Stephen Rees's blog

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

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

The Bicycle Diaries: Episode 12

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Where I live there is only one flat route out of Arbutus Village park – north west along Valley Drive. In any other direction there is a hill. In fact to get up to the Arbutus Corridor I have to get off and push. So when I saw a crowd funder for an electric wheel, that provides assistance when cycling, I decided to take a chance. It has taken six months from making my payment through KickStarter for the first of two wheels to arrive. I got one for myself and am still waiting for the one for my partner.

In the intervening period the name of the project had to be changed from UrbanX to UrbaNext.

Via Kickstarter the team reported

We received notification from BMW Auto Group that our product name UrbanX was too close to their venture fund called URBAN-X which focuses on helping emerging and start-up companies in the fields of technology and design for urban environments. You can read more about the program here. Despite our best efforts in researching our product name, we were unaware of similarity to their program and program name. The program does seem very cool in its mission to work with small businesses and help fund new innovation in urban environments.

KickStarter provided regular project updates and this video about installation

So that all looks pretty straightforward I thought. Once my wheel arrived, I unpacked it and took it down to the basement. Taking off the existing front wheel is easy, but the new wheel was a real problem. Some time ago, after renting a very comfortable bike in San Francisco, I had my Trek 800 upgraded by fitting suspension forks and a sprung saddle post. The forks were simply too fat to admit the wheel properly – and the bracket for a disc brake got in the way of inserting the battery. I took the bike with the wheel to West Point Cycles in Kerrisdale, and they replaced the forks (no suspension) and installed the new wheel for me. I then spent a while hooking up the cables and installing the control and the phone carrier – as the functioning of the electric wheel is controlled through an app. No, that installation video does not mention that – but you do get an instruction manual with the wheel. That includes a QR code for the app which is called iMortor. If you go to YouTube you will see other videos about iMortor and another UrbanX user called Edgar Cornejo who has made a number of youtube videos about his experiences.

I first tried out the new wheel in our underground garage. That really did not get me enough space to get up to speed (5km/hr), and I also missed the point that you are supposed to hold the throttle open for ten seconds, while pedalling, to get the motor to kick in. My next trip was to take the bike up to the Greenway by the hill on King Edward Avenue. This gave me enough distance to get up to speed and to hold the throttle open for long enough – and I knew the motor had kicked in as I did not have to get off and push. The app allows for three speed settings, and all of my first trip was in speed 1. The ride up to Kerrisdale by the Greenway is actually not a problem for me, I just gear down and keep twiddling. This time I did not have to gear down. As long as I was pedalling the bike kept going – and that seemed to be true even when I let go the throttle. I tried other speeds too, but that is not so easy when trying to hit the very small button on the app while moving.

Of course, no-one needs help to ride downhill. What is missing from the UrbaNext is a regenerative brake setting, which could act as a retarder and recharge the battery. Not only that but as I was in speed 1 and the app and motor was stilled turned on even pedalling downhill on King Edward, hoping to keep up with traffic, all I could manage was 12 km/hr.

Today I decided to venture further afield, so I added a bottle of water and some Cliff bars to the pannier and headed  south on the Greenway to Burrard, hoping to use the new bikeway across the bridge. The east side of the bridge was closed by barriers, and a sign instructing “use West walkway”. I rode wrong way in the bike lane – and noticed that there might have been room to ride in the vehicle lane if I had been daring enough. Then down Beach Avenue and round Stanley Park (via the Chilco Loop). By now I was getting used to riding with and without assistance. In fact there were times when, with the throttle closed, I wished it was not “helping”. Equally there were times when I was below the 5km/hr when help starts and I would have appreciated it much sooner!

I had a pleasant break near the Lumberman’s arch, with a view of the Lions’ Gate Bridge and some charming company. By the time I got to the Second Beach pool, the lights on the control box were showing red – or 30% of capacity. So I stopped using the motor by simply hitting the off button, hoping to conserve power. The bike was much heavier, thanks to the wheel and its battery, but there also seemed to be significant rolling resistance when there was no power available. Given the lack of regenerative braking I found that puzzling. By the time I got to Cornwall, I decided I had had enough, and waited for the #2 bus. Getting the bike on the bus wasn’t easy before the new wheel. Now it was beyond my ability unaided. Fortunately a very strong young chap who was passing offered assistance, and the bus driver got out too! I had taken the phone off the bike to use the transit app to find out how long I had to wait, so I just shoved the phone into my pocket when the bus arrived.

The #2 was short turning at 16th Avenue, so the driver was not pressed for time, and told me she would help me get the bike off. What with the ratchet on the bike rack’s bracket and the weight of the front wheel I was very glad of her help.

I set off home along the familiar nearly flat Valley Drive route, and just out of curiosity flicked on the throttle to see how much power was left. Amazingly the bike took off like a rocket. There was no phone controlling the app – I had taken it off the bike, and hit the iPhone’s power off button reflexively when putting it in my pocket. I even stopped pedalling altogether and the motor actually accelerated! I used no muscle power at all to get home, and in fact did a lap of honour round the garage all unaided by pedalling!

It has taken only an hour or so to recharge the battery. I should also point out that getting the battery out of the wheel is in itself no mean feat. It really helps to wait awhile for it to cool down first. Then you have to hold down the two top latches while pulling evenly on both sides.

