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

Archive for the ‘Urban Planning’ Category

Consultations on the BLine for 41st and the Greenway

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Thanks to Rick Jelfs of Transport Action BC for the heads up on two sets of consultations going on at present. This illustration comes from the City of Vancouver’s PDF of the Arbutus Greenway in its expected final form with a streetcar!

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  • TransLink is asking for public input on four new B-Line routes – 41st Ave (UBC – Joyce Stn);  Fraser Hwy (Surrey Central – Langley); Lougheed Hwy (Coquitlam Central – Maple Ridge); Marine Drive (Dundarave – Phibbs Exchange). The 41st Ave. proposal includes the return of local trolley coach service along 41st Ave. More information at https://www.translink.ca/bline.
  • Vancouver has a “proposed design concept” for the Arbutus Greenway at http://vancouver.ca/streets-transportation/arbutus-greenway.aspx

I must admit I was a bit sceptical of the 41st Avenue B-Line until I saw what was actually proposed – which involves a considerable change to the current #41 – which would be cut back to Crown and would use trolleybuses – which is something that I have been pushing whenever anyone would listen for many years.

2149 Training on 41st at Cambie

Trolleybuses aren’t used on the 41 right now, but the wires on 41st are used for training and relocating trolleys. Probably much less now that Oakridge OMC has been sold.

V9486 Hybrid

The current generation of hybrid Novabus, has a final electric drive – but no poles even though 600v is within easy reach.

Xcelsior bendy on 41st at Arbutus

The articulated buses used on the 43 and 49 that will be on the B Line

BYD Battery Bus

The short lived experiment with loaned battery buses from China (BYD). Another trial of different battery buses was recently announced. They will be able to charge along the route (100 Marine Drive) but again not using trolleypoles.  All those pictures were taken by me along West 41st Avenue.

I am of course also pleased to see a cross North Shore B Line running through both West and North Vancouver. I was involved with the first groundbreaking bus service to cut through the iron curtain that used to separate transit on that side of the water. There is even talk of combining City and District in North Van which at that time was unthinkable! But I digress. Even if you can’t manage the open houses you can still do the surveys.

Written by Stephen Rees

April 20, 2018 at 10:45 am

Weekly Photo Challenge: Favourite Place

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Favourite Place (and yes I have anglicised the spelling) ought to be harder to pick. But “you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone” and while there are many places in Vancouver that I could pick, the loss of our view cones and corridors is one I feel very strongly about. We are blessed with a place of quite extraordinary beauty – a deep inlet (actually a fjord) at the foot of the North Shore mountains. For a long time Vancouver was mostly concerned about cutting down trees and making stuff from them. The old growth forest is almost gone except for one or two areas of park managed to make it look like we imagine it ought to have looked. Stanley Park is actually just one of several such places.

For as long as I have been here, there was a firm policy to protect the view of the North Shore mountains and the inlet from a number of significant places. Now the pressure to allow ever more taller towers across the city means that these views are vanishing. And one such development is right next to where I live. I took this photo with my phone while walking on the Arbutus Greenway at W 37th Avenue. Overlooking Quilchena Park with a spectacular view – and two tall cranes in the process of blocking that view with condos. The developer has recently gone back to the City to ask for permission to add more floors to the part of the development nearest to our six storey building.

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The roof of our building is just below the height of the current tree canopy, so it almost invisible. The new buildings will be up to 72m (263 ft). The developer says that fits the view because it would match the nearest skyline of the North Shore mountains: the snow capped peaks will still peer over the top. The City has yet to rule on this proposal, and I took the photo so I would be able to look back in future at what we will have lost if the developer gets what he wants.

I went back and took a picture with my camera using the zoom lens.

Click for a larger versionIMG_7897

 

Written by Stephen Rees

March 21, 2018 at 10:35 am

Rezoning the Arbutus Development

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Arbutus Rezone

I had thought that I had written something here about the redevelopment of the Arbutus Mall which is just next door to where I live. I am actually quite surprised that I haven’t been able to find anything. It is mostly on flickr. So to give you a very quick background, when Arbutus Village was first built it was a real exercise in being a complete community. There were apartments and townhouses, a park and a shopping centre which included some local services, like dentists and insurance offices, as well as a recreation centre. The Mall had a large Safeway as its anchor tenant as well as a liquor store, bank, dollar store and so on, with a significant amount of surface parking between the buildings and Arbutus Street.

