A cogent letter appeared in the Delta Optimist from a Delta resident who has suggested that there are ways to immediately ameliorate the “bottleneck” at the Massey Tunnel which has feverishly fanned the Province’s clamouring for a $3.5 billion dollar overbuilt, ecologically unsound bridge.
Mary Taitt notes that estimates indicate that the bridge building will take four years, and by 2021 costs will easily be in the 6 to 7 billion dollar range, even though “an additional tunnel could be constructed much sooner and for a fraction of the cost. At the same time a rapid transit system could be afforded and developed.”
Moving onto the “bottleneck” of traffic, the writer makes it clear that there are economical and prudent ways to fix this:
1. Restore 601 fast buses to/from Delta to Downtown Vancouver.
2. Stop trucks using the George Massey Tunnel during rush hours.
3. Re-establish the weigh station to stop trucks in rush hour, stop oversize trucks and dangerous loads using the tunnel and force all trucks to use the slow lane.
The tunnel is “only hazardous because maintenance is deliberately neglected. After the recent earthquake upgrade it was estimated to be good for another 50 years.”
Ms. Taitt has won an international award as part of the Delta Farmland and Wildlife Trust. She also reminds readers about the important ecological aspects inherent in the use of the Massey Tunnels. “The tunnels will protect the Fraser River, the greatest salmon river in the world, from becoming an industrial sewer for the Port of Vancouver…The current local, provincial and federal governments are facilitating the destruction of the Fraser River. We must stop them using our money to build a bridge that will be the headstone to the death of the Fraser River, its globally significant estuary habitats and its vital delta farmlands.”
Nic Slater posted this excellent three-minute video, produced in Great Britain but with much relevance to the situation with the proposed Massey Bridge. You just can’t build your way out of congestion with roads, and eight out of ten of these massive projects take out vital ecological habitat, and two-thirds of the projects destroy landscapes that were culturally important. Road building also means that people move away from town centres where they can cycle and walk.
In the Globe and Mail Ian Bailey reports that the proposed Massey Bridge which is slated to replace the Massey Tunnel at a cost of around $3.5 billion dollars is going to be an election issue. The leader of the New Democratic Party John Horgan stated “I won’t rule out a bridge, but I don’t believe that bridge is supported by the mayors and it’s not, certainly supported by the people of Richmond. ”
Now here is the piece that gets a bit weird. Everyone knows that this bridge is going to take out Class one farmland in the most fertile soils in Canada. We also know that despite what the Province is saying, that there will be dredging, probably by the Port to allow for bigger, deeper boats to bring things like LNG (liquid natural gas) by boat down the Fraser River. The dredging will impact the salmon and the fragile estuary of the Fraser River. We also know that a ten lane bridge is a massive overbuild at this location and we know that all the Mayors of Metro Vancouver with the one exception of the Mayor of Delta have asked that this bridge be located elsewhere.
The Premier’s response was not about any of this. It was about the jobs being created to build this massive bridge. Talking about John Horgan in the legislature, The Premier Ms. Clark stated “He hates the plan to renew the George Massey bridge and put thousands of people to work.” Somehow overbuilding this bridge in the wrong place has turned into a Provincial sponsored make-work project. This bridge once built will also be tolled at an estimated cost of $7.00 a trip, and because tolling will mean vehicles will flee to toll free bridges, they will be tolled as well.
Ian Bailey reports that Todd Stone, Minister of Transportation for the Province has had enough banter about the bridge. “We are now moving forward with the bridge. The decision has been made, period,” he said. “The talk is over. We’re moving forward with action.”
Even Port Coquitlam Mayor Greg Moore, the chair of the Metro Vancouver Regional District, has stated that the Province’s multi-billion dollar bridge has been made without due consideration or process. He noted “It was, ‘Here’s what we’re going to do. How do you like it?’” While the mayors of Metro Vancouver understand that there is a need to ameliorate congestion, “… a 10-lane, auto-oriented bridge is too big in scope,” Mr. Moore said, expressing concerns about increased traffic and pressure to develop area farmland. We didn’t want to be presumptuous in stating what needs to be built. A more inclusive dialogue would get us to a better result,” he said.”
Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver also thinks the Liberals are building the bridge “as an excuse to dredge the Fraser River to allow for the easier transit of tankers for the liquified natural gas sector the Liberals back. In an interview, he also said he was concerned about farmland being impacted by the project.”
