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Copenhagen 8 – Ting jeg kan lide ved København

July 31, 2015

Or, things I like about Copenhagen:

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Good design, with restraint:

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Practically the first thing you see when looking out the doors of the M2 Metro from the airport to city centre – industrial, simple but as composed as a painting. (Copenhagen is late coming to rapid transit: only two small lines have been open since 2002.  But construction on the circle line is well underway, which will really make a difference to how they get around.  Yes, less cars, but maybe even less bike use.)

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Free Internet on the rail system.  Not that big a deal these days, but it gives me a chance to mention something odd about Denmark.  I carry an unlocked iPhone with me for travel, and then replace the SIM card for cellular and data use in each country.

But on arriving in Denmark, we couldn’t find a place at the airport that sold SIM cards.  Discovered in town that they’re sold through 7-11 outlets – but none we went to had any left.  And they’re only for cellular service, no data.  Went to computer stores, discovered you have to live in Denmark to get a plan (seemed unlikely, but that’s what they said.)   Full mobile service is expensive and difficult to get.

Having come from Spain, where Vodaphone even has a major Metro stop in Madrid named after it (how much did that cost!), cell and data plans are cheap and easy to get, even in Spanish.  It’s inexplicable that Denmark has made it so difficult, especially when these days a map app is almost essential.   Or a translation app.  So: Det er én ting, jeg ikke kunne lide.

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Bikes, on the other hand, easy to get: small, light, gearless, highly maneuverable, always with a kickstand.  Perfect urban riding: makes you feel Danish.

My bike

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Cobblestone sidewalks, but with smooth tracks for wheels:

Tracks

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Also useful when training the toddlers on their first bikes:

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Public toilets: free and staffed – almost a definition of civilization.

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Blankets provided for sitting outside in the evening:

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The smoking: not so much.

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Art in public places, statues in public squares, particularly men on horses:

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They’ve really got a thing about that:

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Literally: High horse as King Christian

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And of course, I don’t have to mention the amenities they provide for cycling.  But, of course, I will.

Best example: the covered parking at a major mall – more visible than the entrance.

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Problem: hundreds of spaces provided, still not enough:Fisk parking.

We should all have Copenhagen’s problems.

What is Peter Fassbender’s real mandate for TransLink – and local government in Metro?

July 31, 2015

Good news on the whole:

 

Vaughn Palmer: With Fassbender’s arrival, TransLink the ‘whipping boy’ no more?

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After fielding one of the toughest assignments in the current term of the B.C. Liberal government, cabinet minister Peter Fassbender has been handed another huge challenge in an otherwise modest cabinet shuffle. …

A former mayor of Langley City, he has served as both chairman and vice-chairman of the TransLink mayors’ council, where he proved to be no slouch at speaking his own mind. …

He did say that the immediate job in the wake of the plebiscite is to restore public confidence in TransLink, particularly as regards “fiscal management.” …

In his days on the mayors’ council, Fassbender was an opponent of further increases in property taxes and he briefly supported a vehicle levy, until that notion backfired for a second time.

He’s also on the record as a fan of road pricing and congestion taxes. And as former mayor of one community south of the river and now an MLA for another, he’d presumably side with those demanding “equity” in tolling policies on river crossings, tied to the proposed replacement for TransLink’s Pattullo Bridge.

Talking to reporters Thursday, he acknowledged having expressed strong opinions over the years and will no doubt continue to do so. But he also maintained that he intends to approach the new posting with “an open mind,” seeking consensus if possible.

Still, one quote from his days on the mayors’ council is worth repeating in the current circumstances: “We have to stop TransLink being the whipping boy in all of these discussions and focus on what the region needs.”

Now more than ever, I’d say.

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But while the appointment of Fassbender may give reason for optimism, his mandate, received in the accompanying letter from the Premier, doesn’t.Peter 1

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The whole mandate letter is here – but these are the critical sentences:

Metro Vancouver voters appreciated the opportunity to make their voices heard on those issues, and the issues surrounding Translink itself.  As a result, I have decided to place responsibility for Translink with the Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development – as the issues surrounding Translink following the outcome of the plebiscite are now inextricably linked with taxation issues facing local governments in Metro Vancouver.

Questions surrounding taxation and the significant funds that will be required to pay for the transit improvements outlined in the Mayors Council vision for transit and transportation are best dealt with by looking at the issues facing communities as a whole.

