San Jose California Partners with Google on new Transit Village

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The Mercury News reports that San Jose City Council has approved to negotiate only with Google to sell 16 city-owned parcels to the search engine company. Since September 2015 Trammell Crow, Google’s development partner has spent $58.5 million US dollars for an 8.3 acre “transit village” site to potentially build 1 million square feet of offices and 325 apartments.

“This is a once-in-a-century opportunity” for San Jose, Kim Walesh, the city’s economic development director, told the council. “This is a dramatic opportunity to expand the downtown core westward.”

“The transit village would generate millions of dollars in tax revenue and add thousands of tech jobs in an area where experts have estimated that up to 3,000 housing units could be built, city officials said Tuesday. “It will mean more local jobs closer to home,” Nanci Klein, the city’s assistant director of economic development, said in a presentation to the council.”

While thousands of housing units have now been built in the downtown core, it is estimated that a further 3,00 units can be built within this new area. This adds significant tax dollars for San Jose, as well as more high-tech jobs to boost the economy.

“I am supportive of Google’s interest in coming to San Jose and expect they will continue to be the great corporate citizen they have shown to be in other communities,” San Jose City Councilman Sergio Jimenez stated in a letter to the City Council. “It is my sense that Google recognizes and appreciates the impacts this project will have on our city.”

While some locals have decried Google’s choke hold on potential downtown properties in a city that is experiencing high housing demand, the Mayor of  San Jose is more upbeat: “Google is not in the business of solving the city’s problems,” the mayor said. “Google didn’t cause these problems. These are problems we have to solve.”

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Job Jar — HUB Director of Communications

Rush to this one, because it’s a great organization. Details HERE.

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Role overview:

This role leads HUB Cycling’s work to improve cycling conditions in Metro Vancouver via internal and external communications, campaign management, and marketing activities. Leveraging the power of volunteers is a key responsibility of this role, as well as providing support to our local committee volunteers, and implementing strategic action and membership campaigns. This position affects positive change and strengthens the voice for better cycling region-wide.

Surrey Light Rail, and More

Occasional PT contributor and full-time Langley City councilor Nathan Pachal writes about recently released plans for the Surrey light rail projects, and much more.  Incidentally ever-more likely to happen, too, given the increasing likelihood of referendum-free local funding.

Check out this Translink site for more detail, especially upcoming open house events (display boards HERE). The City of Surrey’s info page is HERE.

For example, the plans includes changing King George Boulevard to a tree-lined multi-modal corridor.

Today it’s a six-lane urban arterial — almost a freeway in its design and usage. The change incorporates the “complete street” approach, where those who choose their feet or a bike will have a safe, useable and pleasant place to make their trip.

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As usual, let’s all prepare for yet another round of “Carmageddon“, the consequence-free game of predicting near-complete societal collapse as a result of changes to the existing allocation of road space.

The plan’s map shows two lines, with a combined total of 19 LRT stops over 27 km of travel.

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Stepping up Walking Infrastructure to Ward Off Depression

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The New York Times writes about   three new studies on depression and regular exercise that should  impact how we build cities and how we enhance walkability for sociability and mental fitness. Reviewing the habits of over one million men and women the studies  “strongly suggest that regular exercise  alters our bodies and brains in ways that make us resistant to despair.”

While the evidence has been clear that designing cities for walking has tremendous health benefits in keeping the population mobile and fit, the evidence about the mental health benefits of walkability has been less clear. By finding several studies that collectively followed  over 1.1 million adults, the link between fitness and mental health was “considerable“. Scientists found that people with the lowest fitness levels were 75 per cent more likely to have diagnoses of depression than the fittest people. The folks in the middle fitness level  were 25 per cent more likely to have  depression diagnoses.

“The pooled results persuasively showed that exercise, especially if it is moderately strenuous, such as brisk walking or jogging, and supervised, so that people complete the entire program, has a “large and significant effect” against depression, the authors wrote. People’s mental health tended to demonstrably improve if they were physically active.”

