks Board did post signs and life guards to deter skaters from some of Vancouver’s ponds.

 

Written by Stephen Rees

July 19, 2017 at 10:12 am

WPC: Collage (part two)

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Yesterday I posted a collage of Trastevere in Rome. I mentioned that we had found the Villa Farnesina closed – so we had to go back. These are some of the pictures I took of the famous frescoes in the villa. Warning to those who may be in a highly puritanical workplace – some of these images may not be safe for work.

Posted as a second response to the Weekly Photo Challenge

 

Written by Stephen Rees

July 13, 2017 at 10:39 am