Tsawwassen Shuttle: A Google Bus for Our Time


From Gladys We:

Spotted the Tsawwassen Mills employee shuttle at the Scott Road Park-and-Ride around 5:30 pm:


shuttle-2Here’s the Google map of the bus’s parking spot. It’s actually parked in the passenger waiting zone of the park & ride, and it’s a VERY tight squeeze for cars to get through the gap:


shuttle-4Where they were parked  is incredibly busy all day long, as it’s a main passenger pickup area for both the bus loop and the Skytrain — and is supposed to be a two-minute stopping zone only.

“Our Precious Urban Lives”

A New York Times op-ed by Lisa Pryor:

… urban villages, once diverse melting pots, became shiny, wealthy and inward-looking. The big ideas became small and hard and sparkling as diamonds.

This is how it is playing out here in Sydney. In every direction the city center is ringed by desirable neighborhoods with exorbitant housing prices, where residents can dine, work and shop without ever traveling far from home.

It is a beautiful life, and effective at reducing car travel. But there is a darker side to it. The urban village ethos has encouraged prosperous neighborhoods to turn inward and even take pride in not connecting with fellow citizens in the suburban areas beyond.

sydneyThe language we still hold on to about the inner city disguises the changes that have taken place. We still invoke the social justice battles of urban neighborhoods of the past — community, environment, heritage, people power — in an endless war to fight for even greater advantages for ourselves. …

The language — against developers, in favor of public assets — served as a linguistic sleight of hand that disguised the fact that an influential, overwhelmingly city-based and white cultural elite was mounting a fight against sharing resources with a less privileged part of the Sydney area. …

In Western Sydney more than anywhere, our future nation is being formed. The streets are not built for street life, but there is life, in spite of the streets. Thousands of years of culture are being woven into something loose we call Australian. And it is passing by those who refuse to venture beyond the inner city.

The challenge for our city and many like it is to think beyond the urban villages. The passion for well-designed communities needs to be directed outward instead of inward, geographically and in spirit. We need to let go of some of our resources; we need to learn to share. And if we are going to fight for our perfect little villages, the most honorable fight is the one to retain and expand public housing, to keep what little diversity we have left.

Culture is more than expensive and refined tastes in wine and food. I don’t want to live in the kind of city where we endeavor to know our grains and our meat, but not our fellow citizens.


100K On Mobi


Vancouver’s Mobi bike-share system has hit 100,000 rides.  Most trips appear to be short one-way rides, as expected, from the 80 stations (800 bikes) now in place.


My experience is unchanged.  The system, with all its moving parts, just works.  And it’s a positive addition to the transportation options we have.

From the City of Vancouver press release:

Comparable cities with similar or larger-sized bike share systems have passed 100,000 rides in anywhere from two to nine months; Vancouver’s program reached that milestone in just three months. . . .

. . . .  The top five most popular Mobi stations are:

  1. Granville and Georgia
  2. Hornby and Nelson
  3. Hornby and Pender
  4. Bute and Robson
  5. Ontario and the False Creek Seawall.

These are all locations that are near transit connections or active transportation routes.

City Conversations: Gil Kelley – Nov 3


At his only public talk since arriving from San Francisco, Vancouver’s new Director of Planning voiced an ambitious agenda. He said that since our city’s glory days of the 1980’s and ’90’s, “planning has shrunk. We need to be leaders, not just regulators.” He reminded us that the purpose of planning is to answer, “Where do we want to go?” and listed strategies, relations with senior levels of government, architecture, streetscapes, housing, jobs, transportation, regulation, public engagement, and a host of key project areas to focus on.

Mr. Kelley will talk about these in greater detail, but he’s new to Vancouver, and to Canada. He wants to hear from you. What are your interests, priorities, hopes and dreams for the look and feel of our city?

Please join us for the first conversation with Vancouver’s new decision maker, key staffer and implementer. Feel free to bring your lunch.

Registration is not required but seating is limited. Please try to arrive early to ensure a seat.

