Stephen Rees's blog

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

“your house in the suburb … generates 14 car trips a day”

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A tip of the hat to Pricetags – if you got this in the email you can stop reading now – nothing new here

Andrés Duany is coming here and will be speaking – and the meeting is not at SFU so they could get a bigger hall (see announcement below).   You can get a good idea of what he is all about – of you didn’t know already – from Time Magazine

For better or worse, environmental design has come to be defined by the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Design (LEED) ratings. A point system, LEED rewards technological fixes like rooftop solar panels or energy-efficient insulation. That’s great, and there are enormous energy savings that can be achieved with basic improvements in building design, but the LEED system doesn’t take into account the context of a building — where it is. A design could win a Platinum LEED rating — the highest possible award — but it can’t really be described as environmentally friendly if it’s part of a sprawling neighborhood that just adds to car dependency.


Reservations are going fast for this special public lecture on January 16th.   Limited space available.

Email or call 778-782.5100 to ensure a seat.

On the Edge: Latest views from Andrés Duany

January 16, 7 pm
Venue: Four Seasons Hotel, 791 Georgia Street West, Vancouver

On any list of the most influential architect/planners alive today, Andrés Duany would be near the top, if not the lead name. This evening, Duany is going to the urban edge. Having already conducted a charrette for the East Fraser Lands, Duany has been commissioned by Century Group to consider the opportunities at the suburban/rural edge in the Southlands of Tsawwassen.

Sponsored by Century Group.


Written by Stephen Rees

January 9, 2008 at 9:25 am

Posted in Urban Planning

9 Responses

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  1. Who is the Century Group, and what kind of development are they planning for the Tsawwassen area?

    Budd Campbell

    January 9, 2008 at 2:02 pm

  2. it can’t really be described as environmentally friendly if it’s part of a sprawling neighborhood that just adds to car dependency.

    and is a compact neighbourhood environmentally friendly if everyone still drives 20-50 km to work everyday, except with much more congestion? i’d like to see the pres if i was in the area, although frankly seaside (and the New Urbanists) and its architectural cutesy tutesy design makes my stomach a little sick. as if the new suburbanist have been at the leading edge of sustainability, or am i wrong and was seaside more than a middle of knowhere resort community for the wealthy? (im sorrry duany says you have to have a porch on your house, because you’ll become a better person and become more social – can someone say Environmental Determinism!)


    January 10, 2008 at 5:42 pm

  3. It is not environmentally friendly if it is not mixed use and transit oriented – with plenty of bike and walk options too. And that is exactly the point that is being made. Langley has some very high density developments – with no facilities of any kind and no jobs or schools near them. There is also a very poor transit service – and lots of distance to cover to do anything. If Highway #1 is widened, and the Port Mann twinned that won’t change – and lots more development of the same kind will take place.

    That is why this blog is about better integration between land use and transportation planning. LEED is good – but is not enough. New Urbanism is a good start but not an end in itself. Sustainable, livable growth is what we must have. Not what we have now, and not what we seem likely to get if we keep going the way we are going now.

    Stephen Rees

    January 10, 2008 at 10:22 pm

  4. “Langley has some very high density developments – with no facilities of any kind and no jobs or schools near them. There is also a very poor transit service – and lots of distance to cover to do anything. If Highway #1 is widened, and the Port Mann twinned that won’t change – and lots more development of the same kind will take place.”

    Stephen, I really don’t see the connection between PM-H1 and the type of development you describe. Couldn’t those same subdivisions, with not enough local buses and poor walking/cycling provisions, be built regardless of what happens with the Trans-Canada? In particular, if express buses or commuter trains were provided between Langley and Vancouver, couldn’t these same subdivisions be built and sold? The people living in them would not necessarily be commuting by car to work, but all their other local trips would be done that way, just as they are in East Vancouver or in Point Grey, the so-called “streetcar suburbs” of the past, or in Richmond for that matter.

    Eric Doherty certainly thinks so, and that’s why he has condemned the WCExpress – rush hour trains with park and ride lots – as an instrument of urban sprawl. I think Doherty is partly right in that commuter trains can bring additional residents to a suburban or ex-urban area just as more highways can. But as far as the quality of local development that proceeds is concerned, I think that’s a separate issue. If the design choices made are regrettable, everyone will happily call is sprawl whatever the formal definition of that term may be.

    In the end, doesn’t it come down to the OCPs and the particulars around design for individual developments, and to the ability of Translink to service new areas?

    Budd Campbell

    January 11, 2008 at 10:38 am

  5. You really don’t see, Budd. Why I am not surprised?

    OK, let me repeat what we have been saying now for the last three years. If we continue the present obsession with increasing freeway capacity we will continue to see the pattern of development we have now in Surrey and Langley continue to spread. We are already seeing developers jumping on the Sea to Sky bandwagon with suburban development in Squamish.

    If instead of spending money on highway capacity we started to invest adequate amounts on transit of appropriate types, developers would start to come forward with transit oriented development. This happened in Port Moody in anticipation of the extension of SkyTrain – which did not happen, but something might if the province stops prevaricating over the Evergreen Line. We can be certain that transit oriented development will NOT occur until there is a demonstrable long term commitment to providing a viable transit alternative – something like Paul Hillsdon’s plan in the next three years would be a good start, but we need to see something even more impressive in the longer term. The Mayors south of the Fraser have been very clear that Translink’s current plans do not go anywhere near satisfying existing demand, let alone the needs of the next 1m people arriving here in the next 20 years. Lets put it is really simple language for you. If those people cannot get to where they need to go on two feet, a bike or a bus, they will have to drive. If they find fast, frequent, safe, comfortable transit close to their homes, their need to use their cars will decline – but it will not be eliminated. So we will also need a complete suite of TDM programs plus a much more determined effort to increase density within walking distance of high quality transit service.

