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We need physical separation

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I have been on Twitter this morning and there is a picture of a mother and daughter riding their bikes on the sidewalk.

Screen Shot 2018-11-08 at 1.44.24 PM

Seeing that reminded me of the pictures that I had taken outside the place we were staying at in Chicago’s Loop district (downtown). The bike lane is a bit better in Chicago than North Van but it is still just paint. And as the three pictures show a lot of green paint does no more to deter cars from entering the lane than that thin white line with the occasional bike logo. Anyone riding a bike down East Washington St would have to swerve around those parked cars putting them in line for a potential collision with moving vehicles.

If you look closely at the two left hand images you can see in the previous block a big bus shelter outside the bike lane providing excellent separation.  For the 60 feet length of a bus anyway.

For more see “Walkable City Rules” (see previous post) Part XII Build Your Bike Network especially Rules 58 and 59. Best practices are outlined in the NACTO Urban Bikeway Design Guide. 

 

Written by Stephen Rees

November 8, 2018 at 2:11 pm

Posted in bicycles, Transportation

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Book Review: Walkable City Rules

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101 Steps to Making Better Places by Jeff Speck

Published by Island Press ISBN 978 1 61091 898 5 Paperback

Walkable City Rules

I was really delighted to get an actual book, as opposed to an ebook. And this one really ought to be on the desk of every city planner, urbanist and advocate. It was a genuine pleasure to open it, and get about halfway through and see so many things that this blog had been getting right for so long. Speck is writing for an American audience – and even cites Vancouver as a good example for transit provision. Which tells you much about how dreadful most US transit systems are, rather than how good ours is. As I am sure you are all tired of reading now, I do not think we ought to spend much time patting ourselves on the back, but rather taking a serious look at how other places – most of which are not on this continent – do things. And of course it is nice to see Rule 20 “Create a  twenty year land use and transportation plan …” illustrated with a graphic of the Translink 2040 Transit Network Vision for the North Shore. And of course Jarret Walker’s “Human Transit” gets much of the credit for best practices.

It was not until we got to the nitty gritty of street design and especially parking that I saw a parting of the ways, but that is, I think, because most of my experience of these issues was gained in London. And some time ago at that. So there are some departures here from what I have been writing about roundabouts, on street parking and four way stops  that need to be reconsidered. But that is because what Speck is writing about is how to make the urban areas of most of the USA better in the 21st century. Which is a different kettle of fish to what we did to improve parking enforcement in Central London in the 1980s.

What I did notice was that I kept looking up from what I was reading this afternoon and quoting it to my partner. Because a lot of it is highly quotable and some of it counterintuitive. Which is what you would expect.

I was also very impressed with the Press Release that accompanied the invitation to request a review copy. I went back to that to find out the price of the book as it is not on the cover: or on the release either! (Actually $30 cover $24 for a Kindle version and you could also pick up “Walkable City” if you haven’t got that – which you should – for $8.40 Kindle,  $16 cover for paperback. I got these prices from amazon.com – I probably should have used amazon.ca but in any event I would much rather you bought a hard copy from a real Book Shop. Because.) But all this quote is simply lifted from the PR blurb, which I heartily endorse.

I’m sure you know planner and designer Jeff Speck, who has become a go-to resource on making cities more livable, sustainable, and walkable since the publication of Walkable City, but if you don’t, I wanted to put his his follow-up book, Walkable City Rules: 101 Steps to Making Better Places, on your radar. It has just been published and answers the question: how do we actually make cities walkable?