And it’s no surprise that Mr. Weaver also thought that twinning the current tunnel was probably a better idea.
The excellent work that Dr. Larry Frank is undertaking at the University of British Columbia has been reinforcing the importance of walkable cities and places to keep citizens mentally sound, emotionally happy, and physically fit. The Australian journal “The Conversation” has now joined into the conversation and asks a simple question-what would happen if EVERYONE built 8,800 steps a day into their routine? Would this be a game changer for the health of citizens and for the budgets of nations that fund universal health care?
“Considering only the people aged over 55, at a minimum it would reduce the need for hospitalisation by 975,000 bed days per year, for a saving of $1.7 billion dollars. Given there are health benefits at other ages, and the less healthy Australians not represented in our study could benefit more, the actual benefit is likely to be even greater.”
The study classified people over 55 as inactive if they took 4,500 steps a day or less. An active senior took 8,600 steps a day. Just the simple act of doubling the steps, or increasing walking time to roughly 40 minutes a day reduced hospital days by a third.
“With governments searching for ways to reduce spending, and 16% of the federal budget being spent on health, tackling physical inactivity of individual patients, as well as ensuring our urban centres are walking- and cycling-friendly would make a major difference.”
Given these findings, does it make sense for Provincial governments to provide funding to municipalities to make communities more walkable for seniors, and provide safe comfortable linkages to shops and facilities? How can we further link the health benefits of walkable livable places to the well-being and longevity of residents?
In my TEDx Talk on the Transformative Power of Walking I noted the importance of benches in making places for people to be sociable, feel accepted on the street, and to people watch, a very important human activity. I also cited a study completed by New York City’s Department of Transportation that showed that placing benches outside retail stores increased sales volumes by 14 per cent at the adjacent storefronts.
BBC’s Katie Shepherd examines an encouraging trend in North America where municipalities are now encouraging the placement of benches as a welcoming gesture outside of stores. Such actions by individual shop keepers often is the first step (no pun intended) to how to create a more coherent and customer friendly commercial area.
“American cities have an excess of roadway space,” says Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, an urban planning professor at the University of California, Los Angeles. The street seats movement aims to reclaim some of that road for the pedestrian” by making public space active and vibrant.
“In Washington, DC, the annual Park(ing) Day celebration, in which businesses and community organisers build temporary parks in metered parking spots, inspired a program to allow permanent parklets to be installed in approved spots along the District’s streets. Inside these new parklets, businesses put out benches and chairs for their customers and the public to use whenever tired feet need a rest.” New York City has two established programs encouraging public seating for transit riders and pedestrians, especially the elderly. In a program called “CityBench” the Department of Transportation reimburses businesses for public bench installation. Over 1,500 benches have been added by storekeepers so far. And, as in the case of New York City, taking out a parking lane of City Street for benches improves businesses’ bottom line.
“Portland runs a “street seat” programme that has inspired eclectic designs – from benches that look like giant lawn chairs to seats that double as planters reminiscent of grassy hillsides. “Community engagement, that’s what made them really popular and really fun,” said Leah Treat, director for the Portland Bureau of Transportation.”
Where is Vancouver’s program supportive of increased seating in commercial areas? Is this something that can be themed or provide a whimsical gesture to the street? Seniors say we don’t have enough benches for the elderly in the commercial areas. Would this be a good place to start?
CNN explores a burning question: why do commercial delivery couriers always favour right hand turns? Apparently these services save “millions of gallons of fuel each year, and avoids emissions equivalent to over 20,000 passenger cars.” with this one practice. By avoiding left turns, you are avoiding delays that can make for traffic build ups. Even a left turning phase adds approximately 45 seconds to a left turn.
And there is more-“a study on crash factors in intersection-related accidents from the US National Highway Traffic Safety Association shows that turning left is one of the leading “critical pre-crash events” (an event that made a collision inevitable), occurring in 22.2 percent of crashes, as opposed to 1.2 percent for right turns. ” Over 60 per cent of crashes happen while turning left, compared to 3 per cent of crashes involving right turns.
Information from data collected by New York City’s transportation planners conclude that pedestrians are three times more likely to be killed from left turn vehicles. The UPS carriers assess all the routes to avoid left hand turns to minimize idling time and increase time sensitivity. They have rebooted Google maps to reflect routes that minimize left hand turns, a practice developed in the 1970’s with the term “Loop Dispatch”.
