There are several posts in Price Tags that have followed the inception and building of the Tsawwassen Mills mega mall located on Tsawwassen First Nations Land in Delta,nestled between the Agricultural Land Reserve and the Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal and the Port lands, under the control of the Federal Government. An article written in 2013 by Daniel Wood in the Georgia Straight outlines a conversation with City of Richmond City Councillor Harold Steves, who is also a founder of the Agricultural Land Reserve incepted in 1973. Full disclosure, Harold is a member of a very old farming family that not only tilled these lands, but started up the first seed companies in the province. And that place, Steveston? It’s named after his family.
In that Georgia Straight article, Harold noted that over 400 hectares (which is 988 acres) of Class 1 agricultural land in Delta would be lost to port expansion, and another 100 hectares lost to the residential units being built to the west of the megamall. This does not include the 80 hectares of Class 1 agricultural land sitting below the megamall site.
“That’s the best soil in Canada,” says Steves, incensed by the shortsightedness of corporate capitalism. “You’re looking at the Richmondization of Delta.”
We don’t often think of this, but the Fraser River delta which supports and nourishes Metro Vancouver is similar to the great deltas in the world that provide agriculture to surrounding populations. It is also because of its agricultural status and relatively low land values that it is the most vulnerable to use as industrial or commercial lands. Somehow we don’t value food production and the protection of farmland with a high monetary price.
This area of Delta is also on the great Pacific Flyway used by millions of migratory birds on a route that extends from Alaska to Patagonia. Annually this route is used by birds travelling to food sources, breeding grounds or warmer climates. Boundary Bay and this part of Delta are used by birds for a rest stop on the journey, and has been federally recognized.
But back to Tsawwassen Mills, now a 1.2 million square foot mall built by Ivanhoe Cambridge. With 6,000 parking spaces this will be on of the biggest malls in Canada, with a second 600,000 square foot “more local” shopping centre to the east of it. It is a “drive to” destination. And that is what the developer thinks we will do.
To the west of this development a total of 1,700 housing units are being built, again on Class 1 agricultural land. Half of the new housing will be single family homes; 35 per cent are townhomes, and 15 per cent are apartments. A new road is being constructed connecting this residential development directly with the mall for easy shopping access by car.
Tsawwassen Mills has been having a challenge getting employees to staff the mega mall’s stores. At a recent job fair, 3,000 jobs were available but only 500 potential applicants showed up. The minimum wage jobs and poor transit connections will hinder hiring. The lack of a good separated sidewalk and protected bike lane from Tsawwassen to the mall will also thwart local residents who are active transportation users.
Tsawwassen Mills mall is now lit up at night. While there is shielded light in the parking lot ostensibly to minimize migratory bird disruption, no such regard has been made for the large illuminating signage visible for kilometers on the south side of the mall, as noted in this letter to the Vancouver Sun. Subsequent to that letter being published, another illuminated sign has appeared.
For a mall that is slated to open on October 5 with 150 retail outlets, 90 businesses are concerned they will not have adequate staffing. There is the supposition that shoppers from across the region will drive here to spend a day shopping instead of going to the United States or shopping online. While some light is shielded to minimize disruption of migratory birds, new commercial signage seems to be exempt from any concern.
We as a region have lost hundreds of acres of Class 1 agricultural land that will never be retrieved. A mega shopping mall perches on the sensitive delta which is also on the floodplain. There is no active transportation or good transit to the mall. It looks like any other mall you have ever seen. Just bigger. With 6,000 parking spaces.
In many ways, we are witnessing a motordom experiment of the ilk that the 1950’s and 1960’s would have dreamed about. It’s too late for the agricultural land, and I have not seen an environmental impact study on the migratory birds. What remains to be seen is how this 20th century rendition of shopping can be a commercial success with the high cost to the future of our agricultural food security and disruption of natural wildlife patterns. Would you spend a day driving your car here and shopping? Is this really a viable use of this richly arable land in this century?
This time I think we went too far. I will end with a photo taken yesterday of the bus stop just outside the mall on Highway 17. That bus stop too is so last century. And it tells me that for Tsawwassen Mills, motordom and the twentieth century way of doing things is all that matters.
KPMG has published an interesting take on what policy changes need to be in place for the rise of autonomous or driverless vehicles. Given that so many enterprises are working on this technology, KPMG feels that this will be the car of choice within twenty years.
