The view of landscape architect Cornelia Oberlander’s work atop the Vancouver Public Library as seen from Telus Garden’s 24th floor.
Vancouver Deputy Mayor Heather Deal has a number of portfolios – usually all the ways to make sure our City is becoming delightful – including Arts & Culture. She is passionate about the topic and a Councillor Liaison to the Arts & Culture Policy Council so I asked her to tell me more. She shared stories about her conversations with Vancouverites on public art.
Poodle (no official name) by Gisele Amantea got negative media when someone from the area complained that Main Street isn’t a poodle neighbourhood. Which is awesome because public art got people talking about the identity of their neighbourhood.
There were also complaints about cost and it not being a local artist (both based on inaccurate reporting).
(TP note: How many of our public art pieces have their own Twitter account? Follow @MainStPoodle)
When people complain to me about the poodle, I ask them what piece of public art they do like.
2. A-mazing Laughter
9/10 answer: A-mazing Laughter at English Bay – a Vancouver Biennale piece. So I ask them 3 questions about it:
Does it reflect the West End?
How much did cost?
Where is the artist from?
No one can answer that. Not one person to date.
(TP: I was able to answer all 3 – including who negotiated the counteroffer and donated it.)
3. The Third Piece
Then I ask for opinions about a third piece of public art. Very few can name one. Some come up with Myfanwy MacLeod’s The Birds in Olympic Village.
Some can name Giants by OSGEMEOS on Granville Island – another biennale piece from an international artist team.
4. I love it when people talk about our city.
Art is a great place to start that conversation. Learn about the hundreds of pieces of public art in Vancouver at the City’s website here.
5. Notice art.
Think about whether you like it or don’t. Look it up and learn about the artist and their inspiration.
Did you know that the poodle was made by an artist living in the region at the time and that it was inspired by the antique shops on Main Street? (TP: I had no idea.)
We also want to encourage people to think about what they like and want in public spaces such as art (murals, pieces, etc.) and what type of programmed space, festivals, and unprogrammed squares or plazas they’d like.
Ask yourself: Do you want to be entertained? Amused? Challenged?
Reminded of something in our history, negative or positive?
Awed? Do you want to be able to interact with it?
Does it compel you to take a selfie with it?
Jane Jacobs, urbanist and author, believed in walkable neighbourhoods, urban literacy, and cities planned by and for everybody.
We celebrate Jane’s birthday every year by leading and tagging along on Jane’s Walks. You create a walking tour of an area you’d like to talk about or celebrate and people sign up for it. It’s less of a lecture and more of a walking conversation. Leaders share their knowledge, but also encourage discussion and participation among the walkers. The whole thing is free.
It could also be a jogging tour or a bicycling tour or a skateboarding tour…
The one hour orientation session is Monday April 25 from 5:30-6:30pm at the Mount Pleasant Community Library.
Jane’s Walks, now in its 9th year, are held Friday-Sunday, May 6, 7, or 8 in 2016.
How many times have you thought: I’d love to sit outside but it’s kinda noisy and stinky with the cars right there?
This is my fourth post in a series on transforming our shopping districts into more pleasant places to get to safely and hang out in.
We’ve reached an awkward moment in Vancouver’s history where trips by active transportation and transit are increasing without updating our shopping districts to accommodate those modes as well.
If as of May, 2015 50% of all trips in Vancouver are made by walking, bicycling, or transit and we haven’t updated the safety for those modes in any of our shopping districts yet, is this affecting how well businesses are doing? It seems it must be.
Janette Sadik-Khan, likening a City to a business for a moment, said about updating streets: “If you didn’t change your major capital asset in 50-60 years, would you still be in business?”
Now that an interesting amount of data from best practices elsewhere confirms these changes are good for business, it is time for the City to plan improving the streets in our shopping districts with updates such as wider sidewalks including bulges, raised crosswalks, mid-block crossings, protected bike lanes and intersections, better bicycle parking, car-free plazas, space for transitioning between modes, and other additions.
Successful business owners like Jimmy Pattison always talk about exceptional, friendly customer service being the most important step for companies. What they really mean is that the whole customer experience – from the first website visit, to ease of getting there and getting through the door, to the impression the place is clean and appealing indoors and out, through the direct customer experience until the good-bye/see you soon – should be at least safe and pleasant or even fun.
Every successful business also adapts to the times to continue to be desired. They adjust to new ways their customers reach them (both online and via other modes of travel). Businesses are not served well by being seen as on the wrong side of history on the issue of safer streets.
Reach out to the successful ones who intend to be there throughout and after these transitions. The businesses who do well for many years do the following:
- keep their awnings clean, readable, and free of green fuzz,
- ask the City to install bike racks near them by tweeting details @CityofVancouver #311,
- make sure the doors, floors, tables, chairs and bathrooms are clean,
- greet customers with a smile,
- make an effort to get to know regulars,
- are in tune with what menu items or stock their customers really want,
- have great relationships with their suppliers to get those items on a consistent basis,
- handle complaints graciously – often with follow-up check-ins,
- and always say please and thank you.
What we can do to help local businesses – especially through this transition:
- make an effort to thank and support local businesses and their owners – especially the ones who support safer streets for all,
- avoid lecturing (or “You should…” sentences to) business owners who have no intention of changing; it’s a waste of energy; they will learn the hard way,
- go to the business manager or owner before complaining elsewhere if you have any problems: Assume If you like us, tell your friends; if not, tell us! is the motto of every business,
- spread the word about great experiences in person, on social media, and with your friends and co-workers,
- every time you visit, casually mention to the server what mode you took to get there,
- notify the City if you see loose bike racks, street lights out, plastic bags stuck in street trees, etc. by tweeting the details to @CityofVancouver #311,
- and always say please and thank you.
The City, together with residents, business owners, employees, and our visitors will need to pitch in to improve the health, safety, economic viability, and delightfulness of our shopping districts.
