Bike Parking Overflow

Pacific Centre had a problem — underground bike parking was overflowing. So the landlord (Cadillac Fairview) hired the Bicycle Valet to provide “CF Bike Valet” services, located just east of the Howe and Georgia entrance to Pacific Centre.

The service had around 40 bikes parked when I visited, with room for a few more.  The bright young folks operating it told me that they’d love to attract more retail shop employees, and that if a customer rolled up on their bike, they’d probably find a spot for that bike too, while the customer went shopping.

The End of the Shopping Mall As We Know It


Strong Towns Image

As reported by CNN Money  nearly 25 per cent of all shopping malls in the United States will be closing within five years. While shopping malls used to serve as vending and social places, consumerism seems to be in decline generally, and certainly accelerated with the rise of online stores like Amazon.

As Credit Suisse reports, the United States undertook phenomenal mall development in fifty years, from 300 enclosed malls in 1970 to 1,211 today.  Credit Suisse suggests there is a retail bubble with too many stores being built, and point out that foot traffic at malls has been steadily declining for years. While online sales of consumer good is 17 per cent in the United States today, it is expected to double to 35 per cent by 2030. That decline in mall sales is borne out by the fact that “Department stores have lost more jobs than coal mines”.

And the number of mall anchor stores closing in the United States is sobering-Sears is closing 150 Sears and Kmart branded stores, while JCPenny is closing 138 stores. “Credit Suisse estimates that a record 8,600 stores will close this year alone. That’s far more than the record 6,200 stores that closed in 2008, the first year of the Great Recession”.  Even Home Depot is afraid that “Amazonification” will cut into their business, with stock down 3 per cent despite high earnings.

Despite these numbers, the CEO of the International Centre of Shopping Centres (yes it actually exists) is upbeat about the future, saying that occupancy rates are at 93 per cent and the store closures represent a small percentage of the square footage occupied. And, the CEO still sees the enclosed mall as a “social gathering place”, despite the renewed interest and renaissance of  main street store front retail.

Meanwhile Ivanhoe Cambridge which owns and manages Tsawwassen Mills, the 1.2 million square foot mall near Tsawwassen  as well as CrossIron Mills Mall near Calgary and Vaughan Mills near Toronto has released some preliminary figures on performance. It seems that Tsawwassen Mills Mall is making $275 per commercial retail unit square foot compared to $660 per square foot in Calgary and $792 per square foot in Toronto. The overall gross sales volume is also very low when compared to the two other Mega Mills Malls in the portfolio. Is this due to the mall’s newness, its location, or are Metro Vancouver residents early adapters to online consumerism?




Dockless Bikes Making a Big Comeback in China



Bloomberg Image

The Economist reports on a new trend  that is getting attention in China-the return of the bicycle. Unlike the conventional docking systems that are used for bike-sharing initiatives in many cities, a user-friendly approach has been taken in China where bike rental is paid for by smart phone and then the bike can be left anywhere after the ride.  The use of GPS technology enables the bikes to be located with a mobile app. Since the typical bike ride by bike share is about fifteen cents or one yuan, and since bikes can move faster in areas that cars cannot, bike share has caught on.

Established in 2015, bike share company “OFO” has over 2.5 million bike share yellow framed bikes in more than fifty Chinese cities, with rival Mobike installing bright orange wheeled bikes. Things must be going well as Ofo is now commencing bike share services in Singapore and San Diego, as well as Cambridge England.

So has the dockless bike system had challenges?  “Some riders hide the bikes in or near their homes to prevent others from using them. Another trick involves photographing a bike’s QR code and then scratching it off to stop others from scanning it. With the stored image, the rider can then monopolise the machine. But customers caught misbehaving can have points deducted from their accounts, making it more expensive for them to rent the bikes.”

While thirty years ago 63 per cent of people in Beijing biked, the number today is only 12 per cent, perhaps because cycling in China is dangerous-40 per cent of road accidents include bicycles. Previously installed bike lanes have been taken out to make room for cars, and bicycles are seen as causing congestion according to “some city authorities”.   “This month the southern city of Shenzhen ordered limits on the number of shared bikes. Other cities, including Shanghai and Beijing, are considering similar measures.”

