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

Posts Tagged ‘Vancouver

Arbutus Greenway North End

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We walked from Valley to Granville Island today. Since I was on foot there are more photos than the last episode.

Arbutus Greenway North End

A woodchip trail has now been laid parallel to the blacktop between King Ed and 16th.

Arbutus Greenway North End

It would appear that some of the neighbours have needed to adapt a STOP sign to something more needful.

Arbutus Greenway North End

The first bike rental station I have seen on the Greenway itself, but I am still not tempted to use them – they are just too pricey. $7 a day – as long as the none of the individual rides is longer than 30 minutes.

Arbutus Greenway North End

The crossing at 12th seems to be utterly contrary to the City’s stated priorities: cyclists are expected to get off and walk their bike down to Arbutus street and back again.

Arbutus Greenway North End

From 10th to Broadway is the only section that has not yet seen any blacktop.

I have not taken any pictures of the crossing of Broadway since there isn’t one. There is also no signage. One group of cyclists we saw were riding in circles trying to see what it was they were supposed to be doing. The answer of course is to walk to the existing crosswalk at Arbutus Street.

Arbutus Greenway North End

There isn’t any official public art on the Greenway yet but this piece seems worthwhile.

Arbutus Greenway North End

This is the City’s poster on the trail – actually almost at the same point where the photo was taken before it was photoshopped to show the chip trail and “divided” blacktop.

Arbutus Greenway North End

It was a nice day today

The crossing of Burrard Street is all in place but just not working yet. Even so, compliance seems admirable. Down at the Fir Street playground things seem to fizzle out. Like the southern end there is no signage but at least the right of way between 5th and 4th has been kept clear of parked cars, unlike the following sections.

Arbutus Greenway North End

Written by Stephen Rees

March 25, 2017 at 4:03 pm

“Increased B.C. tanker traffic will be safe”

with one comment

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This is the claim by Canada’s Transport Minister Marc Garneau, which is examined in a CBC documentary. There is no commenting permitted under the article on the web page.

So I posted this to facebook instead

I read the article, I listened carefully to the video report. There were many references to “products” “diesel” and even “Alberta oil”. But what will be coming down the pipeline and will be shipped on the tankers – and transhipped to super tankers somewhere offshore – is diluted bitumen. And that is not a “product”. It is not even crude oil. It is heavy tar mixed with sand that has had about a quarter of its volume added with natural gas liquids. Diluted bitumen. In a spill the diluent evaporates, and tar sand sinks. It has been years since the Kalamazoo river spill – and that is far from clean. No one in this documentary talks about dilbit.

And dilbit sinks. It is not recoverable and pollutes for a long time. And we need answers that are appropriate to the problem. Talking about diesel – or even bunker C, the guck that spilled in our harbour recently from a bulk grain carrier – is not relevant. The risks of a dilbit spill have not been presented or assessed in this report. How can they say it will be safe?

And just in case you think that because dilbit sinks it won’t be an issue, let me remind you of this

Not enough is known about the impact oilsands bitumen could have on ocean plants and animals to assess the risks of moving it through marine environments, according to a new study.

“Basic information is lacking or unavailable for several key sources of stress and disturbance, making it impossible to carry out a complete risk assessment,” said the paper, which draws its conclusion from an examination of more than 9,000 papers on oil and the environment.

The paper has been peer reviewed and will be published next month in the journal Frontiers in the Ecology and Environment. Although it has been shared with the federal government, it has not been publicly released.

That was in the Vancouver Sun on November 30

I did write to the West Coast Marine Response Corporation, and this is what I got back

We did discuss diluted bitumen with the CBC, but that portion of the interview was not included in their final edit.

The body in Canada that is responsible for looking into the fate and behaviour of hydrocarbons in the ocean is Environment Canada. They published a report in 2013 on the topic, which you can read here: https://www.ec.gc.ca/scitech/6A2D63E5-4137-440B-8BB3-E38ECED9B02F/1633_Dilbit%20Technical%20Report_e_v2%20FINAL-s.pdf

For WCMRC comments on diluted bitumen, I would refer you to our submission to the TMX panel, you can read that document here: http://wcmrc.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/TMX-Ministerial-Panel-WCMRC-Presentation-August-16-2016.pdf

I have just started reading the first of those reports, and was surprised to read

A diluted bitumen blend spill occurred in 2007 from a pipeline operated by Kinder Morgan into Burrard Inlet, Burnaby, B.C. (TSB, 2007). The product spilled was Albian Heavy, a blend of synthetic crude oil and heavier oil sands product. Approximately 224 cubic metres of oil were released, with 210 cubic metres being recovered (TSB, 2007). Oil escaped under pressure from a pipeline rupture. Spilled oil migrated through the sewer system into Burrard Inlet where it began to spread on the water. Approximately 15 000 m of shoreline were affected by the spill.