Thursday, Nov 3
12:30 – 1:30 PM
Room 1900 (Note room change) – SFU Vancouver at Harbour Centre


Green Roofs get the Green Light!


The National Geographic news has written about another San Francisco first:

This week, San Francisco became the first U.S. city to require that certain new buildings be built with a green roof—an eco-friendly design technique that sows plants above a roofline. This latest action builds on a growing trend that has taken root around the world, and which boosters say offers significant benefits for the planet.

The new by-law enacted in January 2016 will mean that 15 to 30 per cent of roof space on new office construction projects must  incorporate solar, green roofs, or both. An earlier by-law requires new residential and commercial buildings under ten storeys to install solar panels or a solar heating system with fifteen per cent roof coverage.

Green roofs reduce stormwater runoff, improve air quality, and help mitigate the urban heat island effect. For building tenants and owners, green roofs reduce the need for heating and cooling. They also can provide food and a recreational area for residents. Combining solar panels and green roofs can actually make each component work better. Solar panels can provide shade for plants and grasses, reducing the need for watering, while the panels work best when they are cool (green roofs can help lower temperatures compared to conventional ones).

Other cities such as Chicago has already planted their city hall roof, lowering summer temperatures in the building. Bonn Germany has led the green roof innovation and been an early adapter to this roof form in Europe.

Green roof legislation is being passed around the world. Cordoba became the first city in Argentina to require green roofs in July. France’s new legislation mandates at least partial coverage of green roof or solar technology on all new construction and goes into effect next March. In 2009, Toronto mandated green roofs on industrial and residential buildings. Germany’s green roof industry has been legislated and supported by the government in various ways since the 1970s.

There are approximately 25 North American cities that support green roofs to some extent, from bigger cities to medium and smaller communities like Syracuse and Port Coquitlam in British Columbia. Washington D.C. has a de facto requirement for large buildings through its stormwater regulations. New York City has tax abatements.

Valuable green building certifications, such as LEED, also award points for green roofs, so they are popping up across the country even without legislation. Green roofs offer an environmental solution and provide a range of benefits as regional climates become hotter and populations in cities continue to grow. Kudos to San Francisco for showing the way forward.


City Conversations: Stanley Cup Riot – Oct 28


The 2011 Stanley Cup riots have been described as one of the largest crime sprees in Vancouver. The riot stripped a sense of safety and security from many citizens. But the next morning, hundreds took to the streets to reclaim our city.

That summer, Prof. Steve Reicher was writing about similar riots in England. He’s a social psychologist at the University of St. Andrews, who studies crowd actions, political rhetoric, and national identity. Ms. Tania Arvanitidis is a PhD candidate in the SFU School of Criminology who has been studying the riots since 2011.

Five years after the Stanley Cup riots, what have we learned about crowd behaviour, and the impacts on those most affected? Will the high cost of prosecution be a deterrent?

Registration is not required. Please try to arrive early to ensure a seat.

Friday, October 28

12:30 – 1:30 PM |

Room 2270 (note room change)

SFU Vancouver – 515 West Hastings

Fixed Link to the Sunshine Coast?


The Vancouver Sun has reported on the latest open houses held in the Gibsons area once again chatting about a new link for access to the Sunshine Coast. This idea has been discussed in 1998 and 2001-and it is back again.

By virtue of geography — and unsteady, expensive B.C. Ferries service — Gibsons and the rest of the Sunshine Coast that stretch another 180 kilometres north are, according to local tourism promotional fluff, the province’s “best kept secret.”

There’s now a plan brewing, an ambitious scheme that would bridge the ocean-filled gap. B.C.’s Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure is floating proposals that would allow cars and trucks to bypass or traverse Howe Sound, the body of water that separates Gibsons and points north from the hurly-burly south.

The Vancouver Sun attended the Thursday evening session of The Sunshine Coast Fixed Link Study in a Gibsons’ hotel meeting room filled with inscrutable maps and busy display boards

The latest discussion involves several different plans. One or all could be adopted, eventually. The most viable, say people at Thursday’s open house, is a suspension bridge/road that would see traffic divert from the highway near Horseshoe Bay, cross Howe Sound at its narrowest point, touch land for a bit at tiny Anvil Island, then complete the crossing on a second bridge that would reach the shore north of Gibsons.

