Stephen Rees's blog

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

Transport: City faces fork in road on tackling congestion

with 2 comments

Sean Ross Financial Times

Los Angeles “lacks a convenient citywide alternative to travelling by car, such as a subway or light rail system, so gridlock is common. Despite years of worsening congestion, city authorities have had little success in alleviating the problem.”

So they are going to vote on a proposal to raise the sales tax – to build a subway (among other things) and congestion charging is also on the table. It they process LA will get the federal funds that would have gone to New York if they had not ducked out.

Pointing to Los Angeles as the fate we wanted to avoid has been the common touchstone of planning in this region. It was not enough that Vancouver fought off the downtown freeway, we also created an alternative strategy, called the Livable Region Strategic Plan. The trouble is that although it is the legally mandated growth strategy, and the revision slowly grinding its way through the process (the Sustainable Region Initiative) looks like building on the LRSP, not scrapping it, that is precisely what is happening here now. And mainly because of the actions of the province and a few unelected “professional” boards at key transportation providers.

Please click on the link and read what is happening in LA. It is a pretty good indication of what will be happening here in future. For after the Green Zone has been hacked to bits to satisfy developers, the ALR reduced to a minor inconvenience to sprawl, and the “Gateway” and the Golden Ears Bridge have done the intended jobs and allowed for low density suburban growth across the outer parts of the region, then we will have to deal with the problem LA has had since they cut up the last of the Big Red Cars fifty years ago. Building freeways did not make Los Angeles livable – and it won’t here either. “Get Moving BC” and the BC Liberal Party are well aware of this. Both Gordon Campbell and Kevin Falcon are on record as stating “We cannot build our way out of congestion” yet there is no funding for the “transit plan” (which anyway has very little for the growth areas). They are also determined to push ahead as fast as they can with the SFPR and the Highway #1 widening and Port Mann twinning, but refuse to even consider congestion charging.

I have been called to task for stating that I think that this plan is “stupid”. So perhaps I should reconsider. How about deceitful and wicked? That probably fits better. Stupid implies that these people do not know any better – but it is clear they do. But they think that developers profits are much more important than a compact urban region with complete communities, a protected green zone and increased transportation choice.  But they can get away with it since regional plans in BC are just like our environmental assessments. Toothless and useless.

Written by Stephen Rees

October 28, 2008 at 10:04 am

2 Responses

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  1. The problem with the LRSP is that municipalities do not comply with it in respect of zoning – particularly for office parks. That’s what has led to commuting patterns that are very difficult to serve with transit (rapid or otherwise).

    i.e. Richmond’s rezoning to allow residential (not to mention the movie and entertainment complex that draws 1000s to a remote area) at Riverport – big dustup on that one.

    i.e. Surrey’s Campbell Heights industrial area.

    i.e. Burnaby’s Big Bend office parkls and retail big box areas.

    Then there’s the peripheral question of whether even trying to serve multiple town centres (notwithstanding the failing of the town centres to attract significant office space) is harder on the transit system than it would have been if there was just the one major centre.

    Ron C.

    October 28, 2008 at 12:55 pm

  2. Stephen,

    Would you consider doing a post on the NPA/Vision policy platforms wrt transportation? I know you live in Richmond but it would be great to hear your opinion on these concrete proposals that deal with the issues you write about.

    I was particularly struck by how the NPA platform was basically business as usual, while the Vision one promised an “external auditor” to assess the unsustainable practices and identify funds for reallocation.

    Thanks and always enjoy reading,



    October 28, 2008 at 4:57 pm

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