An assessment of the spill clean-up and environmental impacts was commissioned by Kinder Morgan five years after the spill (Stantec Consulting Ltd., 2012b). The report of that assessment indicated that spill response operations were effective at removing oil from the environment and in limiting the short- and long-term effects of the spill. Oil was recovered by skimming and booming, as well as by flushing and removal from the affected shorelines.

Though shoreline intertidal zones were oiled, most marine sediments had only a small increase in measured PAH concentrations, with 20 of 78 monitored sites exceeding water quality guidelines (Stantec Consulting Ltd., 2012b). Levels of extractable hydrocarbons and PAHs for surface water quality requirements were met in 2007. Subtidal marine sediments were monitored through 2011, with most samples having levels of PAHs below the water quality requirements. Those subtidal sediment samples that did exceed the maximum regulated PAH levels appeared to be caused by sources other than the spill. Based on these observations, only trace amounts or less of oil from the 2007 spill appear to have remained in the marine harbour sediments.

and from the conclusions

This work demonstrates that, in waters where fine- to moderate-sized sediment is present, these oils are at risk to sink, when there is a high degree of mixing energy available. However, the effects of different mixing regimes, including current flow, on oil-sediment interactions have not been examined in the present work. Comparisons to meso-scale testing in lower mixing energies by other researchers have revealed some differences between, for example, water-uptake by oils. Testing in the wave tank described in Chapter 5, moderate mixing of the oil-sediment aggregates, resulted in a suspension of the materials. Available mixing energy factors seem to have an influence on the fate of the formed oil-sediment aggregates. While the present work illustrates some of the forms that these oils may possibly adopt following a spill, more work is needed to understand the mechanisms and rates of formation of these states, and to understand the factors that govern the transitions between these fates. [emphasis added]

Written by Stephen Rees

December 6, 2016 at 9:27 pm

Arbutus Greenway Conversations

with 2 comments

There is nothing scientific about this: merely talking to the people we happen to meet when walking on the Greenway. I am astonished how much information people are willing to share. I think it is an affirmation of how effective the current work has been that people actually want to stop and talk about it. I have yet to meet anyone who opposes the use of black top. And on the section between 16th and 33rd where the work has been completed, I have only heard positive comments.

Today we met a woman who had been in charge of the work creating the BC Parkway (formerly the BCER right of way through Burnaby and New Westminster). She was most impressed by what has been done north of 33rd, where we met her, but was unaware of the opposition to the use of blacktop. She felt that rolled gravel was far inferior, and would be the cause of greater injury to cyclists.

“You come off on gravel, that’s gonna hurt!”

Rolled gravel greenway south of 33rd Ave

This is the unpaved surface south of the 33rd Avenue crossing: it is going to be like this all the way to South West Marine and beyond.

We also discussed the politics of the decision. There are some people who feel that the priority for City funds should be affordable housing, meeting the needs of the homeless rather than a public amenity for one of the wealthiest  neighbourhoods. “But this” she said, indicating the Greenway, “is going to be available to everyone. And it’s going to be a great place to teach children how to bicycle. I taught my kids to cycle in a cemetery. There’s not much traffic and they don’t drive fast there.” She was also unaware of the upcoming consultations, so I pointed her to the sign (actually now set up again but facing the wrong way) which has the URL of the city information piece.

“I’m going to buy a bench for it!” She had also not heard of the use of movable tables and chairs in New York City for places like Times Square.