1) Bikeshare system area
On February 24th, the City of Vancouver announced the Summer 2016 launch of our first bikesharing program.
They explained that the initial geographical area where bikeshare bikes can be picked up/dropped off would roughly be Arbutus to Main Street and 16th Ave north to, and including, the downtown peninsula. I thought this was odd. Why Arbutus? It’s not bike friendly. Why didn’t they start at Cypress? Improvements on Cypress Street should be completed before May. It would be much safer to ride along.
2) Arbutus Corridor announcement
On March 7th the City announced a major deal to purchase the CP railway along the Arbutus Corridor and, once the old tracks are ripped out, it will become a stellar active transportation corridor of green space.
A-ha! Oh-ho! Arbutus as a western boundary within the new bikeshare system area makes more sense now. It felt like some puzzle pieces in my head were coming together. Hadn’t a City Councillor recently talked about trail connectivity?
3) What does the map say?
The City plans to upgrade active transportation on all 3 False Creek bridges within the next 5 years, G-d willing. Remember that rendering of 2-way walking paths and 2-way bicycle lanes down the centre of the bridge? Some of us want that type of improvement sooner rather than later, of course. Ask anyone who wants to walk or ride a bike to work downtown and lives in Fairview or Shaughnessy.
I always urge pedestrians and bicyclists to avoid Granville Bridge entirely for now as it’s very unsafe and unpleasant to use. There’s a narrow space for the 2 modes to share that to get to it, in some parts you have to cross traffic going quickly around a curve. Worse, I understand 2 people in wheelchairs cannot easily pass each other in that narrow space. They have to maneuver to get around each other over the deafening traffic going 80kph. I’m embarrassed by that.
One person who shall remain nameless whispered, “follow the train tracks”.
I opened maps.google.com, which took me to google.ca/maps, and followed the faint train tracks along Arbutus north from 16th, doo doo doo, to 6th Ave where I had seen bunnies many times, doo doo doo, I hadn’t really thought about where the train goes after that, doot da da doo, east to Fir Street. I froze. Ooo. Fir & 6th. That’s very close to the Granville Street Bridge!
I visualized the possibilities. My first thought: Lord’s. Oh Lord, that place has beautiful shoes! Imagine taking a stroll or riding bikes on the middle of the Granville Street Bridge surrounded by trees and gentle people to check out the store’s fascinators, stop for a nosh somewhere, smell the flowers at GIF, and get some more nail & cuticle butter at Rocky Mountain Soap Company.
Going to South Granville by booking a car, taking a bus, or riding over Burrard Street (and then what?) just doesn’t seem appealing. But the Arbutus Corridor land purchase is looking more appealing every day.
The Gastown area in downtown Vancouver – especially the 3 blocks of Water Street – will need major street rehabilitation soon. The City is not sure what they’ll find underneath the street so it could take a year or it could take longer. Gastown’s 150th Birthday is in 2017 so it’s too late to start now to be ready in time.
Nothing is confirmed yet. The vision I like the best would be to open Water Street to people, closing it to vehicles – except delivery vehicles at scheduled times. This would leave more room for café style areas, big gatherings around the Steam Clock, space for active transportation, and pop-up markets and festivals.
If that happens, part of the vision would be Cordova Street becoming a 2-way street that vehicles – including taxis, transit and tour buses – would move to. As it stands now, if you do drive west on Dundas then Powell Streets, by Carrall Street if you haven’t turned left (at the 5 corners), you find yourself on an unpleasant, slow drive through wandering tourists and zig zag bicyclists for the 3 blocks of Water Street. It’s clear most of the vehicle traffic is passing through, frustrated. Not stopping to buy anything.
What Would Janette Do? Janette Sadik-Khan says people find it hard to visualize things from boards and drawings. She says to try things to help people visualize and to see what works since the streets are already not perfect. What if before the street rehabilitation started, for late 2016 and 2017, we made Cordova a 2-way street and opened the 3 blocks of Water as a car-free space? Café tables & chairs with wine and pastries, programmed events including the 150th birthday celebrations, and no tour buses blowing dark exhaust in our faces…
Wouldn’t it be better to know what worked and what didn’t before we dig it up then rebuild it? It seems to me the consultation process after we’ve had a trial period would have more consensus about what was delightful and what wasn’t and be more valuable than varying speculations over unknown results. According to best practices in other cities, the businesses in Gastown would thrive from this. A 2-way street is better than a 1-way for business (Cordova) and no vehicles is even better (Water). If the City did intercept surveys before and after we’d have even more data.
What I know for sure is: it isn’t working well now for any mode. Making Cordova a 2-way street for 11 blocks (including re-signalling) and changing transit routes would probably take the most time. One possibility is to keep transit routes the same, allowing the #50 bus to be the only vehicle permitted on Water if necessary (besides delivery vehicles at low volume times of day) as Phase I.
The above photos are of Cardiff, Wales, UK. The middle photo with the tables and chairs could be a model for Gaoler’s Mews in Gastown.
Did you really think I was going to skip this topic?
The Grandview-Woodlands Community Plan – including the Transportation component – is likely to go to Vancouver City Council in April for approval. Within it are some interesting percentages. Out of about 550 respondents, 75% support adding pedestrian space and improving the public realm (page 18). 70% of respondents support making cycling more comfortable and convenient (page 24). These responses refer to the area as a whole, though, not specifically Commercial Drive.
There are also questions about retail areas: 39% support retaining or improving on-street vehicle parking in retail areas. 54% support “limit(ing) or possibly reduc(ing) on-street parking to provide opportunity for enhanced pedestrian, bicycle, and/or transit infrastructure”(page 37).
You call that a survey?