While bicycles are battling for their road share, the use of bikes does represent sustainability and reduced carbon emissions, both goals that China is striving for. Will Chinese cities be willing to retool their boulevards and plazas for bike lanes  to accommodate the return of the bike?


Image Deal Street Asia


Job Jar — Director, Advocacy, GVBoT

Permanent full-time position:  Director Advocacy and Stakeholder Relations, Greater Vancouver Board of Trade.  Apply by 9:00 a.m., PDT, Aug 25, 2017.

As our Director, Advocacy and Stakeholder Relations, you will be at the forefront of one of the largest, contemporary and most relevant business associations in North America. You will be joining a dynamic and ambitious senior management team who are relentlessly focused on meeting the 21st century needs of our region’s business community. You will have clearly demonstrated the abilities to lead, to effectively communicate at staff, boardroom and stakeholder levels, and to prioritize in real time an evolving and demanding workflow. You will also be able to illustrate through your experience a command of government policy at every level, and the processes by which it is created, influenced and modified. . . .

. . .   Finally, we are passionate team players, so a great (off the wall?) sense of humour is really helpful too!

Ominously, it seems that fluency in PowerPoint will be helpful to your chances.

Daily Scot – Poppin’ up in New West

While walking down Sixth Street in New Westminster I came across this temporary seating “Parklet” in former vehicle parking at the intersection with Belmont Street.  These urban interventions are always more successful when tied to a adjacent cafe or takeout, in this case Tim Hortons.  The before and after photos give you an idea of the powerful impact of enhancing the public realm with minimal effort and cost.

2017-08-08 18.30.392017-08-08 18.31.17

The previous street condition below:


No Place for Office Space in Downtown Vancouver



Canadian Business Image

With some of the recent events and policies south of the Canadian border it’s no surprise that  there is a squish for office space, as reported in the Province by Sam Cooper. While vacancy rates have dropped from 8.3 per cent to 6.8 per cent and sound healthy compared to the housing market, they are not.

The report from professional services firm JLL says a tight Vancouver commercial real estate market will be driven by new demand from technology companies. Vacancy rates could dive from about seven per cent currently to three per cent in 2019, the JLL report says, which would be “the lowest vacancy rate on record.”

How low is a low office vacancy rate?  Cushman and Wakefield estimated that by 2019 “Vancouver is predicted to have the second-lowest office-vacancy rate in the Western hemisphere. ” The vice-president of the services firm JLL noted that he had never seen such a great demand from companies for Vancouver office space in 25 years of work . “A lot of the companies are from the U.S. The low Canadian dollar is attractive, and also we are a market where it is easier to bring in (high-technology) workers from overseas.”

To put that in better perspective, there was 2.3 million square feet of new office space built in the “downtown market” in the last two years. With the swift uptake of office space, it is expected that suburban Metro Vancouver communities will reap business relocations, with higher vacancy rates and lower rents, not to mention the fact that employees would have access to more affordable and varied  forms of housing.

The City of Vancouver observes that there are  new rezonings in Railtown, the False Creek Flats and in Mount Pleasant for new office space. The challenge is going to be finding the large floor plates and area amenities necessary to accommodate hundreds of new employees working in one office location. Will this be a driver for further office development in other parts of Metro Vancouver?


wework-golden-gate-san-franciscoDaily Hive Image


Smell-o-Vision at the Bus Stop



Mental Floss Image

As reported in City Lab  by John Metcalfe , Los Angeles’ Department of Cultural Affairs paired up with the City’s Department of Transportation Vision Zero team  to reboot (no pun intended) how people “perceive streets”.  They hired artist Alan Nakagawa as the first “Creative Catalyst Artist-in-Residence”. Nakagawa has created haiku on road signs, and  other printed media. But the most interesting has been the installation of “Street Perfume” at a Mar Vista bus stop.

Mar Vista has transformed into  an area of cafes, galleries and small shops. Nakagawa noted that “There are smells of coffee, food, there’s a lot of landscaping so there’s also soil. There are aromatherapy shops so you occasionally get whiffs of perfume. Then there are the sewers, the gas mains, carbon dioxide, asphalt, and all that stuff.” 

