Reflections on a busy waterway. A warm departure from the usual green glass and concrete.
It took decades to move the conversation on smoking, but now it is pretty much a social faux pas to light up. Once, it was the epitome of in-crowd behaviour and carried a certain sophistication.
Will we ever get there with cars? We are, it seems to me, right in the middle of the process now. And despite progress, the outcome remains uncertain.
An article in the Oxford Academic Journal of Public Health, published in 2011, introduces the topic this way.
Caution: no words are minced in these paragraphs.
Results: Private cars cause significant health harm. The impacts include physical inactivity, obesity, death and injury from crashes, cardio-respiratory disease from air pollution, noise, community severance and climate change. The car lobby resists measures that would restrict car use, using tactics similar to the tobacco industry. Decisions about location and design of neighbourhoods have created environments that reinforce and reflect car dependence. Car ownership and use has greatly increased in recent decades and there is little public support for measures that would reduce this.
Conclusions: Car dependence is a potent example of an issue that ecological public health should address. The public health community should advocate strongly for effective policies that reduce car use and increase active travel.
People in Canada have become used to the fact that a lot of our public realm often does not include a washroom. Price Tags Vancouver is using the Canadian term for that room that includes a toilet and a sink. This room is called a “rest room” in the United States, but it serves the same purpose-it’s a place that all humans need to use, and use more frequently as humans get older. So why have we not been installing these necessary facilities, especially near our rapid transit or heavily used bus corridors, especially for an aging population that relies on transit as a major mode of transportation?
Kudos to the City of Vancouver’s Seniors Advisory Committee who are pushing for TransLink to install accessible public washrooms in all new stations, and in the Millennium Line Broadway Extension. As Glenda Luymes outlined in the Vancouver Sun the lack of washrooms even drew the ire of the Raging Grannies who were in town to protest something else a few years back, but developed a special song about the lack of rapid transit washroom services. They sang that song in front of Waterfront Station.
Seniors’ Advisory Committee Chair Colleen McGuiness stated “It’s beyond short-sighted not to put them in. Loneliness and isolation are a concern for seniors, and a lack of public washrooms on transit routes is a factor in that.”
Oddly enough the renovated SkyTrain stations on the Expo line have space and are prepped with plumbing for washrooms, but TransLink won’t be reporting on washroom availability until next year. Issues will include the cost of maintenance, security, and sanitation. But if Edmonton, Toronto and Paris can provide washroom facilities at some stations, surely Vancouver can as well. You can take a look at this older copy of The Buzzer that provides a chart of which transit systems have washrooms. This TransLink newsletter from 2011 also asks “I’m curious what Buzzer readers think about the issue. Is adding more washrooms to the system important to you? If so, how do you think they should be implemented, and by whom?”
When Galen Weston took over the management of Loblaw Companies Limited in 2007 many people wondered whether a younger person could put an innovative spin on an old established business-groceries. Weston refreshed the brand and emphasized corporate social responsibility and the environment bringing the grocery giant and affiliated stores including Superstore, T & T, Shoppers Drug mart, No Frills, Joe Fresh and Super Valu into the 21st century.
As reported in the Vancouver Sun the Loblaws brand is now taking another major shift by closing 22 stores and introducing home delivery to its markets. Calling the home delivery “new ways to make shopping easier” CEO Galen G. Weston is ramping up this service at the same time that Amazon has acquired thirteen Canadian locations through Whole Foods, suggesting that home grocery delivery could become commonplace as these two grocery giants jockey for market share. Loblaws is “partnering with California-based Instacart to deliver food and other pantry staples from Loblaws, Real Canadian Superstore, and T&T locations to customers in Toronto starting Dec. 6 and Vancouver starting in January.”
Grocery delivery has been rare in Canada, with limited locations offering the service. Locally Stongs on the west side provides grocery delivery, as well as Save-on-Foods. Last March Walmart stated that it would offer limited delivery to some areas of Toronto, while many grocers have focussed on online orders with in-store pick-up. Home delivery of groceries will eliminate one more reason to own a car, and could change how groceries are marketed, sold and delivered across Canada.
