Stephen Rees's blog

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

Archive for the ‘Vancouver’ Category

Arbutus Mall Development

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I took these photos from the same point – just west of the Arbutus Greenway at the crossing of 33rd Avenue. The corner of Quilchena Park. This is a protected view cone – or was until the City reneged on that commitment. The first was taken in August, the second at the end of November

Quilchena Park

Blocking the view

Written by Stephen Rees

December 5, 2019 at 4:54 pm

Posted in Urban Planning, Vancouver

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Arbutus Station

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Translink has released its first “preliminary conceptual design” of what the proposed station on the Broadway Subway is going to look like. They put it on the BC Ministry of Transport flickr stream which makes it easy to display here.

Arbutus Station looking northwest

“Arbutus Station looking northwest

Artist’s rendering of preliminary conceptual Broadway Subway Project station design. Final streetscape and potential development will be subject to the City of Vancouver’s Broadway Plan. Learn more: engage.gov.bc.ca/broadwaysubway/stations/

Arbutus Station looking southeast
Looking South East from 8th Avenue

My bet would be that there will be some additional use of the “air rights” above the station. Either with a building – equivalent to what happened at King Edward on the Canada Line. Or perhaps it will stay like this and square footage will be added to something in the vicinity.

This is what the same corner of Broadway and Arbutus looks like now

https://www.flickr.com/photos/stephen_rees/45184182172/

Written by Stephen Rees

October 31, 2019 at 8:45 pm

Posted in transit, Transportation, Vancouver

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Do we really need a “hackathon”?

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The City of Vancouver is holding an event to “Decode Congestion“.

They say

“We believe that the combination of data, technology, and talented Vancouver residents can create solutions that optimize street use for an efficient, safe, and reliable transportation network.”

I am not convinced that this is actually necessary. I think we know how to deal with congestion. The problem is that the straightforward, already well demonstrated, policy approach has been studiously avoided.

In part it is because we use the word “congestion” to suggest that this is somehow just a technical issue and that cities can be decongested by some formula or other. Cities work by concentrating people into a relatively compact space. Instantly, our planning process states that is somehow an evil – “overcrowding”. And that the real issue is that it just takes too long to get anywhere.

Look at the way cities have evolved over time and the pattern that emerges is remarkably consistent – and that things don’t really start to fall apart until the advent of the motor vehicle. Even then things get sorted out, until it becomes some kind of desirable objective that every household has at least one car and uses it for most trips. At that point things get really messed up. And the problem is not just that it takes 30 minutes to get 6.7 kilometres – but that anyone has the expectation that they can do that at the same time as everyone else, each in an SOV. It’s even worse when the SOV is an SUV.

Analysing our issues of urbanity – making a place that is worth living in – as though the only problem worth examining is where to park and how many lanes of freeway you need is why we have problems. Congestion is not a sensible way to summarize that. But the answers to that particular conundrum are simple geometry. Go read Human Transit to find out more. The tl:dr is that famous picture which has many versions now that all say the same thing

We can move many more people through the same width of roadway/right of way if we use space efficient modes. Walking is the most important but distance that can be travelled is limited – so bikes (and things like bikes) and public transit are essential. Cars aren’t. Very few vehicle trips really need a vehicle. And places that take this stuff seriously have been demonstrating how to do that for years. Copenhagen and Amsterdam come top of mind. And they did the math long before everybody had a computer in their pocket.

Getting rid of on street parking, giving buses priority over all other traffic, giving people on bicycles a safe, protected pathway – and allowing anyone on foot to move safely through the area – solves most of the people moving issues.

For cities that have been car dependent for fifty years or more the real problem isn’t congestion – it is sprawl. Low density development that demands automobility. To connect to those places you need higher speed trains – all day, every day not just weekday peak hour peak direction.

Then when you have done that (bought a lot more buses, given them exclusive bus lanes, completed your sidewalk and bikeway networks, built safe intersections and crosswalks) you will also need to deal with goods movement. By that time, the last mile vans will have been replaced by cargo bikes and things will already be a lot simpler. Most large scale freight movement in urban areas will have to be rescheduled to times when there is capacity available. Monopolising rail corridors for freight movement in daytime may be highly profitable but it is also sociopathic.

I do not see any of this as a data problem or requiring any new technology at all. Bicycles and electric trams were all over cities before the end of the nineteenth century. It was just the “success” of the automotive industry (“If it’s good for General Motors, it’s good for the USA” was a flat lie) at dominating the debate.

Then we can get on with placemaking, which generally translates as replacing soulless suburbs with interesting urbanity – AKA mixed land use. Which greatly reduces trip length – but can’t be done nearly as fast as reorganising urban streets.

Written by Stephen Rees

October 18, 2019 at 4:50 pm

Indigenous Art at YVR

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We were out at the airport yesterday evening. A niece was on her way through, but had a couple of hours layover there while she changed planes. We arranged to meet her in the terminal for dinner.

This gave me a bit more time to look at the art which is installed at the entrance to the domestic arrivals area, in the basement. To find out more about these pieces go to the YVR webpage

The pictures below have all been posted on flickr and can be found there just by clicking on the image.

Thunderbird and Killer Whale by Richard Hunt 1999
Killer Whale and Thunderbird by Richard Hunt 1999
Human/Bear Masks by Dempsey Bob 1999
Human/Bear Masks by Dempsey Bob 1999
Back of "Thunderbird" by Richard Hunt
Human/Bear Masks  by Dempsey Bob
YVR Domestic Arrivals Area
Human/Bear Masks  by Dempsey Bob

Written by Stephen Rees

September 9, 2019 at 11:50 am

From hyperloops to hailing rides:

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This is just the start of Justin McElroy’s puff piece for the CBC on Railvolution.

