“Why UBC Should Let Way More Students Live on Campus”

From The Tyee, by Patrick Condon:



Vancouver’s future is dimming due to unaffordable housing and overloaded public transit. How the University of British Columbia builds student housing could make a major dent in both problems.

But not if the university sticks to its current plans.

For starters, not only is UBC building too few units on campus, the new projects it proposes will force students to pay more than top dollar, even by Vancouver standards. …

Ponderosa-Yale610pxPutting far more students on campus could be done in the “street and courtyard” style found in cities like Paris, Berlin, Oslo and Barcelona — and in university settings like those at Yale and Oxford. The design allows students to circulate on active, energizing streets, or find rest and contemplation in quiet courtyards only a few steps away. Trips to classes or other on-campus destinations would be shorter if housing were mixed throughout campus instead of distilled into a few high-rise hubs. Female students might feel safer after dark because a more densely inhabited campus creates more “eyes on the street” and fewer hidden, lonely pathways. …

Build enough housing on campus the right way, and UBC will reap another great reward. The campus which now often feels like a glorified office park, would finally reflect its stated aspirations. UBC would become a true community of learning — one worthy of joining the ranks of other great mixed use university towns like Oxford, Cambridge, Heidelberg and Bologna. All are mid-rise, all are vital, walkable, safe, and sustainable.


Full column here.

Transit Funding In the News

Kelly Sinoski writes in the Sun:

The B.C. Liberals are expected to pledge $246 million Thursday to expand Metro Vancouver’s transit system, but property taxes and transit fares will likely have to go up to cover TransLink’s contribution to the plan. . .

. . . Fassbender said the provincial funding was approved after mayors suggested they could cover TransLink’s $124-million share of costs through existing funding sources, such as raising property taxes and fares and selling surplus properties. He would not go into further details, saying that was up to the mayors. TransLink is authorized to collect a certain amount of property taxes each year for transportation.

Mayors acknowledged they have pitched a mix of existing and new funding sources, such as a vehicle levy or regional carbon tax, to fund transportation.

“The fact that they are prepared to look at that is a step in the right direction,” Fassbender said. “My understanding from the mayors’ plan is they will be able to meet the regional share through existing funding sources.”

Once that’s done, he added, the parties can work together on new funding sources, such as creating developer fees for high density along transit corridors. Municipalities already collect charges from developers for amenities such as pools, parks and affordable housing, and have pitched the idea of transportation fees as a way to inject much-needed cash into the beleaguered transit system. 

This is 33% of the expected amount needed in the first round.  It appears to set the funding formula in place (50 – 33 – 17), which should carry over into the distribution of the much larger Federal funding now on the table.

If this initial round ($124M)  is financed by the Mayors through existing funding sources, I expect that funding for the next, much larger round will have to include other, newer sources — perhaps some of them under Provincial control. There is a hint here — in a mention of “transportation fees”.

Meanwhile — just how interested is the public?

Fassbender’s announcement coincides with a new survey by Angus Reid Global that found 90 per cent of Metro Vancouver residents believe a regional multi-year transportation plan should be rolled out immediately to improve housing affordability. The survey suggests two in five residents say transportation is one of the two most important issues facing the region today, second only to housing affordability.

About 88 per cent of those surveyed are worried that high housing prices in Metro are exacerbating regional transportation issues because it forces people to live farther away from work, family and friends, while 39 per cent say they are frustrated getting around the region — whether they drive or take transit — and believe the experience is only going to get worse over the next five years.

Item from Ian: The Doomerang Generation

pricetags: Astonishing how this story finds its parallels in Vancouver, San Francisco and other cities attracting world capital.


The air of unreality about these hip house floggers is entirely fitting. House prices are unreal. Ridiculous. Every day there are stories about the insanity of our current housing crisis, but it goes on and on. We laugh at images of what are basically cupboards for sale or rent. We cry or sigh with identification at the tales of young folk who can never really leave home.

Except that some are not so young. Fortysomethings are having to move back in with their parents after marital bust-ups or because they no longer manage their own housing costs, the so-called “doomerang generation”. …

What does it now mean to be an adult if the old markers of adulthood become out of reach? Levels of home ownership are in decline. We now have a fully fledged caste system delineated by property.

This is happening in the US, too. Wages for under-30s are going down. International surveys indicate that what millennials crave is job security. Lack of security also means delaying that other marker of maturity – having a baby – often indefinitely. All over the world, women are choosing not to procreate. This is entirely understandable. Why would women have children when their jobs are not secure? Many younger women feel their choices have been absolutely narrowed.