Imagine that you are walking downtown with your dog and decide to go to a restaurant, or shop. It is clear that your dog should not be accompanying you. As the New York Times contributor Jonathan Wolfe writes someone has thought about this dilemma and has come up with a solution in the form of pink and white kennels on commercial streets that you can rent for your dog. Called the Dog Parker, these temperature controlled kennels have webcams inside, temperature controlled, and cost 20 cents a minute to use.
You register for the service, get a fob that allows you access to the kennels, and you can use the 45 Dog Parker “houses” in Brooklyn, or the new “houses” to be installed in other New York City locations in December. Dog Parker customer service maintains a 24 hour presence, and can remotely unlock the kennel if the dog owner loses the fob. The intent of these kennels is to provide “an alternative to leaving a dog at home or tying them up to a pole as one shops.”
Not surprisingly reaction to this innovation has been mixed. As one dog owner observed “I think it’s the worst idea in the world. I would never take my dog anywhere where I would have to leave them in a box or tied up.” Other dog owner interviewed suggested that instead of a lock box for a dog outside a store, regulation needed to be updated to allow people to access shops and services with their animals. Surprisingly the Dog Parker company has been in business since last year and is actively soliciting businesses to install the kennels outside their businesses to become a “dog-friendly” establishment, capturing customers with dogs, and minimizing liability by having the dogs inside their establishments. Only in New York City so far.
Price Tags Vancouver has previously written about the “Fight For Beauty” art exhibition hosted by Westbank developments at a downtown hotel. The theme of this free exhibition is the “fight” it takes to create and build cities and communities as interpreted by the art. There’s sculpture and film, and there are also models of some of the projects that Westbank developments have undertaken in their work in Vancouver.
In a direct juxtaposition to this exhibition Vancouver Art Gallery’s “Offsite” space on West Georgia has artist Asim Waqif installing a work he calls “Salvage” made up of the items that Dorothy Woodend of the Tyee calls “the remains of obliterated houses and destroyed buildings, the refuse and discards of a city in the midst of wholesale change. The construction largely resembles a M.C. Escher drawing come to 3D life.”
The artist has created an intriguing and curious collection out of the ordinary stuff found at construction sites and the transfer station including “old doors, dead keyboards, the remains of a shingled bit of roofing, glass jars and bottles, a bicycle and what looks like a stuffed chicken. ” Somehow there is harmony out of the use of these objects that resemble interiors that are strangely familiar and somewhat comforting.
But the exhibit also talks to our trashing of materials in demolishing the old for the new, and has a direct allegory to the loss of our urban fabric and our acceptance of new shiny replacements for that which was at one time familiar. As Mr. Waqif observes in the City of Vancouver “residents, businesses and institutions threw away approximately 351,000 tonnes of garbage“. His exhibition hints at what we have lost, and what could be recycled. It’s an interesting allegory, in the face of buffed new buildings defining Vancouver’s “modern times”.
A report is going up to a City of Vancouver Committee this week developing a “spot” improvement program for pedestrian facilities, as well as information for an updated 5-year cycling network additions and upgrades to be completed. You can read the report here.
Only two pages of the report are devoted to walking improvements. The report basically says that there will be a review of current initiatives, and “ongoing spot improvement” to address issues identified for walking as outlined in the Transportation 2040 plan. There are no statistics related to the pedestrian injury or fatality rate, or any analysis of where those crashes are occurring. The Coroners’ Report on pedestrian deaths has not yet been updated to include statistics for 2017 mortalities-that normally is out at the end of November.
While the City has lately delivered 35 kilometres of new and upgraded cycling infrastructure and in eight pages outlines their plans for new route improvements and initiatives, walking does not receive the same comprehensive attention. This report is also written solely by the Engineering Department with no partnership from the Planning Department or linkage to any community process or residential association. Acknowledging that Engineering does most of the work by itself, the report identifies “Vancouver Police Department, the Vancouver School Board, ICBC, and TransLink” as partners. There is not one advocacy group of seniors, disabled, or others mentioned.