Realizing that such a dramatic and drastic change in driverless technology will mean a reboot in policy at all levels of government, KPMG has identified five areas where there are major policy ramifications. These are:
1.Transport Infrastructure Investment-Since decisions on public investment are based upon cost benefit analysis, driverless cars are a certainty in the future. Because of that, financial analysis of transportation projects today should be factoring in the use of driverless cars. It is suggested that with no need for crash barriers, lanes could also be closer together, with significant less cost for roads, and use of land.
2. If in a driverless world there is no need for driver’s licenses, there are implications for countries that have dual licenses, for example, British Columbia where the license is also the Medical Services Plan card. Other countries use the driver’s license as a citizenship card. Time will be needed to separate the systems apart. Traffic regulations will need to change to reflect driverless technology standards. Vehicle registration may form a basis of raising revenue for the use of a driverless car.
3.Revenue-Driverless cars still need roads and there will be investment in digital technology for the vehicle’s bandwidth and for communication to other vehicles.Government may want to create the control centres for these vehicles and not leave it to the private sector, providing a usage tax to replace gasoline tax revenue.
4.Spatial Planning-Having access to a vehicle without owning it means more accessibility and universality in usage, with more vehicle miles being travelled and higher usage of vehicles.Street widths can be narrower and KPMG suggests that there is no need to use sidewalks and curbs to separate pedestrians from the technology.With no need for garages or parking lots or on street parking, this could mean a revamping of land use on a scale not seen since the introduction of the car.
5. Security-There will need to be a protocol to ensure that the systems cannot fail, nor can they be undermined by malicious intent.With falling accident rates and little fatalities, the insurance companies will need to refocus their businesses. Personal data associated with the use of these vehicles will also need to be secured in a way that can access the payment systems in the cars, but still be confidential.
KPMG sees this time as an opportunity for policy makers to commence the thinking of how best to maximize efficiency and revenues with a technology that will have great social and economic ramifications. It will be curious to see in a few decades whether their perceived policy direction forecasts were accurate.
Montreal Trades Expressway for “Urban Boulevard”
Montreal has begun tearing down its part of a mid-century expressway to make way for a greener, more transit- and pedestrian-friendly boulevard, reports the Montreal Gazette. The Bonaventure Expressway, an elevated 11-lane highway built for Expo 67, will give way to the street-level Bonaventure urban boulevards, a combined nine lanes of traffic separated by a series of green spaces. Montreal’s new, $142 million entryway is scheduled for completion in mid-2017, just in time for the city’s 375th anniversary.
Gordon Price called it first, with the title of post-motordom.
And here it is-Amy Schmitt in this article on Streetsblog Network describes the death of the big infrastructure project. Why? Because most of the existing infrastructure systems have been built and need little expanding-and in some cases, could be shrunk.
With analogies to the railroads and the interstate highways of the 19th and 20th centuries where usage is shrinking, Schmitt sees new infrastructure occurring for surface transport such as High Speed Rail and urban transit projects, and for the provision of water and energy. New systems such as internet and wireless, uber and autonomous vehicles redeploy existing technologies, and readapt them.
So what of building a new tolled ten lane Massey Bridge across the Fraser River to move cars onto fewer lanes of highway on either side?
Hmmm…we may have another Fraser River bridge to look at for the answer to that question.
It’s an interesting match with a disruptive technology pairing with a 20th century retailing success. At Wal-Mart’s Annual Conference held on June 1st, it was announced that Wal-Mart Stores will test grocery delivery with Uber and Lyft drivers, starting with Uber in Phoenix and Lyft in Denver by mid June.
Customers pick groceries online, employees package the groceries, and Uber and/or Lyft drivers deliver them. The service charge for such service is in the ten-dollar range.
The intent is to take advantage of the shift as North Americans continue to spend more with on-line purchases. Howard Schultz the CEO of Starbucks was also saying to shareholders that Starbucks outlets would be rebranded as “destinations” now that shopping mall traffic is diminishing. Now you will go to the mall to “experience” Starbucks.
This article in Toronto’s Star newspaper describes more. The City of Vancouver was at first reluctant to accept the Wal-Mart model back in the day. Will this kind of on-line grocery shopping and “uberlivery” or “delyft” be mainstream and part of Metro Vancouver’s future?