While this works great for pre-planned routes, in daily driving routes are less random. But when you see a big company courier truck making a left turn in traffic, you will know they are deviating from the “Loop Dispatch” plan.
Metro News and Jen St. Denis reports on the B.C. government’s announcement that ride-sharing legislation is coming. Surprise surprise, the announcement is made right before the Provincial election, and you may be able to use these services as early as December.
Transportation Minister Todd Stone states “We know that British Columbians want additional choice and convenience and ride sharing companies like Uber and Lyft present real opportunities to provide new services for consumers through the use of technology.”
I’ve written in Price Tags before about taxi service in Vancouver. As a woman its been an unsettling experience personally-there is no consistency of service, sometimes the cab does not show up and they won’t pick up my senior neighbours for shorter rides to the grocery store. I have also been followed home by taxi cab drivers. And many of the drivers are talking away on their handheld cellphone while they are driving the cab. Sure you can discount my experience and call it anecdotal-but if I had that experience, what has happened to other people who might not know to lodge a complaint with the “Taxi Team”of the Vancouver Police Department?
Of course the Taxi cab companies are upset about ride share coming, and the Province will fund a one million dollar app for taxi companies to compete with ride share, along with ICBC investing up to 3.5 million dollars in the installation of crash avoidance technology. The Province has also said that they would “address” the current shortage of taxis and vehicles for hire, allow drivers to pick up and drop off passengers anywhere and streamline the ICBC claims process.
There is lots of background chatter about this decision, the politics, the lobbying, and the interest groups. Until there is more mass transit in the areas where people want to go, ride share is one way forward. Perhaps this like many disruptive technologies will be here for only a short time. And like many disruptive technologies it will put pressure on taxi cab companies to be more customer based and responsive.
Fortune.com noted that in a study of ride share services in New York City last summer that 11.1 million taxi rides were taken, representing a drop of 9 per cent from a year earlier, while Uber’s use increased by 121 per cent. However taxi drivers had twice as many riders per week compared to Uber drivers. The two million dollar study also showed that traffic in the city was not significantly increased by the use of ride share services.
Remember the Tom Tom Annual Survey of Traffic Congestion suggesting that Vancouver is a parking lot of traffic? And Minister of Transportation Todd Stone calling the Massey Tunnel one of the most congested places in British Columbia according to a Canadian Automobile Association Survey?
Business in Vancouver reporter Patrick Blennerhasset cuts through the congestion chat by talking to a transportation expert, City of Vancouver Manager of Transportation Steve Brown. Steve notes that we need to define what we mean by congestion. Congestion can also be a very good thing-if transit or biking or walking is more efficient and gets you to a place faster, then congestion is your active transportation friend. The slower traffic, the safer active transportation users are too-while only ten per cent of pedestrians will survive a vehicular collision at 50 km/h that rises to a 90 per cent chance of survival with a vehicular collision at 30 km/h.
Steve Brown has great logic-“the key for Vancouver to continue to relieve congestion lies in creating alternative transportation methods to automobile trips…Over the last few years, we have seen a lot more concerns over congestion. And because we’re kind of falling behind on some of our transit infrastructure investments, we’re seeing that there are tending to be more trips lately relying on the road network.”
So…bolstering active transportation and transit reduces congestion, actually making driving easier for folks that want to do this. But doesn’t that defeat the purpose? And that is where misinformation comes in.
“Last year, Langley City councillor Nathan Pachal compiled the 2016 Transit Report Card of Major Canadian Regions. He gave Vancouver a high ranking in terms of public transportation—second only to Montreal—using Canada Transit’s Fact Book 2014 Operating Data by the Canadian Urban Transit Association, which gathers its data from transit agencies across the country and Statistics Canada’s National Household Survey. Pachal also called into question the accuracy of the TomTom rankings. He said during the transit referendum in 2015, discussion around congestion in Vancouver reached a fever pitch.”
And back to those Tom Tom Statistics-those are predicated upon counting the extra travel time during peak hours for a vehicle versus the time taken to travel during no traffic conditions, and then multiplied for 230 working days a year. Remember that Tom Tom’s clients are drivers, and therefore cities with freeways and highways that provide a quick exit are ranked highly, with no ranking given to alternative transit modes or active transportation.