So the artist created a long chrome cylinder affixed to a bus stop with the label “Try Street Perfume”.  “If they’re bold enough to stick their mitts into the mystery orifice, they’re rewarded with a spritz of hyperlocal fragrance—this week’s is “Economic Development”; “Hollywood Springtime” is next week’s offering.” 

Other perfumes have included “Into Town” and “Hollywood Springtime”. Nakagawa actually goes to the Institute for Art and Olfaction and creates the perfumes that are installed in the bus stop cylinder. As the Director of Vision Zero in Los Angeles notes  “Alan brought a new way of problem-solving to our team. His ‘street perfumes’ project is just one of the myriad examples where he harnessed the power of art to transform space, influence design, and expose the transportation profession as something that can be fun and inviting.”

And while the perfumes are certainly in the cylinders they are there are as an art piece only.  “They weren’t really designed for anybody to wear,” Nakagawa says. “They were designed to evoke conversation at a bus stop.”


Urban Edge Image-Alan  Nakagawa

Charity Fun

Riding the 2017 Cypress Challenge on Sunday, August 13.  More formally known as the 10th Annual Glotman Simpson Cypress Challenge; to benefit pancreatic cancer research via the BC Cancer Agency.Mobi.Cypress


Another way for a city and region to show that supporting a charity, having goofy fun, and riding a bike are all a part of the culture.

  • Suit?  check
  • Doughnuts? check
  • Mobi?     check


Pancreatic cancer has the lowest survival rate of all cancers and remains a leading cause of cancer death. Most patients do not survive the first year post-diagnosis and overall survival is only 6%. Approximately 600 people in B.C. will be diagnosed this year.

The survival rate has remained unchanged for decades. Despite being one of the deadliest cancers, a recent Cancer in Canada study reported that pancreatic cancer research is also one of the most underfunded, with only 0.1% of all charitable monies raised attributed specifically to this cause.

By raising awareness and funds, the Glotman·Simpson Cypress Challenge is helping to change the story and improve outcomes for future pancreatic cancer patients.

Thanks to Allison Duck (@ADuckYVR) for the tweet with this photo.


800-Block Robson: Trained by Motordom


The City has just repaved the road lanes in the 800-block Robson, using asphalt to raise the roadbed to sidewalk level, creating a constant surface for this now car-free plaza.

And yet, pedestrians largely stick to the sidewalks.  That’s the way we’ve been trained since childhood: see asphalt, stay off.  It’s only for cars.

That will likely change when the asphalt is painted another colour, street furniture is replaced, performances and demonstrations occur, and more people use the space.  But even if we’re not quite conscious of it, something will feel not quite right until the surface design of the plaza is reconfigured from the standard road-and-sidewalk layout.

Make Your Mark in Mount Pleasant


                       Sandy James Image

The Daily Hive notes that the City of Vancouver is looking for artists and designers  to create “sidewalk stencils” for the sidewalks in front of commercial businesses along Mount Pleasant’s Main Street. There have been sidewalk stamps before, most notably along Heather Street between 49th and 54th Avenues. Those sidewalks stamps were chosen from images created  by the Churchill Secondary School’s fine art class,  and were cut into metal stencils using a plasma cutter at the City works yard. Some of the images have been so successful that they have been used in other parts of the city as well.

Sidewalks were installed on Heather Street from 49th Avenue to Marine Drive and there was the opportunity to imprint the metal stencil directly into fresh cement. In the Mount Pleasant case,  a metal stencil will be prepared to sand blast an image on existing sidewalks in front of the businesses.

Designs need to be clear and crisp to contrast on the sidewalk. The City stipulates that  the “designs should be 20″ x 20″ (50 cm x 50 cm) in size and based on themes relevant to the local community, such as historic creeks, art, music, pop culture, and breweries.” 

Submission deadline is Friday August 18 with designs being submitted in PDF format to the City of Vancouver. Artists will be paid a small stipend and also receive recognition from the Mount Pleasant Business Improvement Association. Further information can be found here.

broadway-salmon-jumpingDaily Hive Image


Big Bridge Changes, Big Bridge Rethink?