Even How to construct a bogus survey doesn’t suggest being as blatant as the Commercial Drive Business Society (BIA) was with their rant plus fear-based questions they call a survey. I’m disappointed with Kenneth Chan‘s coverage of it in Vancity Buzz as if it is a good survey. Alone, it doesn’t deserve the attention. Don’t encourage him by looking it up.
A better account is this earlier story by CKNW showing both sides. They included the photos that Bandidas Taqueria, in support of safety improvements on The Drive, generously posted of their completed Commercial Drive Society “survey” before sending it in. Check it out if you’re curious about the “survey” wording. With the questions so geared against safety improvements such as wider sidewalks and bike lanes on The Drive, Bandidas’ answers seem absurd, amusing, and brave.
What next? Here are some strategies for how to move forward.
An urban planner suggested luring some of the reluctant, long-time business owners by highlighting the culture of the neighbourhood: evoking a plan of a Euro chic, romantic scene fit for Little Italy. He envisions renderings of electric bikes (today’s version of the 1960s Vespa) parked in a row in front of pizza parlours (in lieu of car parking) like our memories of a lifestyle we yearned for while watching films like La Dolce Vita or Roman Holiday.
An aware and involved citizen muttered to me that banquet halls catering to private parties with considerable drinking and lots of space to park your car don’t mix well in the public’s eye. He thinks the best strategy is to heighten the public’s awareness of those businesses’ encouragement to drive and get MADD involved.
From Federico’s website (with no mention of how to arrive via transit or bicycle and no suggestion to take a taxi home):
“Ample Parking is available in the area
*Il Mercato underground parking
(NW corner of 1st and Commercial)
*Royal Bank during non-banking hours
(located across the street)
*Street and meter parking”
C) Collect and Share Data
In North American cities, businesses consistently grossly overestimate how many of their customers arrive by car. Data-driven decision making should count more than an emotional fear of change. For example, this annotated, chart-filled review of 12 studies from around the world.
City of Vancouver staff plan to conduct intercept surveys (real ones) on Commercial Drive, measuring the modes of customers before and after the upgrades so Vancouver finally has its first All Ages and Abilities (AAA) corridor on a high street and first valuable data to show the effects on business.
D) Carry On
Make the changes, with public consultation. Do it because you were elected on the platform to do so.
E) All of the Above
Speaking of everything, please see this PT post about Slow Streets’ The Case for a Complete Street on The Drive.
969 Burrard St & 1019-1045 Nelson St
This is my second article on Good Friday about a development application that saves or restores a church. And I’m not even Christian. Also, I recommend this article be enjoyed accompanied by Geoff Berner’s song Higher Ground.
From the City’s website (bolded font is my doing):
The City of Vancouver has received an application to rezone 969 Burrard Street & 1019-1045 Nelson Street from CD-1 (445) (Comprehensive Development) to a new CD-1 District. The proposal includes:
- restoration of First Baptist Church;
- new church ancillary spaces, including a 37-space child daycare, a gymnasium, a counselling centre, offices and a cafe;
- a new eight-storey building containing 66 social housing units, owned by the church;
- a new 56-storey tower containing 294 market strata residential units, with a cafe at ground floor;
Other key parameters of the proposal include:
- a combined total new floor area of approximately 561,881 sq.ft.;
- a floor space ratio (FSR) of approximately 10.83;
- 497 underground vehicle parking spaces.
This rezoning application is being considered under the Rezoning Policy for the West End and the West End Community Plan.
The project is called First Baptist Church (FBC) for now. I live close to this property. I think 56-storeys at the highest point downtown in earthquakey Vancouver is a little high but I can live with it if it’s structurally well-built. This building does not obstruct view corridors and falls within the dome skyline.
Currently the entrance is quite unwelcoming with fencing and a big, flashing, lighted sign at Nelson & Burrard. It’s unclear where to enter and not wheelchair accessible. The plans for creating an open, accessible space with a cafe look inviting. The sidewalk on Nelson may be widened as the left turning lane west of Burrard is not well used.
The developer is the First Baptist Church. The builder is Westbank. The architect is Bing Thom. The Traffic Consultant is Peter Joyce of Bunt & Assoc. I spoke to him and others at the Open House – which PT Guest Editor Thomas Beyer covered.
What I object to strongly is the amount of car parking they plan to include. They want 120 parking spaces over the minimum required for a total of 497. (Do we still have minimum parking requirements in downtown Vancouver and why don’t we have a maximum number permitted?)
The overall parking ratio is 1.4 – in the centre of downtown Vancouver at the corner of Nelson & Burrard. That means 1.4 parking spaces for every 1 unit. It’s 0.4 for the rental building and a whopping 1.6 for the strata.
To give you some perspective, these days in Metrotown many high-rises will have a parking ratio of about 1 or less. Portland is building high-rises with 0.6 or less. Some high-rises are proud to be at 0. Granted, this high-rise plans to have a number of 2-3 bedroom suites. Still, allowing so much car parking downtown encourages too much driving and drives up costs. This much car parking doesn’t meet any of our City goals.
I have worked with numerous developers over the years interested in having all access carsharing in their buildings – even before there were incentives from the City to minimize parking requirements for doing so. It’s a popular amenity for buyers. FBC is not including any carsharing as they have no interest in reducing minimum parking requirements. This leaves their buyers with fewer convenient, transportation choices.
The plan is to have 6 levels of subterranean parking. The cost of adding 6 floors underground is staggering in concrete and steel. For developers, the reduced construction time with fewer levels can be a considerable savings for them as well. Housing rates are so expensive in Vancouver that even if the intention is to sell posh 2-3 bedroom suites, the higher cost of the units from additional parking doesn’t make sense to me. Many downtown families have 0 or 1 car and carshare when they need 2 on one day.
Also, units will be sold with parking spots – not unbundled (where the buyer gets to choose to buy a unit with or without a parking space).
