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

Guest Post from Rick Jelfs

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The following is from an email that Rick sent around to members of TransportAction BC this week and is presented here for your information and in the hopes that we can attract a few more members locally.

Ride Hailing:

Another report has linked declining US transit ridership to ride hailing services. University of Kentucky researchers state that observed ridership declines are not just the results of service reductions, fare increases and cheaper gas. The engineers used a random-effects model accounting for 10 different variables. They conclude that transit ridership declines by 1.3% (heavy rail) and 1.7% (bus) for each year after Transportation Network Companies (ride hailing) enter a market. Potential solutions to the decline will require more that just increasing service, an expensive option not feasible for many cash-strapped agencies. Congestion pricing, re-allocation of street space to sustainable transportation modes and transit prioritisation are potential options for policy makers’ consideration.

An overview of the research is at https://www.businessinsider.com/uber-lyft-having-devastating-effect-on-public-transportation-study-2019-1 and the full report is at http://usa.streetsblog.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/5/2019/01/19-04931-Transit-Trends.pdf.

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    City of Vancouver staff presented a report to Council (https://council.vancouver.ca/20190115/documents/rr1.pdf) on implementation principles and issues/concerns related to ride hailing service in Vancouver. The report is a response to the province’s request for input into its proposed ride hailing legislation. The provincial request limits input to 4 areas:  1) Criteria for establishing boundaries; 2) How to balance supply of service with consumer demand; 3) Criteria for establishing a price and fare regime; and 4) Driver’s licence class requirement. The City has established 6 principles to guide its input to the province: 1) Regional co-ordination; 2) Passenger safety; 3) Enhanced mobility; 4 ) Enhanced accessibility; 5) Reduced GHG emissions; and 6) Economic viability.

Within this framework, the City has concerns with the proposed provincial legislation. The legislation changes the Vancouver Charter to: 1) prevent the City from limiting the number of ride hailing vehicles operating in the City; 2) prevent the City from banning ride hailing services; and 3) prevent the City from setting ride hailing charges. Also of concern is that the legislation does not require the PTB (provincial ride hailing regulator) to consider regional issues in determining how many ride hailing licences it issue; removes the City’s ability to manage congestion arising from ride hailing services; and municipalities are not given access to trip data the PTB will collect from ride hailing services.

The City will bring these concerns forward in ongoing discussion with the province. Included in the discussion will be future opportunities to introduce congestion or per-trip fees to manage congestion and other municipal concerns such as curbside traffic management.

The Vancouver Sun‘s story (https://vancouversun.com/news/politics/dan-fumano-vancouver-wants-to-charge-uber-and-lyft-users-a-congestion-fee) on the report emphasized the possibility of congestion fees and discussed how other cities have dealt with charges to ride hailing services. The Uber/Lyft supported Ridesharing Now for BC group is not on board, though, stating “the no. 1 topic … is affordability”, although this is not mentioned on its web site. An Uber spokesman also brought up the affordability concern, which is disingenuous, given its surge pricing policies..

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Island Corridor Rail Service:

Capital Region mayors (https://www.timescolonist.com/news/local/1.23626082)  asked the provincial government  get passenger rail service back on the E&N between Langford and Victoria. They have also requested funding for rapid bus lanes along Highway 1. The Mayors tout the benefits of congestion relief, reduced GHG emissions, economic development and more time with families (Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps).

Transport Minister Trevina stated that safety and seismic assessments are necessary to ensure current standards can be met. Apparently this work is being planned  (https://www.timescolonist.com/news/local/island-corridor-foundation-e-n-rail-line-is-not-dead-yet-1.23570436?fbclid=IwAR3Iy-dkI5vmDknBZmEXWCyHirSCYN1v82Km9uCCcPiA1NY98MxGvSurl_s) and Minister Trevina expects it to take six months.

However, the previous Liberal government also made this promise and there appears to be little to show for it.  And no mention of who would be performing the assessment – an independent agency or the BC Safety Authority, which was accused of having a too close relationship with Southern Rail (2018-11-17 TABC:FYI:http://focusonline.ca/node/808?fbclid=IwAR1Y0UInpk_8a92mJmmOWIl8yeJBJJvRdNMpfD33Uv3Q3F1X8Nu_DtY6T5I)

Trevina also said First Nations issues are a crucial part of any decision on bringing service back to the E&N.

She did not address the Mayors’ suggested Highway 1 bus lanes but some Mayors pointed out that a recently opened 2.3 Km bus lane on Douglas Street in Victoria was saving peak hour transit users 10 minutes per trip.

As an a side, the Douglas Street bus lane project was delayed for several years because of cost issues (https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/victoria-bus-lanes-delayed-1.4169563 ) but finally opened in Nov. 2018. Of interest to Vancouver transit users is the fact that segments of the bus lanes are 24/7 (https://bctransit.com/victoria/transit-future/victoria-bus-lane-douglas-hwy-1), unlike most of Vancouver’s transit only lanes.

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CN Rail Vancouver Double-tracking:

The federal government has given CN Rail permission to double-track its line from the Vancouver waterfront, through Strathcona and the Grandview Cut, to Nanaimo Street. No time line is given for the project but CN increased traffic on the route 2 years ago. The traffic increase causes delays at level crossings and has led to noise and pollution complaints. However, those issues seem far more serious on Clark Drive, which parallels part of the rail route, with its heavy and constant truck traffic.

https://vancouversun.com/news/local-news/rail-expansion-through-port-of-vancouver-aimed-at-hiking-imports-from-asia?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Vancouver%20Sun%20Daily%20Headlines%202019-02-17&utm_term=VS_HeadlineNews

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Autonomous / Driverless Vehicles:

An opinion piece in the Globe and Mail argues that as vehicles become increasingly automated, we need to start considering the impact of this automation on drivers’ abilities and how driving skills will atrophy with increasing automation. How do we test and license vehicle operators in a world where most are tested once at a young age and are never tested again until old age sets in?

He uses the example of aircraft where much of a flight’s operation is handled by autopilot. The pilot’s abilities are increasingly marginal to to a flight, until something goes wrong. At that point the pilot’s skills are absolutely critical for a safe resolution of the incident.. The author calls this “the paradox of automation” – as a system becomes more automated and human input decreases, the importance of the human input increases – when it is needed.

Similarly, for vehicle automation, a driver’s abilities are not constantly being tested and improved by vehicle operation, as they are by non-automated vehicle operation. When a problem occurs in a [semi-]automated vehicle, the driver must be fully alert and cognizant of what efforts are needed to resolve the problem. How can society ensure that drivers maintain the skills needed for emergency situations?

The author’s solution is to consider airline pilot training methodologies for vehicle drivers. Regular simulation testing and licensing based on successful completion of the simulations. Failing a simulation means losing one’s license.

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/article-the-long-dangerous-road-to-the-world-of-driverless-cars/

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Written by Stephen Rees

February 20, 2019 at 10:19 am

Posted in Transportation

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