The future is arriving …
For a decade, Oregon has been the undisputed leader in pursuing the idea of taxing drivers not on the amount of fuel they buy but on the number of miles they drive. Starting this summer, though, the Beaver State will get some company: California plans to launch a nine-month experiment in July to test out different ways of charging by the mile. …
Under California’s trial, drivers will get to choose how to keep track of the miles they drive, either by buying a decal for an allotment of miles or using GPS-enabled systems to tally them. That’s more options than Oregon offers its drivers under its mileage tax program, which launched last summer.
Oregon began looking at using a vehicle-miles traveled (VMT) tax 15 years ago. It conducted two pilot projects in the last decade before launching OReGO last summer. The new program allows drivers to pay 1.5 cents per mile driven, instead of the state’s 30-cent per gallon fuel tax. Participants still pay the fuel tax at the pump, but the amount is credited against their bill for mileage taxes.
Two outside vendors keep track of the mileage each vehicle travels, bill customers and send the fees to the state. The arrangement is designed to protect the privacy of the drivers by preventing the state from knowing where vehicles have traveled, their speed and other driving behavior. The companies also offer other features, such as fuel efficiency monitoring, to attract participants.
In news coverage leading up to “Viadeath 2016”, Inrix provide the official data forecasts for Seattle’s traffic snarls. The company predicted commute times would increase by 50 percent …
But in an e-mail exchange with Crosscut, a representative speaking on behalf of Inrix backpedaled on their initial predictions, saying that, “According to INRIX’s analysis, commute times have not dramatically increased and several of the major routes into the City have been only moderately affected.” …
On I-5 travel time has increased by about five minutes, and rush hour has shifted toward 6 AM as people allow themselves more time to get into work. The same goes for the West Seattle bridge, on which travel times have jumped about five minutes. On I-90 Westbound, commutes have only increased by between three and five minutes. And on 520, traffic’s about normal.
Obvious question: Why is Washington spending over $4 billion to build a bored tunnel when demand management, a new surface street and better transit could have done the job?
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.
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.
Jane Jacobs was so consumed in the late 1950s by the writing of her manifesto, “The Death and Life of Great American Cities,” that her hair turned from auburn to white. In “Becoming Jane Jacobs” (University of Pennsylvania Press, $34.95), Peter L. Laurence dispels the sexist and condescending contemporary view that her canonical book was a collection of home remedies from a housewife whose only credentials were as an amateur observer of the city’s sidewalk ballet.
Her views evolved, too. Professor Laurence, director of graduate studies at Clemson University School of Architecture, recalls that she was even somewhat forgiving of Robert Moses. “It is understandable that men who were young in the 1920s were captivated by the vision of the freeway Radiant City,” Ms. Jacobs wrote, “with the specious promise that it would be appropriate to an automobile age.” She added, however:
“It is disturbing to think that men who are young today, men who are being trained now for their careers, should accept on the grounds that they must be ‘modern’ in their thinking, conceptions about cities and traffic which are not only unworkable, but also to which nothing new of any significance has been added since their fathers were children.”
As disheartening is to hear the notion, repeated by leaders like Peter Fassbender, that somehow we have to continue to build around the automobile today because we’re not sufficiently ‘European’ or advanced enough to depart from Motordom in order to shape growth around transit, even though that’s exactly what our plans call for and which, when we do it, we are so successful at.
“Leaders in the Shadows: The Leadership Qualities of Municipal Chief Administrative Officers” is the title of a recent book by David Siegel, a Professor of Political Science at Brock University. Yes, it’s about city managers – those who stay out of the limelight, but who directly influence the decision-makers, making recommendations that they are then charged with implementing, hence influencing both the inputs and the outcomes. All very ‘Yes, Minister.’
It’s a perfect phrase for those whose names you didn’t read about or may not even know, but who must have influenced the Premier in her decision to announce the building of the Massey Bridge as a done deal, prior to the transit referendum in 2014.
These Leaders in the Shadows have contacts up, down and across the decision-making apparatus, notably those in the Gateway initiatives. They then have to provide the justifications for a policy or project, even if the stated reasons aren’t actually the ones that determined the decision. (Which in the case of Motordom is sometimes just the need to keep feeding the machine with multi-billion-dollar projects on a regular basis. See ‘Sunshine Coast Connector.’)