Joyce told me the building is likely to be complete in 3 years. I explained that in 5 years or so it’s likely driverless carsharing will be available. People will be even less likely to own vehicles by then. He said it was quite easy to repurpose the underground parking.
The City encourages online feedback or emails to Yan Zeng <firstname.lastname@example.org> by April 14. You can easily sign up to be on the mailing list for updates by adding “Please add me to the mailing list” to your email.
809 West 23rd Avenue
The last PT Guest Editor wrote about comparing Burnaby’s density to Vancouver’s in Who Does Density Better?.
A 1920s-era church at 23rd Ave & Willow could be saved if it’s turned into 6 townhouses with the flexibility of 4 lock-off suites. It’s 600m from King Edward Station and the neighbours are outraged it will no longer be a Single Family Home (SFH). There seems to be more outrage about this lot than there is about skyscrapers going up in Burnaby.
Let’s start with what we know then learn a bit more:
- Metro Vancouver has mountains to the north, a border to the south, and an ocean to the west. Therefore it can only expand to the east, which it has been doing. We need to limit urban sprawl for all kinds of environmental, health, and economic reasons.
- It is estimated that by 2030 the region’s population will be about 1 million more people than it is today. They will need places to live.
- The City of Vancouver has, for about 2-4 mayors now, been encouraging density and running on platforms of density.
- Friendly-density or “gentle densification” describes alternatives to high-rises such as 3-7 story multi-unit dwellings, townhouses, quadruplexes/fourplexes with a coach house, etc. and this density debate article is more amusing/sad 4 years later, depending on your point of view.
- Transit-oriented development (TOD) “is a mixed-use residential and commercial area designed to maximize access to public transport and often incorporates features to encourage transit ridership.”
- The Marpole Community Plan, approved in 2014, allows for RM8 (Townhouse, Rowhouse) and RM9 (Townhouse/Rowhouse/Low-rise).
- The Cambie Corridor Planning Program Phase 3 was approved by City Council in April, 2015. It covers Ontario to Oak Streets, 16th Ave south to the river. Since then the City has held launch events, walking tours, and workshops on Phase 3. It is currently in progress.
- There’s a Cambie Corridor Phase 3 Community Guide. Thomas Beyer, parking permits are on page 69. The saddest page is page 70 which shows all the streets with one or no sidewalks.
- There was an open house in September, 2015. From the City’s website: “Staff have completed their initial review of the rezoning application and have requested revisions to the application including changes to improve the heritage conservation approach, explore further on-site tree retention and improve the relationship of the proposal to the surrounding residential neighbourhood. Once revisions are received staff will notify the public and invite further community feedback.“
- I asked staff what “improve the relationship of the proposal to the…neighbourhood” meant. Basically, due to feedback, revisions have been requested. They want to give people more time to give feedback. They would like to hear from people why this church is worth saving.
- There is still time to provide online feedback on this development application (with no clear deadline in sight).
Hair splitting leads to split ends:
- This property is within the Cambie Corridor near Douglas Park but about 1 block outside the area where changes are likely to be permitted.
- Once Phase 3 is complete, it could be applicable without rezoning but this application was submitted months before the completion of Phase 3.
- The residents who don’t want it say it’s spot zoning.
- The City and developer say it’s not spot zoning it’s an application to rezone from RS-5 (Single Family) District to CD-1 (Comprehensive Development) District under the City’s Heritage Policies and Guidelines, including the Heritage Action Plan.
This Vancouver Courier article from October, 2015 explains what’s going on in depth.
What do you think?
SFH – (Single Family Home) is also the abbreviation for at least 2 other meanings. Those who don’t want more density in Vancouver – are they Stronger, Faster, Healthier or So F’ing High?
When people are outraged at building townhouses on a large lot in Vancouver, is it a sign that the reality of density, the people who want different housing options, and the future Vancouverites who don’t usually get a say are winning?
Let’s work backwards from September, 2016. Pro Walk Pro Bike Pro Place, almost always held in the US, will be in Vancouver. In fact, we’re having a whole Placemaking Week Sept 12-18 AND celebrating Jane’s 100th birthday (may she rest in peace).
Vancouver Bike Share (the temporary name until CycleHop announces a sponsor) launches in June, expands in July, and should be running smoothly by September. Inshallah.
Five protected bike lanes downtown are to be built and finished by the end of July, 2016. Yes, 2016. It sounds like more than it is. Some are little blips on the map.
Cambie, Smithe, Nelson, Beatty, and Richards.
Here’s my 2 cents: I applaud the speed and approach. We should be constructing multiple lanes at once. Building upon and expanding the current AAA network is key.
The couplets on Nelson and Smithe (one-way on each street in same direction as vehicles) are: on Nelson from Richards to Beatty (shouldn’t that go to the Cambie Street Bridge?) and on Smithe from the bridge to Richards. If Nelson/Smithe went as far as Hornby instead, people would have so many more options and we would almost have a complete All Ages and Abilities (AAA) link from Yaletown to the West End.
Linking the bike lane on Homer Street northbound for one more little block from Georgia to Dunsmuir’s protected bike lane would help. Surely continuing the bi-directional protected bike lane on Dunsmuir for one block west to Burrard – a major transit hub of Burrard Station – is also a priority. Don’t make me take the one-way painted bike lane the wrong way for a block! #ungapthemap
Some of the bike lanes in the plan could conflict with vehicles turning. Please be careful in the final design.
You have 24 more hours to email your comments on this project. You might as well take a look right now. View the information displays from the March 8, 2016, open house and email your comments to email@example.com by March 25.
OMG traffic cones are all the rage. The revolution has begun and it has bounced off Twitter onto our streets.
First, I recommend following AwarenessCone on Twitter. A silly Philadelphia-based account, it mocks the traffic cone’s responsibility to protect us from danger with overqualified cones placed in menial, dead end positions. Their bio sums it up well:
AwarenessCone: a cone placed at the site of damaged infrastructure; a cone marking construction; a cone forgotten. Be aware.