While Vancouver ranked as the 34th most congested cities for vehicle users according to Tom Tom, “the INRIX Global Traffic Scorecard, has ranked Vancouver 157th worldwide in terms of traffic congestion.” Why? Because INRIX a Kirkland, Washington-based transportation analytics company, analyzed traffic congestion in 1,064 cities for its second annual report. Its methodology calculates congestion at different times of the day in different parts of a city using 500 terabytes of data from 300 million different sources covering over five million miles of road. ” This is a much more sophisticated analysis on “overall travel times” as opposed to peak versus free-flow times.
But neither of these two approaches factor in active transportation or transit, and measure a city’s performance by the efficiency of this type of movement. While Tom Tom may be getting a lot of attention, the INRIX Global Traffic Scorecard is perhaps a more accurate gauge. Here’s to an index that also factors in other users besides vehicular.
Next City reports on something that proves that everything old becomes new again with innovation, including the use of cameras monitoring intersections. UBC engineering professor Tarek Sayed states what everyone who has looked at the civic systems to get speed bumps or signalized crosswalks knows-“We have to wait for collisions to happen before we can do anything. A fundamental ethical and practical problem which faces traffic engineers is, in order to improve safety, you need a certain number of collisions … which you would try to prevent later,” says the University of British Columbia civil engineering professor. “It’s very reactive.”
Sayed has taken a proactive approach, developing a video camera system that monitors intersections for near collision misses, and has computers track the results. “The system, called, somewhat inelegantly, “computer vision and automated safety analysis,” uses off-the-shelf cameras, or cameras that are already installed in an area, to film a given intersection. Computer algorithms can track anything that moves through the intersection — cars, bikes, people — and can figure out quite a bit about each one. The computer knows whether the moving blip is a person or a car, how fast they’re going, how close they got to hitting another road user. The computer can even tell, with about 80 percent accuracy, whether a person is distracted by their phone while walking.”
Driver distraction is measured by how long it takes the driver to stop the car. Sayed also suggests that lower vehicular speeds would lessen the impact of any pedestrian crashes. This system is used in several countries and the redesign of one intersection in Edmonton Alberta had a 92 per cent reduction in collisions after the computer vision and safety analysis.
The Rick Hansen Foundation has announced an Accessibility Certification Program providing accessibility audits to ensure barrier-free experiences for people with mobility, vision and hearing disabilities. These standards also make it as easy as possible for people with walkers and young families with strollers to use buildings, public streets, walkways and parks.
The Rick Hansen Foundation (RHF) has developed RHF Accessibility Certification, an inclusive design and accessibility rating system. Similar to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), it measures and rates accessibility features. According to a recent survey conducted by Angus Reid Institute, 88% of Canadians consider a LEED-style rating program for universal accessibility to be worthwhile.
Trained RHF Access Assistants are currently conducting free beta accessibility reviews and rating buildings throughout Metro Vancouver and the greater Victoria-Colwood area. The first phase of pilot testing of the new RHF Accessibility Certification is underway until June 2017.
A high-profile and complex project, the Arbutus Greenway is a rightfully-recurring topic on this blog and other forums. Sometimes too recurring, though. It frankly elicited some fatigue last year with endless sustained and robust debate over its temporary surface treatments.
The City must have learned something useful from its first consultation round for the temporary greenway design, because the outreach process to inform the permanent greenway’s conceptual design is only half as long and almost over. As noted in Ken Ohrn’s previous post from January, the City is hosting three meetings and extending an online survey to the 15th to petition the public for its thoughts, opinions, concerns, and desires for the permanent future of this 9-km stretch of former rail corridor.
It is still early days for this project and the City is rightfully asking the big questions: What do you want? What should be preserved? What are the ‘must have’s? However, being impatient, other colleagues and I have preferred to consider the ‘next step’ logistical/engineering questions about how this space will actually work:
What exactly is going in the 20m right of way?
Is space being preserved for eventual 2-way light rail?
How will the design minimize conflicts between modes?
What surface treatments are you considering? How will you maintain them?
How are you going to manage the transitions across Broadway, W 16th, W 33rd, et. al?
What are you doing with buildings currently encroaching on the right of way?
still just a rendering for now
It was these and similar questions that, thanks to the Arbutus Communications Team, prompted an interview with Dale Bracewell, Vancouver’s Manager of Transportation Planning. We were originally going to meet on the greenway for a ride, but the weather had other ideas.