I am not going to be dragged off topic by venting on hyperloop or ride hailing. What triggered me was the reference to the lack of affordable housing – as though the lack of it was somehow the fault of transportation planning or unique to Vancouver. Indeed I do not understand why mainstream journalists continue to play around with the issue without placing the blame squarely where it should go.

Canada used to do affordable housing quite well. Though the word “affordable” is rather more recent. Back then it was pretty much accepted in the advanced western countries that the housing market did not work at all well for people on limited incomes and no wealthy background to help out. Housing the poor was regarded as an obligation that had to be accepted by government to avoid the sort of problems described by Dickens and Victor Hugo. Slums were always a feature of industrial landscapes – and for much of the nineteenth century seemed to be regarded as an unfortunate necessity. Until some manufacturers with social consciences – or religious obligations – started building decent homes for their employees. The quakers who ran most of the confectionary companies stand out in my mind – Cadbury and Rowntree. In fact the Rowntree Trust is still in the same business in the UK now.

In Canada the federal government funded public housing – up until the Jean Chretien administration when Paul Martin became Finance Minister and began the change to neoliberal – monetarist policies that cut back public spending on the poor in favour of tax breaks for the rich. This was pretty much the same policy that Thatcher had adopted in the UK – she forced the sale of the best council housing to the tenants in the stated conviction that it would convert them to Conservative voters.

While I am not saying there were no housing issues prior to this point, what is indisputable is that provincial and local governments have had a hard time since federal support for housing was withdrawn. And it is also noticeable that other publicly supported tenures such as co-ops have also been having a hard time.

Of course Vancouver is not alone in “experiencing challenges around affordability”. It has been made worse by the previous BC Liberal government turning a blind eye to money laundering. Vancouver was already a favoured destination for wealthy immigrants – again due to the federal policies that promoted the business class.

“municipalities across the region have faced pressure to keep land around transit-oriented developments affordable for those that need transit most” is really one of the silliest ways of looking at the issue. Municipalities can determine zoning: that is about the extent of it. Arguably, places that continued to stick to single family zoning for much of their territory did a lot to price people out. But then the places that did see development weren’t exactly cheap either.

The region had a strategy to limit sprawl, but that was blown out of the water – once again the BC Liberals decided to invest in highway expansion which far exceeded anything that was spent on transit in the same period. The Olympics were designed not just to attract visitors to a sports festival but to blow a hole in the regional strategies of Greater Vancouver and Squamish-Lillooet and encourage housing development and car commuting along the expanded Sea to Sky Highway. Jack Poole was a developer first and foremost.

So the combination of Hayekian fiscal measures federally and reckless mismanagement provincially is more than enough to explain why decent housing close to jobs has become so hard to find here. What is less acceptable is that having a so called “progressive” governments at both levels in recent years has not seen anything like an adequate response to the need for effective housing policies. It is not as if there is a shortage of resources. When governments find it possible to buy an oil pipeline and building the boondoggle Site C, they have no credibility at all when they plead poverty as a defense of inadequate social policies – where housing ought to have a much higher priority. And during a climate emergency when investing in tar sands and fracking should be anathema.

Written by Stephen Rees

September 8, 2019 at 2:37 pm

Oakridge Development

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Walking through the mall this morning I passed this illustration of what the new mall development will look like. I then crossed the 41st Ave and Cambie Street intersection to take a photo from the diagonally opposite corner for comparison purposes. You will note that the rendering adopts a much higher viewpoint than street level.

fullsizeoutput_292bfullsizeoutput_292aThe rendering also eliminates the overhead wires for the 41st Avenue trolleybus.

Preparatory work for the development is already underway, hence the traffic control officer and the bollards in the street.

If you also follow me on flickr you will already have seen the following photos there. The exhibit is still open in the mall as part of the marketing effort for the condos.

Oakridge Exhibit

Oakridge Exhibit

Oakridge Exhibit

Note the brewing vessels top centre.

Oakridge Exhibit

The view below shows the proposed brewpub

Oakridge Exhibit

This will not be like the usual mall food court. No franchisees allowed. Guest chefs from all over will be showing off their skills here.

Oakridge Exhibit

This is a sample of the Green Walls that will be a feature of the new buildings.

Oakridge Exhibit

Written by Stephen Rees

March 29, 2019 at 1:48 pm

Vancouver Public Library: New Roof Garden

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We went downtown today to see the recently opened extension to the main public library. There is a new top floor with an large public space, currently hosting an exhibit about the changing city and above that a rooftop area that is mostly paved but with some planting (shown above).

I have also uploaded a set of photos to my flickr stream which I am linking to below

Vancouver Public Library

This poster is displayed in the main lobby. It is not meant to be taken literally.

Vancouver Public Library

As you can see it is not that hard to find your way around the new 9th floor.

There are two open patios on the 8th floor, also accessible from new exterior stairs as well as the internal escalators, elevators and stairs.

Vancouver Public Library

There is also a planted area that is not open to the public on the 9th floor as is the green roof above it.

Vancouver Public Library

The whole thing is all very nicely presented but I have to confess a feeling of being underwhelmed. The new space did get quite a lot of notice in the media, so I suppose I was expecting something more.

Vancouver Public Library

Vancouver Public Library

Vancouver Public Library

Movable tables and chairs are a very good idea. Maybe as the plantings grow and more people start to use the space, things will look better. No doubt sunshine will help but frankly the view is unimpressive. Not much of our glorious setting is visible from here – just the towers and the roof of the stadium

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Written by Stephen Rees

October 3, 2018 at 4:55 pm