Two examples are better than one.
The Man systemic car culture wants everyone outside who’s not in a car to be dressed in clothing with high visibility (hi-viz). We all know black is the most slimming colour. Drivers are jealous of our active lifestyles. They want us to look chubbier than those in vehicles. They also want to take no responsibility for hitting and killing us with their cars. Activist people on foot and on bike and on board refuse to wear reflectors or bright clothing day or night in protest. Active transportation moderates get mocked as sell outs for having reflective trim on any clothing.
Moschino, always known for its tongue-in-cheek, society mocking designs, has a new line out for Spring/Summer 2016 called Dangerous Couture featuring ridiculous, high fashion, hi-viz clothing and their version of street signs (including little Do Not Enter signs as earrings).
Which all leads me to the third trend for cones. People are using them to control their streets. Call them safety heroes or vigilantes, drivers don’t know if they are City-issued or not and are slowing down. These movements are cropping up in various cities. PDXTransformations in Portland, OR was separating cars from bike lanes with traffic cones recently. Now its members have put up (illegal) 20mph speed limit signs and are getting local media coverage for their antics. (The Portland Bureau of Transportation has said publicly removing the signs is not a high priority with limited resources.)
We are not a “bike advocacy group.” We are a Transformation Action Group. We want our streets to serve everybody.
Our dream is that the people of Portland stand up to unsafe drivers and say ENOUGH. You can’t do that here anymore.
They are inspiring others.
If these rogue antics were organized in your town, would you be tempted to make a request? Is there a dangerous spot near you? Have you reported it to the City?
Clearly cones are trending and improved safety for all on our streets can’t be far behind.
On Tuesday I cracked myself up in prep for an evening with Janette Sadik-Khan (JSK), former NYCDOT Transportation Commissioner and author of Streetfight: Handbook for an Urban Revolution. Here are the highlights.
Whether you livestreamed it under the covers or attended at the Vancouver Playhouse, you probably had at least one moment of inspiration, imagining the delight that street transformation can bring to where you live. What if the City of Vancouver became the largest real-estate developer in town like JSK was for NYC?
Her statistics were all US based but we’re used to that. When we translate their numbers to our population, the information is uncomfortably more relevant than we would like. She included in her slides pictures of Vancouver and local examples to go with them. For those of us who attended her last visit, a few of the NYC successes were the same and still had a stunning, audible impact on attendees; she has more data to back her up now. She is confident and motivating.
Gordon Price is consistently a top-notch moderator and interviewer. He was a gracious Canadian host, animated, and entertaining. He had a great rapport with JSK. Price asked the pertinent questions and got solid answers.
What’s as interesting is who attended. At $5 a ticket, there were all ages and abilities present. I wondered how many business owners or BIA staff were there. Did Nick Pogor attend?
Unfortunately, I didn’t catch all of the electeds who introduced themselves from my perch on the balcony. I was pleased to see Vancouver’s Deputy Mayor Heather Deal front and center, who is also a Councillor Liaison to the City’s Active Transportation Policy Council and Arts & Culture Policy Council, among others. It was announced for the first time publicly that Lon LaClaire is the new City of Vancouver Director of Transportation. He introduced JSK. At least one Park Board Commissioner attended.
There was at least one City Councillor from New Westminster, Patrick Johnstone there – a fan of 30kph. I was tickled that Nathan Pascal, City Councillor for Langley City was there in his first week on the job! I was even more delighted to hear that the Mayor of Abbotsford Henry Braun was there. It symbolizes a shift in decision-makers toward at least open ears and at most safer, healthier city centres in the Lower Mainland.
The first rule of Hollywood is: Always thank the crew.
JSK started by thanking the 4500 within New York City’s Department of Transportation. She acknowledged that they implemented the changes her team tried – often quickly. Being fast and keeping the momentum up is key.
Interview well. Be yourself. Be bold.
When JSK was interviewing for the top transportation job with then NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg, he asked: Why do you want to be Traffic Commissioner? She answered: I don’t. I want to be Transportation Commissioner.
A City’s assets – the public realm – need to reflect current values. Invest in the best use of public space.
JSK on streets: “If you didn’t change your major capital asset in 50-60 years, would you still be in business?”
“We transformed places to park [cars] to places people wanted to be…we created 65,000 square feet of public space with traffic cones.” “Broadway alone was 2.5 acres of new public space.”
JSK talked about the imbalance between the space for cars and space for people. Crowded sidewalks of slow walking tourists that fast-walking New Yorkers were willing to walk in car lanes to pass or avoid. In Vancouver, we already see this imbalance in our shopping districts and entertainment corridors.
She appreciated working for a Mayor who would back her up on her bold suggestions and who asked her to take risks because it was the right thing to do.
Consultation + Visualization = Education + Transformation
“People find it hard to visualize from drawings and boards. Create temporary space and program it.” Basically: traffic cones, paint, and planters are your friends.
“We need to do a better job of showing the possible on our streets.”
“Involve people in the process…Just try it out. Pilot it. We [all already] know the streets aren’t perfect.”
She estimated that once [in 5-10 years] shared, driverless cars are operating in our cities, most of our on-street parking won’t be needed. In the meantime, one of the many community requested programs is time-of-day based pricing for on-street parking. Of course, the higher turnover of vehicles is better for business.
Even better for business is putting in bicycle lanes. Some of the areas where businesses were most opposed have some of the highest bike volumes now.
It takes 4 things to increase bicyclist volumes significantly and NYC does them all.
- a network of bicycle infrastructure (and traffic-calming design)
- lower speed limits (and traffic-calming designs help)
JSK saw 3 of the above steps to fruition. Mayor de Blasio lowered speed limits to 25mph in November, 2014.