6999318Vancouver Sun Image

From CBC via Price Tags Editor Ken Ohrn is the notification that “four of the five members of the Transportation Investment Corporation board, which oversees B.C.’s Port Mann Bridge, have been removed by the provincial government.” 

That’s right- “In an Order In Council formally approved on Friday, chair Daniel Doyle and directors Anne Stewart, Clifford Neufeld and former finance minister Colin Hansen had their appointments rescinded.” One person remains, Irene Kerr who is the CEO of TI Corp and will be on the board until the end of 2018. TI Corp is the governmental creation that managed the construction of the bridge and the subsequent tolling on this and the Golden Ears Bridge.


While the Port Mann is not making money as projected from tolls, it is still projected to pay for itself . The 2017 B.C. budget suggested that losses of  $88 million dollars in 2017 and $90 million dollars in 2018 are expected. The TI Corp was also to provide “support” for the implementation of the ‘George Massey Tunnel Replacement  Project-when will he NDP government be announcing what they are doing with that vast overbuilt  project?

Meanwhile south of the Fraser  City of Richmond Councillor Carol Day supports the transit idea of the  Mayor of Delta who was pleading for a ten lane bridge, and for a rapid transit connection to get that bridge. Councillor Day calls the refusal of the Mayors’ Council to consider rapid transit to Delta  the “special sort of short sightedness that is iconic of Vancouver and the Lower Mainland. This creates a piecemeal approach to infrastructure that approves individual projects in isolation of one another without sufficient consideration of the future.”

Councillor Day further notes: “Mayor Jackson is absolutely right in saying that we have to think about building capacity for 75 years into the future rather than merely extending existing transit lines. We will be able to plan out a much more efficient transit network if all current and potential projects support each other and a unified vision.” 

It is going to be an interesting time as the new Provincial government reviews and unravels the truths and myths about the Massey Tunnel crossing, and evaluates what will work  best for the Fraser River crossing in Delta-where, how, and why.



Richmond News Image



Transit Analysis: Canada-Wide

Occasional PT author, and full-time Langley City Councilor Nathan Pachal has written the latest Canada-wide transit report card (18-page PDF HERE).    Note included commentary by this Fellow Gordon Price.


Peter Fassbender, no longer in service

Transit service in Canada’s major regions has not been able to keep up with population growth. Under-investment by all levels of government has resulted in overcrowding in some areas, and lack of service in others.

“Whether it’s elementary school students or transit systems, by the time you get three years of grades you can begin to see the trends. Nathan Pachal has again provided – for Canada’s transit networks – the comparisons, the grades and the trends,” says Gordon Price, Fellow at the SFU Centre for Dialogue.

Service hours per capita, transit service per person, has been declining steadily over the last three years reported. The good news, though, is that transit agencies have been doing more with less. Passenger Trip Intensity, a measure of efficiency, has been increasing year over year.


[Click to enlarge]

The analysis is reasonably intense, and it helps a lot to review the definitions and arithmetic used to form the rankings.  See the Pachal report PDF.

The data is from “Canada Transit Fact book — 2015 Operating Data” (by Canadian Urban Transit Association).  The book is available for purchase HERE.

Designing An Autonomous Vehicle

Here’s a nifty podcast from NPR in the USA.  I learned about it when I met Gordon Price, who was riding a Mobi westbound on the Comox/Helmcken Greenway the other day while I was eastbound.

The podcast participants discuss the level of vehicle control designed into an autonomous vehicle.  It contrasts the commercial airliner with the elevator. Both are quite ubiquitous, but one carries human operators (pilots), and the other has minimal controls available to its passengers. This is a fundamental design choice, and the current leader (Google) has already made it for their robocar.

Listen on. The Big Red Button.

Automation is all around us: elevators, automatic doors at the supermarket, and auto-pilots on airplanes. For the most part, we never think about it. It makes our lives easier, cheaper, and safer. But with every new automation, there is this transitional moment. When something first goes automatic, it is disorienting. It freaks us out.

And the big question surrounding automation isn’t just about economics or technology. It’s about psychology. How do designers make us comfortable with something that can be really scary?