Now here is the interesting part-the estimated construction costs are between $ 2 Billion and $ 2.5 Billion dollars.Does that sound familiar? That is close to the estimate for the Massey Bridge across the Fraser until the Provincial Government said the exact cost was not $2.5 billion but  would be $ 3.4997 billion as reported in Price Tags last Monday.

While a fixed link would encourage local development, raise real estate prices and create jobs, an Anvil Island crossing has one more hurdle-the Island Trust which manages the islands in the Salish Sea and in Howe Sound.  A local Islands Trust trustee, Kate-Louise Stamford has stated thatIt is Islands Trust policy that we do not support fixed links on any of the islands.” So despite the fact that the link to Anvil Island seems the most expedient, the Trust and the 18 property owners on the island may not think so.

And if past experience is any guide, that may be enough to sink this fixed link alternative and bring other options back to the drawing board, such as circuitous highway from Howe Sound up towards Powell River on the north end of the Sunshine Coast.


“Road Violence” in Toronto – Mortordom’s Fatal Domain


There is a nasty positioning happening in the City of Toronto between advocates of motordom having full advantage of Toronto streets and the rights for vulnerable road users to also have a somewhat equitable share of the street. Toronto has demonstrated a  weak approach to vulnerable street user policy instead of steadfastly championing the right of citizens to be safe on the streets. Thirty-eight pedestrians and cyclists have died in Toronto this year. Shockingly eight have died this month. That is two people a week dying on Toronto streets in October.

The fatalities are largely people over 65 years of age who are hit by a larger vehicle. They are usually walking across an arterial road in the suburbs, and usually at a location without a crosswalk or traffic signal. You can also think of this as one vulnerable road user dying per 68,421 people. (A quick note, Vancouver is worse, with one pedestrian dying per 54,727 people).

The City’s response, instead of universally lowering speed (which is proven to reduce mortality and injury) or  re-examining road design or  regulating driver behaviour has been to focus on the visibility of pedestrians. And that reports the Globe and Mail has a lot of people really upset.

“Enough is enough, we have to end fatalities and serious injuries on our roads,” said David Stark, whose wife was killed when a vehicle mounted the east-end sidewalk where she was standing.The group – Friends & Families for Safe Streets – officially launched Tuesday at City Hall. It is spearheaded by people such as Mr. Stark, all of whom have lost a family member or close friend in a road collision.


In the early days of motordom, car crashes were termed “road violence” – a term that echoes protests from the early decades of motoring, when fatal collisions sparked outrage against “death drivers.”  “The gravity of the harm calls for actions,” said Yu Li, whose close friend was killed while cycling. “And the term of road violence will have that effect of bringing this to the conscience of everybody, that these are not accidents. These are preventable and these are tragedies with grave consequences.”

The group is calling for the city to go beyond the road safety plan announced this summer. That plan was slammed for its timidity when unveiled and was later beefed up. But critics say it continues to focus too much on small fixes and not enough on cultural change. A drop to the default speed limit – a key tactic in some cities – was not among the measures included.

I’ve been back four times to Ontario this year and the behaviour of vehicle drivers to vulnerable road users is markedly different. In Vancouver, most motorists yield to pedestrians and cyclists. That is just not the case in Ontario’s major city.

Being visible whether you are a pedestrian or a bicyclist is so important, and can be so challenging. The most dangerous time for pedestrians is in the autumn and winter, with Ontario statistics showing that over 40 per cent of serious injuries and 42 per cent of pedestrian fatalities occur at that time. (2010, Ontario Road Safety Annual Report). But wearing reflective clothing is a personal choice that a pedestrian or cyclist makes to be visible to vehicles. It does not condone speed, driver behaviour, or bad road design.