We also met Gabriel, on his electric scooter. My partner wondered to me if he was in the wrong place – but I pointed out it was not a motor scooter, as it was silent! He told us that the scooter is speed limited [“no faster than 32 km/h on level ground“]. He was very pleased to see the improvement which eases his commute: he works in one of the houses along the way. We talked about the process of consultation. He was full of ideas about what could go along the greenway. Perhaps the most far sighted was his idea for a roundabout to replace the current complex double signals at 41st Ave and the Boulevards. He thought that a large enough public space in the middle would become a popular meeting place, if properly designed, and a great improvement in the urban streetscape.

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Earlier this week we met some people on bicycles, peering over the barriers at 16th Avenue where the gravel starts.

Rolled gravel Arbutus Greenway at 16th Ave north side

They were not inclined to proceed further, and turned around to retrace their route back up to Kerrisdale. They had some fairly pointed views on those who opposed the use of blacktop.

POSTSCRIPT I have just read another blog post in the form of a letter to Council on the issue from the perspective of someone who uses a wheelchair. Essential reading, I think,  for a number of reasons.

Written by Stephen Rees

August 10, 2016 at 7:08 pm

King Edward bike lanes

with 3 comments

This item was inspired by one of Ken Ohrn’s posts on Price Tags. Not that I am complaining, you understand. One must acknowledge that an effort is being made to improve cycling safety here, but at this particular location not much more was needed to produce something that would actually be safe. Designated lanes are better than sharrows – or nothing at all – but a painted line does not really do much to actually separate out two different  modes. A kerb would be better: a boulevard or barrier even more so.

The road is very wide with a large park like central median with mature trees. While the posted speed is the standard 50 km/hr the combination of the median and the broad paved area encourages much faster speeds. I observe that when I or my partner drive at the posted speed, everyone else is moving much faster. Since these improvements were made that has got a bit better at busy periods.

W/b at Valley looking east

This is the intersection of King Edward and Valley. It was formerly one moving traffic lane with parking permitted at the kerb. Paint has been used to designate a bike lane between the parked cars at the curb and the general purpose (GP)  traffic lane. You will also note that only a very short length of the curb lane becomes a right turn lane at the intersection.

If the double white line had been moved towards the curb by a metre then the parked cars would have acted as a buffer between the moving vehicle traffic and the bicycles, and the risk of dooring by a driver reduced. Of course, the risk of dooring by a disembarking passenger would have been greater and the bus stops required a different treatment.

e/b at Valley

The bus stop is on the far side of the intersection (of course) and the bollards have been put in now to stop the parking space being used as a queue jumper. Traffic backs up down the hill from the traffic light at Arbutus Street. You will also observe that there are no cars parked when the picture was taken (mid afternoon, weekday). That is because there is ample off street parking provided within the Arbutus Village development on the right. There is really no need for parking along this side of this part of the avenue. Prior to this work there were essentially two travel lanes – and a bit of a freeway mentality for the car drivers.   The green paint patches are for the driveways at the Village entrances/exits.

Now some will say that additional road width would be needed to allow for a proper protected bike lane. It seems to me that a narrower GP travel lane is already in place but has not done very much to reduce speeds. I suppose old habits die hard. Moreover there is plenty of space available but we do get awfully close to a knee jerk reaction when trees and lawn are threatened. Up at the Arbutus Intersection the paved right turn lane has been extended – simply because the large number of hefty off road pick ups and all wheel drive SUVs had created a longer informal turn lane out of the uncurbed median.

Screen Shot 2016-03-09 at 3.23.31 PMThis is the Google map view

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Written by Stephen Rees

March 9, 2016 at 3:28 pm

The Ridge Redevelopment

with 3 comments

The Ridge

This is a new development that has recently been completed on Arbutus Street at 16th Avenue in Vancouver. It replaced a string of mostly single story small stores, the cinema and a bowling alley.

The Ridge Theatre

Here is what it looked like in April 2012. The only thing that has been kept is the sign, now above the entrance to the condominiums, around which the City Market has wrapped itself. The store occupies the most of the ground floor and has parking underneath.

The service road in front of the block that used to provide surface parking has become an open plaza currently being used to display seasonal offerings. Like the lower level elevator lobby to the parking, the goods on display appear to be just available for the taking, though I assume there must be some surveillance. The store has its own elevator to the parking level (P1)  the condos have their parking on the lower levels, with the own elevator.

The overall development is only four storeys which I assume reflects the cost of providing underground parking. Two surface lots on adjacent blocks north west of Arbutus, which used to be part of the parking serving the site are now closed off, presumably for more redevelopment. Access to the underground parking is through the rear lane, whose access and agrees at each end has been rounded off to deter left turns.