When Broadway closed to cars and opened to people, in Midtown:
- pedestrian injuries decreased by 35%
- motorists injuries went down by 35%
- vehicle travel times increased by 17%
- protected bike lanes brought a 50% increase in sales
Ciclovias, Car-free Spaces and Street Art
“The Public Domain is the Public’s Domain.”
“We asked the community where they wanted plazas and they took ownership of them.”
“The canvas of our streets was transformed by artists.”
Ciclovias involve closing streets to vehicles and allowing people to roam on them via any active transportation mode, often on weekends. In NYC it’s known as Summer Streets. Every Saturday in the summer from 7am-1pm they have about 300,000 people take part. Small businesses along the way have seen sales increase by 71%.
On making parts of Robson Street a car-free space, JSK said: “Try it; you’ll like it.”
Three words: Dedicated. Bus. Lanes.
These are enforced by cameras. Green traffic lights are synchronized with bus use. Like in Colombia, they have off-board fare collection. [Senior planners at TransLink would love dedicated bus lanes on Georgia Street, Hastings Street, or Broadway in Vancouver.]
NYC needs to up our game on the following:
- more bikeshare next to low-income housing and public housing
- #VisionZero “Our streets are sick. Thousands are dying and people are blasé about it. In any other field you would lose your job if that many died.”
- seamless, integrated, multi-modal transportation (all on one card/app) like in Helsinki
- congestion pricing. The state capital is less urban and turned down their request for it. Plus people hate both “congestion”and “pricing”. The rebrand is MoveNY. JSK said paying more to drive to Manhattan is “inevitable”.
Migration Astonishment: 1M here, 1M there
I was astonished (and by the looks of it so was Gordon Price) that NYC estimates that they will have 1 million more people living there by 2030. That’s the same number we expect in Metro Vancouver by 2030! Clearly, the impact here will be a much larger transformation. There’s a lot of work to do.
JSK advised: “Leverage the density. Recognize the value of density.”
“People want safe streets (and affordable housing) and are ahead of politicians and the media.”
“Inaction is inexcusable,” JSK said.
There was much anticipation before the federal budget was unlocked yesterday. Many of us were particularly interested in how much money would go towards transit investments in our region and whether the 33.3% x 3 percentage split for transportation infrastructure amongst federal, provincial, and municipal governments would be adjusted.
At first I was underwhelmed by the initial commitment of $370M for transit projects in Metro Vancouver. It doesn’t seem like much for the next 3 years. I have been assured by those in the know it’s a great start for the planning and design of projects in The Mayors’ Plan (pedestrian and bicycle improvements, subway and LRT, for instance) with more funding to come after that. That depends on re-election, of course.
The federal government also announced it will cover up to 50% of transit project construction costs. It seems to me, assuming the provincial portion remains at 33% and the max of 50% doesn’t depend on the provincial portion changing*, 100%-50-33=17% for municipalities – a long overdue improvement in the funding structure.
My federal budget scoop on Monday about The Mayors’ Plan, directing our regional requests for federal funds, continues to be good scoop. The Mayors’ Council put out a PDF statement on the federal budget yesterday. The federal Infrastructure and Communities Minister Sohi meets our Mayors’ Council tomorrow. My source tells me we will get more details after that meeting. Stay tuned.
*The BC provincial election is May 9, 2017: contact BC political parties now urging them to put sustainable transportation in their platforms.
Today Toronto Mayor Rob Ford died at age 46. RIP. Click here for my earlier post about it. It got me thinking about famous current mayors.
Mayor as celebrity is growing. Historically, we are now experiencing the most significant migration to cities globally and their growth, rapid change, and impacts are confirmed by how many mayors people now know.
Twenty years ago you might have known your city’s mayor and the one in the next town over, if you voted municipally. Now names like Lisa Helps, Don Iverson, John Tory, Gregor Robertson, Naheed Nenshi, Boris Johnson, Bill de Blasio, Dr. Zekra Alwach, and their nicknames cascade or erupt from people who haven’t even visited that mayor’s town yet.
Famous mayors in Canada – household names – contrast starkly with Rob Ford’s former lifestyle with their glow from bicycle riding, tweeting, and travelling to meet each other to share best practices and lobby the feds.
“Every Sunday we close 120 kilometers of roads to motor vehicles for seven hours. A million and a half people of all ages and incomes come out to ride bicycles, jog, and simply gather with others in community.”
“A bikeway is a symbol that shows that a citizen on a $30 bicycle is equally important as a citizen in a $30,000 car.”
“We cannot continue to deceive ourselves thinking that to paint a little line on a road is a bike way. A bicycle way that is not safe for an 8-year old is not a bicycle way.”
“One symbol of a lack of democracy is to have cars parked on the sidewalk.”
“We’re living an experiment. We might not be able to fix the economy. We might not be able to make everyone as rich as Americans. But we can design the city to give people dignity, to make them feel rich. The city can make them happier.”
Former Toronto Mayor Rob Ford died at age 46 today. Here’s CBC’s take on it. It’s a gracious and extensive piece that reflects on his personality, accomplishments, tragedies, and skims over or skips the sexism, racism, homophobia, and lifestyle that gave them so much news. It looks they’ve updated it from this morning’s post and it’s both more and less complimentary now. I hadn’t realized how deep was his love for football.
It doesn’t describe how embarrassing his time in office was for many Canadians – especially anyone travelling abroad while he was mayor – or his anti-active transportation stance that has delayed Toronto’s improved, urban greatness for years.
Here’s my take on what’s missing:
- the protected bicycle lane in the centre of 5-lane Jarvis Street that was ripped out which struck fear in the hearts of active transportation supporters everywhere.
- the homophobic comments on why City Hall didn’t need to have showers for active transportation commuters.
- his insatiably addictive personality: he seemed addicted to food, drugs, alcohol, and later to being in the media – his behaviour more outrageous each time in order to get the exposure at the cost of any respect and his reputation.
