Panel: A Voter’s Guide to Transit and Transportation

A Voter’s Guide to Transit and Transportation in the 2017 B.C. Election


Improved transit and transportation are critical issues to Metro Vancouver and beyond — but in the chaos of a provincial election campaign how are voters to figure out what needs to be done?

Fortunately, the Better Transit and Transportation Coalition has some answers.

New Westminster mayor Jonathan Cote joins Coalition representatives Gavin McGarrigle of Unifor—the largest B.C. transit union; Peter Ladner—chair of the David Suzuki Foundation and former city councillor; Elizabeth Model—CEO of the Surrey Business Improvement Association; and other noted speakers at a very special election forum on the future of transit and transportation in Metro Vancouver.

Tuesday, May 2

7-8:30 PM

SFU Vancouver – Room 1900, Harbour Centre

Admission is free, but advance registrations are required. Reserve.

Online Webcast: Can’t make it to the lecture? Register for the free live webcast.

B.C. Election: Parties transportation platforms

From the Vancouver Sun:

B.C.’s two main political parties have promised billions for transit projects, bridges and roads and have committed to cutting tolls, but they have no overall regional vision for transportation, says an expert in urban sustainability.

“It does strike me as odd, given the public interest, that their transportation strategies, at best, are unformulated,” said Gordon Price, a fellow at Simon Fraser University’s Centre for Dialogue and director of the school’s City Program.

“There really is no overall vision that fits into either the ideology of the party or the importance of transportation in the public mind.” …

The Liberals have promised to match that $2.2 billion, but that was months after the NDP said it would pay for 40 per cent of capital costs associated with the whole mayors’ plan. The cost of  the whole mayors’ plan has not been determined. The Liberals had previously committed to 33 per cent of capital projects, and the former minister responsible for TransLink said he had to wait for the federal money before the province could decide whether to kick in more.

The Green party pledged to match all federal funding, which includes the $2.2 billion, plus any other money the feds commit going forward.

“It’s almost begrudging,” Price said of the Liberal promise.

The Liberals have also said they will negotiate with the feds and TransLink on project specifics, which is something they have been saying for months. The Surrey light-rail and Broadway subway lines are specific priorities for the Liberals. …

Neither the Liberals or the NDP have been specific about regional funding sources for transportation, but Green party leader Andrew Weaver said he would use carbon tax revenues and mobility pricing to pay for transit improvements and reduce congestion. Mobility pricing refers to charges associated with using transportation services and includes road usage charges, transit fares and parking fees.

Price said it is helpful to have one party discussing revenue generating options, particularly mobility pricing. He said the details of implementation, however, would be critical and contentious.

He said the most significant policy shift is using carbon tax revenues for funding.

On the transportation infrastructure front, the Liberals want to cap bridge tolls at $500 per year, and build a bridge to replace the George Massey Tunnel between Delta and Richmond. The NDP’s plan doesn’t include a Massey Bridge (instead, Horgan has talked about widening the tunnel), but the party does call for eliminating bridge tolls.

Both tolling plans, Price said, are at odds with the parties’ commitments to transit, particularly because tolling is supposed to pay for half of the new Pattullo Bridge and removing tolls will not encourage people to abandon their cars. He said the move could put the region behind for unnecessary reasons.

“You can tell this is blatant vote buying. And having been a politician, I have no problem with that. I get you have to do that,” Price said. “It’s vote buying because you have these ridings on either side of the bridge and you make a single issue, a single appeal without context, without understanding what the implications of this are.” …


A few additional remarks:

No party makes the connection between transportation and the kind of region we want to shape.  ‘Transportation’ is basically about big projects, whether transit or bridges, and how to pay for them – not about their impacts on land use, housing affordability, regional vision, equity and fairness, not even the opportunities for new technologies and jobs.

There is essentially nothing, even with respect to funding, on either the personal and regional impacts of mobility pricing.  How we pay affects how we move – but, save for the Greens, the parties have little to say about that.  And the Greens would fundamentally change one of the pillars of carbon pricing as introduced by Gordon Campbell: revenue neutrality.  Big implications there.