Over a half-hour chat, Dale walked me through the big picture and as much of the smaller picture as he could commit to at this stage. The City is still in the visioning stage but from previous consultation on the temporary greenway, known best practice, and feedback his team has received; there are already a number of lessons, known challenges, and likely themes the Arbutus Greenway will incorporate. Here are a few:
The Stanley Park Seawall is considered the local benchmark of greenway success. Elements that have traditionally ‘worked’ here will make their way onto Arbutus: accommodation of different mobility levels, integration with landscape and points of interest, separation of modes, etc.
Benchmark for a successful greenway – Seawall
Separation of modes will be a priority to reduce both actual and perceived risk of conflicts. This has been consistently communicated through all levels of project feedback. Depending on the area and availability of width, pedestrians and cyclists will be separated in some fashion.
Transitions across level streets will be a major factor in the design. Unlike other urban rails-to-trails greenways, Arbutus is neither sunken nor elevated, but level to the surrounding road network. Crossing minor roads will not be as problematic, but crossing major ones (Broadway, King Edward, W 41st) will likely require either some significant traffic network changes, expensive signalling, or level separation (bridges). This will drive some of the design’s biggest decisions and costs.
Green bridge over Broadway?
Integration with public transit will be another critical item. This thing might be part of the public transit network some day, so this is sensible. Easy access to and extra capacity at Arbutus extension skytrain station, W 41st St B-Line, and other crossing bus services will make their way into the Conceptual designs.
Protecting space for 2-way light rail is still on the table. This would be 8m-9m of the total 20m right of way. I’m not yet convinced there’s a business case for a streetcar or light rail here, but this space can be flexibly programmed in the short term while the transit corridor is being assessed/developed.
Other cities’ models will be reviewed. Ideas for some of the finer engineering and design elements that don’t come from the visioning exercise may be borrowed from other cities (i.e., surface treatments, design elements, lighting, etc.). This essentially includes programming opportunities and partnerships. Some facilities that the City is looking at are below:
Inspiration from Chicago – 606/Bloomingdale Line
And Sydney – The Goods Line
And Minneapolis – Midtown Greenway
And Auckland – Lightpath
Ultimately the greenway will offer improved direct connectivity to points north and south and transfer connections east and west. Whether it forever remains an active mode corridor or eventually includes a streetcar connecting Granville Island and…The Arthur Laing Bridge? Steveston?…it will be a popular and iconic public amenity. We’ll have trouble imagining what Vancouver was ever like without it.
For those not interested in ever getting those 36 minutes back, the full interview can be heard here:
From the brilliant minds of Public Square, Robert Steuteville writes about the return to compact walking friendly neighbourhoods, with shops and services in close walking distance. When the City of Vancouver developed Greenways, we said that these streets which favour walking and biking ahead of vehicular traffic should be a twenty-minute walk or a ten minute bicycle ride from every residence in Vancouver. New urbanism architect Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk and city planner and author Jeff Speck take this concept one step (no pun intended) further. They are using the terminology of “pedestrian shed,” a distance that can be covered in five minutes at a normal walking pace—typically shown on a plan as a circle with a quarter-mile radius.
Work undertaken by Victoria Walks in Australia shows that seniors and young people will go about the same distance by foot to access services-one kilometer. At a speed of 6 km/h that normally takes a person about ten minutes. The five-minute radius suggested by Plater-Zyberk and Speck is about 400 meters.
“If the built environment is appealing and human scale, the theory is that most people will walk at least five minutes rather than get in a car.The idea is embedded in a thousand new urban plans and incorporated into zoning codes now. Although the quality of the built environment can expand or shrink the distance people will walk, the quarter-mile pedestrian shed remains an influential and useful idea for designing neighborhoods and building complete communities. “
Speck sees the walking shed as a primary way to organize develop that emphasizes walkability and connection, and reinforce the concept of walkability in neighbourhoods. The article goes through the theoretical discussion of early planning form which incorporated walkability before being usurped by the car and by suburban developers. There is also discussion of how retailing and mixed use is returning to walkable locations reminiscent of the accessible corner store from the last century.
Nala Rogers writing in In Science notes that Stockholm Sweden was one of the cities that instituted “congestion pricing” by scanning license plates as cars enter the “congestion pricing zone”. Each trip costs around $ 3.40 in Canadian dollars. First trialed in 2006, the pricing became permanent in 2007.