- his enabling family and the sad dynamic within it. His downward spiral was always to the advantage of his brother Doug Ford, whose poor behaviour looked good in comparison. I always wondered if their mother was like the mom in that very disturbing Australian film Animal Kingdom about a family gang in the 1980s.
However, Rob Ford changed my mind completely on the structure of regional districts versus mega cities. I used to think Metro Vancouver as a regional district didn’t have enough power or budget to make the decisions it needed to make. Also, that trying to get 21 municipalities, 1 Treaty First Nation, and Electoral Area A to agree on things was cumbersome and need to move faster, at the speed of business today.
I thought the solution was a mega city: 1 mayor for the entire region with a large city council like Toronto’s. Or, reduce the district into 5 municipalities (of course I had ideas on which ones to merge) and a Treaty First Nation. That would at least be more effective than what we have now.
Once Rob Ford was elected, I could see what could happen in the worst case scenario: A suburbanite mayor addicted to drugs, ripping out bike lanes, spewing hatred unprofessionally, and refusing to resign. The suburbanites in the mega city had voted for him and were still fans – he often did what he had promised to do – while the needs of urban Torontonians were neglected.
It also showed me that this was only a glimpse into the rural vs. suburban vs. urban tension. It has not reached its peak. Unfortunately, many issues including water, energy, housing, and transportation will erupt pitting suburban vs. urban or rural vs. urban residents in the future. G-d forbid.
Suddenly my appreciation for Metro Vancouver grew. It still doesn’t have much power (or the budget to go with it) to be truly effective. It still takes a long time to make major decisions – sometimes decades – because so many cities are involved. We have a lot of work to do to improve the governance structure of our transit authority. But it’s our Metro Vancouver.
My mayor looks out for the 10 block radius of our City and co-operates with most of the ones next door. My downtown lifestyle is so different from those on the West Side and in South Vancouver; it’s enough of a challenge to come to agreements with them. At least my City has no Agricultural Land Reserve or highway running through it. Those people are totally different.
Seriously though, last year’s transportation plebiscite showed how where you stand depends upon where you sit (and how you get there). Vancouver urbanists sounded like Ford’s description of Toronto’s “downtown elites” when trying to get people in “the suburbs” (now called “other cities”) to vote Yes. It takes a lot of work to get so many groups to work together. Each City has its own folks it represents from their point of view. But a mega city is not the answer. Thank you Rob Ford for that lesson. RIP.
Janette Sadik-Khan, former NYCDOT Commissioner and new author of Streetfight: Handbook for an Urban Revolution, best known for making New York City’s Broadway car-free, will give a talk in Vancouver this evening at the Vancouver Playhouse.
For urbanist geeks this is the event of the year. Like a Blondie concert for Blondie fans or a Back Street Boys concert for BSB fans. You get the idea.
Some City of Vancouver staff will get a chance to have a private Q&A with her today. What will they ask without the eyes of the public on them? Chances are they’ll be inspired to take action.
Tickets are sold out. The last time she was here a venue of 350 free tickets sold out. This time, with tickets at $5 each and a venue of 668 seats, it’s still a sold out show. If you’re lucky enough to be going tonight, here’s how to seem cool about it.
- Read a local review of her book by Yuri Artibise
- Read the 6 strategic takeaways from her book by Melissa & Chris Bruntlett
- Call her JSK when referring to her, assuming everyone knows who that is, like a true urbanist.
- Dress urbane but without cultural appropriation. Wear a maximum of 1 scarf if you have a short neck.
- Buy 2 tickets and arrive alone. Pick someone hovering hopefully at the event, ask them what mode they took to get there, and invite them to go with you regardless of their answer. It’s an easy way to seem super generous.
- Be seen. Arrive early, grab a good seat, then stand to schmooze with others as they arrive. Totally ignore the SCARP student you gave a free ticket to. You’re from the Lost Generation and they don’t know how good they have it.
- Use the following phrases and matching gestures: “This is not Amsterdam.” (wink, wink, nudge, nudge); “If you can remake it here, you can remake it anywhere.” (pistol wink nod); and “In G-d we trust, everyone else bring data.” (look serious but patient-with-others, adjust prescription glasses with one hand).
- Know that the last phrase above was said by NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Or everyone at the Mayor’s Office. Call him Mike Bloomberg.
- Bring a list of 10 new projects, find any decision-maker or even minor influencer at the City and demand that all 10 be built before the end of 2018. Make sure Kingsway and Commercial Drive are on your list.
- Go to the mic to ask a question but instead announce your Bike Rave. Explain it’s not the official Bike Rave and not the alternate bike rave but your own bike rave.
- Bring your copy of JSK’s book. Wait for an hour after the talk to get it signed, while preparing an intelligent question. Get dragged out by security when they announce Ms. Sadik-Khan can’t sign any more books because her hand has cramped.
- Have a drink with friends, comparing her last talk to this one. Say “last time her focus was on making it seem simple and doable – a lot of paint and planters. This time seemed more strategic”. Confess you’re jealous of her lack of public consultation.
- Drunk on ideas and inspired with a vision of what you’d like your City to look like, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to tell them to go ahead, do more. You support it. After all, jesting aside, a misspelled-slightly-incoherent note is better than no note at all.
Trending now: governments are raising or lowering speed limits
Lowering speed limits in Cities saves lives (and is one of 4 key actions to increase the number of bicyclists). You’ve probably seen the stunning and scary illustrations of a driver’s field of vision at different speeds that Carlos Felipe Pardo talks about. If not, click here and scroll down to the 4 images in Diagram 2.
While some provincial and state governments, including the BC “Liberals”, have been increasing speed limits on highways (with objections from police), more Cities are adopting goals of #VisionZero (zero traffic fatalities and serious injuries per year) and have reduced speed limits like New York to 25mph in 2014, Toronto to 30kph and Edinburgh to 20mph in 2015, and Seattle to 30mph in 2016.
