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

Posts Tagged ‘Canada Line

Canada Line Criticisms Endorsed

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I have been reading an article on the Daily Hive by Kenneth Chan this morning that pretty much repeats every one of the criticisms I have levelled over the years at the Canada Line.

POSTSCRIPT I should have noticed this publication date at the top of the article Aug 14, 2014 9:58 am

It was underbuilt, and the P3 cost more than conventional funding. Among the problems that has caused are trains and stations that are too small, too slow and too inconvenient. It has been far more successful than its initial critics claimed, and Chan does come up with some inventive ways of tackling these issues. I think he is very informative on the parochial nature of local politicians and their very limited vision, and how they managed to hobble the project from the start. Sadly too many of them are still warming seats on their respective councils and regional bodies alike.

There needs to be change. Hopefully we can make a start on some of these sooner rather than later as at least we have got a change in provincial government, and realistic probability of federal funding  – which was why the name of the line was chosen in the first place!

 

 

Written by Stephen Rees

October 12, 2017 at 10:45 am

The Cambie Street Saga’s Final Chapter

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There is a story today in the Vancouver Observer which brings to an end the sorry tale of the many small businesses that failed due to the cut and cover construction of the Canada Line under Cambie Street.  Some of these merchants will be able to recover a little of the money they lost as compensation is limited to “injury to their leases”. Not nearly enough, and far too late, but mostly due to the intransigence of the constructors. And, of course, the province of BC though they were not named in the suit but they are in my blog post. I did try to document what was happening and some of the outcome. But you might find the Siskinds Law Firm a bit more authoritative on the Canadian law.

To claim compensation, former merchants and landlords affected by the Canada Line construction are urged to contact the Cambie Village Business Association before May 1, 2016, as the deadline for filing with the Court is May 31, 2016.

And, as most people know, winning a legal case is not the same thing as getting justice. My impression is that there are other places who deal with such cases in a more generous fashion, but perhaps that is going to require more historic research, as the world has steadily become less concerned about the people in general as opposed to the very few People Who Matter.

I thought I wrote more about this – as I also thought it would be easy to find better examples. But then maybe I am using the wrong search terms or the wrong search engine.

Written by Stephen Rees

April 4, 2016 at 3:21 pm

Choosing the happy city

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There is a storify based on the #happycity hashtag,which now features many more pictures thanks to the recent Twitter upgrade

At SFU Woodward’s on Wednesday March 26, 2014 the third in the Translink series.

Choosing the Happy City
Charles Montgomery

There were many empty seats even though SFU had “oversold”. If you reserve a seat at one of these events and then find you cannot attend, please remove your reservation as soon as you can. There were people who would have liked to be there. But at least there was also a live stream and the event will be added to the Youtube site in due course.

The introduction was made by one of Fraser Health’s public health officers. Happiness is fundamental to health. We need a system that promotes physical activity. Urban form and transportation determine how people choose to move around, and also affordability of housing and access to green space. People who live in the suburbs of Vancouver walk more than other places. We must improve and maintain choices especially for non urban places. She made the point that some policies which seek to deter car use can adversely affect the mobility of people who live in places where there is no other choice but to drive for many trip purposes. There is an inequity in adopting such deterrents before there are adequate choices fro everyone.

Charles Montgomery started his presentation with two “exercises” – the first to identify  Translink staff “the institution we love to hate”. He invited audience members to hug a member of Translink staff if they were near them. The second related to two images of dorms at Harvard University. One was a traditional building, the other a somewhat forbidding modern block. Most people indicated they preferred the traditional building, as did newly arrived students. But a study showed that there was no difference in the happiness of the students after three years. Many factors determine happiness not just the design of the buildings but social environment within them is important.

The idea of idea of increasing happiness is not new. Early economists called it maximizing utility. However often  “we get it wrong.I think pursuit of happiness is a good thing. We can measure it. … More pleasure than pain, healthy, in control, meaning, security but strong social connection underlies all of these. Both the GDP and creativity in a city depends on opportunities for social interaction. He showed a three dimensional graph of space time prisms, which showed the people who are more dispersed find it harder to connect. They spend much less time in the spaces and times when they can meet others. The edge of the urban agglomerations are the least likely to be socially active. If you live in the exurbs you do not have the time, energy or willingness to join things or even vote.