The Massey Bridge proposal had no relationship (or even mention) in the regional transportation plan, or for that matter in any of the current provincial transportation plans. The previous Minister, Kevin Falcon, had even ruled it out. But the LitS can come up with a new set of justifications. Hey, it solves the worst congestion in the province! Plus whatever other arguments are needed to justify a $4 billion exercise in excess. (Sure, throw in another lane; we can get this sucker up to at least ten.).
So far they’ve been able to avoid having to explain just how the decision-making actually worked and what factors went into the process – or did not. Here’s an obvious one:
Did you take into account the possible impacts of new technologies and new ways people will be using vehicles – whether automated vehicles, car-sharing or Uber-like ride-sharing? If so, do share the results.
With respect to the impact of automated vehicles, we can be pretty sure that no serious work was done, if other jurisdictions are any indication – as noted in this piece from today’s New York Times:
Self-Driving Cars May Get Here Before We’re Ready
Even though fully autonomous cars could be ready for the road within the next decade, only 6 percent of the country’s most populous cities have accounted for them in their long-term plans, according to a study from the National League of Cities, an advocacy and research group. …
Google, Uber, Tesla and a host of automakers have been moving at full speed to develop driverless technologies. Although the federal government has expressed support for autonomous vehicles, it has so far left regulatory decisions to state and local governments.
“Paradoxically, despite a lot of cities’ thinking this technology is coming, very few have started to plan for it,” Mr. Mitchell said.
In the case of Massey we can reasonably conclude that it is being planned in spite of whatever technology might bring or the consequences of road pricing and the ability to regulate traffic volumes through market mechanisms. But shovels have to be in the ground by the time the 2017 election rolls around.
Prediction: the Massey Bridge may be one of the greatest boondoggles in a province that historically has had no shortage of them.
Regular contributors have a few items that indicate how the United Kingdom is remaking itself for a less car-centric world.
Ian Robertson links this from The Guardian:
Drivers in Glasgow’s city centre could have their top speed restricted to 20mph under plans intended to cut the number of accidents on the city’s roads.
The city’s council has announced a public consultation on the proposals, which it hopes could come into effect by March 2016. The announcement comes afterEdinburgh’s council approved an ambitious plan to impose a 20mph speed limit on almost all of the city’s streets earlier this year.
At another scale, Michael Mortensen submits this item on the transformation of Walthamstow Village through the Mini-Holland program:
LOS ANGELES — This city of fast cars and endless freeways is preparing to do what not long ago would have been unthinkable: sacrificing car lanes to make way for bikes and buses. …
Not surprisingly, in the unofficial traffic congestion capital of the country, the plan has set off fears of apocalyptic gridlock. …
For Mayor Eric Garcetti, the Mobility Plan 2035, as the new program is being called, is part of a larger push to get people out of their cars and onto sidewalks that began with the expansion of the mass transit system championed by his immediate predecessor, Antonio R. Villaraigosa.
The salad days of driving here — when, so the saying went, it took 20 minutes to get anywhere in this city of 500 square miles — are gone, Mr. Garcetti said, and he has encouraged residents to instead stay local and shop at nearby businesses. “The old model of a carcentric, different neighborhood-for-every-task city is in many ways slipping through our fingers whether we like it or not,” Mr. Garcetti said. “We have to have neighborhoods that are more self-contained. …
Mike Bonin, one of the city councilors who sponsored the mobility plan, said residents were eager to go “carlight.”
“The number of folks who say they’d like to bike or walk more is huge,” Mr. Bonin said. “And the number who say they don’t because they think it’s not safe or clean or convenient is roughly the same.”
Many changes to the streetscape are already taking place. Mr. Garcetti was recently in East Los Angeles, signing a directive that laid out a goal of cutting traffic deaths to zero in 10 years. Traffic signals had been added to the street behind him, curbs had been widened, and tighter enforcement of speed limits was promised all over the city.
Similar changes are coming to other neighborhoods, where streets are being put on “road diets” — meaning that lanes will be removed to slow traffic and make life on foot and two wheels safer and more appealing. (Mr. Villaraigosa once broke his elbow while biking after a taxi cut him off.) ..
Mr. Garcetti compared people who fear that removing lanes will make the streets horrific to lobsters boiling slowly in a pot: The changes may make traffic 15 percent worse instead of just 5 percent worse each year, he said, but the situation is already becoming untenable.
“The lobster dies eventually,” he said. “And we’re getting close to that boiling point.”
Full article here in New York Times.
Paris has nothing on North Vancouver.