Worst of all, the Liberals retain the referendum requirement, and the other parties have failed to attack them on that, as well as their record of impediment for transit in Metro.  If the Liberals are re-elected and the referendum requirement stays in place, there’s almost no chance for effective mobility pricing – which means almost no movement on funding the next stages of the Mayors’ 10-year plan without a lot of political angst and delay.

Metro Vancouver is, as often said, the economic engine of the province; it’s where the jobs are.  And the best jobs in tech, research, education, health care, business services, culture and tourism are dependent on a high-choice, technologically sophisticated transportation network.  I mean literally along the Broadway corridor and along Surrey’s Innovation Boulevard.

Why aren’t all the leaders putting on their hard hats and digging their shovels into the ground to capture not just the project-based aspects of transportation but the vision for this region’s future – and all the connections to jobs and housing.  It’s not about ‘solving congestion.’  It’s about an opportunity to capture the public’s confidence – and their votes.

Writing for non-academic audiences: a short course for urbanists

Want to communicate your research and policy ideas to policy-maker,
professional and public audiences? Want to learn how to write policy
briefs, op-eds, extended blog entries and other accessible formats? Want
to widely share the ideas from your academic writing?

Urban Studies students, alumni and friends are invited to apply to
attend a professional development short-course on writing for
non-academic audiences.

Participants are expected to bring written work (such as a term paper,
thesis chapter, research or policy report, or a first draft of their
non-academic writing) to each session for constructive critique and

The instructor for this short course is Dr. Tiffany Muller Myrdahl, an
urbanist who specializes in LGBTQ2S geographies, municipal social
policy, and creative research dissemination.

There is no charge for attending this course. Places will be allocated
to applicants on a first-come first-served basis.

Applicants should submit: (1) a one-page maximum letter of application
explaining your goals for the course, (2) a brief resume/bio, and (3) a
(draft) writing sample that you would like to revise during the course.
Please send applications to Terri Evans ( by 30 April 2017.


Saturday, May 13

9:30 am to 2:00 pm

Room 2235 at Harbour Centre, with a half-hour one-on-one post-course consultation that can be in person or via Skype.

Jobs Jar: CityStudio Projects Coordinator

CityStudio Projects Coordinator


CityStudio is seeking a dynamic, highly-organized, collaborative, self-directed and skilled individual to develop and execute our Studio and Campus Course Network. You are a natural relationship builder who will connect students and faculty from SFU, UBC, Emily Carr, BCIT, Langara and VCC campuses to project opportunities with the City of Vancouver.

You will showcase your planning abilities to identify project development and engagement opportunities. Your knowledge about impact evaluation will be applied in monitoring our milestones. And you will use your creativity and curation skills to deliver legendary project showcase events inside City Hall.

POSITION: Full time, 1-year contract position, with 3-month probationary period and possibility of renewal upon funding confirmation.

LOCATION: CityStudio Vancouver @ 1800 Spyglass Place

COMPENSATION: $45,000-$60,000 commensurate with experience.

START DATE: As soon as possible.

Full position description here. 

Are North American cities going past “Peak Millennial”?


The New York Times is reporting that Millennials-those born between the early 1980’s and late 1990’s or early 2000’s-may have reached the “peak” of inflow into cities, and that outflow of mid-30’s couples to the suburbs has commenced. This may be the biggest outflow to the suburbs since the Great Recession of 2007.

“Dowell Myers, a professor of demography and urban planning at the University of Southern California, recently published a paper that noted American cities reached “peak millennial” in 2015. Over the next few years, he predicts, the growth in demand for urban living is likely to stall…Are large numbers of millennials really so enamored with city living that they will age and raise families inside the urban core, or will many of them, like earlier generations, eventually head to the suburbs in search of bigger homes and better school districts?”

With the two factors of people getting older and having  less tolerance for low paying jobs and small urban apartments there may be a trend back to the suburbs. Downtowns do have walkability and a high concentration of people under 25 years of age.