The shortness of the the commute time is the best indicator of satisfaction. “How we move is how we feel”, and even only five minutes of walking or cycling improves mood and regularly moving under our own power also  improves health. Equally driving a nice car on an open road also improves our mood. The trouble is that open roads are rare – and impossible to find at commute times. Driving even a nice car in a congested city is like piloting a fighter jet in terms of the stress experienced. People rate the experience of using transit lowest of all mostly due to the loss of control and that the trips on transit tend to be the longest.

In Greater Vancouver 40% of all trips could be done in 20 minute bike ride. In cities the design of the built environment determines both our behaviour and our bodies. If we build infrastructure for cycling – making it safer – more people will cycle. People will walk 800m to shop in a good urban environment but less than 200m in the typical suburban big box centre. The huge parking lots are a deterrent to walking even short distances.

He cited Larry Frank’s work in Atlanta showing maps of destinations available within a 10 minute walk of home. While there are many in the traditional city centre in the suburbs there are none. It is not surprising then that people who live in the suburbs on average have 10 pounds more in weight

Status interventions

– Equity
Having  low social status is bad for health. When transit viewed as a “hand out for the undeserving” – he used the notorious ads in the Georgia Strait some years ago for a GM car dealer which had a bus with the words “creeps & weirdos” as the destination sign – it is unsurprising that it is difficult to persuade people to change modes. Enrique Penalosa redesigned the city of Bogota and it was all about equity. He cancelled a new freeway but built the Transmilenio BRT based on the Curitiba example.

 – Freedom
This is represented by our having mastery of our movement. In one experiment they used skin conductance cuffs on people  in a mockup of a subway car. Even though this was staged at a party, as the space available to the group in the car became more restricted so their stress levels rose. He showed a picture of the Navigo card in Paris which is much more than a transit ticket. It also gives access to Velib bike sharing – and (he claimed) car sharing (which if so is a change since I was in Paris). “It also gets you cookies” But mostly it gives people the freedom to live with less stuff. they do not need to own a car or a bike [and can get around without worrying about either being stolen]

He then showed picture of the land the province has recently put up for sale in Coquitlam. This “swathe of Burke Mountain will not be well connected”. But families can save $10k a year by not owning a car. He cited Daniel Kahneman’s Book “Thinking, Fast and Slow” We are rightly fearful of house fires and build new suburbs to allow access to big fire trucks, with wide roads and sweeping curves – like a race track.  Streets aren’t safe enough for kids to play on – but we somehow think that we have made them “safer” and the areas they serve. There was a notorious experiment on children with Oreos. They could take one immediately or wait awhile and then get two. He says that the problems we require that we slow down and consider their complexity.

The challenge is the cost of congestion, but we attempt to solve it by designing disconnection. He illustrated this with a picture of the new Port Mann Bridge construction and remarked that we only realized that the new bridge was not needed until after it opened. All the traffic and people that now use it could have been accommodated if the old bridge had been tolled and a rapid bus service along Highway #1 introduced. [This was actually something that the Livable Region Coalition pointed out at the time, by the way. No-one believed us.]

“We did it before” He showed a slide of the Livable Region plan from the 1970s. And he also showed the “Leap Ahead” transit plan which its authors (Nathan Pachel and Paul Hillsdon) estimated would cost $6.5 bn but could be paid for with a $0.05 sales tax.

Referendum = fast brain disaster

“The best thing to do is cancel the referendum.” However since that is unlikely  we can save ourselves by adopting the recommendations that Roger Sherman used to win the second Denver referendum. Their program was called “Fast tracks” It was a clear plan and fully costed designed to appeal to the core values of the voters. Most of them drive so it has to show how improving transit improves life for drivers

It is not enough to present a clear picture – it has to have a champion, preferably a celebrity and since Brad Pitt is unlikely to be available he suggested Diane Watts

Bring it back to happiness

Working together is good for us build more resilient community

Q&A

The first question pointed out that the Leap Ahead plan did not seem to have much for the North Shore

“Now is not the time” to determine the details – though it does have a fast bus, and I suggested adding another SeaBus

The second noted that he used an illustration of Disneyland. Expectation of good time in built form

Tests in Disneyland show that architecture that speaks to us is good for well being

Technology in design of transportation

Vehicle sharing systems, driverless cars, use of Car2Go in East Vancouver shows that is a bedroom community. there are plenty of cars there overnight but none during the day. We have to have more activity in our residential areas – this is not a technology problem.