Dan Ross, the Transportation Work Group Manager at Opus International Consultants, reports on the recent Lonsdale Car Free Day and Slide the City.
It was a beautiful day, and for those who pre-paid their tickets and didn’t mind waiting in about a kilometre-long queue, the 1,000-foot long waterslide down Lonsdale Avenue in North Vancouver (6th Street to 3rd Street) was worth it.
The rest of the Car Free Day events were south of 3rd Street down past Esplanade Avenue and to the shipyards at Carrie Cates Ct. There weren’t the mob-deep crowds who attended Car Free days in Vancouver in July; the Lonsdale event was also a little more family friendly and genteel by comparison (this is still the North Shore), but there was a good, critical mass of attendees and it was a lot of fun.
Kudos to the City of North Vancouver for organizing and hope to see many more of these next summer.
Is this an historic headline? – from the Los Angeles Times, August 13, 2015:
Over the decades, Los Angeles has bulldozed homes, paved through tranquil canyons, toppled countless trees and even flattened some hillsides, all in the name of keeping automobile traffic flowing as fast as possible.
On Tuesday, city leaders decided to slow things down.
They endorsed a sweeping policy that would rework some of the city’s mightiest boulevards, adding more lanes for buses and bikes and, in some places, leaving fewer for cars. The goal is to improve safety for cyclists and pedestrians while also luring more people out of their cars.
The plan represents a major departure in transportation policy for a city so closely identified with cars, and reflects the view of many planners that the old way of building more road space to address traffic is no longer a viable option.
Known as Mobility Plan 2035, the plan spells out hundreds of miles of new bicycle lanes, bus-only lanes and other road redesigns. It also seeks to cut the fatality rate from traffic collisions to zero within 20 years, in part by keeping cars within the speed limits. And it builds on other changes the city has already made to its streets in recent years.
Full article here.
Summary of Mobility Plan 2035 here.
Mobility Plan 2035 here.
Meanwhile in Metro Vancouver, we’re pursuing a Los Angeles strategy too: Reject transit as a way to accommodate and shape growth, allowing Motordom by default. When congestion has become intractable and building more roads is too expensive and pointless, then in 2035 adopt Mobility Plan 2055.
Los Angeleños, please drive more, or you’ll ruin Metro traffic projections & your reputation!
“Cue the howling,” notes Ohrn, anticipating the media coverage and accompanying comments to the Burrard Bridge announcement, below.
Do we have to go through this every time? No matter how many times the city reallocates road space (miniparks in the 1970s and 80s, bike lanes in the 90s and 2000s), no matter how many controversies (Hornby Street, Burrard Bridge, Point Grey Road, the Viaducts), the pattern is the same: predictions of Carmaggedon, attacks on council and staff, calls for more process, lengthy public meetings, approval and construction – and then nothing. Maybe a week of adjustment, and life goes on.
A few years later, the data confirms what the engineers had predicted: sufficient existing capacity, some mitigation, improved road design, and more use of other modes means little negative impact on vehicle flows – and in some cases actual improvements.
Best of all, the city moves forward on the goals that every council and community process affirms:
So let’s see, now that the south end improvements on the Burrard Bridge are clearly a success, whether the north end proposals will be greeted with equanimity.
Maybe this item from CityLab might give some reassurance:
“A big reason for opposition to bike lanes is that, according to the rules of traffic engineering, they lead to car congestion. …
But the general wisdom doesn’t tell the whole story here. On the contrary, smart street design can eliminate many of the traffic problems anticipated by alternative mode elements like bike lanes. A new report on protected bike lanes released by the New York City Department of Transportation offers a great example of how rider safety can be increased even while car speed is maintained.
… just because a city values travel alternatives over car-centric engineering doesn’t mean that city’s traffic has to come to a halt.
Some recommended reading from Michael Alexander and others, from the Rocky Mountain Institute. Here’s a very abridged version.
The only argument during the debate (in Congress) last summer was for more roads. If we assume we’ll drive tomorrow the same way we drive today then as U.S. population grows, everyone will buy cars and drive, causing more congestion. To reduce congestion, the argument goes, we need to build more and bigger and wider roads.
Yet several studies debunk that last notion. While adding road capacity temporarily reduces congestion, the capacity quickly fills up again. But, what about the first part of the argument: does an increasing U.S. population necessarily mean more cars and more driving?…
U.S. annual VMT (3 trillion miles averaging out to roughly 14,000 VMT per licensed driver) has leveled off since 2005, with VMT per person decreasing every year. This trend alone points to reconsidering the basic assumptions of this debate.