    The province disingenuously claims that development will occur anyway, and that it is all up to the municipalities. Tell that to Mayor Trasolini! Kevin Falcon went out to the valley and had breakfast meetings with realtors to encourage them to take advantage of the freeway expansion. He actually promotes the very activity that he says in the EA will not happen. Developers do respond to signals in the market place and a commitment to expanding single occupant vehicle capacity – something never expected by the LRSP – shows that as long as the BC Liberals remain in power we can say goodbye to the opportunity of creating a sustainable region – because the prospects of huge real estate profits from continuing to sprawl and convert the green zone and the ALR into condos and subdivisions has too tempting a rate of return for the private sector.

    West Coast Express in this context is a red herring.

    OCPs are largely PR exercises. Nearly every planning decision of consequence has come about through OCP variation and amendments. There is no oversight of municipal land use decision making: the only independent body has been the ALC and that in recent years has a declining reputation for effectiveness.

    If you cannot see this connection then there is no point whatever in me continuing any kind of discussion with you.

    Stephen Rees

    January 11, 2008 at 4:36 pm

  6. In regards to traffic ‘inducements’ through roadway capacity increases (such as an extra lane), why is sprawl or extra auto usage not induced if some type of transit were to take auto users off the road. Essentaily, would the added capacity from the drivers no longer driving on the road induce others to drive on the highway as well as inducing suburban development and thus more auto users. If the premise of induced traffic is that you cant build your way out of congestion, why could you transit your way out of congestion when both seem to have the same effect of increasing roadway capacity?

    I may be missing some aspect in this equation, but am very curious to know why this may not be an issue or problem with the theory of ‘induced’ demand.


    January 11, 2008 at 9:43 pm

  7. If the new transit capacity is a significant addition and there is no congestion charge or other measure to control demand then the total number of trips will increase. There is a sort of equilibrium traffic level – where congestion is not grid lock but just bad enough to deter some marginal trips. Adding capacity to a network does induce more travel. For example, when the Yonge Street subway opened in Toronto, traffic space expanded as there were no longer street cars. So while the transit riders got a much faster trip downtown, so too for a short while traffic flow improved. But not long afterwards people started to remark that congestion was as bad as before the subway opened – although many more trips were now being made.

    In London in the 1970s a new traffic control system called SCOOT was installed in Central London. This co-ordinated the signal operations in a central computer and made the traffic flow much better than it had previously. Initially engineers reported that traffic speeds increased. But that effect was quickly offset by the new trips that started to be made. Volumes increased to the point that any incident made the resulting congestion much worse and harder to deal with, as there was now no spare capacity anywhere.

    If instead of adding lanes, existing lanes had been converted to bus lanes – which is the solution used in London now – traffic flow improves because the general purpose capacity has been reduced but the overall people carrying capacity has increased. So the induced demand does not show up in more vehicle trips but more person trips. That is one reason why I favour surface light rail on existing streets. It gets in the way of the cars. Good. Overall person trip capacity has increased but vehicle capacity has been reduced. Better. It also is a lot cheaper than building elevated tracks (10x the cost of surface) or underground (100x the cost of surface) – which means you can build a lot more for the same budget and spread the wealth wider.

    The current regional model ignores induced demand – for both roads and transit.

    By the way, we also have seen another really effective demonstration of the rule that traffic contracts and expands to fill the space available in New York recently.

    Stephen Rees

    January 12, 2008 at 9:54 am

  8. so essentially the idea would be to convert some of the auto/general use lanes into bus lanes, to the point where the converts of people to transit and off the general use roads would balance with the amount of lanes removed from general use to transit? In this case the general/auto roads would still have the same amount of congestion, but there would be less congestion lanes for buses? So instead “we cant build our way out of congestion,” should the motto be “we can only temporarily reduce congestion (on auto/general use roads)” In other words, any planners or others who claim auto drivers will permanantly face less congestion by creating more transit should be as fallacious as traffic engineers claims to raodway construction reducing congestion.

    (Of course a city’s/metro’s/regions’s etc growth rate is also fundamental to any possibility of increased congestion/induced demand…if a city is experiencing no growth or negative growth, then induced demand will be marginal…at least until the growth rate picks up sometime in the future.)


    January 12, 2008 at 10:15 am

  9. Over time we need to convert people from car use to other more environmentally friendly and sustainable modes. To some extent traffic congestion is not only inevitable, but desirable. For one thing, free flowing car traffic makes crossing the road much harder and more dangerous. Average traffic speeds in the centre of cities tend to fall back to around 9mph – faster than walking but not by much.

    Congestion is not the only issue, just the one that traffic engineers and car drivers think we ought to tackle. The real need is access to the services the city provides – employment, exchange, information – and social interaction of all kinds. Transport is just a means to an end not an end in itself. Make it possible for people to do what they want to do and reduce the need for them to have to spend time inside their cars and looking for somewhere to park and they will be happier and more productive. Cars have not liberated us, but they have used up huge amounts of resources and made lots of money for shareholders in car – and related – companies. But driving does not in and of itself meet any human need.

    We need better solutions. The Transportation Demand Management (TDM) “tool box” has many that we have not really tried seriously here (see for more ideas). The market could work if things were priced properly. They aren’t now, and getting to where they are will be a hard slog, but that does not mean we shouldn’t try. In the interim, lots of initiatives need to be tried. If we keep doing the same thing and expecting a different outcome we are mad. We need to do different things. Not increasing car capacity is a good point to start at.

    Stephen Rees

    January 12, 2008 at 1:09 pm

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