With this book, Speck delivers an actionable guide on walkability that details the practical steps needed to usher in an era of renewed street life. Bolstered with examples from cities around the US, he lays out 101 rules for remaking cities. Some of his top ten rules include:

  1. Don’t Mistake Uber for Transit: Support public transportation in the face of ride-hailing.
  2. Cut the Extra Lanes: When lanes are not needed for traffic, all they do is cause speeding.
  3. Expand the Fire Chief ’s Mandate: Shift the focus from response time to public safety.
  4. Use Roundabouts with Discretion: They are extremely safe; they’re just not all that urban. — kind of feel like DC needs this one
  5. Remove Centerlines on Neighborhood Streets: When a street loses its centerline, speeds drop approximately 7 mph.
  6. Bag the Beg Buttons and Countdown Clocks: Pedestrians shouldn’t have to ask for a light.
  7. Don’t Let Terrorists Design Your City: The anti-terror landscape is a bad investment.
  8. Dream Big: Great cities still need great visions

Other rules relate to tactical urbanism, congestion pricing, parking, transit, street design, cycling, and others. Jeff has filled it with proven strategies for success and promises these rules can bring the most effective city-planning practices to bear in communities.

If that doesn’t pique your interest, nothing I can write will move you, so you go back to your Hummer and read the Sun instead.

 

Written by Stephen Rees

November 3, 2018 at 6:26 pm

Posted in Transportation

Book Review

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This review has been removed.

The representative of the PR firm pushing the publicity campaign for its publication  has a different view of the meaning of “Fair Use” which, if followed, would have made this review incoherent. I am not willing to do that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Written by Stephen Rees

September 27, 2018 at 1:23 pm

Fighting the climate wreckers

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The article that I am going to point you to is concerned about the fight against fossil fuel companies in the United States.

“The Climate-Wrecking Industry—and How to Beat It” appears in Sierra Magazine copied from The Nation

While acknowledging that there is strength in numbers, some legal observers say the magic number for success is one: A single judgment against the oil companies would be enough to change their political calculus about the value of continued intransigence. “I think, in some respects, it’s less about how many cases are filed, [and more about] whether a judge rules in favor of a city or county or state. That will open the floodgates,” says Ann Carlson, a professor at the UCLA School of Law who has followed the climate-liability cases closely.

Well, we may just have seen that success here. The decision by The Federal Court of Appeal at long last recognises that the approval process for the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion was fundamentally flawed. The case did not, however, turn on climate change but on two other considerations – the failure to consult First Nations adequately and the impact of the project on the resident orcas of the Salish Sea. And it was not an American Company (Kinder Morgan) that lost, it was the governments of Canada and Alberta. In fact the Premier of Alberta was so angry that she withdrew her province from the federal climate plan. As though that makes any real difference.

Kinder Morgan of course is jubilant. Justin Trudeau bought their old, leaky pipeline and lumbered himself with the apparent obligation to complete an expansion which they long ago realised was not only very risky environmentally but also highly unlikely to be viable. They get pockets full of our cash and slide away from the liabilities.

Trudeau and Notley between them have both – in post decision speeches – announced their determination to proceed with pipeline expansion which immediately throws huge doubt on their ability to convince anyone that their subsequent commitments at the negotiations over First Nations rights and the long term survival of the orcas are being conducted in a fair or objective manner. It seems that they are adopting the negotiating tactic adopted by 45 over NAFTA known as Boulwarism. Whenever anyone sits down at the table to talk about the pipeline they will have to accept the precondition that the government has committed to seeing it built no matter what.

Sooner or later the realisation has to dawn in Edmonton and Ottawa that they are both wrong. There cannot be action climate change and tarsands expansion at the same time. The tarsands are one of the worst fuels in terms of emissions. Equally, just getting the dilbit to saltwater does not solve the issue of the low price that diluted bitumen achieves on the world market. There are plenty of other sources of petroleum that are easier to deal with and currently the market is over-supplied. In future the rapidly declining costs of solar and wind alone will make renewables even more attractive, and better technologies than burning liquid fuels are going to take over the transportation industry as well as many others. If other places do want heavy oils, there are better placed suppliers. After all, only relatively small vessels can load at Burnaby and get under the Second Narrows Bridge. The project plan was actually to tranship into larger vessels on the west coast somewhere – as though that were an attractive option for preserving fragile marine ecosystems.