“The three reviews together make a sturdy case for exercise as a means to bolster mental as well as physical health, said Felipe Barreto Schuch, an exercise scientist at the Centro Universitário La Salle in Canoas, Brazil, who, with Brendon Stubbs, a professor at King’s College in London, was a primary author on all of the reviews.”  

That neuroscience advice to go for  a walk or go ride a bike when overwhelmed or stressed appears to be sound. Mental health improves the more active a population is. It is a  perfect rationale  to encourage the refit and reboot of wide comfortable walkable sidewalks and connections  in cities and in suburbs, keeping citizens of all ages active and engaged.

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Fraser Valley rapid transit in 1949

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This video on YouTube captures a bit of the B.C. Electric’s interurban line that ran from New Westminster to Chilliwack between 1910 and 1952. An interesting little “what if?” film – could a network of these have limited the suburban sprawl in the Valley, or was the car culture simply too powerful, as magnetic as the Uber/share/self-driving paradigm is becoming today for some people?

Apparently passenger service on the line had become unprofitable as early as the 1920s because of the growth of car ownership. Freight, especially the transportation of milk, kept the line going, and it was an essential piece of infrastructure during the gas- and tire-rationing period of the Second World War.

Whole Foods becoming Amazon Grocery Distribution Centres?

 

In one of those decisions that will resonate for decades NPR reports that Amazon the giant of on-line retailing has bought Whole Foods for $13.7 billion dollars. That’s roughly three times the original cost of the proposed Massey Bridge.

Stock prices of large retail food chains such as Costco negatively  reacted. Why? Because almost a quarter of all millennials bought food from Whole Foods last year, and Whole Foods has  “a tremendous amount of credibility around the quality of the food and the reputation they have with their customer base.”  While one of the challenges for Amazon was how to deliver fresh groceries “the last mile” having 460 Whole Foods stores in the United States, Canada and Great Britain can serve as distribution centres to solve that issue. Owning Whole Foods and using those existing facilities for delivery will be early adopter to a new way of on-line marketing of fresh food delivery through Amazon, and if successful change the retail landscape of grocery stores in cities and suburbs.

If Amazon is able to be competitive with prices and deliveries, this will also  change how grocery stores function with other uses including cooking classes and education, not just the standard retail transaction. It also means that many grocery stores will be under pressure to either offer a home delivery similar to Amazon, or change their retail model to survive. While one in ten meals served in the USA are pre-prepared and bought, grocery stores may morph into “grocerants” where the classic buy your own groceries will be increasingly coupled with restaurant use. Grocery shopping has previously been only a small component of Amazon’s sales. Buying Whole Foods could be the classic disruptor in how food is distributed, and change grocery pricing, shopping and delivery drastically.

 

 

Wilson’s Words

Well-known Vancouverite Chip Wilson has placed this at the bus stop in front of Lululemon HQ on Cornwall.

Does anyone have any idea what it means?

I’m baffled, except that it’s a subtle and convoluted something or other about smartphones and life. I do echo the green felt-tip graffiti —   “So deep!” — which seems sarcastic and befuddled too.

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If I had to guess, I’d say one of two possibilities:

  1. Insider message-joke for Lululemon people (Wilson does occasionally flash a sense of humour).
  2. Advertising campaign teaser.  It’s got the requisite ad strategy for part A: “Big problem here; soon I’ll reveal the product that solves it. Meanwhile, whirl in befuddlement and talk it up.”

And yes, I know that I’m playing into item 2. I’m just a sucker for mysterioso.

BTW, if I see the message elsewhere besides at Lululemon HQ, I’ll start leaning towards item 2.

Parking At Car-Free Day

Always a major issue for some:  where to park the car when I go to car-free day this weekend. Because, of course, there is only one and only one way to travel to such an event. And the destination city and the event organizers are morally and ethically bound to provide me with a (preferably free) place to store my vehicle when I get there, or anywhere else for that matter.  No matter where, no matter when.

HERE’s a bunch of handy tips for solving this dilemma.  Thanks to Kudos and Kvetches at the Vancouver Courier.

