Nordstroms, Friday afternoon. What do you think, Guest, will hands-on sneaker construction pull them in?
Nordstroms, Friday afternoon. What do you think, Guest, will hands-on sneaker construction pull them in?
In a few short years, Metro Vancouver drivers could be charged a fee to pass through bustling city centres, access busy roads or — of course — cross bridges.
These so-called “congestion point charges” are one of two options the Mobility Pricing Independent Commission is considering to ease overcrowding on the region’s roads and produce revenue to pay for transportation infrastructure.
The independent commission is tasked with recommending options for mobility pricing to TransLink and the Mayors’ Council overseeing Lower Mainland transportation services.
“It’s about charging just enough to get a small number of people to think about choosing a different route or choosing a different mode or driving at a different time,” the commission’s executive director Daniel Firth told reporters during a technical briefing Monday
My guess is that the years are not going to be few or short.
This is a civic election year. Anyone you know wish to run on a platform of instituting road tolls?
The NDP, having arguably formed the government as a consequence of removing tolls from the Port Mann Bridge, would be slaughtered if they then proposed returning them. They have effectively ruled out anything that sounds, smells or is in the neighbourhood of ‘road tolls.’
There are so many contentious issues*, it’s not reasonable (or expected) that the commission will address them in the time available
In the meantime, decisions must be made on the fiscal hole the NDP created with the removal of tolls. Pattullo Bridge was expected to be financed with them. Won’t happen. The regional portion of the 10-year plan and matching funding for major transit projects must be addressed – and soon.
Mobility pricing isn’t going to be a solution for any of that. And once (or if) the tough decisions are made, there will be little appetite for returning to yet another funding mechanism if no other deadline looms.
Meanwhile, there will be so much to study, so many conversations to have, so much consultation to undertake.
The commission’s final report is due in April. Before then, the plan is to conduct public meetings and hold stakeholder workshops, and the commission’s website will open to online comments next month.
*Contentious issues like …
Privacy and trust. What happens to the data? Will the charges be visible in real time? Will you know how much you’re paying as you’re driving? (People say they like transparency, but in reality they hate visible charges. Ask the federal Conservatives about the wisdom of making the GST a separate item on every bill.)
Implementation. Remember Compass. Or Phoenix. Or almost any health-records technology.
Fairness. Please define. Will lower-income people be punished for driving further to affordable housing? Will Vancouver, where traffic is dropping, be punished with a congestion charge while the suburbs effectively get subsidized? Will the North Shore be punished because there are no other options than bridges? Will someone else be paying less than me?
Vancouver’s recent denial of a development permit for Beedie Living’s 105 Keefer project has reinvigorated conversations about Chinatown’s future, and particularly the adjacent and important public space surrounding the intersection of Keefer and Columbia. That’s where the Chinatown Memorial Plaza, the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden, the Chinese Cultural Centre and the northeast corner of the new False Creek park (in design) come together. Many see it as a future entry to Chinatown.
But whose Chinatown? Preservationists and a new generation of Chinese Canadians want to protect Chinatown’s unique character and history.
Could Keefer and Columbia be Chinatown’s future? What might it look like, and who gets to decide? Our presenters, guiding us through this complex tangle are Helen Lee, Chair of the city’s Chinatown Historic Area Planning Committee; Gordon Price, former Vancouver Councillor; and we’ve invited one other.
Then it’s time for your questions, observations and opinions. Please join us, and feel free to bring your lunch. It’s a conversation!
Thursday, January 18
12:30 – 1:30 pm
Room 7000, Simon Fraser University at Harbour Centre
Thursday January 11, 7 pm
Vancouver Public Library, Joe Fortes Branch, 870 Denman Street
Come and participate in a free and free-wheeling discussion on Vancouver’s present and future, moderated by the ever-impartial me, ha ha.
I will start from the premise that Vancouver’s human diversity and urbanity is supported by its wide range of buildings, using the West End as an example, and let participants take it from there …
For further information, visit the website for the Philosophers’ Café.
Lloyd Alter in Tree Hugger has written about two completely avoidable accidents~one in Brooklyn and one in Toronto where bicyclists “lost control and fell under the wheels of a tractor-trailer”. Lloyd notes that in our “blame the vulnerable user” mentality we suggest that the cyclists may have slipped, or have fallen or was somehow responsible for the lack of control ending their lives. But as Lloyd says “It is a sad coincidence, two cyclists just losing control like that. Bikes are pretty stable and safe. People who ride in December are usually the type of cyclists who ride all year and don’t just fall off their bikes.”
