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Panel: Building a City for Children – Jul 29

July 29, 2015

Late notice – but worth attending. Hosted by the Dutch Urban Design Centre (DUDOC) at 1445 West Georgia Street.

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Child

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Cities are for children too!

Is it safe for children to walk or ride the streets of Vancouver? Are there enough fun ways for children to play outside? What makes a neighbourhood child-friendly and why is it important? Can Canada and the Netherlands learn from each other? Come to this event and help us answer these questions.

– Walking and biking for children
– Fun and safe street play
– Family-friendly housing

With:

– Chris and Melissa Bruntlett (Modacity) – www.modacitylife.com
– Jillian Glover (This City Life) – thiscitylife.tumblr.com
– Wilco van Bemmel – DUDOC

Get your tickets here. (20% discount code: DudocDiscount)
– General Admission: $12.50
– Students & Members: $10

5:30 – Doors open

1445 West Georgia Street

Dept. of Irony: Ex-TransLink chief fights a familiar battle in New York

July 29, 2015

Tom Prendergast was CEO of TransLink between 2008 and 2009.  He left for New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority, reputed to have been frustrated with the dispersed governance structure and fed up with the lack of support for TL funding from the Province.  Well, guess what.

Chief of Transportation Authority Must Wage a Political Battle for Funding

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After months of uncertainty, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo last week threw his support behind the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s proposal to maintain and improve the region’s transit infrastructure.

For the authority’s chairman, Thomas F. Prendergast, the governor’s announcement was a welcome, if belated, breakthrough. It came weeks after the end of a legislative session during which Mr. Prendergast tried, unsuccessfully, to line up lawmakers in Albany behind his $32 billion capital plan.

But Mr. Cuomo’s public commitment to a slimmed-down version of the plan — and to an $8 billion state contribution to close a funding gap — is only the beginning of what promises to be a battle over how to finance the state-run authority’s capital plan and how much New York City should pay toward it.

Mr. Prendergast, appointed by Mr. Cuomo two years ago and confirmed last month to a full six-year term as chairman, will be right in the middle of the fight, with the knowledge that his agenda for maintaining and modernizing the authority depends on making the plan a reality.

It is not an easy spot. …

Mr. Cuomo did not say where the state’s contribution would come from, offering only that he would work it out with state legislators when they returned for the next session in January.

How successful Mr. Prendergast is in securing funding for his wide-ranging plan is likely to define the region’s infrastructure for decades and determine whether mass transit service turns around or continues to deteriorate. …

All along, he has been adamant that the largest piece of the capital plan, $20 billion for “state of good repair,” is essential because it is for maintenance to keep the system safe and reliable. …

David Gunn, who was Mr. Prendergast’s boss as president of the New York City Transit Authority in the ’80s, said funding would determine whether the system fell back into disrepair.

“It’s a life-or-death issue to have adequate funding for state of good repair,” Mr. Gunn said from his home in Nova Scotia, where he is retired. “He knows what happens when you don’t. He’s lived it.”

Summer Quiz 1 – Where is this?

July 29, 2015

Mike Abike submitted a good idea for a summer quiz: an image and a question.

The image:


quiz

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The question: Where is this?

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The answer: Below the fold.

Read more…

Ohrn Image: Tribes

July 28, 2015

Ken Ohrn:

Burrard’s counter, registering 832,060 rides.  I often overhear passersby on foot and on bikes when they look at the counter — and sometimes they say naughty things when the total registers with them.  Like “Holy sh*t”, accompanied by laughter.  Milder and common reactions are “Look at that — eight hundred thousand!” “Wow, that’s a lot of bike rides”.  And so on. It’s getting a very powerful and positive message out there, one person at a time.

I guess that we see several cycling tribes in the photo:  one flashy and colourful MAMIL, two fit-for-distance riders and two everyday utilitarian riders (one quite stylish). To my eye, they all look relaxed and confident, and my opinion is that the infrastructure has a lot to do with that. Here’s hoping that the intersection design at Burrard and Pacific will be as wonderfully effective as at Burrard and Cornwall.  I have every expectation that it will be so.

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Ohrn Tribes

Searching for blame: The Housing Crisis in San Francisco and Post-referendum Vancouver

July 28, 2015
From Neal Lamontagne: “Many people citing Gabe Metcalf on San Franscisco’s progressive politics + housing costs. I suggest also reading @markasaurus:”
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Are San Francisco’s “famed progressive politics” really to blame for the housing crisis?

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Perhaps you have read Gabe Metcalf’s piece for CityLab titled ‘What’s the Matter With San Francisco? The city’s devastating affordability crisis has an unlikely villain—its famed progressive politics.’ It goes into depth about how policies in San Francisco have lead to the current situation where one bedroom apartments are renting for $82,000 per year. Yes, policies in San Francisco and the surrounding area have lead to very high housing prices. Who is to blame? I have a hard time blaming Progressives (whatever that means these days).

