Monday, May 31, 2010
Glasgow is the largest city in Scotland and has a population that is similar to Metro Vancouver. Up until 1986 all public transportation was operated and owned by SPT, the regional transportation authority. Margaret Thatcher decided to privatize bus service at that time, so today “essentially anyone with a bus and a public service vehicle license can set up as a bus operator. All they need to do is register the route they want to operate with the Traffic Commissioner. There are about 100 different bus operators running services within the Strathclyde area.” The kicker is that the public agency still needs to run subsidized bus service to cover service gaps in the private network. They also maintain all bus stops and bus stations. The public is stuck with the cost centers while the private operates get to make the cash. Taking a bus can be very difficult as each bus operator set its own fare and regional transit passes from SPT work on most, but not all buses. The system certainly works, but it is less than ideal. Privatized and deregulated rail was an even bigger boondoggle.
In 1994 the Conservative government decided to completely privatize the British Rail network. All the private operators formed a company called Railtrack that looked after rail infrastructure, capital projects, and timetable coordination. Under the private company, rail infrastructure was not renewed as it should have been and on-time performance declined. There were three fatal rail accidents in 1997, 1999, and 2000 that caused the Labour government to buy back Railtrack from the private sector and essentially nationalize the rail system again. Network Rail which is a “private” company (much like BC Ferries is a “private” company) now operates the rail system. Back under public control, safety has improved, on-time performance has improved, and infrastructure is being renewed as all of Network Rail’s debt is guaranteed by the federal government. Private operators still own the rolling stock and provide end-user service, but the services are coordinated under the National Rail brand.
When it comes to natural monopolies, it makes sense to have public control or strong regulation. Image if every road in BC was owned by a different company with its own rules. We are lucky in Metro Vancouver to have a public body that can look after our transportation system in a coordinated manner. Certainly having private operators is not an issue (Canada Line, Golden Ears Bridge, Community Shuttles in Langley), but completely privatizing, deregulating, and split up our transportation system would be a fatal mistake if the UK is any indication.
Friday, May 28, 2010
“Would we use $1 billion to build a Finch LRT (light rail transit) to serve the neediest people in Toronto, to create 10,000 jobs, to build public transit for 100 years, or would we use it for security for a two-day event in Toronto?
“If they can spend a billion dollars on a 36-hour event, there is money in the federal and provincial treasury to build Transit City, to build it now; there’s money to meet our other priorities like affordable housing,” Miller said.
Thursday, May 27, 2010
In Ottawa, two studies say that light rail line will "generate $3 billion in economic stimulus and create 20,000 person-years of employment during construction alone." It will also reduce OC Transpo's (the transit operators)operation costs by $100 million per year.
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
Speaking of buses, according to News 1130 the majority of the new March riders are from South Surrey and White Rock. This is a bit ironic considering that cash-strapped TransLink is "rationalizing" transit service, giving more bus service to overcrowd routes and less service to under-preforming route. According to the Delta Optimist:
Civic politicians are concerned TransLink may be planning to reduce bus service between South Delta and the Canada Line station in Richmond.hmm...
The transportation authority's plan to control costs has made that scenario a possibility, according to municipal staff, which told Delta council TransLink hasn't made clear how it intends to meet its cost savings goal.
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Kelowna is also embracing mixed-use in its downtown core. There are now more new mixed-use buildings in downtown Kelowna, then when I lived in the Okanagan (for the first 18 years of my life.) More are on the way. Also the Province actually removed a general purpose travel lane on Highway 97 through Kelowna for HOV/Bus Lanes. They are also building a B-Line type bus service from Downtown Kelowna to UBC Okanagan where all student have a U-Pass. You can now take public transit from Downtown Kelowna to Downtown Vernon which is something you couldn't do when I was growing up.
Friday, May 21, 2010
Thursday, May 20, 2010
In the larger center, many of the important high streets (shopping areas) have pedestrian only zones for the majority of the day. These streets have shoppers, protesters, and performers: the streets are alive! Of course, as you can see from the pictures below, there are provisions for commercial delivery. Also, pedestrian zones are only done of select sections of streets.
Back in the 1970's, many urban planners tried to create pedestrian only zones in North America, but ended up messing things up and killing business. They put them in places that didn't have the pedestrian volume or alternate access for shoppers (ie: public transit). In Vancouver, I can think of two streets that should have pedestrian only zones in certain sections: Robson Street and Granville Street. Closer to my neck of the woods, the one-way section of Fraser Highway would be a great place to try a pedestrian only zone during select times on the weekend.