In Finland, every child going to school must wear three pieces of reflective items on their clothes and their backpack.  The safety reflector was developed in Finland in 1960, and it is the law that pedestrians wear reflective clothing and reflectors in the dark.   Indeed, wearing reflectors and reflective clothing is completely accepted as daily wear in Scandinavia. That part of the world also has the lowest incidence of pedestrian accidents.

A similar program in Great Britain reduced pedestrian deaths with children by 51 per cent. Studies show that wearing a reflector increases the visibility of pedestrians from 25-30 meters to 140 meters, increasing the reaction time from two seconds to ten seconds  for a car being driven at posted  municipal speeds of 50 kilometers an hour. That is eight seconds more for a  driver to react, and for a pedestrian to survive.

Sure reflectivity of pedestrians will enable vehicle users to see vulnerable road users. But reflectivity is not the sole response. A vigorous and truthful campaign to slow speeds, address problem streets and intersections, address driver behaviour and regulate is key. Toronto needs to step up to the 21st century. These tragic deaths on Toronto streets should be the tipping point. But will it be enough to change policy and attitude?



Friday File: Humans Erode Tallest Church


In the “you just can’t make this stuff up” department , BBC reports that the famous Ulm Minster Church in Ulm Germany  which houses the world’s tallest church tower has an acid problem. The stone base is being eroded by the salts and acids in the urine, Suedwest Presse reports. The city doubled fines for those caught to 100 euros ($110; £90) earlier this year, but it has made little difference.

“I’ve been keeping an eye on it for half a year now and, once again, it’s coated with urine and vomit,” says Michael Hilbert, head of the department that maintains the building. Mr Hilbert tells Suedwest Presse that he’s not the “Pinkelpolizei”, or “pee police”, but wants official action over the anti-social problem. “This is about preserving law and order,” he says.

Ulm Minster’s steeple measures 161.53m (530ft), and the building is often referred to as a cathedral because of its sheer size. Its sandstone base recently underwent a costly restoration, Deutsche Welle notesAs in many cities, the area around the church is used for events throughout the year, and Mr Hilbert says organisers should provide free toilets so that men stop gravitating towards the building’s magnificent Gothic frontage when nature calls.

A city spokeswoman tells Suedwest Presse that while police patrols have increased, virtually nobody has been caught in the act recently, and she accepts that the higher fines have had no effect. The problem is likely to persist for as long as there are people, she says.

Vancouver Meter Maids and the Smarties


1026 meter maid.jpg

The Vancouver Sun has written an article about the the first meter maids in the City of Vancouver. And they were “maids”-all female. One of the nicest people at the City of Vancouver who went on to have a fruitful career in the planning department started as a meter maid. And Branca Verde, who is delightful and a very good judge of character is also persuasive and very good at collaborative problem solving. I am sure those are all skills honed as one of the meter maids hired to check those parking regulations.

Parking meters were installed in the City of Vancouver in 1976, and became a major source of revenue for the City of Vancouver. While the City does not like to say, the monthly return of parking meters can be very lucrative. Think of it-the city is  renting by the minute road space the city owns, and other than collecting the coins and regulating the space, it is a very nice cash cow. In fact in 2011 revenues from Vancouver meters were approximately 40 million dollars. 

In this article, Branca does reveal a few secrets of checking on parking. Downtown office workers would try to trick them.“People would park all day and re-meter,” Verde said. “The whole intent was to have a turnover for small business and their customers, not for someone to park all day.“We started putting a Smartie on top of the tire under the wheel well. They’d run out and rub out the chalk we’d marked their tire with and think they’d fooled us, but we’d find the Smartie still there.“It was pretty high-tech stuff.”


Today parking officers enforce a lot more bylaws than back then, including anti-idling, leaf cleaning and lawn watering during bans. And there are 9,900 meters today, more than triple the number back then.Today’s average meter rate is $2.23 an hour; in 1976 hourly rates were 10, 20 and 40 cents.Vancouver’s 104 parking officers wrote 377,324 tickets in 2015 (a figure for 1976 is not available).And they no longer appear in court, they record everything digitally.