Quotes from articles in links above:
New York: “I am not going to speed for nobody,” [cabbie Ernst Rodriguez] said.
Toronto: “I hope every driver treats every local neighbourhood street like it’s a street where their kids could be playing,” [Ward 22 councillor Josh] Matlow said.
Edinburgh: The easy-to-love capital city is rrrolling out a plan to cap the speed limit at 20 mph across 80 percent of its rrroads, including the entirety of its dense downtown.
Seattle: SDOT Director Scott Kubly said, “The laws of physics tell us that higher speeds will result in more crashes, injuries, and deaths. Lower speed limits allow people more time to see each other and react. These changes will significantly help people walking and biking to schools, parks, transit and other destinations. This is especially important since crashes with pedestrians and bicyclists make up five percent of total collisions but nearly 50 percent of fatalities.”
In BC, municipalities cannot lower speed limits on their own without additional costs. They can either ask the BC government to do it for all municipalities or they have to post signs on each block for anything lower than the default of 50kph. If there’s no speed limit posted, assume the default. That’s 2 signs (1 in either direction) on each block. Vancouver, Victoria, and Kelowna have recently asked the BC government (via UBCM) to lower the default (urban) speed limit to 40kph twice and their request has been denied twice.
The City of Vancouver is concerned about the costs to put up and maintain signs on each block. City engineers also wonder if speed limits are as effective as street design and other methods to calm traffic. (They usually cite the 3 Es to make changes work: Engineering, Education, and Enforcement.)
The City of Victoria decided to act on its own, pay the $90,000 estimated for their first move, and reduce the speed limit from 50 to 40kph on 8 streets plus the Downtown Core.
Should the City of Vancouver be doing more instead of waiting for the BC government to understand the safety and environmental concerns? On the other hand, every time Vancouver adds a greenway or active transportation corridor, the speed limit along it goes to 30kph. Is that enough?
But on the other hand, the main 4 ways to drive to downtown Vancouver (into a dense population of walkers and bicyclists) involve going 60kph over a bridge/viaduct right before entering our downtown. How do we send a message to drivers that they have entered a dense area and need to slow down by 20-30kph or never speed up to 60 before slamming on the brakes to 30?
If a number of streets downtown have synchronized light signals (green the whole way at a certain speed) couldn’t the speed at which to drive through a bunch of green lights be reduced with a little programming?
Discuss. Or better yet, write your MLA and your City Councillors. This is a timely topic at both levels.
Remember the under-appreciated miracle that was The Mayors’ Plan?
That plan that almost all of the Mayors, 1 Chief, and 1 Director of Metro Vancouver agreed upon? Most voters had no idea what a huge accomplishment it was for 21 municipalities, 1 Treaty First Nation, and Electoral Area A to agree on the transportation infrastructure we needed as a region for the next 10 years – and in what order – just in time for our first transportation plebiscite.
The bad news is, those projects have been delayed ever since. The good news is, that plan is still useful. I’ve heard from a reliable source that The Mayors’ Plan continues to represent Metro Vancouver’s transportation needs to the federal government in recent budget preparations and negotiations. This includes a Broadway subway, LRT south of the Fraser, and 2700 kms of bikeways. My guess is that 11 new rapid bus routes will be the fastest to implement.
Every day, more than 2.7 million trips are taken on Toronto’s transit system. In Montreal, more than 2.2 million are taken on the Metro on an average day, while the Vancouver system sees more than 1.1 million.
[…] Taken together, their daily ridership numbers are higher than the combined populations of eight Canadian provinces and territories.
What’s not in The Mayors’ Plan? A 10 lane bridge to a fertile land that might soon be literally and figuratively below sea level. Let’s hope the federal budget focusses on sustainable transportation.
Stay tuned for more on this tomorrow.
Shalom, PT readers!
My name is Tanya Paz. Please allow me to introduce myself.
I’m third generation Vancouverite on one side and first generation Canadian on the other. The Vancouverites on Mom’s side hailed from Scotland mainly and Dad’s parents were from Uzbekistan and Afghanistan. Dad was born in Jerusalem. My parental units met in Vancouver at Oak & 41st, naturally.
I grew up in rural Aldergrove in a house on 6.2 acres – an area now part of Abbotsford – and walked along Fraser Highway to school and back, sometimes carrying my alto saxophone 2.4 kilometres one way, amongst speeding dump trucks and semi-trailer trucks.
I was a Rotary exchange student in Funabashi, Japan for a year and I studied at Université Canadienne en France near Nice for a year. I moved to Vancouver to go to UBC in 1991, and have lived here since in various neighbourhoods. I’ve now lived in the same 496 square feet downtown for 21 years between the West End and Yaletown in an area known as Downtown. Just when I think it isn’t possible to love Vancouver any more than I do, I love it just a little bit more.
I have worked for women’s rights, affordable housing, and sustainable transportation. Most notable is my work locally, nationally, and internationally in carsharing. More information on my career can be found on LinkedIn.
I spend a lot of time volunteering for the City of Vancouver chairing the civic agency Active Transportation Policy Council which advises City Council on walking, bicycling, skateboarding and other modes, and transit.
I’m an urbanist geek who loves data, discussions, process, policy, articles, presentations, helping people change their behaviour, logistics, operations, civic engagement, non-violent strategizing, seamlessly integrated multi-modal transportation, matchy-matchy outfits, tea, and ice cream.
Disclaimer: I fell off my bicycle in a protected bike lane on Hornby Street in September, didn’t hit my head, and have had a concussion since. It’s getting better and I’m expected to make a full recovery but trains, buses, cars, mean comments, loud noise, and bright light make it worse. I miss my bike.
Of course I’m on Twitter.
For kicks I paint bicycles, oil on canvas.