If these four solutions can further reduce VMT significantly, then we won’t need more roads or more drilling and oil:
1. SMART GROWTH
Since daily activities make up more than 75 percent of trips in the U.S., living in a walkable, mixed-use neighborhood can dramatically transform mobility, eliminating most driving needs. A comprehensiveVictoria Transport Policy Institute study found it could reduce residents’ VMT up to 20 percent.
2. CAR SHARING
Car sharing has already expanded rapidly from 50,000 to nearly 1.5 million U.S. members between 2004 and 2014. And this growth reduces vehicle ownership—every car-share vehicle eliminates 9–13 personal vehicles, with users selling their car or deferring buying one—and reduces total number of vehicles on the road by using cars that are on the road more efficiently via higher utilization rates. … More-efficient and reduced trip-making combined with lower vehicle ownership points to 27–44 percent fewer VMT for car-share users.
3. SMART PARKING
Smart parking transforms driving in two ways. First, individual trips are more efficient, with cruising for parking eliminated. … Second, as cruising vehicles are removed from the road, congestion eases for cars traveling through. And the collected data on parking usage combined with smart growth means cities can reduce parking requirements and repurpose existing parking.
4. CONNECTED, SELF-DRIVING VEHICLES
Self-driving vehicles are defined by level. Levels 1–2 (adaptive cruise control, lane change assist, collision avoidance) require full driver engagement and are available on current vehicle models. For levels 3–4, the car drives itself with minimal driver intervention. Connected refers to vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communications (V2X): cars talk to other cars, dynamically reroute around traffic, and “call ahead” to traffic signals to avoid sitting at empty intersections.
First, some 90 percent of crashes are caused by human error and these could be nearly eliminated by self-driving cars, saving thousands of lives. As a secondary benefit, crash-related congestion—accounting for approximately 25 percent of congestion events—would be avoided.
Second, recurring stop-and-go traffic (think rush hour) could be eased through platooning/highway driving with reduced headway, dynamic rerouting, and traffic flow smoothing. Self-driving vehicles can thus double to quadruple highway capacity without expanding the highway, making for smoother, faster trips—although this will require significant market penetration.
A TRANSFORMED TRANSPORTATION SYSTEM
These solutions reduce VMT 15 percent by 2040, stopping VMT growth at 2030 levels (using the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s projections as the baseline even though these projections—that VMT will continue to increase despite a decade of flat growth—are generally poor at predicting future traffic trends)..
In the accelerated case, where infrastructure spending focuses not on building more roads but enabling these solutions, VMT growth stalls by 2020 and then decreases.
Imagine taking those savings from not building new roads and instead deploying sensors and software to enable a smarter, more-efficient transportation system.
A major shift is under way, changing the way we will travel over the next 25 years, and the debate needs to shift with it. We should be talking more about maintaining the roads we have and using them (and the vehicles on them) better, instead of how to fund our steady march to more paved land.
UPDATE: From Strong Towns
Last Friday a federal district court ruled in favor of 1000 Friends of Wisconsin in a case they brought against both the US and Wisconsin departments of transportation. At issue was a proposed highway expansion and a set of bogus traffic projections used to justify it. The court said, in essence, that if the DOT is going to project a huge increase in traffic while population and actual traffic counts are dropping, they need to show how they came up with that.
This decision has huge implications. Together we’ve long battled the standard DOT approach of continual highway expansion justified through faulty projection methods. This decision is a really important pushback.
Some links for you:
Another item from “Designing for People of All Ages and Abilities: Active Transportation & Health in Vancouver” by Dale Bracewell, the Active Transportation Manager at the City of Vancouver:
Click to enlarge
- Hornby Street moves approximately 14,000 vehicles per day – unchanged for the last five years. Despite some perception, the cycle track has not reduced motor-vehicle traffic flow.
- But it has increased bike volumes by 50 percent over just the last three years, and as significantly, increased pedestrian flows by 10 percent on the west sidewalk and 20 percent on the east side since 2008.
- People seem to prefer walking on the cycle-track side of the street – presumably better for business.
To see all of Dale’s presentation, from which these slides were taken, check out this video, part of the April 30 lecture at SFU Vancouver with Jat Sandhu.