Eric Doherty pointed out that he had not mentioned climate change

“While it feels good to do the right thing but not everybody agrees on what that is. Trying to convince people to think like us does not work”. Gateway sucks did not work – it did nothing to convince people who had to drive that there was any concern over their needs.

How do we overcome this mindset of entitlement?

Golden (referring to the first presentation in this series) got all the players in the room and respecting others point of view. sophisticated comm??

Q from twitter on codes

Self reports on happiness higher in small towns

Rural areas

Everybody can benefit from a village

Codes for rural community Gordon Price commented  “The City is not shaped by market forces”

Nathan Woods (Unifor)  said: We need $3m and Brad Pitt. How do we get that?

Developers stand to benefit – they have the resources. The Surrey BoT strongly supports transit

Can you supply examples of success of postwar planning

Lewis Mumford
False Creek
New Urbanists
Seaside FL

Lean urbanism

Forest Hills Gardens NY (GP again)

Is a dense urban environment enough?

Towers are as bad for lack of trust as exurbs
Just pushing us together is not enough
“Lazy tower style in Vancouver”
Town houses, courtyards, green space

Example of Copenhagen – can we transfer that here?

The answer would be Long and complex. But in one word-  Experiment – just line Janette Sadik Kahn did with bike lanes in New York

Gordon Price pointed out how really emotional the fight over bike lanes here had become

Change is very difficult. Regarded as intrusive

One action for individuals?

Started out as a journalist feeling I had no right. We can all change a bit of the city. Those of us who live here have the right to change where we live

What has surprised you in the reactions since the book came out

Jarret Walker told me that on these examples its not the planners who are the problem. “We know that.  You have to convince the politicians … and the people.”
Try not to scare people

Someone from modo talked about Share Vancouver and its implication for resilience, during disasters for instance

Life changed in New York with Sandy. How can we create that sense of urgency?

Experiment Granville St what are we learning?

The questioner felt that all the changes we have seen have been controlled by the business community

Times Sq occurred with support from the BIA – who have benefitted as rents are now going up. The police closure of Granville St at weekends was a response to violence. It gave more space for people to move around and thus reduced conflicts

Councillor Susan Chappelle from Squamish said that they were trying to get  a regional transportation dialogue going – they are outside the Translink area with a small transit system provide by BC Transit.  They remain “disengaged”. The immense changes he talked about are not translated into budget of small town. In the current situation “Words are used, with no change happening.” Squamish is left disconnected

The measures are the same for reducing GHG and increasing happiness. Should we encourage commuting [between Squmish and Vancouver]? The industrial zoning is out of date.

Can design offset crime?  Social justice?

Some people assert “None of this is going to work until we overthrow the 1%” But his work shows that the way we design cities has an immediate impact. It’s an equity issue. Many people complain that they can’t afford to live here but then they oppose the density increase essential [to get reduced housing/transportation combination cost reduced]

Some who was arranging a summit of cultural planners pointed out how hard it was to get a large meeting to places which did not have good connections. Change the way transit works to support the summit

BC Transit should take cue from TransLink interagency approach We can crowd source all kinds of stuff

btw People actually talk on the #20 bus

Big issue is transit funding. A city has found solution?

Richmond is the only place where car ownership has fallen – obviously a response to the Canada Line
See the example of the Los Angeles referendum which was not just about transit – it paid for everything with something for everyone

REACTION

This was by far the best presentation in the series so far, in large part because it was not read from a script. He was speaking to the slides he was showing but clearly enjoyed interacting with the audience. It was indeed a performance – and a good one at that. On the other hand there did not seem to be a great deal that was new or remarkable in the content. Working in this field for forty years means that I have actually witnessed exactly the same set of prescriptions proffered for a what at the time seemed like different problems – congestion, growth, inequity, sustainability, bad air quality, global warming. And now happiness – or its absence.