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
The DOT policy is to incorporate safe and convenient walking and bicycling facilities into transportation projects. Every transportation agency, including DOT, has the responsibility to improve conditions and opportunities for walking and bicycling and to integrate walking and bicycling into their transportation systems. Because of the numerous individual and community benefits that walking and bicycling provide — including health, safety, environmental, transportation, and quality of life — transportation agencies are encouraged to go beyond minimum standards to provide safe and convenient facilities for these modes.In other news, earlier this year I blogged about a hacking incident that some media and climate change deniers called "Climategate": email messages from two climate researchers were hacked conveniently before the Copenhagen Summit. Because of these emails, the deniers claimed that climate change isn't happening and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was a sham.
On April 14th, the University of East Anglia (home of the hacking) released a report from their independent Scientific Appraisal Panel that stated they "saw no evidence of any deliberate scientific malpractice in any of the work of the Climatic Research Unit and had it been there we believe that it is likely that we would have detected it."
On March 31, the UK House of Commons Science and Technology Committee issued a report that found:
We are content that the phrases such as “trick” or “hiding the decline” were colloquial terms used in private e-mails and the balance of evidence is that they were not part of a systematic attempt to mislead. Likewise the evidence that we have seen does not suggest that Professor Jones was trying to subvert the peer review process. Academics should not be criticised for making informal comments on academic papers.So with the next United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Mexico this December, let's hope our governments can act before it is too late.
Even if the data that CRU used were not publicly available—which they mostly are—or the methods not published—which they have been—its published results would still be credible: the results from CRU agree with those drawn from other international data sets; in other words, the analyses have been repeated and the conclusions have been verified.
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
Or like these few pictures that I took when I was there:
I was thinking to myself that we really aren't going to see a huge increase in cycling until we provide the facilities that make people feel safe. Imagine being a pedestrian without crosswalks or sidewalks on the Fraser Highway: you wouldn't be a pedestrian for long.
Monday, May 17, 2010
In Brussels, streetcars form part of the backbone of their transportation system. Yes they have 4 metro lines and 50 bus lines, but they also have 19 streetcar lines! Did I mention there is under 2 million people in the region?
It really is amazing how flexible streetcars are . They operate in the metro system and on separated right-of-ways (going faster than the traffic). They also operate with mixed traffic. I think we should scrap SkyTrain and even what we think of as light rail. In this tight economic time, we should be embracing the streetcar for it efficiency, speed, flexibility, and cost-effectiveness. Portland's streetcar cost about 100 time less than SkyTrain.
Also interesting to note is that they actually have leather seats and hand-rails on the streetcars. (And I thought they just souped-up the cars for the Olympics.)
PS: They had no fare gates that I saw in Brussels.
Friday, May 14, 2010
I knew a little bit about Quattro and their latest Quattro 3 offering from the press and some information I obtained from presentation centre staff. What I did not know was that Charan Sethi has one huge passion for doing the right thing and making Whalley a model community. Charan “gets it”. I could have listened to the man and his vision all day and our time together just flew right on by.
Charan believes firmly that developers in an area like Whalley have a social responsibility to attract people that will change the neighbourhood in a positive way. You can throw together some cheap units, cash out and leave, or you can stay and become a “social engineer”. Charan has clearly taken the social engineering path.
Quattro is a development built on a foundation of quality and affordability. It is a delicate balance to provide quality materials and furnishings, while keeping the price within reason for an area like Whalley that is in transition. As I walked the property with Charan from Quattro 1 over to 2, he was constantly pointing out features that he sprang to upgrade.
Firstly, the buildings are architectural interest built into them from the exterior with crafted top edgings in place of simple square corners. Every run has an inset or other unique feature. Many of the accent items like the decorative overhang of the parkade were specified by the architect to be of wood materials. But it became evident to Charan that black painted steel would be more attractive and much more durable. The decision was simple and the steel that I saw was very attractive. Of equal quality is the playground area, which is a community amenity. The playground features cushioned groundcover, heavy-duty equipment and safety rails. As a CPTED practitioner I was thrilled to see that Charan sought professional Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) advice and the outdoor common space is a model as a result. At Quattro 2, Charan provided $30,000 in additional property enhancements AFTER it was already turned over to the Strata. What developer does that?
Expensive paving bricks replace cheap asphalt driveways to the parkades and even the refuse area (read garbage dumpster) was being treated with a very classy wooden gate as we walked the grounds. Once inside the very secure Quattro 2, my eyes were treated to a Yaletown-style foyer with sleek, club-style dark Formica panels with glass accents. Just off the main lobby was a gym and community room (there is one in each building from Quattro 1-3). Quality gym equipment filled this room. I asked my friend, Township of Langley Councillor Grant Ward to join me. Grant just could not resist hopping on the huge, heavy-duty elliptical machine with those two new knees of his. The only quote I can attribute to him was “wow” and we heard that often as we toured the property.
