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

Archive for April 8th, 2008

New York Congestion Charge Falls

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Sheldon Silver spoke to reporters at the State Capitol in Albany about the congestion pricing plan.

The New York Times coverage is good and shows that it was the suburban Democrats who killed it – or rather let it die without a vote.

Ultimately, the battle lines over the plan remained almost unchanged during the yearlong debate over the project, despite multiple rounds of public hearings, reams of studies and an aggressive lobbying campaign by Mr. Bloomberg and his allies. Indeed, many opponents said they resented the pressure and threats that they said emanated from Mr. Bloomberg’s side, including hints that the mayor would back primary candidates to run against politicians who opposed congestion pricing.

So it was not about the money, or the congestion, or the undoubtedly positive experience in other cities that mattered in the end. Just good old politics.

The reaction over at Streetsblog is extensive. But their headline is the size of the transit deficit – $17 Billion – which still needs to be fixed. And Cap’n Transit has a good bit too and cites my guru (Douglas Adams)

Written by Stephen Rees

April 8, 2008 at 10:50 am

Downtown office vacancy rate lowest since 1981

with 13 comments


Lots of information and data in this article. But I will make clear my purpose and let you experts argue about it. I am worried about the decline of jobs in downtown, and the lack of plans for more office space there. For one thing taxes paid by businesses pay for services enjoyed by all. Residential property taxes do not cover the additional cost of services needed when population increases. But more importantly a vibrant downtown needs the right mix of uses, and I wonder if we have paid enough attention to jobs. If only to ensure there is enough daytime activity.

There are more people living downtown now who commute “against the flow”. But they drive. For one thing, the buses at peak periods tend to be run out of service to get back to the start of the peak flow again. My express bus goes to downtown in the morning – but then returns empty to Richmond. And does the reverse in the evening. Bidirectional commuting would be good news if it used otherwise spare capacity. “Deadheading” costs money and does not produce revenue. But this end of the run is not where those jobs are. Richmond Centre has very few offices – most are out by the freeway exits in office parks. And they were never part of the regional plan.

A downtown for residents will stop being a downtown very quickly. The whole value of such places is the mix of activities and the fact that they happen all the time. The suburbs die at night. We do not want a region which is simply a collection of suburban “town centres”. And we need to make our suburbs more urban.

Much has been made here of the competition between downtown and suburb. But the real competition for our downtown is other places – Seattle and Calgary being the closest. Calgary has an advantage for regional head offices – it is more central. We are on the rim, don’t forget. I have a nasty feeling that the Gateway has diverted attention away from our real challenge. It is not port or airport – or freight movement – that we shoudl be thinking about and investing in. But making a place where people want to be – to work, live, educate and be educated, enjoy themselves. It was called “complete communities” in the Plan. And it still should be our aim.

Seymour Building – Vancouver BC

photo by kris krüg

Written by Stephen Rees

April 8, 2008 at 9:51 am

Posted in Urban Planning

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