But in the Toronto fatality there was not a separated bike lane on that block, a clear design problem. And looking at the trucks involved in the fatalities, the cyclists went under the rear wheels of trucks that did not have side guards, which are required in most of the world but not in North America, where the industry fights them as being heavy and expensive. In Canada, the Minister of Transport just introduced new rules to make trucking safer, mandating stability control systems and logging devices, but not a peep about side guards.”
Why? “In New York City the need for them is recognized; Mayor de Blasio made them mandatory on all trucks — by 2024. (In the UK, cyclist deaths dropped 61 percent and pedestrian deaths 20 percent when they became mandatory.) They should be mandatory everywhere, and a lot sooner than 2024.”
Since 2015 London England has mandated that any truck operating in the City MUST have side guards and large side mirrors on each side of the vehicle. Price Tags Vancouver has previously written about the City of London going even further realizing that 50 per cent of all cycling mortalities and over 20 per cent of all pedestrian deaths result from a certain kind of truck with poor sight lines/visibility from the truck cab. The statistics in three years pointed out that these 35,000 trucks operating with limited visibility from the cab were responsible for 70 per cent of cyclists deaths. These are largely construction trucks and the Mayor of London is banning them from London streets. With one simple change the City was made safer for cyclists and pedestrians.
And back to Canada~mandatory side guards on trucks save lives. As long as large trucks are sharing spaces with cyclists and pedestrians, we should be insisting that truck side guards be installed. As for the pushback from the trucking association regarding the cost of side guards? In the Vision Zero world of road safety, the impact of restricting these vehicles from causing further mortalities is priceless. Let’s hope Canadian cities follow London’s lead.
I came across this live traffic report on KIRO 7 Seattle the other morning. What stuck out besides the brutal traffic congestion and commuting times was the traffic reporters advice to avoid it. See if you can pick it out in the video below:
What she is referring to are the Interstate 405 express toll lanes between Bellevue and Lynnwood which bypass Seattle on the region’s suburban Eastside. Hotlanes as they are sometimes referred to are designated HOV or Express lanes rate adjusted depending on traffic congestion, the worst the traffic the more the single occupancy driver is charged for the right to use them. The charges are levied via a transponder in the drivers car.
Could we use these “Hot Lanes” on our roadways? More on the 405 express lanes and others in the Puget Sound region from the Washington State Department of Transportation website here.
HQ2 is way out there in the future, but today the Feds, Provs, City and Amazon announced that the tech giant will open a second Vancouver tech-employee office with 1000 employees. This is an addition to the existing 1000-person tech office located in Telus Gardens.
Amazon has large warehouses in the Metro area, in Delta and New Westminster, employing around 500 people.
The new location is 150,000 sq. ft. on Dunsmuir at Homer (402 Dunsmuir) and is scheduled to open in 2020. This is in addition to 76,000 sq. ft. in shared space with WeWork, which may be temporary until 2020.
Vancouver’s Duke of Data and Director of the City Program Andy Yan is interested in all things related to statistics. Halloween in Metro Vancouver is a fine tradition-younger kids come early, seeing the darkening late afternoons as a signal to start the door to door trek. And think about that-in a big city when else can you disguise yourself, knock on any door, ask for candy, and best yet get it?
But where do those kids go, and what does their selection of trick and treat places tell about the neighbourhoods? Why are some houses chock full of unserved chocolate at the end of the evening, while other folks are cleaned out of treats, telling Sylvester the Cat and Minnie Mouse to come back in ten minutes while running out to the local grocery store for sugary back up?
CBC and Andy Yan asked the following questions on an online survey:
From these questions Andy and CBC Data Specialist Tara Carmen found that kids loved houses that were dressed appropriately for Halloween inviting trick-or-treaters. Douglas Park was in the “1,000-plus club” where some houses had more than 1,200 kids stop by. East Vancouver’s Trinity Street known for great seasonal decorations had houses report over 1,000 Halloween visitors, as did Surrey’s Clayton neighbourhood. The “money spots” places where full size candy bars were being given out were reported in Fairview Slopes, Ash Street in New Westminster and Joffre Avenue in Burnaby.