The work the City has done with building and addressing the needs for cycling facilities is laudable and needed. But active transportation is also about walking, and an aging population needs walkable accessible networks of streets to services and shops that are connected, easy to cross, and universally usable for people of all abilities. Instead of identifying nuts and bolts items like left turn bays and arrows as “pedestrian improvements” could a more comprehensive approach be taken in the context of community plans and new developments, to improve the amenities along popular walking routes and shorten the crossing distances most used by school children and seniors? Can those walking routes favoured by seniors and those with impairments be seen as important enough for a comprehensive review too?
In the “everything bigger is better” category, the president of Port Vancouver has announced new plans to deal with the growing trend of longer, heftier cruise ships that won’t be able to get under the Lions Gate Bridge and would have taken up the lion’s share of ship parking at the Canada Place cruise ship terminal downtown. The Port’s answer? Propose building new bigger and better mega boat terminals in Richmond or Delta to accommodate those gargantuan large cruise ships.
There is already a proposal for a two billion dollar container terminal expansion at the existing terminal at Roberts Bank in Delta. This is planned despite the environmental impact on “hundreds of thousands” of western sandpipers that are migrating to spring Arctic breeding grounds. These migratory birds feed solely on an algae found only on the Roberts Bank mudflats, nowhere else. And it appear that this algae cannot be moved or replaced, which would mean that this bird migration could become extinct if port expansion proceeds. Delta is also proudly talking about their new parking facility for Port destined container hauling trucks located along Highway 17, also taking out even more of the Agricultural Land Reserve, which also happens to be the most arable soil in Canada.
But back to the Port. Port President and CEO Robin Silvester states in the Richmond News “We’re very early in the process. Cruise ships are getting bigger. When Canada Place was being built, it used to handle five cruise ships, but now it can’t even handle three of the bigger ones that come in at the same time. In fact, if you look at the size of Canada Place, if you were building a cruise terminal from scratch you’d build it the size of Canada Place just to handle one vessel… so it’s a challenge and we’re very good at dealing with challenges.”
In the Caribbean several ports have paid over $100 million to expand their port terminals to accommodate the new cruise mega ships. Building the facilities creates jobs, with jobs also continuing to serve mega port passengers. They are also labour intensive, with heavy demands on transportation and supply networks while the ships are in port. Unfortunately these megaships also cause urban air pollution although they are “smartly marketed as green ships”. They have “emission peaks” and burn massive amounts of fuel oil even when docked. But as the Port Cities Newsletter observes “Cities should not be powerless victims: they could actively shape the future of global maritime trade. Mayors of the major port-cities should discuss if their interests are served with ever larger ships. If the conclusion is negative, they could collectively decide to stop accommodating them.”
From Michael Alexander:
So a bunch of us rode across the Burrard bridge going north. After months of construction, workers are busy removing the fences and barriers on the east side, and the fabulous new bike lane and pedestrian walk is just opening.
As I cross the intersection with Pacific Boulevard, for some reason I drop my chain, so I’m standing there wiping my greasy fingers on the only thing available — the top of a traffic barrier– when a grizzled worker walks up and hands me a paper napkin.
Flabbergasted , I just look at him and say thank you so much. And then I think about the riding experience we’ve just had, and I say, “You guys have done such a fabulous, fabulous job on this project.” And he says, “Well, everybody wants a fabulous job and they all want it done immediately.” and I said, “I can be very patient about about this because I know that really good work takes time and thank you, thank you, thank you.”
Then I joined my friends at Musette Caffé, the cyclist coffeehouse two blocks up Burrard, and over delicious Cortados, we talked about what fantastic public works Vancouver does, compared to other North American cities.
From Christina Capatides with CBS comes the story of Vanport Oregon and Henry Kaiser. During World War Two this industrialist brought in thousands of African-American people from the Southern United States to work for the war effort in his ship yards. Portland Oregon already had a housing shortage and the Housing Authority would not build additional housing for these new residents. Not to be deterred, Kaiser built a city “on unincorporated land between Vancouver, Washington and Portland, Oregon, and called it Vanport. And it became the second-largest city in Oregon and it was 40 percent black.”
While the rest of Oregon was segregated at that time, Vanport was not, with shared schools, daycare and housing forms. Housing was hastily built with wood foundations. Assumed to be a temporary city for the war effort, it was surrounded by bodies of water held back by a dam. A massive winter of rain in 1948 resulted in the dam breaking. The entire city of 17,000 people washed away in 60 minutes. Brochures had been distributed that morning insisting that despite the heavy rain dikes were safe and people would be warned if they needed to leave.