The Port’s Dirty Secret-Vancouver Biggest Exporter of Coal in North America


Alberta Oil Magazine reports that Vancouver is now North America’s largest coal  exporting port. Imagine-even though 66,000 people in China died in 2013 due to pollution from coal according to Tsinghua University (Beijing) we think it’s a good idea to flog it offshore. Burning coal to create electricity creates twice the greenhouse gas per unit of energy  as natural gas, and about 30 per cent more than oil. Coal is also the “largest source of human-produced greenhouse gasses” at almost 50 per cent.

Today, B.C. ports are shipping increasing amounts of coal to Asia, including American coal, for steel production and power generation. Last year, U.S. coal producer Lighthouse Resources started sending coal across the Pacific via Vancouver as environmentalists blocked a new export terminal in Oregon.” 

People living in Ladner and Tsawwassen can get a speckled dotting of coal dust on outside items over the winter from the coal that is delivered by train to Deltaport. There has been testing done by Metro Vancouver  to ensure that residential areas get 1.7 milligrams or less of coal dust daily. The coal trains have two dust-suppression sprays on the way to the Roberts Bank Terminal. It is expected that even more coal will be shipped with the planned expansion of the Fraser Surrey Docks upriver from Deltaport.


Meanwhile in Great Britain the British are celebrating their first coal free day since 1880.  The BBC reports this as a “watershed moment in how our energy system is changing”  and an example of how “the once mighty fuel is being consigned to history”.

“Part of the reason is that solar panels and wind turbines now provide much more electricity to factories and homes…And as older, uneconomic coal-fired plants have closed in recent years, the fossil fuel has been playing a much smaller role in our energy system.”

The first centralized public coal-fired generator was at Holborn Viaduct in London, opened in 1882.  “According to, around half of British energy on the first coal free day came from natural gas, with about a quarter coming from nuclear plants. Wind, biomass, and imported energy were also used.”

While Great Britain tries to move away from coal use, North America facilitates the transport of  it to China, which burns 3.7 billion tons of coal annually, or approximately three times that consumed by the United States. As e360 Yale magazine states, Coal is the  industry’s “cigarette of the new age” looking for new markets to exploit.

Two miners digging coal in 1924Image copyrightPA
Image captionThese British miners are seen drilling for coal in 1924


Massey Bridge-If We Had 3.5 Billion Dollars…


The Province published an opinion piece by Eric Doherty, Bob Chitrenky, Harold Steves and Peter McCartney that provides one more flip on the strange decision to decommission the Massey Tunnel and instead overbuild a ten lane bridge at a (so far) projected price of  3.5 billion dollars. Now this bridge is in the wrong location for stimulating future growth as per Metro Vancouver’s regional plan, and every Mayor in the region has spoken out against it, except the Mayor of Delta eager to get more growth in her community. The placement of this bridge threatens the Fraser River estuary, takes up more of the most fertile farm soils in Canada, and threatens to industrialize this sensitive area of arable soils, salmon waters  and migratory flyways.

But, as quoted in the Province “the biggest reason is that investing billions in an unnecessary bridge deepens our dependency on car travel at a time when many would rather take public transit — if only it were available where we live and work… We lose quality of life and affordability in a region that is already grotesquely unaffordable. We lose more of our depleted farmland base and we lose down the road as greenhouse gases rise and we are forced to spend billions more on future public infrastructure projects, such as raising the dykes to counter rising sea levels.”

“If we are to spend $4 billion of public funds (don’t for a moment think that the projected cost of the Massey Tunnel replacement bridge won’t increase — such costs invariably do) what else might we do?”

And here is the list, all cheaper that a 3.5 billion dollar bridge:

$1.32 billion– expand our fleet of buses by 750 vehicles. “Assuming a 35-per-cent recovery in operating costs from transit fares, we could operate that expanded fleet for 10 years.”

$1.3 billion-upgrade or replace” all 152 schools that pose the highest danger to students in an earthquake.”