Stockholm’s road pricing scheme not only made streets less vehicular and enabled cars to commute more easily, asthma attacks in children were significantly reduced by approximately 45 per cent.
Researchers compared health and environmental data from Stockholm with over 100 other cities that did not have congestion fees. The researchers tracked the pollutant levels and also tracked the number of children sent to hospital from asthma attacks. Had Stockholm not introduced congestion fees, “it would have continued to experience the same worsening asthma and pollution levels as other Swedish cities. This assumption allowed the team to project what would have happened in Stockholm without the fees, and compare those estimates to what actually happened.”
If Stockholm had not introduced congestion pricing “its air would have been five to ten percent more polluted between 2006 and 2010, and young children would have suffered 45 percent more asthma attacks.” While benefits were 12 per cent during the initial trial period of congestion prices, they increased to 45 per cent over the cumulative years.
“We are looking at an area that has much lower levels [of pollution] than the current [U.S. Environmental Protection Agency] standards, and we are reducing those levels by a little bit,” said Johns Hopkins economist Emila Simeonova, who presented the research at the American Economics Association meeting in Chicago in January. “Yet we see these vast changes in the health status of children.”
Sweden does use more diesel vehicles which could also partially account for the asthma rates seen in other Swedish towns. The study does show the public benefit and cleaner air resulting in congestion pricing that could be of interest to North American cities.
City of Richmond Councillor Carol Day joins the discussion on the Massey Bridge in a letter published in the Delta Optimist. This saga of the Massey Tunnel morphing into a ten lane bridge has a history that goes back over a decade, with a host of constantly changing rationales and purposes, and a burgeoning multi-billion dollar taxpayer-funded price tag.
Concerns are many for this bridge placement at this location. There is the sensitivity of the Fraser River Delta, the destruction of more Class 1 farmland which was purportedly “protected” in the Agricultural Land Reserve, the fact that such a large bridge will simply move vehicles into parking lots on either side, and the fact that a twinned tunnel replacement was never seriously examined.
As Councillor Day notes “In 2006, the B.C. Liberal government’s Gateway Program looked ahead to “twinning the George Massey Tunnel under the south arm of the Fraser River between Richmond and Delta.” That meant adding another tunnel tube in order to increase the capacity by at least two lanes. However, the Gateway report stated, “The project is on the back burner in part because it would put pressure on traffic bottlenecks to the north, requiring expansion of the Oak Street and Knight Street bridges into Vancouver or a new bridge into Burnaby.”
“Contradicting its own 2006 logic, the province now wants to demolish the tunnel and build a 10-lane bridge. It has paid lip service to considering three other options to expand the crossing’s capacity, but in its B.C. environmental assessment application those options have the same high capacity as the 10-lane bridge. “
“…The province’s assessment process, inadequate for this purpose, will allow the province to get away with that, even though Richmond and Metro Vancouver have reasoned for limited expansion that is consistent with the province’s 2006 logic. Their calls for moderate options have been ignored. It is as though the views of the local governments do not exist. Who knows better than the Metro Vancouver Mayors Council how to enhance our Metro Vancouver transportation system?”
Councillor Day is asking for the public to press “the federal government to begin a Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency review. It would include options that meet the needs of Metro Vancouver and Richmond, consider environmental effects in a wider and cumulative way, and enable independent decisions. “
Despite the fact that all the municipalities except Delta have nixed this location of this mega bridge and despite this extraordinary cost for a “bridge too wide” the process just lumbers on with no accounting for other options. Who is this bridge really serving?
Anthony Perl of Simon Fraser University was interviewed in the Georgia Straight regarding “transit road pricing” or the practice of charging Transit passengers for the distance they are travelling.
If transit fares were also coupled with vehicle “distance-based road pricing…the most efficient way to go,” Perl told the Georgia Straight by phone. “I think it would encourage people to work and live close to where they need to be or want to be…and…discourage sprawl.”
But here’s the challenge-you also have to price automobile users for using the road. “The problem is that we tend to look at these two systems separately but, of course, it’s an integrated mobility network,” he said. “And people make decisions about how to move and what to do and where to live not based on one piece of it but the whole system. So if we change one without the other, then we have the risk of unintended consequences, I think.”