When the dam broke 20 people died and 17,000 sought new housing in Portland, expanding the segregated lines at the time, and forming a large enough minority in Portland to change attitudes and to have their interests represented. As Ed Washington who was displaced from his childhood home because of the flood observed “Vanport probably had more to do with the changing of attitudes toward African-Americans and other people of color than any other area in Portland. Nothing left here now, but memories. But you can’t take people’s memories from them, can you? Can’t take that.”
Here’s a video produced by Brian Van Peski on the history of Vanport.
New York City is embarking on a competition on how to encourage the night-time use and animation of Brownsville a neighbourhood of 87,000 people in eastern Brooklyn. Community members have expressed the desire to have “More people navigating, enjoying, and activating Brownsville’s public spaces after 7pm… as the key to reducing crime, reducing the need for enforcement actions, and accelerating commercial and cultural opportunities in Brownsville.”
A survey undertaken in 2016 showed that 45 per cent of people did not feel safe on one of the main commercial streets in the area. In response the City of New York is asking for creative technological concepts that can:
“enhance the experience and use of public spaces at night
increase nighttime activity in neighborhood corridors
help to unlock Brownsville’s nighttime activity and cultural life”
Successful entries will be demonstration projects in Brownsville next year. The City has particular interest in “streetscape amenities that represent a fundamentally new application of technology to the goal of making sidewalks and plazas attractive, safe public spaces for walking, resting, gathering, playing and programming, both day and night.”
Proposals are eligible for up to $20,000 of funding in collaboration with the Mayor’s Office Each selected proposal will receive up to $20,000 in funding NYC Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice (MOCJ), the NYC Department of Transportation (DOT), the NYC Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC), and the Mayor’s Office of the Chief Technology Officer (MOCTO). Proposals are due December 15, and you can find out more about applying here.
It’s Time, Metro Vancouver. Traffic congestion is here, and under the status quo, it’s not going to improve any time soon. It’s time for a new approach.
The It’s Time project is a public engagement and research initiative led by the Mobility Pricing Independent Commission to explore decongestion charging as part of a plan for the future of transportation in the Metro Vancouver region. The project is designed to research and gather information about decongestion charging including learning about how charging has worked in other cities, and hearing from residents and businesses about what decongestion charging means from a local perspective.
If you would like to get in touch with the It’s Time project team, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Vancouver Park Board, via twitter, tells us that they have approved the concept design for a new Jericho Beach Park Pier. The pier has been in that location in one form or another since 1942. The current version is 40 years old, dating back to 1977.
Next steps — detailed design, costing and funding. If this all works out, look for work to start in 2020, completing in 2022.
“When I went to police college for social media training, they told me to find your voice, find your community and be part of it. And I thought what better way to bring light to the issue, jumping into the conversation and helping out a community, and bringing the Police service forward.” And that is exactly what Kyle Ashley @TPS_parking on Twitter did.
Imagine if there was a Toronto Parking Enforcement Officer patrolling on a bicycle that truly understood what it is like for pedestrians and cyclists to dart around vehicles parked in pedestrian crossings and bike lanes. Someone that understood that getting around by bike was the right thing to do, and was media savvy enough to know the power of posting the transgressors on Twitter to educate others how to deport themselves when near the most vulnerable users of the transportation network. And Kyle has a YouTube video to show what he does.
In a City like Toronto that is pretty conservative and deeply in the throes of motordom, Kyle Ashley’s outspoken and passionate way of getting the job done obviously irked some folks. As reported to the Toronto Star Ashley has been told his Twitter account is suspended “while investigating the “appropriateness” of some of his tweets amid “numerous” complaints from people they won’t name.” You can’t make this stuff up.
“Ashley said two of his managers arrived at his home Friday, while he was off sick, and “lambasted me regarding my Twitter performance, in front of my spouse.” He said he deactivated his popular @TPS_ParkingPal account when they demanded he turn control of it over to them.”
“Ashley, a vocal advocate for cyclist and pedestrian safety, said: “You can silence my Twitter account but you can’t silence me, the person. I will continue to work with Friends and Families for Safe Streets and other organizations but, as for me on Twitter and social media, that’s up to Toronto police.”