A global downturn has meant that many of the foundation stones that we used to mark adulthood have been dug up, so that everything feels a bit shaky.


Full column here.

Thoughts On Commuting

BC Business reports on an online Insights West poll of 802 residents throughout the province about their commute.  Results vary, of course, by location, and there are plenty of insights into how we get to work, and how we’d like to.

Asked to describe their ideal work commute, compared to their actual:

City of Vancouver

  • 18% would drive, and 21% do.
  • 29% would take transit, and 38% do
  • 16% would take a bike, and 10% do
  • 31% would walk, and 20% do


  • 34% would drive, and 43% do.
  • 23% would take transit, and 19% do
  • 11% would take a bike, and 3% do
  • 23% would walk, and 9% do

Transit riders, in particular, do not like overcrowding (77%) and waiting (64%). To me, this suggests that demand exceeds capacity.


Transit congestion


And Eric MacKenzie discusses the poll in 24 Hours Vancouver

According to an Insights West poll conducted for BC Business, 23% of B.C. residents surveyed said they consider their commute “moderately annoying” and a further 6% said their daily trip is “very annoying.”

However, tedium among people on their way to work or school is nearly exclusive to those who drive or take public transit. Some 96% of those travelling on foot and 95% of cyclists described their commute as some level of “pleasant.” Less than two-thirds of drivers and transit users did the same . . .

. . . Meanwhile, results of the poll suggest that the same trends will continue. More than 90% of cyclists said their commute is better or the same compared to five years ago, but 33% of drivers and 28% of transit riders said their trip to work got worse over the same period.

Give us transit so long as we don’t have to pay for it

From The Sun:

Metro Van

Two-thirds of Metro Vancouver residents are calling for immediate transit improvements, saying better mass transit could help resolve the region’s housing affordability issues, according to a new study by Angus Reid Global. …

About 58 per cent of those questioned in the online forum say they voted no in last spring’s plebiscite, while 42 voted yes.

Spectacular Cycling Numbers

Charlie Smith writes in the Straight about the numbers of people riding bikes in Vancouver.  He calls the results “spectacular”. And with good reason, and great timing, as we head into another Bike to Work Week.

Vancouver records spectacular increases in cycling trips

When Lon LaClaire joined the City of Vancouver’s engineering department in 1997, council had just passed a landmark transportation plan with 76 major initiatives. It marked the first time that the city explicitly expressed a desire for more trips by walking, cycling, and transit and set out ways to accomplish that . . .

. . .  Within a decade, however, cycling had almost tripled and there were more than 50,000 bike trips inside the city, according to a May 2006 report by LaClaire.

By 2013, the city reported that 83,000 trips were taken on a bike. The following year, this rose to 99,000, and by 2015 the number shot up to 131,000. That’s a 32-percent hike in cycling in a single year.

“These jumps are just really, really shocking,” LaClaire said . . .

. . .  According to LaClaire, one of the biggest obstacles to cycling is the perception that it’s not safe. That’s where the separated bike lanes have helped.

“The more that we build these facilities where people can visualize themselves taking that route on a bike, the more likely they will,” LaClaire said. “I would say the results of what we see on these investments kind of validates what people have been telling us in our surveys.”


Little Urban Forests – 4

Looking west down Dunsmuir, there appears to be a little urban forest in three dimensions:

LUF - FS (2)

The roof deck of the Four Seasons Hotel, part of the Pacific Centre complex, looks positively Babylonian from the street.

LUF - FS (1)

If it was planted at the time of construction in the early 1970s, that would make it one of the oldest green roofs in the city.  It certainly suggests a heavily planted urban oasis up there – but it’s largely an illusion.


Most of the space is hardscaped, used for recreation and the occasional wedding.   But it’s lovely from the street.

Early Council: Next Steps for Vancouver’s Active Transportation – May 30

From Tanya Paz:

Seriously. I know it’s early. That’s why it’s called Early Council. I’ll be up because the screaming seagulls and honking geese will have woken me up by then.

It’s an intimate opportunity with about 20-30 other people interested in the topic to discuss Active Transportation in the City of Vancouver.

Join Councillor Heather Deal to discuss the next steps for investing in our city’s active transportation infrastructure, and the steps being taken to ensure we eliminate fatalities and serious injuries for pedestrians, bicyclists, skateboarders, and others in our city.
I hope to see you there!

