Stephen Rees's blog

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

Ray Lam Calls for a Sustainable Transportation Mix

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I may not be as famous as Rebecca Bollwit, but a lot of people I have never heard of do put things in my in box.

And in this case it looks like a young man who is running under the Vision banner in Vancouver has at least been thinking about what needs to be done to make alternatives to driving more attractive. Of course, for a Vancouver City Councilor to pontificate about these issues is not new. And as the current Mayor has discovered, there actually is very little the City can do in the area of transit (as Ray Lam acknowledges). But some of these ideas – like cutting down on on-street parking to make room for bus lanes or bike lanes seem very courageous. (You will no doubt recall Sir Humphrey saying to Jim Hacker, “Time for an Act of Political Courage, Minister!”)

It will be interesting to hear if any of the mainstream media pick up on this press release, and I trust you will understand if I put in a caveat. Just because I am giving this some space does not mean I endorse all or any of it. But I do like to see fresh ideas and young minds in this arena – of only because they have yet to become as jaded and cynical as I am.

For a reality check – the city does licence taxis (but taxis are regulated by the province too) controls bus shelters and other street furniture (and their current contractor also operates velolib in Paris in return for an exclusive on their billboards) and can do quite a lot about on street space (but has to listen to the DVBIA, the BoT, CofC, not to mention Linda Meinhardt) and the public realm in general. As for the rest – the Province has the power.

(VANCOUVER, BC) Ray Lam unveils his ideas to create sustainable transportation as a commitment to Vancouver.

A major concern in the city is the rapid increase of transit riders as a result of the UPass program at UBC and SFU, and a rising fear this coming fall is of the implications of its expansion to other post secondary institutes. Lam says “generating a larger ridership is brilliant if we have the infrastructure for it, but we don’t” pointing the finger at the over-crowded buses, and the large groups of people left behind at bus stops.

Even the most avid transit user has to admit that single occupancy vehicles (SOV) are sometimes necessary for day trips or large-volume shopping. Lam suggests that “the city needs to reevaluate what is considered ‘public transportation’” and calls for a more diverse “transportation-portfolio.”, making it easier for Vancouverites to give up their cars and commit to sustainable travel.

This is a bold plan requiring buy-in from the public and private stakeholders to ensure that we include residents with differing lifestyles.

A New Transportation Mix

The City of Vancouver has little to no say on issues such as busses or fares. Lam wants to see a broader transportation portfolio in Vancouver to compliment the transit system. “The city needs to investigate new methods of providing residents with options for sustainable travel” Lam wants to investigate a municipal mobility program to ensure that such amenities are extended to all residents. The goal is to create “a municipal program that expands on the one-zone bus pass [travel within Vancouver] to include access to bike and car co-ops, as well as preferential parking near transit arteries for car and van pools – to minimize SOV use.”

Currently, private businesses and corporations offer incentives for employees to travel sustainably – car and bicycle co-ops, carpooling, and transit discounts; these include UBC, which offers bicycle co-ops for students, preferential parking for HOVs, and discounted bus fares. “These proven sustainable transportation initiatives can’t stay trade-secrets of the corporate world” says Lam. “We need to ensure that what we know to work, works for our citizens”

Lam’s concept of the municipal program is inspired by the idea of pay-per-use bicycle programs in Paris, Lyon, and Dublin, as well as the TMoney pass in Seoul, Korea that includes subways, busses, taxis, and other transportation services. “I want a city that shows residents that we care about their lifestyles, encouraging them to seek means of sustainable transportation”. Lam wants to see “public services that serve everyone”, saying “if you need to get to work or school, take the bus; if you are a cyclist, use a pay-per-use bicycle; and if you need a vehicle just for the day, borrow one.” This multi-modal approach will have the broadest possible appeal, and unifying it under a single pass will make transitioning between services as seamless as possible.

In addition, Lam wants to investigate the reduction of road-side parking to create HOV and transit lanes to encourage carpooling, speed up transit, and create safer lanes for cyclists. Lam says “the trend of single occupancy vehicles is fading, and the city needs to be one step ahead to ensure that Vancouver’s infrastructure will support higher occupancy vehicles and bicycles”. Lam wants to tackle this early to ensure that the growing reliance on public transportation is not discouraged by slow busses crawling through traffic. “Vancouver and its services need to meet residents where they live and take them where they are going; we need to mould our services to complement the lives of Vancouverites, rather than asking them to change their lifestyles to accommodate the city’s inadequacies.”

Written by Stephen Rees

September 1, 2008 at 7:40 pm

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