With driverless technology, metering and enforcement could become a thing of the past. It was people like Branca that pioneered a truly 20th century vocation, and adapted a new use for candy Smarties as one of the tools of the trade.


Transit & Housing or the World’s Fair? Toronto’s Mayor Weighs In


In a surprising move to some Toronto Mayor John Tory has stated it’s not in the best interest of Toronto to be supporting an Expo  World’s Fair 2025. Now the Mayor is supposed to be relatively neutral on this issue, according to Mayoral etiquette.

Mr. Tory said Wednesday the cash-strapped city could not support a bid for a world’s fair without federal or provincial assurances that those governments would help pay for it, and do so without siphoning away money still needed for the city’s long list of transit and public-housing repair projects.

“I will tell you right now, I am not going to take money out of what we need to fund transit and housing to support an Expo, or just about anything else for that matter,” Mr. Tory told the committee after nearly five hours of presentations from Expo boosters.

Private-sector boosters paid for a feasibility study that concluded Expo 2025 could be held for just $1.9-billion in capital costs, a number that excludes billions needed for flood-protection and other infrastructure in the Port Lands. The event itself would cost another $1.6-billion to run, an amount covered by revenues and corporate sponsors, the report says, adding that it would create jobs and big economic benefits. Other Expos have not been nearly so cheap. Milan’s event in 2015 ended up costing $19-billion (Canadian). Shanghai’s, in 2010, cost an estimated $60-billion.

The late Mayor Rob Ford had a “war on the car” and announced an end to Transit City light rail in Toronto, insisting that subways were the only way to go in the vast metropolitan area. Needless to say the region is paying catch up in bringing the region together and going forward with a transit program. Kudos to the current mayor who is valuing good transit and housing for Torontonians over a world’s fair and the requisite summer party.

35,000 Drivers, Pedestrians and Cyclists in 2015. That’s the population of Penticton.


Did you know that 35,092 Americans died on roads last year. They were drivers, pedestrians and cyclists. They all had families. They didn’t think they would be dead.  A population of 35,092 is similar to the population of Penticton, Powell River, or Prince Albert. It is a lot of people.

Tree Hugger author Lloyd Alter notes the contradiction of the unfortunate and strange policies in the City of Toronto, “where the mayor wants to reduce congestion and speed traffic up, while at the same time, reducing the carnage on the road that killed or injured a thousand people since June, and which can mainly be done by slowing traffic down”.

It’s absolutely clear that vehicles and their movement have precedence over vulnerable road users, those pedestrians and cyclists. “Especially troubling, this national data shows that the most vulnerable road users – people walking and biking, statistically more likely to be old or very young, poor, or of color – are, each year, an increasingly larger proportion of traffic fatalities. These fatalities, and the more than 2.4 million serious and life-altering injuries that happen annually on U.S. streets, are statistically predictable and preventable through better street design and reduced vehicle speeds”.

There is actually a paradox right now-while cars equipped with airbags and seat belts have been saving the lives of folks driving them, the environment for pedestrians and cyclists has really not improved in the same way. Vehicles are getting better, and are becoming mobile living rooms, with video players and distractions. It is suggested that this increased distraction coupled with busier roads is the reason that American pedestrian deaths were up 10 percent last year, the biggest increase ever.

We know that road speed can mean the difference between life and death for a vulnerable pedestrian or cyclist. NACTO (National Association of City Transportation Officials) “have proven that better street design, coupled with smarter, automated speed enforcement, is the best way to increase safety and save lives on U.S. roads. In Seattle, shortening pedestrian crossing distances on Nickerson Street reduced crashes by 23% and brought excessive speeding down from 38% to less than 2%”

Redesigning our streets is absolutely key, because car drivers drive at the speed the road is designed for. Anyone driving Highway 17 out to Langley can attest that no one is driving the posted 80 kilometers per hour on that stretch. And there are many arterial roads in Metro Vancouver  where drivers are speeding above the posted speed limit.