$1.38 billion-build “5,520 affordable housing units.”

The  biggest “bridge”  challenge is that members of the public never got the chance to discuss this crossing decision with the Province. This bridge was concocted by the current Provincial government and handed to citizens not as a public investment in the future, but because the Province thought it was good for business.

As the Province commentary concludes “The time is long overdue to have a fulsome discussion about what the alternatives are, alternatives that could improve the livability of our region on so many fronts.”


Turncoats #6: God Has Left the Details – May 5

Turncoats is a shot in the arm. Framed by theatrically provocative opening gambits, a series of debates will rugby tackle fundamental issues facing contemporary practice with a playful and combative format designed to foment open and critical discussion, turning conventional consensus on its head.

Salivating over the way pieces of a building come together is a dangerous fetish. Most clear-headed people aren’t moved to tears by a carefully placed reveal or a custom handrail. They regard those who are as elitist and out of touch. The scale and speed of today’s design problems utterly dwarf the subtlety of architectural details. Don’t get lost in the pixels. It’s the picture that matters!


The Panel

Ian McDonald is a partner Carscadden Stokes McDonald Architects located in Vancouver. He taught at the UBC School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture from 2005 until 2013, and was at one time, an aspiring Vancouver School Board candidate.

Ali Kenyon is an architect and designer at HCMA Architecture + Design. She has worked for Droog in Amsterdam, Molo in Vancouver, and curated the exhibition Tangential Vancouversim through 221a in 2012.

Mark Ritchie is a principal and co-founder of Architecture Building Culture. He has practiced internationally, run practices on two continents and was a Senior Lecturer at Victoria University of Wellington’s School of Architecture and Design from 2002 to 2004.

Andrew Latreille is an architectural photographer based in both Vancouver and Melbourne whose photos have been highly awarded. He is a trained and registered non-practising architect in Australia.


Friday, May 5

6 – 9 pm

303 East 8th Avenue

Tickets here


Tide Changing in Seattle as Neighbourhood Council Input nixed by City


Next City describes the changes occurring to the thirteen neighbourhood district councils in Seattle. These groups of activist homeowners have “held virtual veto power over nearly every decision on Seattle’s growth and development.” While in the past these homogeneous older and affluent resident councils have “shaped neighbourhoods in their own reflection” they also contributed to building a city that is livable,  although expensive.

Last July the City of Seattle cut their ties with these groups signalling “their intent to seek more input and feedback from lower-income folks, people of colour and renters-who make up 54 per cent of the city”. Instead Seattle’s department of neighbourhoods developed a 16 member “Community Involvement Commission”  which is “charged with helping city departments develop “authentic and thorough” ways to reach “all” city residents, including underrepresented communities such as low-income people, homeless residents and renters. Finally, DON will also oversee and staff a second new commission, the Seattle Renters’ Commission, which will advise all city departments on policies that affect renters and monitor the enforcement and effectiveness of the city’s renter protection laws.”

It is no surprise that in Seattle just as in Vancouver the homeowner dominated neighbourhood councils generally argued “against land use changes that would allow more density (in the form of townhouses and apartment buildings) in and near Seattle’s traditional single-family neighborhoods, which make up nearly two-thirds of the city. Including more renters and low-income people in the mix could dilute, or even upend, those groups’ agendas.”

The neighbourhoods department of the City of Seattle found “that while the population of Seattle was becoming younger, more diverse and more evenly split between homeowners and renters, “residents attending district council meetings tend to be 40 years of age or older, Caucasian and homeowners.” In the words of City Council member Sally Bagshaw “If you’ve ever gone to some of these community meetings, they’re just deadly dull, and the same 25 people have been there for 100 years.”




Blank Boy Canvas

Walking near Nelson and Howe (808 Nelson St., Nelson Square) and discovered this fun showing.  Dozens of reproductions of a comic strip character called Tian Tian, in various sizes, altered by artists.