During the day Kyle Ashley tickets vehicles in bike lanes and often “shames” the offenders while handing out ticket fines of $150.00. While he is not suspended and plans to go back to work on Monday, there will be no more tweets from TPS_parking. In fairness, Mr. Ashley has also made some comments about a Toronto member of provincial parliament that was introducing a distracted walking piece of legislation to stop the supposed road violence occurring from pedestrian distraction. Mr. Ashley had tweeted “Let’s continue to victim blame. Because walking across the street, your 160 lb body at 3 km/h can do some SERIOUS damage. This is dribble.”
How refreshing, and how wonderful for Toronto to have a cycling and pedestrian advocate in their parking enforcement fleet. Reinstate Mr. Ashley’s Twitter account and give him the keys to the city. This guy is clearly putting road violence on the shoulders of the true perpetrators-the motorists. It’s a message that the City of Toronto needs to advocate, and it will encourage more walking and cycling through education and through championing active transportation.
Brian Gould sends along a terrific video of the spankin’ new-old Burrard Bridge from the point of view of people on a bike.
Note that each shot has a matched “before” inset from October 2015. Some of those “befores” make me anxious just watching them.
In coordination with the launch of New Delhi-based artist Asim Waqif’s new installation at Offsite, SFU Public Square and the Vancouver Art Gallery are pleased to co-present SFU City Conversations: Rethinking and Repurposing Waste.
Joining Asim Waqif will be two other individuals who view waste as a valuable resource: Adam Corneil, Founder, Naturally Crafted, and Faisal Mirza, Senior Project Manager of Engineering Services with the City of Vancouver.
Hear about the circular economy and Vancouver’s “zero waste by 2040” goal, and then question, observe, and share your opinions on Vancouver’s system of waste management. It’s a conversation!
Thursday, November 9
12:30 – 1:30 PM
SFU Vancouver at Harbour Centre – Room 7000
515 West Hastings
Cost: Free, no registration required
The Ministry of Transport has released this gem of a 1966 car trip from Horseshoe Bay to New Westminster. Already garnering over 19,000 views, it is one of a series of YouTube videos the Ministry has released of “drives” around the province undertaken a half century ago.
In 1966 there were 410,000 people in Vancouver. Gasoline was 32 cents a gallon. If you look closely you can see the toll booth at the entrance of the Lions Gate Bridge, and watch the vehicle cross the bridge at a breathless rate. You can marvel at the low scale buildings in the downtown, with a few pedestrians on sidewalks. There are some familiar landmarks like The Bay on Georgia, and a surprising plethora of large format automobile oriented advertising for car related products, gasoline and of course tobacco.
Take a look at the video and post your personal finds in the comments section below.
The Mayor of Vancouver and the Chief City Planner Gil Kelley have jointly submitted an editorial which has appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle. Under the headline “Vancouver Looks to Collaborate with San Francisco on Housing Solutions” there is an out of context photo of the housing on First Nations Land beside the Tsawwassen Mills Mall. This housing is lease hold land not free hold, but the caption states that this housing “starts at $619,900” and is part of an “economic boom“.
And here are portions of the Mayor’s and Mr. Kelley’s text: “The cities of the North American West Coast share so much as vibrant, sustainable and prosperous places to live and work in the 21st century. However, our success is no accident; through thoughtful city planning, San Francisco and the greater Bay Area, Portland, Seattle and Vancouver, British Columbia are cities that are the envy of the world.
We also face a common threat to that livability. We are seeing unprecedented escalation in housing costs for our working families, the “missing middle” and young professionals, as well as the increasing pressure on our most vulnerable populations…
We’ve learned the causes of the housing crisis are deep and powerful: housing is increasingly not “home” first but rather a commodity for investment on a global market for investors large and small, foreign and local, as interest rates remain low and equity searches for substantial returns. Who can blame the couple with equity to invest for buying a house or a condo that in a few years might double their return and provide a nest egg? For larger real estate interests, building and selling at the top of an ever upward-moving market or “reno-victing” tenants to increase rents are a matter of “rational” market behavior…
In Vancouver, we hope to get ahead of the same pressures San Francisco is facing. We’re taking action to limit speculative investment and put our housing stock to its best use by implementing Canada’s first Empty Homes Tax, a 1 percent annual tax on empty or under-used residential properties. We are preparing an ambitious 10-year housing strategy to lay the foundation for a diverse and equitable city. It starts with the notion that supply is not the issue — we have produced lots of housing over the past decade — but rather lack of the “right supply….