When asked whether kids stayed in their own neighbourhoods or went to other areas, 75 per cent of the kids stayed close to home. Reasons for going to other neighbourhoods were to meet friends or family. And for the rest of us who are left with piles of kid size candy and few visitors? The advice is clear-decorate your house up, or consider befriending a household in Vancouver’s Douglas Park or on Trinity Street. They could use your candy and your tactical support at answering an ever knocking door.
Good interview on mobility pricing with Jonathon Brown at News1130 – where they took the trouble to transcribe the interview word for word. Unfortunately, it makes for less than elegant reading. (The full transcript is here.)
So here’s my rewritten version of their transcript – valuable, I think, for a more detailed explanation of the idea of the Transportation Service Provider:
VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – How much you pay to get around, be it by car, bike, or bus, could change.
The Mobility Pricing Independent Commission is releasing a report Wednesday about lower mainland traffic congestion and pricing.
Mobility pricing looks at everything from road maintenance, transit fares, parking fees, and gas prices.
Transportation expert Gordon Price with Simon Fraser University’s Centre for Dialogue says the province cutting tolls on the Port Mann and Golden Ears Bridges has limited their options to charge for transportation.
“The entire transportation system is going to be affected by how we measure what people are doing and charge them something appropriate to that.”
He says drivers and transit users can argue over what’s fair between tolls or fare hikes, but he points to Oregon as a state that has charged alternatives to a gas tax. …
Is road pricing the fairest way to go?
“No one knows what that is, but you can count on one thing: if I’m being charged more, it’s not fair,” he laughs. …
Ride-hailing has also been on municipal minds and it adds a new wrinkle to mobility pricing.
“Imagine something like a combination of Uber and Amazon coming to a town and saying they’d like to buy the transit system, the road system that could be tolled, car share, bike share, taxis, parking, anything that could be priced. We’d like to sell it as a service package of transportation choices – just as Shaw, Rogers or Telus offers telecommunications. (You get a package of services – phone, internet, mobile – for one monthly fee without ever knowing the price of a single cell phone call. But the next call always seems to be free.)
“If you could offer people – regardless of whether they drive, take transit, cycle, or all of the above – unfettered access to the entire transportation system, but charge them only once, that sounds pretty good, right? You don’t have to own a car, insure or maintain it, or constantly upgrade for the latest fast-changing technology. The service provider does all that.
“If the package on average is about $500 a month, the service provider has a cash flow as great as any company or even government – and the ability to borrow against it. It’s huge. They become bigger than many governments. And you can imagine the issues of regulation and control over transport investment that involves.
“But once the bond is broken between the user and personal ownership of a vehicle (and government can consequently tax the service provider, not the driver), then the politics of transportation is changed fundamentally. The Mobility Pricing Commission should be thinking about a future more like that than the current situation which will inevitably change.”
The commission is expected to make a final recommendation to TransLink’s board of directors in spring 2018.
“This would be impossible to consider doing without a lot of public consultation,” Price continues.
“There’s no way politicians can move on an issue like radical change on pricing on transportation unless they have some kind of mandate to do so.”
The Mobility Pricing Independent Commission is doing more research and more speaking with the public over the next few months.
Before that, they will release their initial findings Wednesday at noon at the University of British Columbia’s Robson Square campus.
Scot thinks Jeff Speck would approve (see below). From the Toronto Star:
A new type of vehicle is about to roll out on Toronto’s streets.
UPS announced Monday the U.S.-based shipping giant is a launching a pilot project of using cargo bikes for package deliveries. …
Because of its size the bike won’t be allowed to operate in bike lanes …
Nithya Vijayakumar, a senior adviser on transportation and urban solutions at the Pembina Institute, an environmental think-tank, recently authored a report advocating for the increased use of cargo bikes in Toronto.
It determined that 16.4 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions in the city come from vans, light-duty trucks, and SUVs.
I saw a first the other day at the local Safeway.
No, not the self-service scanner technology. It’s been in place for several years and was recently expanded. But for the first time, I saw a line-up to use the machines while, at the same, the clerk at the express line was waiting for customers.
Now, maybe people didn’t realize she was free. But maybe, more and more, people prefer to use the machines and scan for themselves. Maybe we’re being that well trained.