Much of the current mainstream media is, of course, trying to play down the significance of the decision – and I am not going to point to any of it. The big players are all in the same game, and outlets like PostMedia recognise their dependence on big oil and the related organisations. These are the same people who maintain the fiction that we are dependant on fossil fuels.

the ultimate responsibility lies with the general public and its appetite for energy. The rhetorical sleight of hand perfectly captures the climate wreckers’ classic talking point: Since you can’t live without us, we’re innocent.

Actually we can live without you and many are already moving convincingly in that direction. It is sad that the Government of Canada has decided to invest so much in a pipeline that is not needed, but then governments both provincially and federally continue to subsidize fossil fuel production: we are just throwing good money after bad. Jack up the the royalties to the same level as Norway and insist on adequate protection of the sources of water that get destroyed by tailing ponds and fracking and the market would start to transform at a much faster pace. All that is happening right now is that North America is falling ever further behind the rest of the world (except Australia) which is showing us how we can tackle climate change.

We have had a terrible summer – and the fires are still mostly burning even if the local smoke has blown away for now. The ice is melting in places where we have never seen it melt before. The weather is getting worse faster than anyone predicted.  Even the oil companies themselves are asking government to commit to building dykes to protect the refineries which are actually creating the sea level rise they are worried about. Climate change is not a problem for the future, it is a major problem here, now. Yet we are currently committed to increases in greenhouse gas emissions – not the reductions we signed up for in Paris, which were anyway wholly inadequate to deal with the problem.

Perhaps the next court victory will actually deal with the broader issue of environmental protection rather than just the sorry state of the resident orcas. Because it seems clear that at the moment neither Notley nor Trudeau has a grasp on reality, and not only will the big fossil fuel companies be in court on these issues, but so will our governments.

Yes, that includes BC since we are still committed to Site C, which is designed mostly to promote LNG exports to Alberta to melt more tar.

The Answers for the “Skeptics”

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I am putting this here mainly for my own convenience.

I am getting tired of people who ask questions or keep requiring data who turn out to be after an argument about humans causing climate change. This is a thread that was on Twitter this morning that I turned into a blog post using Spooler

I also used Thread Reader App (belt and braces) since I had not experience of either.

I have put the word skeptics in quotation marks. I seriously doubt the motivation of most of these people since the real scientists have no longer any doubt that what we are experiencing has been caused by humans using fossil fuels. However, the fossil fuel industries have a lot at stake and since they can’t actually find any real facts to back them up, they are doing their best to sow uncertainty instead. This is exactly what the tobacco industry did – and it did not work for them in the long run.


A thread by Katharine Hayhoe

At the hearing for the deputy @NASA administrator today, nominee Jim Morhard was asked by @EdMarkey if he agrees with the scientific consensus that humans are the dominant influence on climate. He said he couldn’t say.

Well, I’m a scientist, and I can. Here’s why. (thread)

When we see climate changing, we don’t automatically jump on the human bandwagon, case closed. No, we rigorously examine and test all other reasons why climate could be changing: the sun, volcanoes, natural cycles, even something we don’t know yet: could they be responsible? .. Could it be the sun? No: the sun’s energy has been going down at the very time that the average temperature of the planet continues to rise. For more info, read: and no, even a Grand Minimum wouldn’t save us. See: (skepticalscience.com/solar-activity…)(realclimate.org/index.php/arch…)

Could it be volcanoes? No: though a big eruption emits a lot of soot and particulates, these temporarily cool the planet. On average, all geologic activity, put together, emits only about 10% of the heat-trapping gases that humans do. For more, read: (agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.102…)

Could it be orbital cycles? Are we just getting warmer after the last ice age? No: warming from the last ice age peaked 1000s of yrs ago, and the next event on our geologic calendar was another ice age: was, until the industrial revolution, that is. Read: (people.clas.ufl.edu/jetc/files/Tze…)

Could it be natural cycles internal to the climate system, like El Nino? No: those cycles simply move heat around the climate system, mostly back and forth between the atmosphere and ocean. They cannot CREATE heat. So if they were responsible for atmospheric warming, . … then the heat content of another part of the climate system wd have to be going down, while the heat content of the atmosphere was going up.