Tian Tian is the creation of Hong Kong’s Danny Yung. The exhibit is one of those things that makes a city a stimulating place, when serendipity meets cross-cultural fun.

Click any image to see a large version slideshow of them all.

The Blank Boy Canvas collaboration has been brought to North America in an exhibit designed to stimulate conversation about creative reasoning and the individual approach to creative execution. The three-dimensional, nearly 2 ft. casting has been given to selected artists to freely express, create or alter while exploring the theme of infinite possibilities.  This cross-cultural collaboration transcends language and denomination. Explore each artist’s creation, and learn more about them!

YouTube and an Eight Year Old Driver-joyride sojourn to McDonald’s.


Remember when you got your first bike? The BBC reports on an eight year old that skipped the training wheels and went straight to driving the family car to McDonald’s, with his sister in the passenger seat. It was a  surprise when police started receiving calls that a small boy was driving a vehicle through town. “The boy drove 1.5 miles (2.4km), covering four intersections, railway tracks, and several turns, Police Constable Koehler told Cleveland news outlet Fox8.”

The kid drove right up to the drive through window of his local McDonald’s and asked for cheeseburgers and chicken mcnuggets while his parents were asleep at home.  Staff thought it was a prank. While witnesses pointed out that the young driver obeyed all traffic laws and lights, the eight year old said he had learned to drive by watching YouTube videos. No charges were laid.




Whee. Let’s Master Plan the Arbutus Greenway

The City of Vancouver issued an 89-page RFP on March 1, 2017 for the next stage of the Greenway — final design, to take the form of a Master Plan.   It’s a map of many words to describe the Greenway’s transition from yesterday (derelict railroad), to today (the temporary corridor) to tomorrow:  the Arbutus Greenway.


At this moment, the CoV should be in discussion with it’s short-listed proponents.  Or perhaps wrangling out contracts.

The RFP contemplates timing (selected excerpts):

  • Design workshop (charrette)  October 27-29, 2017 (optional – to be confirmed)
  • Preferred concept  December 22, 2017
  • Public Engagement Begins  Feb 15, 2018 (to be confirmed)
  • Draft Master Plan  April 9, 2018
  • Final Master Plan Report May 11, 2018

And effort (10,000 to 12,000 hours of work over 12 to 18 months).

The preliminary Project Objectives (page 17, B-8) are still subject to more public consultation, but today look like this (excerpted):

a) Enable people of all ages and abilities to safely and comfortably travel using a variety of non-motorized means between False Creek and the Fraser River: The Arbutus Greenway represents a unique opportunity to introduce safe, comfortable, and barrier-free pathways that will provide connections across the City and have limited encounters with motor vehicles. Safety and accessibility for all users will be key design outcomes against which the project will be measured.

(b) Provide opportunities for a future streetcar to be incorporated into the greenway: The City’s Transportation 2040 Plan envisions a local streetcar service using the corridor and, although it may not be added for many years, the design of the final greenway should anticipate and, to the extent possible, incorporate the physical requirements for a streetcar line. Several alignment options will need to be developed and assessed through the greenway planning process, and the greenway should be designed to minimize extensive reconstruction at the time of streetcar implementation. It is envisioned that this streetcar will be integrated as part of the region’s transit system.

(c) Provide a range of public spaces for people to gather and socialize, support community events and enable artistic expression: In addition to supporting active transportation and a future streetcar, it is envisioned the Arbutus Greenway will become a compelling linear public open space with places for people to pause, sit, gather, socialize, celebrate and recreate. Major public open spaces are expected at Broadway and in Kerrisdale, with minor public spaces where major roads intersect the greenway. Additionally there are significant opportunities to enhance public space and provide diverse gathering and socializing experiences where the greenway meets the seven adjacent parks. Art is also envisioned to be a significant element throughout the greenway. The design process will contemplate opportunities for public spaces and art on City lands both within and adjacent to the corridor.