From Jarrett Walker, an American who helps people think … in particular about transportation in their communities …
Happy Thanksgiving weekend, Canadian friends! You might enjoy my sentimental 2005 Thanksgiving piece, written while I lived in Vancouver.
One of the rare occasions where people are paying attention to the candidates in the upcoming civic byelection on October 14.
When running for office, it’s hard not to engage in the Generality of Good Intentions. Identify the problem and declare you’ll work hard to solve it. Without being too specific.
On top of verbal mush, however, candidates can sprinkle crunchy nuggets of nourishment – any proposal that would make a big difference if implemented and yet realistic enough to actually happen.
Two of the candidates on either end of the panel above at SFU City Conversations put forward examples. Jean Swanson (independent but COPE supported) proposes a variable property tax. The City couldn’t do that now, but Swanson wants increases of several percent on residential properties assessed over $5 and $10 million (‘Mansions’) – to raise over a hundred million dollars for housing and regulation of the existing rental stock.
Hector Bremner (NPA) is emulating what Gordon Campbell as mayor was good at: proposing something quite radical without being seen to. He’d rezone the whole city at once as part of a big plan that would obviate the need for spot zoning. And in doing so, make once-sanctified single-family zones places for multiple dwellings. It’s what a lot of urbanists are calling for, but didn’t expect it to come from the NPA.
If those proposals were seriously undertaken, it would be the biggest change in the civic culture of Vancouver since the amalgamation of 1929 that created this town in the first place. But they could be done.
Candidates from both ends of the political spectrum are capturing the agenda. One might also capture a council seat.
Chain restaurants don’t do that well in the West End. One year, back in the 1980s, about five closed down on Denman alone – from a ‘Famous Amos Cookies’ to a Burger King. (We’ll see if the current iteration in Denman Mall survives.)
Here’s another indication – the closure of a Dairy Queen (in what was once a bank) near the corner of Denman and Robson.
It happened suddenly a few weeks ago, and there has been no ‘for lease’ sign posted. So presumably a ‘higher and better’ use will replace it. And it will be some kind of indicator when we see what that will be.
Rather sadly, across the intersection, another business closed – Punto Pasta. But this was no chain. Operated by some Italian immigrants, they were making pasta on site, providing the real thing with the accents to match.
Most likely, they couldn’t sustain such a small local operation where the property taxes alone are brutal, or more optimistically perhaps they found a more affordable location. (Yeah, right.)
This is interesting for several reasons:
Ever seen a sanitation department use language like that?
It’s a pro-active approach to problem-solving.
And it presumes that since mobile phones and apps are the primary way we connect, there is the technology in place to do so.
Zoning, the missing middle and lack of supply are frequent topics in discussions regarding the housing crisis in the City of Vancouver. One local group Abundant Housing Vancouver, aims to bring the conversion to the forefront by highlighting current zoning practices in the city.
“We think that building more housing is part of the solution to the housing crisis in our City. This is based on the common-sense idea that, if there is more housing for people, more people will have more housing.”
“Meanwhile, apartments are illegal on 76% of Vancouver’s residential land, severely restricting where relatively affordable, multi-family units can be built. We do not believe that supply is the whole answer, or the only answer. But we do believe that zoning for expensive, low-density housing is part of the problem.”
If you haven’t already, check out their website and Instagram page which provides helpful visuals of how current zoning shapes land use. Some posts from Abundant Housing Vancouver’s Instagram page are located below:
What we let people build on a corner lot within walking distance of good transit, 1905 vs 2014. The 2014 lot is about 25% bigger too.
Throwback to our Mount Pleasant tour – these pre-zoning 1912 apartments are nearly 3x denser than the 1968 apartments across the street
9-story Mount Pleasant building, on a quieter side street. Townhouses at street level. 125 homes, many families with kids.
Some great starting points for discussing the supply side of the housing equation. Of the many issues to consider regarding the examples of the older apartment buildings and their efficient land use are the tight setbacks and absence of mandatory minimum parking requirements back in the day, but those are topics for another post.
For more information on Abundant Housing Vancouver click on the links below:
Burcu’s Angels – a good example of a hip independent shop if there ever was one – has left trendy Main for edgy East Hastings at Nanaimo, wedged between the cannabis shops and the office of MLA Shane Simpson…
…including a nice little dig at gentrification and, no doubt, soaring rents.