As a city similar to San Francisco with a finite supply of land, Vancouver will rely on density bonuses to augment our inclusionary housing requirements, as the primary tools to incentivize developers to provide the range of rental housing we need. We are also looking across all of our neighborhoods — from transit station areas and major corridors to single-family neighborhoods — for creative infill opportunities that maintain the character of these neighborhoods while providing new homes. These opportunities might include duplexes, row homes, town houses and more…
Overall, we aim to produce over the next decade about 7,000 new homes per year affordable to various household sizes and income levels, and not exceeding 30 percent of the household income on housing costs. Like San Francisco, our greatest reservoir of affordable housing is actually already built and rented by working singles and families, students and elderly residents on fixed incomes. We will need to look at ways to secure or replace much of that as affordable long-term rental stock…
We believe it is time for our mayors and planning directors to formalize a working West Coast Collaborative to tackle this and other issues facing our beautiful and prosperous cities, to share experiences and learn from each other as we advance our efforts to remain just and sustainable places. We hope you will join us.”
The full text of this opinion editorial can be found here.
The housing-income disconnect
Vancouver, British Columbia
$56,474 (in U.S. dollars) Median total household income (2015)
$1.119 million Median single-family home price (3Q, 2017)
$88,518 Median total household income (2015)
$1.130 million Median single-family home price
It was one of the most prudent decisions of the new Provincial government. Instead of implicitly accepting the proposed ten lane bridge and decommissioning the Massey Tunnel, the new government declared they wanted to know why an overbuilt bridge on the floodplain with the most arable farm land in Canada was the preferred option. They also wanted to figure out why every member of the Mayors’ Council nixed this concept except for Delta, who stood to gain mass 20th century industrialization of the Fraser River if the bridge went ahead.
As reported by the CBC an engineer with experience consulting on public infrastructure projects is the contracted person leading the technical review of the multi billion dollar proposed bridge. Stan Cowdell, the president of Westmar Project Advisors Inc., is expected to report back in the Spring of 2018 with his findings. Mr Cowdell was also involved in the W.R. Bennett floating bridge in Kelowna which was a private sector partnership to design, build, finance and operate the bridge.
Earlier Claire Trevena the Transportation Minister stated that this review would examine whether the ten lane bridge, a smaller crossing, or different tunnel configurations would be the best option. The review will look at the existing tunnel’s lifespan, congestion and safety concerns. All the previously produced information will be reviewed and the need for more technical work may be identified in the course of the work.
The independent technical review is expected to culminate in a report by Spring 2018.
In a move to provide housing as a right to residents of New Zealand, the new Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced new measures to stop the escalation of housing prices which have been attributed to foreign homeownership. Under the proposed housing legislation, Australians and foreigners who are New Zealand citizens or residents would be exempt. Foreigners could also continue to buy residential land to build new homes. Restrictions would also be enacted to limit the foreign ownership of farmland and infrastructure.
But the idea that prices are being driven up by foreign homeownership is itself controversial. As an opposition leader noted in The Globe and Mail “This is a policy that’s designed to solve a political problem. Evidence in both Australia and here in New Zealand is that overseas buyers don’t have a significant impact on the housing market”.
The legislation will be introduced in November with enactment in early 2018. Australia is watching these proposed changes as cities such as Sydney and Melbourne grapple with foreign buyer purchasing available properties. In New South Wales eleven per cent of properties were purchased by foreigners, with 33 per cent being purchasers from China.
A four per cent foreign investor surcharge was introduced in New South Wales which has now been doubled to try to cool the housing market. House prices in Sydney have also doubled since 2009. Australian research suggests that foreign buyers have not impacted housing prices, noting that the price increases may be a surge of activity among “domestic investors, who continue to benefit from generous tax breaks and account for about 40 per cent of all property purchases.”