When its all said and done, Charan Sethi and his Tien Sher Group will invest over over $800M in new development in Whalley. Charan is planning some high-rise towers on the old Flamingo Hotel site just across the street from Quattro 3. The commercial podium and several buildings on that site will receive an expensive green roof treatment. Speaking of green, Charan has provided bike storage in each Quattro buildings. No big deal you say? How about 12 very affordable studio suites that leverage Skytrain just 10 minutes away to eliminate parking stalls? But as Charan wouldn’t be content to stop there, he committed to the City of Surrey to provide 2 car share vehicles at his expense for this building.
Charan has a few more social engineering tricks up his sleeve. He saw that in other developments the presence of large balconies resulted in everyone in the complex remaining within their space. So, Quattro 3 will have Juliet balconies to encourage people to gather outdoors in the lush landscaped common area ground with lawn furniture to chill out or read in. With many young families moving into Quattro, the playground is well-used. Charan’s “social planning” was inspired by the piazzas of Italy where Italians gather after work and enjoy the outdoors until the wee hours of morning. I recall my visits to Rome and how remarkable it was that working people could stay out in the piazza until 2 or 3 in the morning on a work night!
Charan can't wait to continue his vision with future developments in the Whalley area as he works on crafting the Yaletown of Surrey. Not just high-rise suites with a view, but even some garden apartments to help people age-in-place will be coming to future Tien Sher developments. Until then, the display centre at Quattro invites you to see their display suite and options for interior furnishings. All tasteful and professionally designed. I couldn't help but photograph almost everything I saw that day. So instead of a few photo inserts I thought you might enjoy the slide show of the Quattro experience.
We are planning another "Sustainability on the Edge" event for possibly October, 2010. I've asked social engineer and developer Charan Sethi to keep October free as much as possible and be one of our special speakers. Keep watching this blog as October draws nears. You will not want to miss this one!
In the mean time, check out the display suite and visitor's centre at Quattro 3 for yourself. More information can be found here.
You can download a copy of the OCP changes from our document archive.
Thursday, May 13, 2010
He gave an overview of the services that TransLink provides: from buses and SkyTrain to the major road network. I suggest that you listen to the audio and view the presentation at the bottom of this post.
What I really found impressive was his overview of TransLink's public consultation process. Many people believe that the TransLink public consultation process is nothing but a sham. I have to disagree. I was part of the South of Fraser Area Transit Plan and over the last few years, I've seen the service improvements that we identified. Remember it was the provincial government that decided to build SkyTrain for the Millennium Line and Evergreen Line, TransLink and the region picked light rail.
Besides the province's 30 year love affair with SkyTrain, the real problem is the lack of funding for the agency. This goes right back to day one when the government of the day canceled the vehicle levy. If TransLink is going to be able to improve transportation in our region, it will be the province that will have to solve the funding issue. I know that politicians won't like it, but unless they plan on hiking the gas tax or property tax all that's really left is some sort of road pricing. Until then, TransLink is in a holding pattern.
Anyways, we had a great meeting and both Joe and I look forward to continuing being a part of the Surrey Rapid Transit Study process.
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
Wednesday, May 12th from 7pm to 9pm
4th Floor - Yorkson Creek Meeting Room
Township of Langley Civic Facility
20338 65 Avenue
6:45pm – 7:00pm Self-Registration /Greeting
7:00pm – 7:10pm Quick Group introductions
7:10pm – 7:12pm Introduction of Vincent Gonsalves
7:12pm – 8:00pm Mr. Vincent Gonsalves
8:00pm - 8:15pm Q & A
8:15pm – 8:25pm Break / Final Discussions with Mr. Gonsalves
8:25pm – 8:45pm Call to Order - Reports
8:45pm – 8:55pm Other Business / New Business
Download a copy of the agenda
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
As you know, the provincial government will be spending hundreds of millions of dollars on installing fare gates in our transit system as they claim it will reduce fare evasion and make people feel safer. In Europe, fare gates only seem to be used on the old systems like the 100+ year old Glasgow Subway and London Underground. All the other systems I was on work on the proof-of-payment system, just like TransLink today. Even the UK National Rail system works on a proof-of-payment system! Fare gates are old school and I don’t know why we are installing them. On the matter of feeling safer, station attendants are part of the solution. At most rail station in the UK, there was a station agent that helped out with issuing tickets and minded the station. No amount of fancy cameras or fare gates can make up having a person at a station. I say that the provincial government should scrap the installation of fare gate, and just hire attendants at key stations in our system. We could use the capital money saved for things like light rail in the South Fraser, for example.
On the matter of smart cards, I think they are a good idea as they allow for more flexible ticketing and really help when you have multiply public transportation agencies in the same region. We are very lucky in Metro Vancouver to have only one public transportation agency. Most regions in the world have fistfuls of public transportation agencies. Sorting out the different fares and rules between the systems is confusing. Smart cards really make transit easier in these regions as it sorts everything out for you. For Vancouver, smart cards could allow for the use of distance based fares which many see as more fair than the current 3-zone system. You simply tap you smart card when you get on the system and tap when you get off. Here is a picture of a smart card tag station in the Seattle Downtown Transit Tunnel. Note the lack of fare gates!