I have got into a lot of trouble for stating unequivocally “transit sucks” to transit management. They of course would rather boast of their accomplishments, how well they do under difficult circumstances, and how resistant politicians are to pleas for more money. But the fact remains that despite increasing expenditures, the overall transit mode share is very difficult to change. We know what the solutions are – we always have done – but we seem reluctant to embrace the changes necessary. And he is probably right that we have an elite stuck in fast brain mode whenever they deal with these situations. He actually cited Kevin Falcon – more than once – and it seems to me he is right. The Jordon Batemans of course simply play to that preference. It is a lot easier than actually thinking clearly (slowly) and then acting.

 

 

Extending the Canada Line?

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UPDATED April 24, 2012

The headline in the Richmond Review actually reads “Extending the Canada Line won’t happen in our lifetime, says Richmond mayor”.

That is his opinion and he is entitled to it. But the – shortish – piece under it also illustrates not only why he may well be wrong, but also why Strategic Planning is too important to be left to politicians – or people who seriously think that perception is reality.

Malcolm Brodie has shown himself to be a capable politician – simply because he has survived in his position for such a long time, not been tempted to get out his depth, and now and again stood up to the bullies in the provincial government who come from the same part of the political spectrum as he does. I do not buy the appellation “non partisan”. Malcolm is no socialist, nor is he in the slightest danger of being labelled Green. But he also shows that his perspective is what the local electorate generally wants to hear. South of Granville, most of Richmond is still single family homes (though many have “mortgage helpers”) and, like most people up to the eyes in debt, deeply distrustful of change in the neighbourhoods. After all, that was why they bought where they did, and they do not want to find themselves living somewhere else without moving. So this kind of stuff plays well with the local Chamber of Commerce, which is where he was speaking.

But Richmond is changing, and changing fast, and not just in the bits served by the Canada Line. Though the massive retail development proposed in the Bridgeport area is getting the headlines, change is happening along the bus routes, because of a council decision that allows that. Even though only of one them is classified as frequent (#410). At one time most change was small bungalows on large lots getting replaced by monster homes. That still happens within the subdivisions, but along the edges (i.e the arterial roads that are bus routes) the development of choice is townhouses. Lots of them, packed in tight and usually with lane way access. Because even though there may be a bus route, most people are still going to drive and parking standards have not been relaxed.

This blog has consistently pointed out that the Canada Line was not, in fact “specifically built with the idea that it could be extended”. Malcolm and other Richmond Councillors might have thought that, but they were not in charge. In fact they wanted surface light rail on the old B Line “central reservation” – which could have been easily extended, much cheaper but was also incompatible with automatic train operation. The Canada Line has significant limitations – mostly short underground stations – and a P3 “concession agreement”. The single track bit in Richmond does limit frequency as it is operated in two directions.

South end of the Canada Line at Richmond-Brighouse Station

South end of the Canada Line at Richmond-Brighouse Station by "indyinsane", on Flickr

As I have said, what could be done is to build a one way loop by tacking new track on the end of the Brighouse Station and linking back to Lansdowne, taking in the areas with significant traffic generating potential. (No 3 to Granville, east on Granville, north on Garden City, west on Lansdowne). Then it can operate at line frequency as there would be no need to wait until the train gets back to Landowne. The loop might have stations at City Hall, and two more on Garden City.  Indeed, I can imagine the sort of people who think concrete would greatly improve the Garden City lands as salivating at that thought. Not that I am proposing such a thing – or even saying that it would be a Good Thing. Just sketching out a possibility.

I think the cited “$107.9 million per kilometre” as the cost of the line probably includes the very expensive underground route in Vancouver. Single track guideway around a couple of square kilometres of high rises might be a lot cheaper. Though don’t expect the people living at track level to cheer about that. Ideally, of course, one builds rail rapid transit before the people move in. Much easier then to get the thing accepted, and a much better rate of return on capital employed. There is even enough room on the ground, thanks to the old BCER tracks which ran along Garden City and Granville, explaining the generous right of way those roads have, and the bizarre layout of their intersection.