Sure we can lower speed limits, but we need to couple that with road design and enforcement. Sweden has led the way with the Vision Zero program. The Medical Health Officer of British Columbia’s Annual Report this year, Where the Rubber Meets the Road calling for lower speed limits and better road design to halt the 280 deaths and 79,000 injuries resulting from annual vehicle crashes. As Lloyd Alter notes, we can’t wait for driverless car technology to save us. We need to start this conversation now.


First Driverless Commercial Delivery-Drivers out to Pasture?



It was not a matter of if, but when– did anyone think that driverless technology’s first commercial delivery would be a load of 2,000 cases of Budweiser beer?

Scot Bathgate sends in this article from the Toronto Star:

On Tuesday, Otto, the Uber-owned self-driving vehicle operation, announced the completion of its first commercial delivery, having delivered its beer load from Fort Collins, Colorado, to Colorado Springs, a roughly 190-kilometre trip on Interstate 25.”

It was last August that Uber bought “Otto”, a San Francisco start-up with many employees who had previously worked on Google’s driverless car technology.

“Though largely symbolic, the beer delivery marks the first commercial partnership for Otto, which was founded less than a year ago. Terms of the deal between Otto and Anheuser-Busch InBev, which owns the Budweiser brand, were not disclosed.”

“For this initial delivery, Otto’s truck departed Anheuser-Busch’s facility in Loveland, Colorado, in the early morning before reaching the interstate in Fort Collins. The truck drove through Denver — alongside regular passenger car traffic — and navigated to its destination in Colorado Springs without incident. Otto said a trained driver was in the cabin of the truck at all times to monitor the vehicle’s progress and take over if necessary. At no point was the driver required to intervene, the company said.”

Uber is now going to be testing Otto driverless commercial delivery technology on different road types and weather challenges. The company perceives this driverless technology as a potential game changer for commercial service delivery, with annual trucking industry revenue at $720 billion in 2015. Top brands such as Budweiser owners Anheuser-Busch deliver a million truck loads of beer every year.

No word yet on the future of the Budweiser Clydesdale horse driving team.


Street Art

A lot of photo success depends on having the “eye” for what works and what doesn’t. Some people have it in spades (thinking of you, Fred Herzog).  Here’s someone else who does:  Loes Heerink.


Keen photographers have the ability to elevate the ordinary into stunning imagery and photographer Loes Heerink has done just that with her series about the street vendors of Hanoi. Waking up at 4 am, the vendors—often female migrant workers—pack their bicycles to the brim with fresh flowers and fruit, walking miles throughout the course of the day to peddle their wares. Heerink lived in Vietnam for many years and became fascinated with these street vendors, so much so that she sought to capture their beauty in a unique way.

Drive-by Planning

Peter Ladner writes in Business In Vancouver.

Topics?  The Metro 2040 Regional Growth strategy, now officially honoured solely in the breach.  Tsawassen Mills.  Massey replacement bridge.  And motordom.

A.K.A. freeways to farmland.  Which seems to be our de facto growth strategy.


The justifications for the [Massey tunnel replacement] bridge have a Trump-like ring: instinctive gut appeal to frustrated SOV drivers, but making zero sense to anyone who knows how traffic congestion is really solved. The transportation minister’s claim that a big new bridge will reduce emissions from idling cars unbelievably ignores the massive increase in emissions from the new traffic that will inevitably rush in to fill a 10-lane bridge. The bridge is a desperation move to make the SOV great again, orchestrated by the same traffic engineers who keep making up claims about projected traffic increases on the money-bleeding $3.5 billion Port Mann Bridge that have never come to pass.

No one is suggesting the maddening congestion on Highway 99 doesn’t need fixing. Just not this fix. Nor is it reasonable to expect a future without cars, but we can’t afford the 25% efficiency of SOV traffic.

Projects like Tsawwassen Mills and the new 10-lane bridge are cementing Metro Vancouver into a heavily subsidized SOV-dependent future, in spite of overwhelming evidence that this will come at a huge cost to the social, economic and ecological health of the region.