(d) Improve connections within and across neighbourhoods adjacent to the greenway: The Arbutus Greenway project presents an opportunity to provide walking and cycling connections to and from adjacent neighbourhoods and community destinations (e.g., schools, community centres, etc.) that were discouraged, and in many cases prohibited by the former rail operation. A key component of this work is to develop context-sensitive relationships between the greenway and the seven city parks it abuts.

For me, the most fun part is in Part B (City Requirements). Starting with teasing apart the project into sections:  and adding the concept of “precincts” and specific planning areas.


Quoting the RFP:

Kerrisdale Precinct (between W 37th and W 49th Ave) —  this area is the primary village node along the greenway, and is layered with First Nation and European settlement history. It once served as the administrative office for the Point Grey Municipality, before Point Grey amalgamated with the City of Vancouver and South Vancouver. And during the 1960s, Kerrisdale was considered one of Vancouver’s ‘complete communities’ due to its mix of commercial and residential development, cultural amenities, recreation facilities and transit connections, including the former ‘Sockeye Special’ interurban.

Broadway Precinct (between W 7th and W 10th Ave) —  this area will eventually become a key transit hub with the future streetcar line along the greenway connecting to the Arbutus Station of the Millennium Line SkyTrain extension that will run underneath Broadway. This will be a major transfer location for transit users and a hub of activity for foot and bike traffic. The public space here will need to reflect emerging plans for the Millennium Line Broadway Extension and integrate the various transportation uses and any opportunities for gathering space as well.

There are two planning areas outside of the core boundaries (Figure B-1) that frame the former rail corridor but are considered part of the study area for the design work. Understanding how the greenway extends through these areas will play an instrumental role in how well connected the greenway will be with other parts of the City:

Northern Planning Area: This zone includes the area generally from Burrard Street to Granville Street and from W 5th Avenue to False Creek. The master plan will need to include a design for high-quality greenway connections to the South False Creek
Seawall, Granville Island, Granville Bridge (including a proposed Granville Bridge
greenway) and other existing bike routes, and concepts for how the future streetcar
will link to Granville Island and points east; and,

Southern Planning Area: This zone generally covers an area from Fraser River Park, south to the Fraser River, north to Marine Drive, and east to the Oak Street Bridge. Key considerations include how the greenway meets the Fraser River, future
trails/greenways east and west along the river and how the streetcar line extends to
the east towards the Canada Line and possibly further east. This area is also of
significant cultural importance to the three Nations and a location at which they have an extended historical presence, which the greenway design must acknowledge and respect.

A few random snippets from here and there in the RFP, giving hints of scope and design for the project and the resulting Greenway:

  • Raised crossings, grade separation
  • Connections and linkages to parks, schools, neighbourhoods, businesses, transit and related Greenways (both north and south)
  • Both major (@ Kerrisdale, Broadway) and minor (@ major road intersections) public space designs
  • High quality landscape furniture (seating and tables), weather protection
  • Washrooms, fountains
  • Interactive play, fitness, etc.
  • Multi-modal network planning
  • Integration of public art (optional)
  • Heritage landscape planning (Ed: those blackberry bushes?)
  • Integrated commercial activity (patios) — Ed: but no mention of special status for Creme de la Creme retail outlets — a.k.a. Smug Shoppes. 

The End of the Suburban Mall As We Know It


Henry Grabar in The Slate reports that it was  ten years ago that the  death of  the suburban shopping mall was announced.  This was the first year in fifty that no new malls were built in the United States. “Brick and mortar” retailing has been failing, when “The Limited, a women’s clothing store, shut down 250 stores and laid off 4,000 workers earlier this year. Sears Holdings will close 150 stores, including 108 Kmarts, and Macy’s will close another 100. As anchor stores close, more and more malls are entering foreclosure. Financial instruments composed of debt from mall deals are looking as risky as their counterparts in residential debt did before the housing crisis.”

E-commerce,the rise of Amazon and online shopping has taken some of the blame. While there is increasing employment in warehousing, “department stores; general merchandise stores; and sporting goods, hobby, book, and music stores” have lost jobs, with clothing stores severely hit the last few months. Ironically 71 per cent of workers in ” sales and related occupations live in the suburbs, according to the Brookings Institution, about 2 percentage points higher than the average for U.S. workers.”