This might well happen, if things develop as nows seems likely. Peak oil, and the lack of affordability of electric cars means that finally Greater Vancouver could get serious about providing alternatives to single occupant motor vehicles. This would be because transit is much more fuel efficient per passenger kilometre even if it is in old diesel buses – and exponentially better if it is in modern electric trains. And the majority of people who live in Richmond now are not people like Malcolm Brodie. They know at first hand what very high residential densities and excellent public transport look like. They just have not been very much involved in municipal politics – as the present ethnic make up of Richmond Council makes clear.

Of course, some of the other likely scenarios have to play out differently too. The major earthquake and tsunami might not happen for a while longer – or we may have actually done something effective to mitigate their impacts. Similarly sea level rise – expected to be much higher in the Pacific North West – will happen, but for Richmond to continue to exist will require a radically changed approach to flood prevention. Salt water ingress into the soil may have some impact on the remaining agricultural lands (if they have not all been paved for port expansion) but fresh water flow from the Fraser might hold that back – despite the loss of the last glaciers and much less snow pack.

One thing I would caution people like Malcolm making prognostications like this is the propensity of history to show that they were wrong and often much sooner than you might think. It does seem to me that those who have been saying that the North American style of car oriented suburb was a short lived idea and one that has now seen its heyday pass are much better founded in their understanding than someone who says “you’re going to have a huge expense for really very little value in terms of densities”. Malcolm really does not understand what is happening in the broadest sense. It may play well now that we are embroiled in trying to cut costs and avoid more property taxes, but it is very short term, local thinking.  And that worries me when we say that the Mayors need to be in charge of the agency that plans the region’s transportation system.

Written by Stephen Rees

April 20, 2012 at 10:43 am

Changes Coming to Bus Routes to UBC?

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Mathew Laird has just tweeted

Hearing rumours the 480 is to be eliminated and the 100 extended to UBC. Direct bus from #newwest to UBC in the near future? Interesting…

The #480 is one of the heaviest loading bus routes in the region. When the Canada Line was introduced, most bus routes got shifted around so that the train would do most of the heavy lifting for traffic between Richmond and Vancouver. The UBC route was an exception, since the east west routes that link from Canada Line stations to UBC were already over capacity – especially the #99 B Line along Broadway. The articulated buses from the old #98 B Line were diverted to the #480 – and other routes like the #49, #43, #44 and so on.

Oddly enough I was recently being passed by a southbound #480 on Granville Street in Marpole. It struck me that it is the only survivor of a whole series of bus routes that used to do the somewhat circuitous routing of Granville, South West Marine, Hudson, and then 71st Ave to the Oak Street Bridge

#480 route diagram

The southern end of the #480 route diagram

What struck me then – and is quite obvious from the map – is that the current routing to Bridgeport Station actually duplicates part of the Canada Line – and that Marine Drive Station is a lot closer. Of course, at one time the #480 would take you to Richmond Centre (Brighouse) and even, on otherwise deadhead runs, all the way to Steveston and Shell (the Richmond Operating Centre). I bemoaned its loss then.

Loadings on the #100 between Marine Drive and 22nd Street stations cannot be anything like those between UBC and the Canada Line on the #480. But maybe the number gets changed if the new routing is different to the dog’s leg of the #480 (41st Ave and Granville) but took the more obviously direct routing of South West Marine Drive. That takes me back to my days working at BC Transit when I was regularly lobbied by the locals along the Drive who feared a direct bus past their doors to UBC. While there is no service bus along that route, I have seen many dead head miles run that way. So perhaps opposition these days is not as strong as it once was?

480 at UBC May 2010

480 at UBC May 2010 my photo on flickr

One thing is for sure. If there is a reworking of the #100 expect much of it to be short turns UBC to Marine Drive and not a lot of it going all the way to New Westminster!

Afterthoughts

In all fairness to the good folk of SW Marine Drive, I should make it clear that they did not so much oppose a direct bus as express the fear that we (BC Transit) would be persuaded to run a direct bus as a way for the City Engineers to then press for a widening of the Drive to four lanes. At the time I thought that showed a remarkable faith in our resources (even then buses were overcrowded and there weren’t nearly enough of them to meet demand on existing routes) and the City’s willingness to spend money on roads. While I am sure that there were some engineers who would have salivated at the thought, the City Transportation Plan was very clear in its opposition to increasing general purpose traffic capacity. And the same engineers then bitterly opposed any and all suggestions about bus priority in general and bus lanes in particular. It’s all different these days, of course.

