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

Archive for May 9th, 2007

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Solar Chariot the Hippy Gourmet interviews Bob Schneeveis

“You gotta get one of these”
Batteries but recharged from
solar panels. Uses walking as a more efficient energy transfer system than wheels

Written by Stephen Rees

May 9, 2007 at 11:34 pm

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Asia-Pacific Gateway Threatens Environment

Damien Gillis is an independent videographer who is involved in local environmental issues. His coverage of Stephen Harper’s announcements over the weekend is a lot more balanced than the pro-business mainstream media here

Written by Stephen Rees

May 9, 2007 at 11:31 pm

Traffic Calming

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This is a generic expression which refers to engineering techniques to reduce the speed of traffic in residential areas. Generally speaking it is applied to residential distributors, in an attempt to get drivers to recognize that they are no longer on the freeway and must make adequate provision for other road users. Parked vehicles can actually be a positive benefit in this regard as they narrow the width of road which forces drivers to slow down as they navigate the tighter spaces. On some roads in Richmond where there were not enough parked cars (yes, there are quite a few like this) the road was narrowed using barriers. This addressed the issue of street racing on quiet, straight roads (Templeton and River Roads for example).

In some places, the road surface is also given some special treatments: rougher road surfaces – less than even paving blocks – and speed bumps (also known as “sleeping policemen”). I was chatting once to Gordon Chan a transportation engineer with the City of Richmond and suggested that there were stretches of arterial road where similar measures were needed, as common practice seems to dictate very much higher than the posted 50kph. Traffic on No 2 Road is noticeably faster than either Railway or Gilbert, for example. And traffic on Steveston Highway is never slower than 60kph and often very much faster. (Don’t try the “floating car technique” here – it’s too scary!) Gordon was apalled. He did not think that anyone had ever suggested calming an arterial. But he clearly has not driven No 4 Road. That is built across some of the finest farmland in BC if not Canada, with a very high peat content. The traffic on this road has swept the pavement into a regular wave formation. It is like a roller coaster. But it is effective at keeping speeds down to 60 (the posted speed is 50).

If you really want to make drivers upset, just try driving at (or below) the posted speed on any road in Greater Vancouver. Nothing is guaranteed to provoke road rage quicker than being law abiding. To some extent photo radar was the cause of this. That is because tickets were only issued once the posted speed was exceeded by 10%. That sent the message that it was ok to exceed the speed limit. Over time, that margin has significantly increased. The only thing I have seen that gets drivers to slow to the posted speed is the presence of a properly marked police car. The RCMP here do use unmarked cars to catch speeders, but they do not slow traffic in general, until they turn on their flashing lights.

Written by Stephen Rees

May 9, 2007 at 6:57 pm

Posted in Road safety, Traffic

Lunch in Port Moody on the GVRD

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The occasion was the last of four Sustainable Region Initiative forums on transportation. Gordon Price and Larry Frank on the side of the angels, and Allen Domaas and Paul Landry on the side of the freight industry.

The Panel

It was the usual format. The four panelists get to speak, then members of the audience can ask questions, which all four try to answer. So it is not exactly a dialogue, but the audience seemed to be generally in support of sustainability and less warm to the idea that economic growth and private sector profit should be the first concern.

The audience

Paul Landry did, surprisingly, concede that congestion charging would be necessary if the new capacity being added was not to fill up rapidly with generated traffic. Allen Domaas was also very pointed on land use. The loss of industrial land to other uses has generated a lot of truck traffic, since those activities continue but much further away. Moreover, much of the land lost was rail or water linked and that is not being replaced, dramatically reducing any modal choice for freight. Landry agreed that the reduction in rail trackage had made life much easier for truckers, and there was general agreement that CN and CP need to come to the table to make better use of their existing trackage. They both make so much money in long haul markets they have virtually abandoned regional freight. (CN has a large trucking division.) Domaas pointed out that the privatisation of CN had much to do with their commercial direction.

Domass was on less secure ground when he opined that the new model for Translink would work better than the existing one. He cited YVR as an example of good professional management – but as many noticed YVR does not have a good track record with the local community or the environment. As Gordon Price forcefully put over, the new Board will not be accountable to anyone. Unsurprisingly for a former local politician, he was much more in favour of local democratic control. Domaas also suggested, more than once, that municipal government needed to be replaced by a metropolitan government. This idea was received with polite silence.

He did better on the idea of freight hubs which are already being established to reduce the mileage that containers are being hauled. He pointed out that we do quite well in re-loading empty containers for return to Asia, something that surprised me. However because this is not well co-ordinated every container makes four trips not two. A freight hub reduces the mileage empty boxes move by co-locating shippers and receivers. In the longer term, such hubs could be linked by barge to the container terminals, further reducing truck traffic. Landry also pointed out that a simple reform to the container booking system at the port would allow truckers to drop off and pick up on the same trip. Not two separate bookings as are currently required.

The discussion did get around to land use and here Larry Frank was on solid ground. He disabused me of my belief in Location Efficient Mortgages, which have not been successful in Chicago, not because the idea isn’t sound, but because of the way it was implemented. Borrowers have to “opt in”, which very few have done. It would work better if the policies of the lenders could be changed, but I remain convinced that here CMHC is the problem. He also pointed out that many suburbs are already relatively dense and well located near commercial land use, they just lack the direct walk and cycle paths to make those trips convenient. UBC already has a planning tool that can identify locations where simple adjustments to the walking/cycling network can be made. (This actually can be quite tricky . You have to persuade home owners that a path alongside their back yard will not just be an invitation to thieves and vandals.)

The Port Mann bit of Gateway got its usual airing. Surprisingly the other bits, like the SFPR didn’t get hit, probably reflecting the location of the meeting. Mayor Trasolini talked about his determination to vote against further development in Port Moody until the Evergreen Line actually gets funded. Developers are already lining up to get onside with that initiative. Port Moody has already become a very dense walkable community, but West Coast Express and a B-Line are not enough to make in transit oriented.

Port Moody

Port Moody is a very nice place already – but one major park seems to me to be to much like a building site at its west end at least. It also lacks a beach, though it does have a magnificent boat launch. (The water in the inlet is clean, since we do not dump untreated sewage into it, like we do the Fraser.)

Written by Stephen Rees

May 9, 2007 at 4:06 pm