What seems to be successful for retail is the mix of an urban “retail corridor” in cities, with “stores flanked by restaurants, bars, and other entertainment attractions”, close to mixed use density and good public transit. But while media has blamed internet shopping for the end of the suburban mall,  retail may have been overbuilt. The challenge for suburban locations is finding alternative ways to create employment and repurpose lands to contribute to the tax base.  As Leah McLaren writes in the Globe and Mail Canadians still have not caught up with online shopping. While  10 to 12 per cent of Americans spend on the Amazon shopping site, only 6 per cent of Canadians do. Colliers reports that “online shopping sales growth can be blamed for vacancy of roughly 14.8 million square feet of mall space between 2012 and 2014.” Given that indicator, shopping malls  will be shrinking dramatically in Canada as well, as E-commerce catches on.

It is therefore no surprise that the Vancouver Sun writes that malls “are fighting for shoppers with one things their web rivals can’t offer: parking lots”, by using them for carnivals, concerts and food truck festivals. Tsawwassen Mills which has had spectacularly empty parking lots featured a carnival on site this month. They are also now running a “shopping shuttle” picking up prospective shoppers in downtown Vancouver for a day of mall shopping at the Mills.  But will shuttles provide enough consumer traffic for that long drive in the face of the quick access of E-commerce and Amazon? Is this a portent of changing consumer tastes?



Walk Across the Street Safely-Once you are 14 years of age.


There were two pieces of advice moms universally give their children-don’t run with scissors, and to look both ways when you cross a road. Research from the University of Iowa indicates that the latter piece of advice is especially important, as it appears that children “ lack the perceptual judgment and motor skills to cross a busy road consistently without putting themselves in danger.” Children from the ages of 6 to 14 years were placed in a realistic “simulated environment” and asked to cross one lane of a busy road several times. The video below shows one child taking part in the road simulation

The research shows children under certain ages lack the perceptual judgment and motor skills to cross a busy road consistently without putting themselves in danger. The researchers placed children from 6 to 14 years old in a realistic simulated environment (see video) and asked them to cross one lane of a busy road multiple times.

“The crossings took place in an immersive, 3-D interactive space at the Hank Virtual Environments Lab on the UI campus. The simulated environment is “very compelling,” says Elizabeth O’Neal, a graduate student in psychological and brain sciences and the study’s first author. “We often had kids reach out and try to touch the cars.”

The results: When facing a “string of approaching virtual vehicles travelling at 25 miles per hour (considered a benchmark neighbourhood speed) , children had to cross a nine foot road 20 times. Researchers found that six-year-olds were struck by vehicles 8 per cent of the time; 8-year-olds were struck 6 per cent; 10-year-olds struck 5 per cent of the time, and 12-year-olds were struck 2 per cent. Children aged 14 and older had no accidents. With 8,000 injuries and 207 fatalities involving children under 14 in the United States in 2014, this study showed that perceptual ability and motor skills are not as developed in children, and they need larger gaps in traffic to access traffic speed and have compromised  crossing ability.


“They get the pressure of not wanting to wait combined with these less-mature abilities,” says Plumert, corresponding author on the study, which appears in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, published by the American Psychological Association. “And that’s what makes it a risky situation.” Recommendations include educating children to be more patient waiting, and requesting city planners to  demarcate intersections where children will cross with age appropriate “crossing aids”.



End of the Single Family Neighbourhood? Greater Vancouver Board of Trade


The Greater Vancouver Board of Trade had a forum on  housing affordability and how to get young people living in the Metro Vancouver area. Encouraging transit accessibility and enhancing housing affordability is mandatory if Metro Vancouver is to thrive.