Arbutus Mall 4.6.17 panorama

A couple of years ago, a new development was approved to excavate the parking lot and build more apartments over commercial and retail space on the ground floor, with parking underground.  I was quite pleased to see that start construction as the huge high level flood lights for the parking had been shining into our apartment windows all night long.  The light pollution meant we could never see any stars. It also interfered with my sleep. Of course it was a blow to see all the small businesses disappear. Safeway kept the pharmacy open – a requirement of their license, with a small convenience store providing essentials. The Liquor Store also stayed open to protect its grandfathered rights which might otherwise be lost due to the proximity of the Prince of Wales High School. The post office tried to stay open but couldn’t, due to lack of foot traffic. And we lost our recreation centre to commercial operations of a dance school and a swimming school. At least the indoor pool now saw much more use than formerly.

Arbutus Mall redevelopment pan

The scale of the proposed development was roughly equivalent to the buildings around it. There are three condo buildings of six storeys – known around here as “high rise”. What the developer was going to build was not too different – and there would be more townhouses and a wider social mix as the city was insisting on more rental units. Once development got underway on the first two buildings, the developer (Larco) applied for greater density on the part of the site closer to our building and the park. This evening we went to an Open House. The information on the many boards around the room is available on the city web page . There are a lot of documents there too.

The City Vancouver has received a rezoning application for 2133 Nanton Avenue (the Arbutus Centre) to amend the existing CD-1 (642) (Comprehensive Development) District. The proposal would increase the residential floor area, including an increase in the number of market and social housing units. The specific amendments include:

  • An increase in the maximum allowable floor space for all uses from 67,065 sq. m (721,881 sq. ft) to 77,611 sq. m (835,400 sq. ft.). The additional floor space is to be accommodated on Blocks C and D (the western portion of the site).
  • An increase to the maximum building height on Block C from 57 m (187 ft.) to 60 m (197 ft.) and the maximum building height on Block D from 57 m (187 ft.) to 72 m (236 ft.).

The rezoning application proposes no change to the amount of office and commercial space, and includes an expanded Neighbourhood House.

The images below are taken from the Applicant Boards pdf file available on the City web page.

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The scale drawings give a much better idea of how much bigger the new proposal is compared to the pictures. In fact I think the Block C illustrations are almost comically misleading. The size of the block in the new proposal seems to be comparable to the original at first glance until you realise that the scale is quite different. Not only are there more storeys above ground, the below ground is also greatly enlarged, although the consultant told me that the parking ratio is only one space per unit. Two spaces for car share are included – which might at long last see some Modo cars parked here, something I have been lobbying for, though I think two is unlikely to be adequate. I also suggested that dedicated parking for evo and car2go be included. The Arbutus Club across the street already provides a lot of demand for both.

Given that the site is adjacent to the #16 trolleybus we might, I hope, see more service on that given the number of other four storey additions to commercial areas in Kerrisdale and the proposed major transit interchange at Broadway and Arbutus once the stubway opens. I suspect that the ratio of one parking space per unit will also generate considerable on street parking demand as the retailers will want to reserve much of their underground for customers.

I know that the major concern I have heard from my neighbours is the scale and height of the buildings. We are also aware of other developments that are going to be proposed on Eddington at Valley (Amica – currently a two storey residential care facility, with the adjacent townhouse development) and at McBain and Valley/King Edward (currently town houses and three storey condo apartment block). We do not know how high these will be yet, but the fear is that Larco’s proposal will set a precedent for much taller buildings.

In the applicant’s rendering shown below the building I live in is at the bottom right hand corner. The Amica building slated for redevelopment is behind it – about half way up the right hand side of the image. At this time we have no idea how high that will be.

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The Arbutus Ridge Community Association is certainly not happy.

Written by Stephen Rees

February 13, 2018 at 8:24 pm

What Vancouver Streets will look like

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A powerpoint presentation by Dale Bracewell (Manager of Transportation Planning, City of Vancouver) via Twitter

Three sample slides

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Download the complete presentation

Written by Stephen Rees

February 1, 2018 at 2:38 pm

Atlanta vs Barcelona

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I do like a good graphic. You know that old saw about a picture being worth a thousand words. And I have long been an advocate of better land use planning being essential to good transportation planning – and vice versa. This illustration is taken from a new draft publication from the Province of Ontario “Community Emissions Reduction Planning: A Guide for Municipalities” (downloadable as a pdf).

This Guideline has been prepared to support provincial land-use planning direction related to the completion of energy and emissions plans. The plans will typically include community-wide and municipal/corporate greenhouse gas (GHG) inventories, the setting of emissions reduction targets, and the development of strategies to reduce GHG emissions.

The Government of Ontario has established provincial GHG reduction targets of 15% below 1990 levels by 2020, 37% below 1990 levels by 2030, and 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. This Guideline describes how the activities of municipalities are vital to achieving these targets and for planning low-carbon communities..