Is this what we see? No: heat content is increasing across the entire climate system, ocean most of all! See: (skepticalscience.com/graphics.php?g…)

Could it be cosmic rays? No. See:

How about the magnetic pole moving? Planet Niribu? Geoengineering? No.

What about an unknown factor we don’t know about yet? Nope, covered that here: (skepticalscience.com/graphics.php?g…) (journals.ametsoc.org/doi/pdf/10.117…)

The bottom line is this: We’ve known since the work of John Tyndall in the 1850s that CO2 absorbs and re-radiates infrared energy, and Eunice Foote was the first to suggest that higher CO2 levels would lead to a warmer planet, in 1856. Read it here: (books.google.com/books?id=fjtSA…)

No one – NO ONE – has been able to explain how increasing levels of CO2, CH4 and other heat-trapping gases would NOT raise the temperature of the planet. Yet that must be done first, if we are to consider any other sources as “dominant”. Moreover, when @RasmusBenestad + I + others examined dozens of published papers (so much for the ‘we are suppressed like Galileo!’ myth) claiming to minimize or eliminate the human role in climate change, guess what we found? Errors in every single one. (theguardian.com/environment/cl…)

So in conclusion: if you don’t think humans are the dominant source of warming, you are making a statement that does not have a single factual or scientific leg to stand on. Yet leaders of science agencies are saying exactly that today. This is the world we live in.

 

Written by Stephen Rees

August 24, 2018 at 12:33 pm

ProVancouver party proposes flat fare and other transit discounts across Lower Mainland

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Faregates at King Edward

The title is that of an article in the Georgia Straight

The ProVancouver Party is one of several new entities that have popped up due to the upcoming city election all of which claim to be non-partisan (just like the flailing NPA) and different from the status quo.

The main difference is simply in the level of understanding of how local government in Vancouver works (or is supposed to) between those who have some experience and those with none at all. Many of the new candidates seriously think that their naivete is a qualification rather than a liability.

I am not going to bother with analysing any of these half baked proposals. I am simply going to point out that getting elected to Vancouver City council does not enable anyone to introduce any of these ideas. As the Straight points out these are regional measures, which means that they have to appeal to most of the other municipalities outside of the City of Vancouver. The only commonality among these municipalities is their utter contempt for Vancouver and all it stands for. For one thing they are all convinced that Vancouver benefits far more from transit than they do. Even when Burnaby has far more SkyTrain service than any other municipality. And if your identifier is ProVancouver, you are already setting yourself up for an argument. West Vancouver still thinks it would be better off if it left Translink altogether – though even they have to concede that it is really difficult to find any acceptable piece of land within West Vancouver that could be used as a bus storage and maintenance facility.  Places like Anmore and Belcarra even think that people from other municipalities should not be allowed park or even drive on their roads.   Especially in summer.

The key word that ProVancouver has latched onto is “affordable”.  Which you might think would translate into some kind of means tested subsidy for transit fares. But as usual in all such woolly thinking, the term itself is not defined – but has something to do with “families” even though most people now live in rather different households than the traditional Mum, Dad and 2.4 kids. What we do know from our experience with the referendum is people in general believe a lot of nonsense about Translink and think they pay quite enough in taxes to provide much better service than they currently get. And that second belief is equally strongly held everywhere – even in the best served parts of the region. If you are not going to collect enough at the farebox, then it has to come from somewhere else, and any proposal is always going to be met with the angry riposte “How are you going to pay for that?” (without waiting for the answer before stamping off).