Early Council – Next Steps for Vancouver’s Active Transportation

Monday, May 30

7:30 am – 9:00 am

The Juice Truck | 28 West 5th Ave
Includes muffins and coffee by donation

RSVP online

Evidence of the Obvious


From the New York Times:

The study, published in JAMA, adjusted for age, sex, income and other factors, and found that the prevalence of being overweight and obese was more than 10 percent lower in the one-fifth of neighborhoods rated highest for walkability than in the one-fifth rated lowest.

Over the 12-year study period, being obese and overweight increased by as much as 9.2 percent in the three-fifths of neighborhoods rated lowest, with no change in the two-fifths rated highest. …

The authors acknowledge that this was not a randomized trial and does not prove causation. Still, the senior author, Dr. Gillian L. Booth, a physician at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, said that the healthiest neighborhoods seem to be those where cars are not a necessity.

“Walking, cycling and public transit rates were much higher in walkable neighborhoods,” she said, “and that leads to better health outcomes.”

Item from Ian: Vancouver on the Thames

Ian: Remind anyone of Coal Harbour? (Or likely Vancouver House … or….)

london 2

Almost two-thirds of homes in the Tower, a 50-storey apartment complex inLondon, are in foreign ownership, with a quarter held through secretive offshore companies based in tax havens, a Guardian investigation has revealed.

The first residents of the landmark development arrived in October 2013, but many of the homes are barely occupied, with some residents saying they only use them for a fraction of the year.

The revelations about the Tower are likely to be seized on by campaigners and politicians as the starkest example yet of the housing crisis gripping the capital, in which too many new homes are sold abroad as investments and left largely empty while fewer and fewer young people can afford to buy or even rent in the city.


Full story here in The Guardian

Code Red and the Housing Crisis

UBC prof Paul Kershaw has been organizing and speaking on ‘Generation Squeeze’ for some time.  But now, with Code Red and the housing crisis, it seems to have broken through.

Code Red

Youth across the country are bearing the brunt of sky-high real estate prices and are forced to squeeze their families into smaller spaces, said Paul Kershaw, the organizer of a movement called Generation Squeeze.

“These are massive deteriorations in the standard of living,” Kershaw told CTV News. “We need to take this seriously. It’s urgent, like there’s a code red problem in a hospital.”

His “Code Red” campaign features videos made by young people that show a family putting beds for three kids in a cabinet, under a desk and in a couch – and another woman offering rent to “students” in kitchen cupboards.

They’re meant to be a humourous take on how a broken housing market has forced young people to make more and more desperate living arrangements – but they often hit too close to the bone, said Kershaw.

“When did having a child and being able to have a bedroom for it become the equivalent of a Ferrari in your driveway? It’s become a status symbol to afford a bedroom,” he said.

Story here.


Here’s the guessing game: How long will it take the provincial government to come forward with something that says, ‘We care.”?

Velopalooza BBQ and Bike Wash – May 29

Barbeque and Bike Wash

Get your bike geared up for summer!  Velopalooza, in partnership with Landyachtz, is hosting a bike wash and barbeque!  Have your bike cleaned by our team of volunteers while you enjoy something from the grill.  There will even be mechanics on site to offer a tune up.

Sunday, May 29

12:00-4:00 pm

The Landyachtz Factory Store – 1146 Union Street

By donation. All proceeds going to support the Velopalooza Bike Festival

If you’d like to volunteer at the bike wash please contact volunteer@velopalooza.ca

Gas Tax Alternatives – (Sooner than the self-driving car?)

The future is arriving …


For a decade, Oregon has been the undisputed leader in pursuing the idea of taxing drivers not on the amount of fuel they buy but on the number of miles they drive. Starting this summer, though, the Beaver State will get some company: California plans to launch a nine-month experiment in July to test out different ways of charging by the mile. …

Under California’s trial, drivers will get to choose how to keep track of the miles they drive, either by buying a decal for an allotment of miles or using GPS-enabled systems to tally them. That’s more options than Oregon offers its drivers under its mileage tax program, which launched last summer.

Oregon began looking at using a vehicle-miles traveled (VMT) tax 15 years ago. It conducted two pilot projects in the last decade before launching OReGO last summer. The new program allows drivers to pay 1.5 cents per mile driven, instead of the state’s 30-cent per gallon fuel tax. Participants still pay the fuel tax at the pump, but the amount is credited against their bill for mileage taxes.

Two outside vendors keep track of the mileage each vehicle travels, bill customers and send the fees to the state. The arrangement is designed to protect the privacy of the drivers by preventing the state from knowing where vehicles have traveled, their speed and other driving behavior. The companies also offer other features, such as fuel efficiency monitoring, to attract participants.

Full story here.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 7,517 other followers