Stephen Rees's blog

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

Archive for March 14th, 2008

More on the Garden City Lands

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but not much more. There was supposed to have been a public meeting this week. It is reported extensively in both the Richmond News and Richmond Review. Basically nothing happened. The City of Richmond and its partners in development are really not at all interested in hearing what anyone else wants to say. So, as usual, they tried hard not to have to listen.

You would not think it was election year, would you? Expressing open contempt for voters is not, in my opinion, a way to endear yourself to them. But the Mayor and Council cannot see beyond the temptation to be property developers. I am afraid that a great deal of the coverage and the letters are a bit intemperate, but I am not surprised. This “process” is deeply flawed, and appears to be incapable of resolving any of the issues that have been raised in any satisfactory fashion.

I am glad I decided I had better things to do than go to this event.

Written by Stephen Rees

March 14, 2008 at 3:28 pm

Observer Sees Google’s Future In Transportation Routing

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Information Week

It is really nice when I can report two positive innovation stories in the same morning (the other one was Qualicum). I ought to be doing my laundry, but this comes first.

It stems from a  Google patent application used to route its own employee buses

Using Google’s mapping technology, GPS location finding linked with Google employee cell phones, the buses and employees are connected efficiently in real time. Employees are informed wirelessly when their bus is approaching. Another iteration of the system appears to be in use at a Google facility in Korea, Arnold added.

While the system is useful now for the company, Arnold believes it can have wider use in larger transportation routing systems including highway systems and air traffic. The approach spelled out in the patent could have use anywhere routing is important, even in the spacing of cell phone towers, Arnold said.

As anyone who has read this blog for very long will know, I am very unhappy with the way we currently organise transit is most lower density areas – which is actually nearly everywhere, come to think of it. If there are lots of people along one “corridor” all going to one or two places, transit planning is easy. Back when the suburbs were simply bderoom communities feeding downtown, it was straightforward – doable. Now we have a very complex many to many trip matrix, it is exceedingly difficult, and most transit planning software – or even ride matching systems come to that – is, at best, “suboptimal”.

What I have said we need is a system that is better than a bus but cheaper than a taxi – and this looks like it could be a useful start

“Google wants to move people cheaply and intelligently and be environmentally friendly,” said Arnold. “Who’d ever thought that Google could be in the mass transit routing business? And it looks very casual.”

Well if anyone can do it, Google can.

And it was Microsoft that added the cup holders – let’s not forget that.

Written by Stephen Rees

March 14, 2008 at 9:58 am

Posted in transit, Transportation

Voting against the twinning is NOT a bad idea

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Vaughn Palmer in the Sun today has an neat piece on how the Liberals got into an embarrassing timetabling problem, which explains why the Crown Corporation Bill rose to the surface so suddenly.

Which sounded like a lot of public apparatus to manage a single (albeit very large) private partnership.

Then reporters noted that the bill would compel the New Democrats, who were split on the project last year, to vote for or against the twinning.

Was that the real reason for the legislation? Not entirely, Falcon insisted. But putting the NDP on the spot was “one of the great side benefits.”

I think the NDP can vote against this Bill and not worry about it. First of all it is not voting against the twinning as such since the EA process has yet to be satisfied – and should be before any final decision is made. So let’s start there with Mr Falcon. Why this Bill now when there are so many questions asked left unanswered?

For example, can the government provide us with one example of a freeway expansion that has cured traffic congestion?

Will the government please explain why it did not examine any other alternatives? The only thing evaluated was a “do nothing scenario”. No formal assessment was done of other options which other metropolitan areas have been using  for many years that have proved successful at limiting the growth of traffic congestion and reducing sprawl. Why did the government not look at those?

Has the government considered what its traffic forecasts would look like with gas prices doubling? The price of oil was much lower when these studies were done. Were any simulations run with gas at $2 a litre – which seems probable before the freeway opens?

For that matter, the government has recently introduced a carbon tax: has any work been done on the demand forecasts for the impact of an escalating carbon tax?

No account was taken of the impact of induced traffic, yet every freeway expansion ever has always produced induced traffic. Why has the government refused to acknowledge that this is the inevitable result of freeway expansion? And how does the toll on the bridge reduce demand for travel along the untolled freeway? Especially since south of the Fraser 80% of the travel does not cross any bridges?

Why does Mr Falcon say that “development will occur anyway” and that demand is driven solely by population growth when we know that it is the location and density of development that determines car use? Is there any direct link between the Minister’s public statements against transit advocates and the statements he made to realtors in the area, claiming that the freeway expansion gave them new opportunities for highway oriented development?

That will do for starters – I am sure you can come up with more.

Written by Stephen Rees

March 14, 2008 at 8:55 am

Posted in Gateway, Transportation

Town considers mass carpooling

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Sandra McCulloch, Canwest News Service

Sometimes the best ideas are easy and obvious – and have been tried before.

A pilot project that matches people needing a lift with drivers going in the same direction is getting rolling in Qualicum Beach.

Its proponent, Coun. Mike Wansink, based the Good Samaritan Ride Program on a successful scheme that’s been operating since 1971 in Washington D.C., where he attended university in the mid-1990s.

He commuted into Washington from Virginia and the high-occupancy lanes cut travel time by an hour, but motorists had to have at least two other passengers in the car to use them.

As others have remarked, the real problem of congestion is the predominance of single occupant vehicles. In fact in this region average car occupancy is quite a bit higher than other US metropolitan regions – they think 1.3 per car looks good! But even so, the people carrying capacity of a lane of freeway is still pretty low compared to any transit option – but increased car pooling does not seem to happen. Instead to fight the “empty lane syndrome” the occupancy has been reduced – in some places to 2+. As someone else remarked ” 2+ is not a carpool – it’s a date!”

Qualicum Beach could not make a go of transit. We could but in many suburban areas we are not even trying very hard. Of course, when the province prefers to build freeways and tube trains, there really is not much choice. Few municipal governments think spending property taxes on buses is a vote winner in communities that are car oriented.

So for low density suburbs with little or no transit, car pooling should be more attractive. And of course you have to satisfy people that it is safe to do and legal. Picking up hitchhikers is not either (is there another word with a double ‘h’ in it?) though I used to do it quite happily once upon a time. And if money changes hands the taxi operators get all huffy and complain to the powers that be. But in a world that’s heating up and running out of cheap oil, operating most of our multiple seat vehicles nearly empty does not make much sense, does it?

At least one on line car sharing site was shut down by the protective instincts of the long distance bus industry. And formal car pooling/sharing seems to be stuck at where it was years ago. So I do think that we need to start getting a bit more adventurous and push the current restrictions back a bit. Today Qualicum Beach, tomorrow a low density suburb near you!

Written by Stephen Rees

March 14, 2008 at 8:32 am

Posted in car sharing