Introduction: This weekend, wide swaths of Main Street in Mount Pleasant and Denman Street in the West End will be closed to vehicle traffic for something called Car Free Day — also known as the Day Angry Old People Go On Facebook, Use the Phrase ‘Mayor Moonbeam’ and Complain about Bike Lanes. Just kidding, that’s everyday on Facebook.

The annual street festival that “reclaims traffic thoroughfares as community focused public spaces” has grown in popularity since it started in 2008. So much so, that it’s nearly impossible to find parking for those who choose to drive to the event in honour of not driving. It’s a real conundrum.

Sample handy tip:

Park.on.a.lawnPark on someone’s lawn.    Despite what you’ve been led to believe with your eyes and mind, lots of people actually possess lawns in Vancouver. Find those people’s lawns and park on them. They won’t mind. They probably won’t even notice. The people who are renting out the house with a lawn through Airbnb might notice but not the owners of the house with a lawn. They’re probably somewhere else that’s way cheaper and listening to Musical Youth’s “Pass the Dutchie” on repeat. Is there any other way?

Daily Scot: Sprawl, Parking and Office Parks

From the Toronto Star:

The Toronto region needs to stop building office parks surrounded by giant, parking lots on the fringes and start urbanizing its job zones, putting employment near transit and creating pedestrian friendly business parks.

Urban planner Pamela Blais …  has written detailed profiles of two of the region’s longstanding employment megazones being published this week by the non-profit Neptis Foundation, which has been studying the impact of provincial anti-sprawl policies.

Emerging jobs are compatible with multi-storey office towers rather than low, spread-out manufacturing facilities. Redeveloping the surface parking lots and building on some vacant business park sites could free up space for up to 57,000 office workers, according to Blais. …

“That means restricting office development at the edges of the region. No more new suburban office parks. The 100 million sq. ft. of office space we’re expecting to plan for over the next 25 years — we have to do that in a way that maximizes out transit investments and the economic potential,” she said.

 

Call For Board Members — HUB Cycling

Looking for a way to contribute your skills to a better Metro Vancouver?  Have some fun??  Meet new folks??  HUB Cycling is looking for Board of Directors members.

Elections take place at HUB’s AGM on September 23; orientation sessions will be available in early July if you want more info; applications due by June 30.

Here are the skills and interests HUB Cycling is seeking in new Board members:

  • Great fundraising connections and an interest in fundraising
  • A passion for and knowledge about cycling infrastructure, planning and engineering
  • Strategic thinking and change management skills
  • Sufficient time available to be an excellent ambassador for HUB Cycling (at least 10-12 hours per month)

Mom.Kids.BikeHUB is a smart, active and effective non-profit organization, with great people. My thoughts are that joining the Board is a great way to contribute your time and skills to your community.  And the time commitment is real — you’ll be involved in lots of interesting stuff.

If you are a bit on the fence, why not edge inwards with little commitment by attending a HUB local committee meeting in your part of Metro Vancouver.

Friday Funny: The Bard explains the Hokey Pokey

From Michael Alexander: 

The Washington Post asked readers to submit “instructions” for something (anything), but written in the style of a famous person.
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  O proud left foot, that ventures quick within
  Then soon upon a backward journey lithe.
  Anon, once more the gesture, then begin:
  Command sinistral pedestal to writhe.
  Commence thou then the fervid Hokey-Poke,
  A mad gyration, hips in wanton swirl.
  To spin! A wilde release from Heavens yoke.
  Blessed dervish! Surely canst go, girl.
  The Hoke, the poke — banish now thy doubt
  Verily, I say, ’tis what it’s all about.
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  — by “William Shakespeare”

Liberals Say Economy At Risk with Massey Tunnel Rethink

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More hyperbole regarding the rethink of the Massey Bridge has emerged as reported in the Delta Optimist. The newly minted Delta South MLA, former Delta Councillor Ian Paton had previously said at an all candidates meeting that he could not figure out why the City of Vancouver did not “clean up” the Downtown Eastside and said that such a situation “would not be allowed” in Delta.  This time Mr. Paton takes aim at the other  politicians questioning the tunnel replacement, despite the fact that this project is not supported by Metro Vancouver or by the Mayors’ Council, is overbuilt and will cost $12 billion dollars with carrying costs, will take away the best farmland in Canada, and will be built on a sensitive floodplain.