Glen Korstrom in  Business in Vancouver describes this forum as having two main approaches. The first is for municipalities to ” eliminate all single-family zoning while encouraging more townhomes, row houses and other gradual forms of densification in those neighbourhoods.” The second is to speed up building approvals and processes so that the 110,000 estimated units that can be built with existing zoning already in place can be expedited. Both approaches are radical-the first challenges the bastions of green lawned single family neighbourhoods; the second means honing municipal approval systems already decimated by retirements and inadequate staffing numbers.

“Why not rezone all the single-family zoning in the whole city in one day?” asked Reliance Properties president Jon Stovell to echo an idea espoused by Tsur Somerville, senior fellow with the University of British Columbia Sauder School of Business’ Centre for Urban Economics and Real Estate.”

Allowing rowhouses or townhomes to be built in any single family neighbourhood would be politically challenging-but as City of Vancouver George Affleck suggested  “But we don’t need to do that. There’s enough density to meet the demand that we have in the city if we just loosen up the process for these places to be built and make it easier for smaller developers.”

What is interesting is such a radical idea brings out the importance of supporting seasoned developers that can do it right, and expedite development approvals for those builders across the region. The Greater Vancouver Board of Trade stated “We can give incentives to people who want to do developments around transit. The linkage between housing affordability and transit is undeniable, so if someone is going to build a three- or four-storey condo complex near transit, put them at the head of the line.”

Some of the other recommendations that have come forward will get some eye rolling from city hall administrators-allowing bonus density to encourage more density; “pre-zoning ” transit-oriented sites during the planning process; and ending the process of negotiating community amenity contributions (CACs) individually with each project.

What will be important will be developing a balance between developers’ wants, community needs, urban design and livability, so that the finished product becomes part of the  place we all want to live in-an affordable, accessible-home.


Bike the Blossoms — a Vancouver Tradition. Saturday April 29

Bike the Blossoms
One of the loveliest and liveliest family-friendly events of the year.  A mass ride through Vancouver streets burgeoning with blossoms.  Bike the Blossoms, my fave event of the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival. With thanks to Velopalooza.

FREE Event – Saturday April 29, 2017
Time: 11am-1pm
South side of John Hendry Park (Trout Lake), 3300 Victoria Drive (@ E 19th Ave., close to Lakewood Dr.)

Be sure to get there early to sign the waiver, unless you do it online.

Is Driving a Privilege or a Right?


The National Post‘s Chris Selley tells the story of a woman in Toronto who by mistake drove a Mercedes SUV into a booth at Toronto’s City Place Urban Market, killing  one of two sisters in the booth. For this crime, the driver was given a $1,000 fine and a six month driving ban, but could still use the car for work and medical appointments.In another example, a driver who hit and killed a six-year-old child legally walking in a marked crosswalk. The penalty?  A two-year driving prohibition and a $2,000 fine.

A driver talking on a cellphone received only 20 days in jail and a two-year driving ban for killing a senior crossing a street on a green light. Why? Because under the Criminal Code “generally speaking, we shouldn’t be throwing people in jail for making careless mistakes, as opposed to for gross negligence or genuine intent to cause harm.”

The consequences resulting from killing by careless driving are still early twentieth century. You were inattentive, you didn’t really mean to kill the person. But in ” Ontario, the Burlington MPP and cabinet minister Eleanor McMahon tabled a private member’s bill last year that would create a new offence: “careless driving causing death or bodily harm.”McMahon’s late husband, OPP officer Greg Stobbart, died in 2006 after a driver struck him while he was cycling. The driver, Michael Duggan, had five convictions for driving with a suspended licence, four for driving uninsured, and a criminal record to boot. He had only just gotten his licence back — and only lost it again for a year.”

“People rarely feel gratified by someone who kills their loved one and walks away with a $500 fine,” says McMahon. “I want to recognize and honour that feeling of egregious resentment that people feel, that the law really … isn’t reflecting their sentiments.”

Is it time for the updating of Provincial highway and traffic acts to reflect the true  impacts of killing pedestrians and cyclists on the street? How did it happen that the maiming and murdering of innocent street users are still not reflected in the consequences? How did driving become a right?