Monday, May 10, 2010
Wednesday, May 12th from 7pm to 9pm
4th Floor - Yorkson Creek Meeting Room
Township of Langley Civic Facility
20338 65 Avenue
Thursday, May 6, 2010
AMTRAK has established this website for this year's National Train Day. Last year I traveled on National Train Day and it was a party-like atmosphere at almost every station along the way. Surprisingly they list activities at other Washington State stations, but not Seattle. The Portland, Oregon station has a special event that you can view here.
There are also some great pictures of old and new trains, as well as this article from AMTRAK's ARRIVE Magazine. US Vice President Joe Biden rode the rails up and down the US east coast with an estimate of 7,000 round trips during his career. The Obama administration has been putting considerable stimulus monies into rail as many of you know. It's interesting to note that an AMTRAK employee told me shortly after the election that when the presidential election results were announced, a few former executives at AMTRAK resigned because they knew that under Obama they would actually have to work towards improved passenger rail service.
Living in the Valley I don't even bother to look at Via Rail's website much. Their was a time a couple of years ago that their search engine didn't even show Vancouver to Seattle train service. It's a sad state of affairs for our national rail service and we can only hope that one day money will be invested in it and we can have our National Train Day here in Canada in a real way. Until then I will continue to depart from BEL and give AMTRAK my train fare. For that I get exceptional and friendly service, good food, fresh drinks and a stress-free ride to Seattle or Portland. I would love to do the coast to California one day via AMTRAK. A worthy goal for the future!
Happy National Train Day to you!
Wednesday, May 5, 2010
I promised more sustainability info on the Quattro 3 development in Surrey that was launched on May 1st. Here it is:
- All of the Quattro buidlings (1-3) are set into grade and therefore do not have excessive land requirements. This allows for more green space on the property.
- Quattro 3 offers more homes on the same footprint as the other Quattro buildings. But as Quattro 3 is a five-story building and Quattro 1 & 2 are four-story, Quattro 3 gains the higher density.
- Quattro 3 suites have Low-E coating on glazing (glass windows, doors, etc.), fluorescent lighting in some common areas including corridors, and energy efficient appliances.
Tuesday, May 4, 2010
We will highlight sustainable and/or transit oriented developments here from time to time. We are not getting money to do this (we don't!), but as advocates we feel we need to recognize quality developers that buy into the vision that the people who read this blog support. So, let's look at Quattro for a bit...
Back in 2008 part of this nearly-completed development burnt to the ground. The developer took his time to assemble a quality product and this past Saturday May 1st, Quattro 3 was launched. In the heart of Surrey City Centre this development is very transit oriented and walkable. Quattro 1 and 2 sold out within hours of their launch. Sales of Quattro 3 have been brisk and I believe this is due to people getting over their love affairs with automobiles and looking to public transit and walkable neighbourhoods.
I thought in this post I would keep it short and perovide this area map to show just how walkable and transit-accessible Quattro really is. See for yourself:
How would you like all of these amenities in your back yard? What you may not realize is that Mayor Dianne Watts and her administration have dedicated a City of Surrey Economic Development section JUST for Surrey City Centre and as most know, she has committed to relocate Surrey City Hall to this area. You've heard the phrase, "Don't Mess with Texas"? I say, don't mess with Surrey. Watch this space as we examine more details about this exciting development at Quattro 3.
If you know of a transit-oriented or sustainable development in your area, please e-mail us with some info and a URL and we will check it out and investigate including it here.
Sunday, May 2, 2010
"Transportation Minister Shirley Bond is more interested in getting things done than in how they are done. That’s why the TransLink legislation she introduced Thursday changed the rules on how the transportation authority does its planning, she says. Instead of having to detail funding for a 10-year plan, the amendments will simply require TransLink to show every year how it will pay for the next three years of its operation."
I think this sort of planning is a huge step in the right direction and one that is based more on reality. I've seen detailed 5 and 10 year plans in business that are totally unrealistic and worthless. I worked for a large corporation that loved them. As a member if the senior management team, I found the entire exercise just plain silly. Good on Minister Shirley Bond for applying some common sense and good business logic. TransLink needs to become more business minded.
With regards to public oversight I would just say that I'm all in favour of oversight and public participation. But I'm seeing more and more in the municipal setting that when it comes to technical issues, staff get kicked around by people who are not engineers, nor have the years of technical experience. I believe as in the corporate world there is a place for a Board of Directors and then public discussion as plans are made technically ready. I'm sure others here will disagree with that, but I'm seeing the harmful affects of this other system on our community.
The short of it is, better planning by TranLink equates to a better transit system for all of us. Right on Minister Shirley Bond!