“Our economy is at stake and the agreement between the NDP and the Green party to kill infrastructure spending for the sake of pursuing their own political interests is putting the province’s future at risk. The fact is that after years of consultation, we need a tunnel replacement urgently, and if you are sitting in traffic daily, you want a solution ASAP. By tossing aside years of consultation, planning, and design work Horgan is essentially saying he is not interested in representing folks in Delta, or B.C. for that matter.”

This is all interesting as it has been a rather one hand clapping kind of consultation, and if anyone with the government actually read through the studies you could see that there is a bit of a bias and a lot lacking in those consultative reports.  Couple that with “congestion” that could be ameliorated by simply running Deltaport 24 hours a day like every other port in North America and limiting truck traffic at peak times in the tunnel. Those solutions would not cost billions of dollars. As well all of a sudden the tunnel is not seismically sound, despite previous reports suggesting otherwise, and the fact the same tunnels are in use in Europe with anticipated long lifespans.

The BC Liberal Caucus decided to make the sensible Massey Tunnel rethink issue even a bigger conundrum, saying on twitter that “the NDP’s opposition to the George Massey Tunnel Replacement Project puts the economy at risk”.  This is the same government that insisted on a transit referendum for Metro Vancouver, and after that failed, offered no solution. Not championing public transit accessibility in the region puts the economy at risk. Rethinking a multi-billion dollar expenditure that appears to be a pet project by one political party, in the wrong place for the region? Not so much.

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The Future of Personal Mobility

From MPRNews:

 

Three important changes in the transportation business are pushing technology forward right now, said (energy scientist Amory) Lovins. Self-driving autonomous cars, which are already out there in test mode. Car sharing gaining popularity. And finally, the growing treatment of mobility as a service.

“Now those are starting to come together on your mobile device as public and private transport firms open up their coats so you can see where all the vehicles are and meld all of the offerings and pick the one you want,” said Lovins.

Greg Dalton hosts the Climate One series at the Commonwealth Club of California. His guests are:

Amory Lovins, co-founder and chief scientist, Rocky Mountain Institute.

Emily Castor, director of transportation policy at Lyft.

Gerry Tierney, architect and associate principal at Perkins + Will.

To listen to their discussion, click the audio player found here.

When Cars Cross the Line in Ottawa

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Pedestrians as walkers and as people using the street generally are quite polite about it, because the consequences of being foolhardy or inattentive can be deadly. There is still a lot that can be done to make walking easier, more comfortable and convenient in Vancouver and across the country. Walking is all about the details-curb drops, wide sidewalks, smooth surfaces with non glare treatment, lots of visual interest, benches and ensuring there are places to walk to and through. Perhaps it is because walking is not sexy-it is done by the disenfranchised when they are young, and the elderly when they become disenfranchised from vehicle driving-and by everyone in between from  a trip by bike, bus or a vehicle. Making the walking environment the best is vital as it encourages sociability and health, and all indicators are pointing to walkability as the number one factor to make folks healthier and happier.

Price Tags has written about the antiquated Ontario Motor Vehicle Act and the town of Perth Ontario where the business association created marked crosswalks at intersections, but vehicles don’t have to stop for the shoppers crossing the road. Indeed the crosswalks are called “courtesy” crossings, hoping a car will be polite enough to stop, with a warning to pedestrians to ensure the cars stop before they venture off the curb.  In Ontario a vehicle is not required to stop at a marked crosswalk unless it has overhead lights, usually a six figure cost, or a crossing guard, to protect kids. You just can’t make this stuff up. So twentieth century.

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Another supreme insult to pedestrians noted by CBC Ottawa  occurred last week outside the Alt Hotel located at 185 Slater Street downtown.  Imagine-the hotel decided to paint in bright purple a “loading zone” for the hotel right on the sidewalk in front of the hotel, to show guests it was quite all right to just drive onto pedestrian terrain to unpack their luggage.