There was no requirement to replace the social function provided by either the cinema or the bowling alley, both of which were going concerns, if not as financially attractive to the land owner as the offer from Cressey. The City Market is a newish Loblaw offering but with more prepared food and organic produce, aiming at the Whole Foods/Shaughnessy market. They are not competing on price with the established food stores. It is a franchise operation, run by the man who used to have the Extra Foods store in the same location.

Certainly progress in terms of densification if lacking in the diversity of uses apparent in the older picture. Consistent with the aim of increasing population in what is essentially an inner suburb, but with little opportunity for any social interaction other than retail. The City Market does have a small cafe, with real gelato even in November, and I suppose that might spread onto the patio in summer. But I do not see this as much of a destination, or especially urban.

This block, with the gas station on the other side of 16th, marks the end of what is almost continuous retail down to Broadway. There is single family residential from here to King Edward, then multi family and a small mall with a large Safeway. And that is the next major redevelopment site.

Arbutus mall

Again, this will become condos over ground level retail with underground parking. Though some of the old ladies in my building wonder about how they will deal with ground water here, as the back of the lot used to be a swamp that was filled with sand to allow for development.

And, in case you notice any difference with formatting in this post it is the first time I have used the WordPress app for Mac.

If you like this sort of thing Changing Vancouver does it better – but is not really interested in the suburbs (which, as Gordon Price once pointed out to me, start at 12th Avenue).

Written by Stephen Rees

November 27, 2015 at 1:21 pm

Policy Recommendations to Combat Vancouver Housing Unaffordability

with 7 comments

This is a bit frustrating, but it derives from a feature of Tumblr that does not permit comments. In view of recent experience I must admit to being tempted to move this blog to Tumblr. So, to you new readers looking at this paragraph and thinking about telling me I am wrong, and then going on to insult me – and even issue death threats for being blocked – I am NOT going to allow your comment to appear until I am satisfied that you are not just another troll.

The link to this quote came up on Twitter and is very interesting: I do not know the author (Saeid Fard) but Wisemonkeysblog is a good source of useful tweets and retweets

The piece opens

There has been a lot of talk from all three levels of government addressing Vancouver’s (and the rest of Canada’s to a lesser extent) housing affordability problem. Each has taken its turn to punt the issue to another level of government. In that vane, here is a non-exhaustive list of policy solutions that would attack the issue along with a highly subjective measure of expected impact.

and there are some ideas I will pass over. But not this one

 

Invest in (fast) transit

Expected Impact: Low to Medium
Jurisdiction: Municipal (with Provincial cooperation)

A better transit system in Greater Vancouver would connect more affordable neighbourhoods to the core and unlock their livability. Vancouver does have natural, geographic boundaries like oceans and mountains that restrict how far we can develop, but a lot of our constraints are self-imposed. In cities like New York, you can live as far away as Connecticut and still make it to midtown in about an hour. You can’t get to downtown Vancouver from parts of Burnaby in that time during rush hour.

There are several observations that occur to me. Impact is likely better than anticipated but will take time, firstly because it is not just provincial cooperation that is needed, the feds have to come up with their third too. But even if the Yes side gets a majority in the current (we are still counting) plebiscite, it is NOT binding and what would you bet on Christy finding reasons why BC can’t afford more transit for Metro Vancouver.

Moreover, a lot of employment is outside of downtown Vancouver, and much of that in places difficult to serve with any kind of transit. But also, of course, by “fast” I think he means grade separated trains and those take a long time to build.

Burnaby actually has more, and faster, transit options, than nearly any other municipality. They have also rejected trolleybus extensions (Corrigan can’t stand the wires) and an additional WCE station to help BCIT students and workers on the Willingdon corridor get to their TriCities/Maple Meadows homes faster.

Anyway, “faster” transit may not help if the overall trip is less convenient, due to transfers, access and so on. Often what is needed is not so much faster transit as more frequent, reliable transit and better route penetration into low density areas to reduce access times. When the overall trip experience includes long walks, indeterminate waits and discomfort (no shelter, no seat, no toilets at the station) it doesn’t matter how fast the transit vehicle is. Moreover, in some cases, you also need to be able to get on and not have to watch one or more transit vehicles depart without you.