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One possible interpretation:

The plebiscite worked insofar as we fulfilled our promise to the voters and escaped any critical blowback.  TransLink’s reputation was ruined, of course, but fortunately they’re still carrying the blame for the failure of the vote along with the region’s mayors who received a vote of non-confidence.

Our long-standing position can now be reinforced: money for transit has to come from local government – property taxes in particular.  But there shouldn’t be big tax increases to do so;  that’s what we mean by “by looking at the issues facing communities as a whole.”  Local government will have to repriorize, using existing revenues – and this should help force them to do so.

Thus through this strategy we are both able to limit the growth of local and regional government, while at the same time drawing revenues from the Metro economic engine to fund our chosen transportation projects, including, Minister, light rail in Surrey and to your community in Langley.

If that means little or no progress on transit elsewhere in the region, along with an inability to shape growth according to the regional plan, we can live with that.  My advisors, drawn from the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, are confident that we have or will be building enough roads and bridges to handle growth in the parts of the region we care about.

As for the City of Vancouver, maybe they should think more carefully about who they vote for.

The New York View of the World

July 31, 2015

You may be familiar with this famous New Yorker cover from 1976, by Saul Steinberg:

View of the World from 9th Avenue

NY 76

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But before that unabashed parochialism, there was this from 1970:

A New Yorker’s Map of America

NY 1970

Click to enlarge.

To get into the detail, go here.

Tinkling Ivories on a Summer Day

July 31, 2015

Michael Alexander pretends to play one of ten pianos in this year’s Key to the Streets:

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Piano

 

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Thank you, City Studio – and the donor who made it possible.

What Happened When Bicyclists Obeyed Traffic Laws

July 31, 2015

This:

The protest hadn’t even started before the first motorist laid on the horn.

Hundreds of cyclists rode through The Wiggle yesterday evening in protest of a San Francisco police captain’s calls for a crackdown on bikers coasting through stop signs. But instead of breaking the law, protesters wanted to show the city just how bad traffic would be if every bicycle approached intersections just as a car does.

Riders arrived at every stop sign in a single file, coming to a complete stop and filing through the intersection only once they were given the right-of-way. The law-abiding act of civil disobedience snarled traffic almost immediately.

The protest, flanked by an army of TV cameras and amused onlookers, was in response to a directive from SFPD Park Station Captain John Sanford, who ordered his officers to punish cyclists for “zipping past” cars and supposedly endangering people. …

Cyclists, along with a growing number of organizations and local politicians, believe bike riders shouldn’t be legally treated like cars, but rather treated as what they are — bikers. There’s been a growing call for the city and California to adopt what is known as the “Idaho Stop” law. Since 1982, Idaho has permitted cyclists to treat stop signs as yields and red lights as stop signs, which allows bikers to conserve energy, clear intersections faster, and become more visible (and thus safer) by getting in front of traffic.

Full story here in sfweekly – thanks to Alex Gaio.

Summer Quiz 3 – Where is this?

July 31, 2015

The image:


Quiz 3

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The question: Where is this?

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The answer: Below.  Just click.

Read more…

Nathan Pachal’s Story of TransLink in Three Parts – and how to solve the funding issue

July 30, 2015

South Fraser Blogger Nathan Pachal has distilled a lot of information to explain the backstory of TransLink – and how we got to now.  You can read all three parts on his blog here.

My very abridged version:

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The Story of TransLink Part 1: The Old Funding Bait and Switch

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Metro Vancouver (the GVRD at that time) adopted the Livable Region Strategic Plan and Transport 2021 in the 1990s. …   By building walkable and transit-accessible neighbourhoods, the Region could accommodate growth while preserving precious greenspace and farmland – the very things that make our region a special place.

There was a hitch though.  … more transit service would be needed.  B.C. Transit was in a sorry state. …

The Province wanted to cap spending on transit while the Region wanted more control ….  After much back and forth, a deal was struck.

A new transportation agency would be created for Metro Vancouver – now TransLink – controlled by a 15 member board: 12 Metro Vancouver appointees, with sub-regional representation and weighted votes, like other Metro Vancouver boards; and three board members appointed by the provincial government.