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Ottawa is not a place that has very generous sidewalks, continual curb drops, or many amenities for walkers. But painting two parking spots for guests on the fronting sidewalk? The general manager of the hotel stated “If [vehicles] stay on the purple, then I don’t really see a problem. But I’m not sure for a busy downtown street, with a lot of pedestrian traffic, I don’t think it was the best idea.”

Surprisingly the City of Ottawa gave the go ahead to the Alt hotel to purple up their sidewalk in advance of a full-time loading zone which will eventually be built. Even worse, the City of Ottawa’ engineering manager in charge of this transgression calls it a “bit of a pilot”. The manager stated: “Every time we make changes on the public roadway it takes a bit of time for the people to figure it out. We’ll see how it works. We’re monitoring it, we’re working with the hotel operator and the developer as well, and if it doesn’t work out, we’ll remove it.”

Now you will notice that the City is dealing with the hotel owner and the developer, but no one is talking to the pedestrian, who used to be the full-time user of that sidewalk. Motordom reigns supreme in the country’s capital. And this is just plain wrong.

East Hastings Vancouver’s Most Walkable Street?

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The Vancouver Sun and writer Harrison Mooney outline the Strathcona Business Improvement Association’s (SBIA)  plan to make East Hastings Street Vancouver’s most walkable within the next four years.

“The campaign intends to transform East Hastings into a pedestrian destination by making it more walkable,” the association said in a news release. “The SBIA will improve walkability on East Hastings by enhancing amenities, comfort, access and sociability and promoting local business.”

With stated goals improving health, environment  and economy, the  intent is to make the area more attractive for inhabitants and visitors. What is missing from the statement and the news release is that this section of East Hastings is already the living room for a significant part of the population who live in smaller units along the street. While street beautification does include public art, murals and sculptures, I’d argue that benches are not beautification but should be a necessity in any commercial street area, especially one with a population that is using the street. By raising the bar on street furniture and enhancing cleanliness you are also saying that you care about the local inhabitants too.

There was  push back in the design and development of the Carrall Street Greenway in this section of the downtown where benches were placed for local residents and are actively used by locals and visitors alike. The benches are now an accepted part of the community, and universally used.

The business association who will be launching a Walk Strathcona Summer Series with pop up shops next week and a street party on June 24.

 

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Carrall Street at East Hastings Street installation-Carrall Street Greenway

 

Richmond Mayor says Massey Bridge won’t fix Congestion, Rethink Needed.

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The Mayor of Richmond Malcolm Brodie in the Richmond News counters the conjecture and misinformation emerging post-election on the potential rethink of the Massey Bridge proposal, now estimated to cost $12 Billion with carrying costs. As Dr. Kat Volk a former University of British Columbia planetary scientist mentioned this amount of money could fund several planetary missions such as Cassini instead of the vast majority of single-occupant motor vehicles using the Massey Tunnel.

While recognizing that the Massey Tunnel “bottleneck” impacts the economy by fettering the free flow of people and goods, Mayor Brodie notes “the current bridge proposal is simply the wrong project to effectively address the problem. Because the current plan contravenes the Regional Growth Strategy and affects the environment, the Metro Vancouver Regional District board almost unanimously opposes the proposed bridge.”

The Mayor also mentions former  provincial Minister of Transportation Kevin Falcon who had wanted to ease congestion through strengthening and twinning  the  existing tunnel, while making investments in bus or rail mass transit. Developing a huge bridge at this location will shift congestion to the Oak Street Bridge, clog  adjacent Richmond streets near the highway, and negatively impact local farmland.

Currently, the proposal calls for a massive bridge three kilometres in length suspended from two towers, each of which is approximately the equivalent height of a 60 storey building. Bedrock in the area is estimated to be over 1,000 feet down.  The new tolled bridge may also move traffic elsewhere.  “From the Port Mann and Golden Ears bridge experience  expected tolls will divert much of the traffic to non-tolled already-congested alternatives such as the Alex Fraser Bridge.”

Mayor Brodie concludes :”We urgently need to solve the congestion issue that exists around the Massey Tunnel. Let’s reconsider this ill-conceived plan for a massive structure that compromises the environment at a cost to our grandchildren of billions of unnecessary dollars while it provides only a bandaid solution.”

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