But you regular readers know that and I doubt Tumblr readers will find their way here. Will they?

Afterthought: but I was also going to say that the original concerns about suburban sprawl appeared long before freeways did. Railways – interurbans and rapid transit – spurred dramatic growth on the edges of what had been fairly compact areas from the middle of the nineteenth century onwards. I know several people who were greatly concerned that the opening of West Coast Express would turn more of Maple Ridge, Pitt Meadows and Mission into bedroom communities. I am not sure if anyone has done any follow up research on that, and the lack of a proper census probably renders that moot now.

 

Written by Stephen Rees

June 20, 2015 at 6:14 pm

Posted in transit

Tagged with , ,

Election Impact on Transportation

with 12 comments

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I got a call this morning from Global BC, inviting my opinions for their live cable news show which only goes to Shaw customers. So if you have some other way of getting tv, this will help fill the gap. Gordon Price was in the same coat closet sized “studio” ready to follow me, for another show and the same subject. While he was talking to me I heard the feed from Burnaby in my earpiece, where Keith Baldrey was playing down the likelihood of a Broadway Subway. He said that Christy Clark has no interest at all in funding a project for a constituency that had rejected her but would probably be very willing to help Surrey get LRT. Oddly, Gordon was pointing out almost simultaneously that former Mayor Diane Watts would be able to do some of the heavy lifting for the same project in Ottawa. So no wonder Linda Hepner seems so confident that she can deliver an LRT for Surrey by 2018.

What I had to say was that she seems to be implementing Plan B – what do we do if the referendum fails? – before Plan A had even been tried. Plan A requires agreement on the question – still to be decided – on how to fund the project list decided by the Mayors before the election. In order for any package to be acceptable there has to be something for everyone. There was no doubt in anyone’s mind that if one project was seen to take precedence, that would be the death knell for any funding proposal that did not deliver for the rest of the region. The Mayors, under the guidance Greg Moore, re-elected Mayor of Port Coquitlam, have been acting very collegially up to now. Translink is not just a transit agency, so there would be some road projects for the parts of the region where transit cannot be a significant contributor for some time. And no-one was being allowed to play the “me first” card.

Actually, given the political cynicism  realism I was hearing from Baldrey and Price, perhaps this explains why Kirk LaPointe was so confident that he could deliver transit for Broadway better than Gregor Robertson. Peter Armstrong – who paid for much of the NPA campaign – must have given him some reason for believing that he would be favoured by the federal Conservatives (who featured so prominently in the revived NPA organization apparently) – and maybe even the province too.

It is very sad indeed that we cannot talk about how will build a sustainable region and meet the challenges of a world that will be sending us more people – whether we have plans to accommodate them or not. How we move to higher densities without upsetting existing residents, how more people can give up using their cars for every trip as things become more accessible and walkable, how transit becomes one of several better options than driving a single occupant car that is owned – not shared. How we have a region wide conversation on what needs to be done, and how we pay for that, in a way that satisfies a whole range of wants and needs across communities.

Worse, that is seems to be really easy to get funding for a major upgrade to a freeway interchange in North Vancouver when there seems to be no possibility of relieving overcrowding on the #99 B-Line. No doubt the new highway bridge between Richmond and Delta will still get precedence in provincial priorities. Once the Evergreen Line is finished there will be the usual protracted process before the next transit project starts moving and, as we saw with the Canada Line, perhaps expecting more than one major project at a time is over optimistic. The province also has to find a great deal of money for BC Ferries, since it seemed very easy to make a decision on the Horseshoe Bay to Nanaimo route really quickly – without any clear source of additional financing for the identified structural upgrades its continuation demands.

If the fix is really in for Surrey, who is going to find the local contribution? Assume that the feds and province pick up a third each, can Surrey cover the rest alone? Is it likely that the other Mayors will vote for a package that gives the major capital spending preference to Surrey? And if not, and Surrey does find a way to that – a P3 is always a possibility – do Surrey transit riders and taxpayers pick up that tab? Who operates Surrey LRT and will it have the same fare system – or do the rest of us have to pay more for that?

No I couldn’t cover all of that in the time allotted to me. I spent longer getting down there and back than I did talking. But these ideas and the questions they raise seem worth discussion below.