Citing Victoria transportation expert Todd Litman, Perl noted it costs taxpayers a lot to subsidize automobile use as compared to transit. “Road socialism” means recognizing this disparity. Transportation costs are often not factored in examinations of housing affordability in suburban communities. “In a critique of a 2015 international housing-affordability survey by U.S. think tank Demographia, Litman wrote that households spend 20 to 25 percent of their budgets on transportation in car-dependent communities.”
A cheaper house farther out may incur higher transportation costs, while housing closer to work may mean multi modal transportation options can lower costs. “Perl said transit users who can afford housing only in suburban areas should be “rewarded for not driving those long distances” and “not punished” through distance-based fares.”
Can a comprehensive review of road pricing for all users in Metro Vancouver be far behind?
First, a disclaimer-I have an electric bike and two “standard” bikes. My electric bike is a prototype developed in Toronto that has worked faithfully when needed. It goes fast. It climbs hills. And it extends the range and topography of what I can cycle. It’s a great bike.
In a moment of genius, The City of Oslo is offering 25 per cent of the cost up to $1,200 for citizens to purchase an electric cargo bike. These bikes currently cost in the $1,800 to $4,800 range and can carry heavier cargo on trips, like groceries and/or kids.
The City of Oslo has suffered from diminished air quality and has temporarily banned diesel fuelled vehicles. Norway as reported in City Lab has “invested a phenomenal $1 billion in new bike infrastructure, so the paths that Oslo’s future cargo bikes use should ultimately be of high quality. But there are still some hurdles. Oslo, for example, is considerably hillier than, say, Amsterdam or Copenhagen, and it can experience some harsh weather conditions.”
Hmm…sounds like Vancouver.
“For that reason electric cargo bikes are a potentially greater part of the solution here. Not only do they give riders a push up hills, they also make bikes a feasible option for new purposes like weekly grocery shopping. They can even be used for the school commute: In Copenhagen, it’s already common to see parents pedaling several small children to school in a cart attached to their bike”.
The intent of the program is to provide 500 to 1,000 new electric cargo bikes, and to take more vehicles off the road, popularizing ” a currently underexposed form of transit, which more people may adopt if they see it in action and register its advantages.”
Would a similar program in Metro Vancouver encourage more cyclists and move more cars off the road?
In the “why didn’t I think of that” department, the City of London has come up with an innovative and direct way to deal with drivers that overtake bikes at a distance of less than the regulated 1.5 meters.
As reported by City Lab, “the city’s Metropolitan Police is going low key, with plain-clothes police officers pedaling through the streets on bikes to monitor and reprimand drivers’ behavior. The main goal is to crack down on so-called close passing—that is, drivers overtaking bikes at a distance of less than 1.5 meters (just under 5 feet)… Motorists caught engaging in driving that compromises cyclists’ safety will be given the choice between prosecution or a 15-minute roadside safety training session. The operation won’t cover a very large area of London’s roads at any one time. By introducing the idea that cyclists on the road might just have a police badge in their pocket, however, it may have a far greater effect than punishment alone. “
This operation was first trialled in the West Midlands near Manchester where two plainclothes police officers nabbed 130 motorists in nine hours, booking eight for safety offences, and revoking one driver’s license.
And what of the impacts of the plain clothes bike patrol ? Since the commencement, there has been a 50 per cent reduction in vehicle/bicycle collision. This has been achieved with little expense save for a “roll up” mat, which is used to illustrate the safe 1.5 meter “safety” zone passing distance around a cyclist.
The plain clothes police cyclists have been so effective, there are plans to undertake this operation in another 16 cities in Great Britain.
Michael Harcourt was Mayor of Vancouver for six years and Premier of this province for five years. In the Vancouver Sun editorial section Mike presents the case about why replacing the Massey Tunnel with a bridge is not only unsustainable but a $4.7 BILLION dollar, not a $3.5 billion dollar bridge when the bill comes in.
Mike notes that “According to an Oxford University study, bridges internationally over the last 50 years have averaged a 35-per-cent cost overrun. Look at our recent massive cost overruns and ongoing subsidies for the Port Mann Bridge” . But just like the Port Mann bridge, the Province is “proceeding unilaterally, without proper consultation with the mayors. The overarching problem with the stand-alone, unilaterally imposed Massey Bridge is that it is not part of a longer-term vision and transportation plan for Metro Vancouver. We have 2.5 million people now, with two million more expected in Metro Vancouver over the next 50 years. How does the Massey Bridge address that challenge? Not in any coherent, demonstrable way”.