I would argue that in the Bay Area, wealthy single family homeowners have had FAR more sway on maintaining exclusionary zoning and blocking new housing than San Francisco’s progressive politicians. This piece dramatically understates the role of other towns and cities in the region, many of which are located on transit lines, to provide increased density.

Yes, it’s not NYC, but BART and Caltrain are better than what most of the country has to work with. Many of the stations on the peninsula are surrounded by one and two story buildings. Even within the City of San Francisco, the majority of residential land is zoned for single family homes.  …

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Implications for Vancouver?  If there is little likelihood that transit, whether rail or bus, will be expanded in suburban communities (indeed, they may lose service in the name of optimization), do they now have a justification not to accommodate growth, particularly that which might serve those priced out of Vancouver?  (There are even rumours that some North Shore politicians are arguing for a downzoning of the corridor that was meant to be serviced by a new B-line.)

Therefore, all the more pressure on prices and rents in Vancouver.  (Barbara Yaffe: Vancouver rent increase ‘tsunami’ expected‘)

Uber and Contested Public Space

July 28, 2015

From the Washington Post: 

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What happens when New York City streets become too crowded even for New Yorkers

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If you look at a typical street — say, 20 years ago — you had cars and you had an occasional truck,” says David King, an assistant professor of urban planning at Columbia University. “And that was it.”

The cars and trucks are still there. But now there are tour buses bringing tourists who wouldn’t have come to New York 20 years ago. There are food trucks, and cab stands, and bikeshare stations. There’s Uber, and commuter buses and bike lanes. …

Every square foot of the public way in New York City, especially Manhattan, is reaching the limit of its carrying capacity. If the city wanted to cram more in — mobile health clinics? more fire trucks? another round of pedestrian plazas? — it would need to open some new spatial dimension.

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NewYorker

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This is the backdrop against which Uber, an app service that now has nearly 26,000 drivers and 19,000 cars in New York City, became embroiled with City Hall this month in an existential fight over its contributions to “congestion.” …

The conflict, though — and it’s not resolved yet — isn’t just about technological disruption, or entrenched taxi interests. It’s about space — some of the most valuable space in the country’s largest city. Its public streets. …

That’s because there’s so much more competition now for a finite asset that can’t be expanded, and because absolutely everyone interacts with that problem. …

Echoes of this same escalating conflict, though perhaps not as acute, appear in Washington, where drivers begrudge the road space cyclists now want to claim. It’s in San Francisco, where private charter buses ferrying tech workers to Silicon Valley have clogged the streets public buses drive. It’s in Chicago, where residents have sued to block the arrival of bikeshare stations. It exists anywhere anyone is sincerely railing about a “war on cars.”

Amid all this competition, it’s entirely reasonable for any city to try to regulate clashing claims to public streets.

“The idea that any private company — it doesn’t matter if it’s a taxi company or yoga studio – should be able to operate their business on a public asset without any oversight, without any obligation to the city, is absurd,” King says. “We certainly wouldn’t let a private concert operator start throwing concerts in Central Park every week. But essentially, that’s what we’re letting happen on our streets.”

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From Streetsblog:

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Uber’s Own Numbers Show It’s Making Traffic Worse

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So how do 1,904 for-hire cars circulating the congested Manhattan core actually affect traffic? To answer the question, Streetsblog turned to transportation analyst Charles Komanoff, whose “Balanced Transportation Analyzer” [XLS] models the impact of toll proposals and other changes to city traffic. Uber’s data release provides more detailed information than what was previously available to the public. …

Komanoff estimates that having 1,900 Ubers in the city’s core between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. reduces average travel speeds by 7.7 percent. Without the favorable assumptions, that number jumps to 12 percent.

“Uber is entering a system of vehicles — cars, trucks, cabs, buses — which had settled into a more or less stable level of congestion. The Uber vehicles perturb that system,” Komanoff wrote.

Uber “isn’t totally wrong” to claim that it is not responsible for Manhattan congestion, Komanoff noted. “But that’s the wrong question,” he wrote. “The question before the City Council is: Is Uber the source (or a leading source) of the increase in Manhattan congestion? The answer is assuredly: Yes.”

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From the New York Times technology reporters Farhad Manjoo and Mike Isaac:
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Can Cities Beat Uber?

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Bill de Blasio, the mayor of New York, had been pushing to impose a cap on the number of for-hire vehicles in the city, like those operated by Uber.  … Uber’s political maneuvering proved so effective that the mayor suddenly dropped his plan.