Funding was a sticking point. In the end, the Province agreed to keep paying ongoing capital payments for the Expo Line and West Coast Express, and to pay 60 percent of the capital costs of the yet to be built Millennium Line and Evergreen Line.

The provincial government would stop charging a Hospital District Property Tax in the region, worth $70 million (2015 dollars) at the time, and reduce the provincial gas tax in Metro Vancouver by six cents. The idea was to create a replacement property tax and gas tax for the new regional transportation authority.  The new transit authority would also get the other funding sources that existed at the time including fares, the parking sales tax, the B.C. Hydro levy, and non-residential property tax.

It was known that more funding would be needed: $265 million per year (2015 dollars) in … a proposed vehicle levy to be introduced after the 2001 provincial election. .

On paper, both the Province and local governments got what they wanted. The Region got control of transportation while the Province was able to stop funding the operation of transit in Metro Vancouver out of general revenue. Metro Vancouver residents would finally get the transit system they deserved.

Of course, this wasn’t to be. The NDP, fearing the vehicle levy would get them unelected, scrapped it. The B.C. Liberal won that election and didn’t move forward with the levy.

The BC Liberals agreed to raise gas tax by two cents per liter if local governments agreed to jack up property tax to collect an additional $20 million per year, and fares would be hiked an additional $25 million per year, to bring in $85 million per year (in 2002 dollars).

It was enough to keep things going while getting the Millennium Line running. But it was far short of the money required to meet the vision of Transport 2021.

*  *  *  *  *

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The Story of TransLink Part 2: How the province got out of paying its fair share for transit in Metro Vancouver

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When the Province made the deal to create TransLink, it agreed to eliminate the hospital property tax, to increase the local share of gas tax, and to continue to pay for SkyTrain debt. They also agreed to pay for 60 percent of the capital cost of new rapid transit lines.

While this might have sounded like a good deal at the time, the B.C. government broke its promises to the region.

If transit in Metro Vancouver was funded the same way that the Victoria Regional Transit System is today (30 percent of the cost),* in 2014 the B.C. government would have had to pay $428 million into TransLink. …

There is a $137 million to $199 million gap between the 30 percent ideal and what the Province paid into TransLink in 2014. The Province is actually paying less for Metro Vancouver transit today than it did in 1998!

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*  With the exception of Victoria, the provincial government pays around 50 percent of the cost for transit service in B.C.  The remaining 50 percent is made up from property tax and fares. …

In Victoria, the provincial government pays for 30% of the cost of transit. The remaining 70 percent is made up from a local 3.5 cent gas tax, property tax, and fares.

*  *  *  *  *

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The Story of TransLink Part 3 – How Metro Vancouver got a bum deal, and how we can fix it

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Why don’t the Region’s mayors just raise property tax to pay for much-needed regional transportation investments in Metro Vancouver?

While a doubling of the property tax allocated for TranLink is in the realm of possibility, why are the mayors so against it?  Because the Province promised several things that it didn’t deliver on.

  • a vehicle levy as a way to pay for regional roads, bridges, and transit in the region.
  • 60 percent  of the cost of new rail rapid transit lines. (The Province now only commits to funding 33 percent.)

In 2014, the Province paid for about 15- 20 percent of the cost to run TransLink. (It paid about 30 percent for the B.C. Transit system in Victoria, and 50 percent for transit systems in the rest of the province.)  Before the creation of TransLink, the Province paid for 46 percent of the cost of transit in Metro Vancouver.

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Provincial Funding Levels for BC Transit and TransLink in 2014.

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So how do we fund the mayors’ transportation plan while bringing back equity for Metro Vancouver taxpayers? As a first step, the Province should agree to fund 30 percent of TransLink’s costs in a similar fashion to how it does for the Victoria Regional Transit System. (This 30 percent would include an adjustment for the six cents per liter of fuel tax that the Province gave up in Metro Vancouver.)

To simplify things and bring back transparency, the provincial government should reintroduce the Hospital District Levy in Metro Vancouver.

Even with these changes, there would still be about a $100 million per year gap in revenue needed to fund the mayors’ transportation plan. If an annual $64 vehicle levy, indexed to inflation was introduced, the funding gap would be filled.

Metro Vancouver would finally get the transportation system we need, and some equality would be introduced back into how the Province funds transit in Metro Vancouver – without the need of another wasteful referendum.

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Read the complete story here.

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