The Guideline has two core objectives: to educate planners, other municipal staff, citizens, and stakeholders on the municipal opportunities to reduce energy and GHG emissions (in particular for land-use policy); and to provide guidance on methods and techniques to incorporate consideration of energy and GHG emissions into municipal activities of all types. To support the second objective, a detailed planning process is described.

Community Emissions Reduction Planning Ontario graphic

What we were supposed to be doing in Metro Vancouver was to emulate Barcelona to avoid the fate of becoming Atlanta. The way to do that was summarised as “protect the Green Zone, build a compact urban region with complete communities and increase transportation choice”. Instead of investing in transit, the Province of BC decided to widen the freeways, build huge bridges and generally lock us into car dependence. You might also have seen that BC’s greenhouse gas emissions have been increasing in recent years. The two are not – as you can see – unrelated.

Written by Stephen Rees

January 17, 2018 at 4:43 pm

Growing Smarter

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growing-smarter-webThis is the title of a new report. Actually the title is longer than that but I like to be snappy when I can. The publisher adds “Integrating Land Use and Transportation to Reduce GHGs” which you may be sure is right up my alley.

Two things before I go further. This report was published on September 27, and I have only just learned of it. I thought I had spent quite a bit of effort making sure that I kept on top of this topic since it is specifically addressing BC. It was not until today that I saw a tweet from Charlie Smith which linked to an article in the Georgia Straight by Carlito Pablo.

Secondly, the report was commissioned by The Real Estate Foundation of BC. Now my association with Real Estate in BC had lead me to create a mental link between realtors and the BC Liberals. During the campaign against the expansion of Highway #1 there were credible sources saying that the then Minister of Transport, Kevin Falcon, was holding fundraising breakfasts for the realtors in this region and the Fraser Valley and promising that highway expansion would enable them to continue to build and sell single family homes. As opposed to the denser forms of development that tended to support transit. The implication being that RS1 supports right wing voters.

The other important thing to note is that you do not have to rely on my opinion or that of Carlito Pablo. You can download the full report for yourself from the link above.

But I am going to copy here the list of recommendations

Recommendations include:

  1. Bolster regional government authority and integrate transportation planning with land use in ways that support climate action.
  2. Strengthen the Agricultural Land Commission’s authority to protect farmland and limit non-agricultural use of protected land.
  3. Strengthen coordination amongst key agencies, ministries, and orders of government and support collaboration through the Climate Action Secretariat and the Local-Provincial Green Communities Committee.
  4. Use market-based tools to more fairly share the costs of transportation infrastructure and expand transportation choice.
  5. Update tax and fee structures to support sustainable financing of civic infrastructure.
  6. Help establish a Low Carbon Innovation Centre in the Lower Mainland.
  7. Create long-term transportation financing agreements between local, provincial, and federal governments.
  8. Update community GHG reduction target requirements and provide provincial support to help meet these requirements.
  9. Establish GHG impact assessment standards for local and provincial transportation projects and planning agendas.
  10. Reinvest in BC’s Community Energy and Emissions Inventory (CEEI) system to provide defensible transportation sector data.

The report was commissioned by the Real Estate Foundation of BC as part of its research on sustainable built environments in British Columbia. The report was prepared by Boston Consulting, in consultation with the Smart Growth Task Force, with contributions from MODUS Planning, Design and Engage

This all looks very promising, and I am going to download it myself before I type anything else.

Written by Stephen Rees

October 5, 2017 at 2:46 pm

Weekly Photo Challenge: Pedestrian

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Millenium Bridge

One of my favourite subjects Pedestrian is actually the theme of a group I started on flickr called Places Without Cars. It seemed to me that Vancouver had really not done nearly enough to reduce the impact of traffic on its city centre, whereas many other places had closed major streets and squares to cars, but in the process opened them up to become people places. In England they are called Pedestrian Precincts.  I can remember the transformation of the centre of Harrow in the mid 1980’s where I then lived, from a major traffic artery to a place where it was not only actually pleasant to walk and shop, but there were reasons to linger. Once upon a time “No Loitering” signs were common: that is no longer the case. We have come to realise that the favourite activity of human beings is people watching. That human interaction by chance is another of our favourite things – and most commerce is in fact based on such encounters.

The picture above is of the Millennium Bridge in London, which connects the Tate Modern on the South Bank to St Paul’s in the City.

Instead of putting lots more of my pictures of similar structures I urge you to go look at that flickr group linked above and see what other places have done to make pedestrian activity attractive.

Written by Stephen Rees

October 4, 2017 at 10:49 am