Up until the moment the news broke, everyone I spoke to had expected de Blasio to back the cap, come what may. Those who keep a close eye on the transportation industry ended up being pretty shocked. …

So here’s the thing: Uber has been engaging in battles like these all over the world, city by city, ever since they got off the ground. They have a similar strike plan: Guerrilla tactics, grass-roots organizing, and email campaigns that rally their supporters to hassle legislators. …   I saw all sort of people on Twitter crying out “who will regulate Uber if not New York City?”  …

By marshaling a constituency of drivers who see Uber as an important source of income, loyal riders who are frustrated by transportation and see Uber as a convenient alternative, and the larger public who finds the taxi industry to be generally unworthy of support, Uber has built lasting political clout that it can bank on to fight the most heavy-handed efforts at regulation. …

I don’t think the win in New York means that cities have to give up in the face of Uber. The growth of ride-sharing companies bring up lots of important questions about labor, equality, accessibility, traffic management, urban planning and on and on. Rather than try to fight companies like Uber, perhaps cities will need to find a way to work with these companies — accept them, legalize them, and then help manage the problems they raise.

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Auckland Perspective: Darren Davis on the chicken-and-eggs of road tolling

July 28, 2015

Via Architect This City

Guest Post: For whom the road tolls?

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For those of who were following Architect This City during the Gardiner Expressway East debate here in Toronto, you might remember that Darren Davis (transport planner with Auckland Transport) wrote a guest post called, Three minutes that rule the world – Will demolishing the Gardiner East actually make traffic worse?

It was an incredibly popular post at the time, so I’m thrilled that Darren volunteered to do another one on road tolls. This is a topic that I’m very interested in and have written about a few times. Road pricing, as you’ll see below, puts us in a bit of a chicken-and-egg situation. But sooner or later I think we will need to get our head around it, as will many other cities.

(Edited version.  Full article here.)


In a world where time is money, we are constantly berated about the economic costs of congestion. In 2011, the Toronto Board of Trade estimated that congestion in the Toronto region alone cost the regional economy $6 billion a year, rising to an estimated $15 billion in 2031 should no action be taken. More recent research by the CD Howe Institute pegs this figure at up to $11 billion.

Given these sorts of eye-watering figures, one might be tempted to think that car drivers, and in particular the goods industry, would be flinging their wallets open at the chance to buy their way out of congestion. And in fact Toronto has the 407 Express Toll Route which has elements of variable road pricing. However, while the 407 ETR carries around 350,000 vehicles per day, price increases have been matters of controversy. …

Similar stand-alone efforts to address congestion in Metro Vancouver with tolled routes, such as the Port Mann Bridge on the Trans-Canada Highway and the Golden Ears Bridge, have fallen well short of their projected traffic volumes, while nearby untolled bridges such as the Patullo Bridge are heavily congested. We have a similar experience in New Zealand where our two tolls roads, with car tolls of $2 and $2.20 respectively, experience diversion rates of up to 30% to the alternative but substantially longer and slower free routes.

This brings up a fundamental paradox: Congestion costs the economy a fortune and congestion is a top-of-mind frustration, yet people seem reluctant to pay even comparatively small amounts to bypass congestion. …

The very few cities that have actually had significant success at reducing traffic congestion – notably Singapore, London and Stockholm – have done this through cordon-based congestion pricing wherein if you pass the cordon, you pay the congestion charge. …  The latest Travel in London report states that “Over the 10-year period from 2003, total trips have increased by 11.4 per cent …  Car driver trips decreased by 12.7 per cent over the same period.”  …

Stockholm has experienced a permanent reduction in traffic of about 20% across the toll cordon and congestion decreased by 30 – 50% – which demonstrates that traffic volume reductions have a disproportionately positive impact on congestion. About half of the “disappearing” drivers changed to transit, the rest to other alternatives such as different departure times and destinations and taking fewer trips.

For more on Stockholm, I suggest reading the Tools of Change case study on Stockholm Congestion Pricing.

Before and after congestion charge photos of traffic levels in Stockholm

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While this sounds very promising, congestion charging has significant equity implications and requires upfront investment to provide people who either choose to or can no longer afford to drive with transportation alternatives. Both Stockholm and London invested very heavily in public transit in advance of implementing congestion charging.

And this brings up a big issue for Toronto.

For congestion charging to have a meaningful impact on congestion without stifling economic activity or impeding people’s ability to move around, the core capacity of Toronto’s transit system would need to be addressed first. In particular the Yonge Line capacity enhancements, Metrolinx’s Regional Express Rail and most likely the Downtown Relief Line would need to be in place to provide both capacity and choice for people who either needed or wanted a travel alternative to any congestion charge.  This would mean that Metrolinx’s Big Move might need to get even bigger.

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So what is the implication for Vancouver?  If road pricing is the logical route to take following the defeat of the referendum, does the defeat of the referendum (and hence the unlikely possibility of expanding the transit system) mean that road pricing cannot be introduced?

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