“Fortunately, there is a $1.7-billion dual Massey Tunnel alternative. Not only is it at least half the cost, there are other advantages”, including conserving the most arable land in Canada, maintaining critical migratory bird habitat, less seismic vulnerability and faster to design and build. It would also mean that the existing tunnel could be adapted and there would be less impact on the Fraser River south arm with dredging that would disrupt the “greatest salmon habitat in the world”.
“If that’s not enough, the other big problem is that a stand-alone Massey toll bridge proposal would just shift the traffic congestion from that route to the toll-less Alex Fraser Bridge and the Oak Street and Knight Street toll-less bridges. “
Oddly the Province did not undertake a scoping study for a twin tunnel, and has found lots of reasons to say that a massively overbuilt bridge is the right thing to do. Like the Port Mann bridge, Mike Harcourt maintains that “unilateral, provincially imposed transportation projects such as the Massey Bridge proposal are a bad way to address these challenges, a bad way to govern.The Massey Tunnel alternative should be part of a 20-year bridge replacement plan, starting with the Pattullo Bridge, which should be replaced immediately”.
Mike notes that all bridges should have modest tolling that goes directly to Metro Vancouver transportation improvements. People are going to continue to come to Metro Vancouver, and the right infrastructure needs to be built in the right place.
“The $4.7-billion Massey Bridge proposal should not go ahead. Instead, the $1.7-billion dual tunnel idea should be built, together with a unitary tolling system. Let’s get moving!”
Patrick Brown is a Toronto based criminal injury lawyer-and he was recently on CBC Radio’s Ontario Today discussing something we at Price Tags have pondered-Where the heck is the criminal sentencing and consequences when at fault drivers maim and kill pedestrians and cyclists?
Mr. Brown maintains that in Ontario “special status” has been given to drivers, meaning that it is circumstantial whether causing a fatality is a crime. “Certainly if there’s drinking involved or if there’s an individual in a hit and run or there’s racing and I would also consider distracted driving a crime and that means there was intent to do a behavior that was reckless and careless and resulted in loss of a life”.
But what happens with drivers that say that their gas pedal gets stuck, or other excuses? “There’s a responsibility when you’re driving the car that you don’t act recklessly, that you make sure that your sandal does not get caught in the accelerator and that you prevent your vehicle from crossing lanes and killing someone. We have to have a system that reacts to these situations in a different manner than we’re presently watching. Erica Stark was standing on a sidewalk when the car went up over the curb and killed her. The response to that by our system was a $1,000 fine.”
Road violence is surprising in that the maiming and killing of vulnerable road users does not have serious consequences for the driver. Mr. Brown notes that he has seen instances where a seriously injured pedestrian is given a jaywalking ticket while the car driver responsible for the injuries isnever charged. But, under Ontario law, if a crosswalk is more than 100 metres away, a pedestrian can legally cross a road. “That’s the systemic type of outlook that happens at times in relation to drivers and pedestrians. “
Patrick Brown sees speed reduction as absolutely necessary— “speed kills and is the number one factor in these pedestrians getting hit and killed and it would make a significant difference if we reduced the speed limits. And most importantly, vulnerable road user laws — these have already been passed in at least 10 of the states down south, and these laws say that if you hit a pedestrian, a cyclist, somebody using a mobility aid, anybody who’s vulnerable, doesn’t have that protection of airbags and collapsible steering wheels, that you’re going to be subject to added penalties on top of what you’re already going to face.”
After practicing this area of law for 20 years, Brown says that there is “a repetitive result,’ where individuals who are clearly negligent, careless and reckless and kill and seriously injure people” have been given a slap on the wrist.” This needs to change, and it needs to change now. In Oregon, hitting a vulnerable road user results in a licence suspension, a mandatory driving course and up to 200 hours of community service, and a fine or jail. Mr. Brown maintains “A $500 fine to an individual may mean nothing, It’s like going out for dinner for a night. The fine is less than the dent in the car. But you actually make them proactively have to do something and reflect on their conduct, then you’re sending a message out of deterrence to all society — you have to pay particular attention when you’re near these individuals”.
In the 21st century it is time for us to treat road violence as a crime, require mandatory slowing of speeds neighbourhood wide, and deter driver inattention and behaviour. How do we ensure that all road users can safely and sustainably use our roads and streets?