The #100 was at that time a very long and highly unreliable route from 22nd Street to the Airport. It operated from the Port Coquitlam Operating Centre as there was simply not enough room at the Oakridge Operating Centre. Though there was no deadheading – it operated on one of the New West – PoCo routes to get to and from home base. Indeed, even now reliability of a UBC – New Westminster route via South West and South East Marine Drives would be a real issue. It does now however run past the new Vancouver Operating Centre – so a lot of revenue and non revenue miles of the present #480 would be saved.

I am not sure about the amount of space on the trains though.

Written by Stephen Rees

January 13, 2012 at 11:08 am

Cambie Corridor plans puts Vancouverism to the test

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Hadani Ditmars in the Globe and Mail examines what is going to be happening at two stations on the new Canada Line.   There is to be a new development at Marine Drive and the Oakridge Mall is getting a makeover. There is a surprisingly positive view given by Patrick Condon, who elsewhere has been critical of this sort of point intensity of development preferring the mid rise, spread along the street style of development that follows streecars. Rapid transit of any kind has fewer stations than streetcars have stops, so the development tends to cluster around the station and density declines as distance from the station increases. Or would do if the planning was done properly – Stockholm being about the best example.

Train leaving Marine Drive station

Canada Line train leaving Marine Drive station my photo on flickr

I do not yet see that the “corridor” itself is going to see a lot of change. There are many home owners now asking for very large prices for their low density buildings along the street, which prompted a reaction from the city planner who pointed out that developers have to pay development cost charges to the city, and the sort of prices being asked and the likely permitted density increase did not add up to viable projects.

What I think is remarkable is how late the development is occurring. Most of it has yet to have much of a physical manifestation and it is only occurring at two points. Contrast that to the way Richmond’s city centre has been expanding – upwards – since the announcement of the line was made, with new developments open as soon as the line was and more on the way. In fact some of the development – out by the Oval and No 2 Road is quite remote from the line – and, indeed, any transit at all. There used to be a #492 express bus on weekday peak periods over the No 2 Bridge and direct to downtown. That went when the B line came in and was quickly revived when the loadings far exceeded expectations. The current idea is that people will take the #402 to Brighouse Station and wait in line for the single line shuttle  service. Actually people wanting a seat tend to get on the southbound train at the previous station to ensure they get one and put up with the slower journey time. Brighouse still does not have a purpose built bus station – unlike Marine Drive.

I think there is very little point spending huge amounts of money on rapid transit systems unless you are willing to allow much greater densities. The lack of development along the Expo line in East Vancouver being something that I used to take groups of people to see, since they had heard so much about the success of Vancouver’s downtown and thought that somehow this progressive attitude extended geographically. Until now, within the City, about the only place which has seen significant change has been Joyce-Collingwood where industrial land was converted to dense, affordable housing – by reducing parking requirements.

The new buildings going up on No 3 Road have not had their parking requirements reduced. Indeed they are actually building underground parking – something hitherto only seen at City Hall. That recognizes that for a lot of Richmond residents employment is not in Vancouver but in other suburbs, and that the car is still the dominant form of commuting. Despite the raised bike lanes.

No 3 at Firbridge site

Underground parking construction Firbridge at No 3 Road my photo on flickr

Development which actually increases parking supply (these sites were formerly car showrooms) inevitably increases car use – even if there is a rapid transit line nearby. Indeed, when the first Toronto subway opened along Yonge Street, traffic got worse. The removal of streetcars allowed more road space for cars, but the new high rise buildings at the stations had parking included in them.

I certainly congratulate Translink on its performance last year. It was a very good lesson in getting quarts into pint pots. I just think that they will hit the limit of what that can achieve fairly quickly. The Canada Line was built down to a price, and is going to be a problem when expansion become necessary. And if the development along the Cambie corridor exceeds the present two sites and becomes more widespread, the limits of that capacity will be reached very quickly indeed. In the meantime, what money is being spent is wasted on the pointless gating system.