As I was an initial funder through KickStarter I paid $800 – plus $200 shipping – for two wheels. That is considerably cheaper than other electric assist bikes – or wheel conversions. However you only get what you pay for – and while others are expensive they can also be installed for you. Their offered range is considerably greater than the UrbaNext. They do have a facebook page and currently offer the wheel at $319. If you click on the Shop Now link on that page it takes you to IndieGoGo – where the “60 second conversion” claim is repeated. Sorry, that 60 seconds is not actually possible. Even if your front forks do fit first time! Allow at least an hour to set it up properly.

POSTSCRIPT I should have mentioned that I got the 350W version: there is also a 250W which is a bit cheaper.

Written by Stephen Rees

October 3, 2017 at 4:58 pm

New BC Bus Pass for PWD

InclusionBC just tweeted a link to a BC Government Fact Sheet – which is a pdf document. I decided to cut and paste the text of that here. Comments have been closed.

The Annual BC Bus Pass Program and the new Transportation Supplement for People on Disability Assistance

Beginning January 1, 2018, people receiving disability assistance, with the Person’s with Disabilities (PWD) designation, will get an extra $52 each month for a new transportation supplement.

The supplement creates fairness and will help people connect with their community, giving them freedom to work, shop, and participate in social activities.

How to use the Transportation Supplement for an annual bus pass:

 If someone with a disability who is on assistance would like an annual bus pass they can contact the Ministry of Social Development at 1-866-866-0800 or visit the BC Bus Pass Program website.

 If someone already has an annual BC Bus Pass and they want to keep it, they can. They don’t have to contact the ministry. Beginning with the January 2018 payment they will no longer have $52 deducted from their support payment.

 The BC Bus Pass can still be used in both TransLink and BC Transit areas.

How to use the Transportation Supplement for other transportation needs:

 If someone does not want or need a bus pass they can use the supplement to pay for other transportation costs (for example, HandyDART or a taxi).

 They don’t have to contact the ministry the $52 Transportation Supplement will be automatically added to the January 2018 payment.

More information about the supplement:

 As people’s needs may change over time the new supplement will provide flexibility. People can apply for the BC Bus Pass at any time during the year. They can also cancel their bus pass at any time and use their supplement for other transportation needs.

Why government made this change:

 Transportation is important to everyone on disability assistance.

 Government consulted with stakeholders and asked for their advice on the best approach to improve the system of transportation supports.

For more information:

Go to: www.buspass.gov.bc.ca or call: 1-866-866-0800

Written by Stephen Rees

October 3, 2017 at 10:23 am

Posted in Transportation

Jagmeet Singh on Transit

with 4 comments

I am not a member of the NDP and haven’t really been following their leadership race, but congratulations to Jagmeet Singh for securing the leadership. He says (on his blog)

a Jagmeet Singh-led government will:

Adopt a National Public Transit Strategy: Canada is still the only country in the G8 without a national transit program and people across Canada are looking for more affordable, reliable, and accessible public transit options. Congestion in our urban centres is hurting both our economy and our environment. A Jagmeet Singh-led government will implement a National Public Transit Strategy that will provide the long term and predictable funding for public transit that cities and communities across the country are seeking.

This appears under the “Carbon Emission Reduction” section. Good.

Now perhaps some of the dippers who read this blog can explain to me how a leader can impose his will on the rest of the party. I come from a UK Labour Party background where policy commitments of this kind have to be endorsed by the annual Party conference (convention in North American parlance). While a leader can espouse a policy, it is the membership at large which determines policy. And if you have a taste for such things try a search for “Clause Four” to see where that leads to.

I am, as I said, heartened by this commitment. But to what extent is this reflective of what the party rank and file actually want? Aren’t the big supporters of the NDP the union members in the car industry?  Isn’t that where most of the big bucks come from in the national party? 

The last bit has been deleted in response to a comment.

Written by Stephen Rees

October 1, 2017 at 7:34 pm

How many people move per hour …

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This graphic was posted to twitter this morning by Brent Toderian. It comes from Dale Bracewell the Manager of Transportation Planning at the City of Vancouver.

Screen Shot 2017-09-29 at 9.11.46 AM

Most people still think that widening streets and adding lanes for more cars will somehow help congestion. In fact that simply induces more traffic and makes matters worse. If more people chose to use bikes and walking for short trips – which are in fact the majority of trips in the city – there would be less traffic. What we need to concentrate on is the number of people being moved, not the number of vehicles. Using  cars with a capacity of five or more people to move just one or two people is clearly a waste of space – not just the 3 metre lane width on streets but the parking spaces needed to accommodate cars when they are not being used – which is most of the time. There are far better uses for urban land than storing vehicles.

Clearly even if we cannot afford lots more skytrain lines, we could be moving lots more people if we had bus lanes in the City of Vancouver. There are not many at present, and most are peak hour, peak direction. The City cannot do very much by itself to increase transit supply but it could do a great deal to make the bus network much better. Exclusive bus only lanes and traffic light priority would straightforward to implement – but the noisy pro-car lobby would have to overridden.

Written by Stephen Rees

September 29, 2017 at 9:37 am

Posted in Transportation

CUTA Integrated Mobility Report

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I have decided that there is no way to make this work just with a retweet. So this blog post is addressed to mostly to readers who come to this blog because they are interested in how Canadian transit agencies should better adapt themselves to changing circumstances. Unlike CUTA’s approach to transit statistics, this report is not restricted in its distribution and it is free to download as a large pdf.

Screen Shot 2017-09-28 at 11.30.34 AMIt is meant to be a resource for transit agencies wishing to advance their communities towards integrated mobility.

So if that is something you want to read, start at the CUTA report web page from which there is a download link.

Written by Stephen Rees

September 28, 2017 at 11:32 am