One of the great weaknesses of the upcoming ballot is that it is going to be filled with a lot of names: most of them will be unfamiliar. And whoever gets elected is going to have spend a lot of time and effort getting up to speed on procedures, rules and regulations. To some extent that does mean the potential for more influence from the professionals who have mostly been doing this stuff as a full time career for many years. But sadly they will be fully occupied trying to persuade the newly elected councillors that they have to both listen and read attentively. There is no evidence at all that ProVancouver has the slightest intention of doing that before insisting that they are now in charge: heaven help us all if that is the case.

 

Written by Stephen Rees

August 15, 2018 at 4:25 pm

Ride-hailing

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This post is prompted by the regular weekly update I get from the BC Green Party.

Under the Ride-hailing heading there is this paragraph

Adam expressed deep disappointment that the BC NDP has left everyone hanging on ride-hailing once again and discusses solutions.

Followed by two buttons each labelled “Read” which do not link, as you might expect, to a Green Party new release or position paper. One links to an article by Mike Smyth in The Province ten days ago and the other to one by Keith Baldrey in Burnaby Now. Neither is either fair or balanced, has any reliable data source but is mostly about slagging off the NDP.

The first one does not quote Adam: the second just has this

The B.C. Green party has been calling for ridesharing to come to B.C. for years now. Last week, B.C. Green MLA Adam Olsen told me the rest of B.C. is “being held hostage” by the existing industry and those key swing ridings.

So no discussion of solutions there.

Smyth only talks to people who support Uber and Lyft and concludes

And rather than create “absolute chaos” on the streets, ride-hailing in other cities has actually reduced traffic congestion because people discover they can get around without a car.

Which is actually contrary to some genuine recent research. You could read about that in the Washington Post but I do have to warn you that you might hit their paywall, but never fear you can actually go to the source Mike Schaller a former deputy commissioner for traffic and planning at the New York City Department of Transportation. That link takes you to a useful summary and also to the pdf for the whole study.

But I think the Post gets the gist in these two paragraphs

“Shared rides add to traffic because most users switch from non-auto modes,” the report says. “In addition, there is added mileage between trips as drivers wait for the next dispatch and then drive to a pickup location. Finally, even in a shared ride, some of the trip involves just one passenger (e.g., between the first and second pickup).”

Schaller synthesizes data from surveys in eight cities and the state of California to conclude 60 percent of ride-hail users would have otherwise used transit, walked or biked, or stayed home were it not for the availability of services such as Uber and Lyft.

That has not been the only coverage of Uber last week: Uber and Lyft are facing a major crackdown in New York City was the headline from The Verge.

New York City officials are moving to restrict the number of Uber and Lyft vehicles allowed on the road as part of a move to contain the massive growth in the for-hire vehicle industry that has been blamed for worsening congestion and low wages for drivers.

Which even though it was reported widely seems to have escaped Mike Smyth.

There was also quite a lot about vomit fraud – in the Toronto Star and the Guardian 

And finally this tweet from BC Green Party Leader

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Which seems to ignore the availability of the Canada Line at 11pm – and Uber’s willingness to switch on surge pricing whenever there is a chance of a quick buck or two.

On the whole I wish there were much more emphasis on expanding transit and increasing the range of services that are on offer in BC. There are, of course, many local variations of ride hailing apps – many of which encourage the use of empty seats on vehicles already on the road. A sort of electronic version of hitch hiking – which, of course, remains illegal in BC. We don’t just need more buses – though that would help – we also need to give buses priority in traffic, recognizing their vastly superior carrying capacity – people per lane per hour – and also their ability to reduce greenhouse gas emissions over the present vehicle fleet which remains almost entirely fuelled by fossil fuels. The Green Party also ought to be pushing hard for more intercity bus services, as well as light rail, and making better use of the existing rail networks by requiring more passenger trains and pushing more of the freight trains into overnight service.  That was, after all, the model successfully adopted in Ottawa when they ventured into local passenger train service.

Frankly I think the promises made by Uber and Lyft have been shown to have been as deceptive as those of the pipelines and LNG. Not to mention hyperloop.

Written by Stephen Rees

July 30, 2018 at 2:25 pm

Posted in Transportation