Vancouver – and its region – desperately needs more and better transit and much more transportation choice. That is not news of course. And so far the region as a whole seems not to have embraced the idea that underlies the Vancouver Transportation plan  – that human powered modes and transit should have priority. Density is still a dirty word – just like traffic congestion. And for a good summary of the history of that I recommend the ever more prolific Gordon Price – and endorse his recommendations.

Written by Stephen Rees

January 5, 2012 at 1:55 pm

Posted in Urban Planning

Tagged with ,

Vancouver considers higher-density housing plans for Cambie Street corridor

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The City of Vancouver is running public consultation meetings on changes to planning policies in the wake of the Canada Line. Jeff Lee has a useful summary of the issue – and local attitudes –  in the Sun today.

Of course I am very much in favour of increased density around the stations that did get built. No point now worrying about the ones that were promised for the future. Just like the ones on the Expo line that we have long forgotten about. The lesson to be learned was what happened back then when communities around the stations at 29th Avenue and Nanaimo were consulted. Communities tend to be resistant to change – especially the people who come out to consultation meetings. Such is the strength of feeling that some will feel reluctant to be seen to be on the wrong side. But having invested huge sums in infrastructure, it is folly to allow the capacity to remain unused. Of course, on the Expo Line that is exactly what happened. The trains were  so expensive that BC Transit could not afford to buy more.

But the question of capacity is going to get mighty tricky on the Canada Line. Ridership is already well above forecast – and the lack of ability to increase service has been discussed here often enough (click on the tag at the bottom of this piece to find articles). The current restraints that matter are Translink’s lack of funding – they cannot expand service overall and currently are simply reallocating service hours around the system. The secret contract seems to contain some very expensive provisions too: even though we pay for these we are not allowed to know the details. They could run trains more often – though the length of single tracks at the outer ends limits that considerably. They could switch capacity from the airport to Richmond but won’t, due to the deal with YVR. In the future they might be able to get some centre cars added to the trains, and operate with selective door opening at many stations. I say “might” because that capital project would compete with other projects. The contest between relieving overcrowding or providing new services to places with little transit has usually been won by Vancouver, but may not necessarily.

Fortunately there is also plenty of on street capacity available. Andrea Reimer wants to dictate to the developers about LEED standards for the new buildings (see Michael Geller’s blog about why that is not quite as simple as she thinks). I think she might be better occupied with cutting parking requirements for new developments (with a bonus for developers who give their buyers membership in car coops and provide space exclusive to shared cars), cutting on street parking – and making provision for bike parking and bike sharing. Ideally of course there would be some co-ordination between the City planning and the transit planning. Richmond jumped on the ability to get greater density near its stations and much of that is now visible – with more to come at Sexsmith at about the same time as the new developments at Marine Drive come on line I should think. The plan should also look beyond residential and be determinedly mixed use – especially in the vicinity of Marine Drive station where there are huge amounts of riverside land available due to the loss of saw mills and related uses. Instead of seeing the area as a dormitory for Richmond’s business parks – none of which has much viable alternative to car use for commuters – the developments should positively encourage a mix of uses so that the people who move into the new houses can find employment in walking or cycling distance.

Articulated trolleybus whizzes by a bump out stop

Articulated trolleybus whizzes by a bump out stop - my photo

And we can also increase bus service on Cambie – and may well have no choice in the short term as the trains fill up and the lead time to raise more money and get new cars for them increases. Indeed one transit advocacy group has been calling for the reinstatement of the trolley wire ever since Canada line construction finished. As we have seen on Main Street, frequent regular high capacity trolley buses can move lots of people. Given the design of stations, access times to board a train are actually a deterrent and for short trips bus – with suitable priority measures such as the bus boarders at stops already installed on Main – will be competitive if service is frequent enough. At a recent meeting with Translink planners they changed their tune about the current design of Canada Line stations being essential for passengers’ security and even said that additional entrances were always part of the long term plan. So expect some digging on the west side of Cambie at 41st for a start! I will believe that when I see it. But i do think that there is a case for local transit improvements as well as regional transit improvements. It is a bit like the argument for streetcars: but of course for some people anything on the surface with steel wheels is a streetcar.

Portland Streetcar

Portland Streetcar - photo by K Gradinger on flickr

Written by Stephen Rees

May 6, 2011 at 12:12 pm

Posted in transit, Urban Planning

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