Saturday, September 20, 2008

A Survey of Surrey - or - How We Got Into the Mess We Now Find Ourselves In

I was catching up on my transit and development blog reading last night and see where SFU's City Program was asked to submit a paper to this week's Surrey Economic Summit. The City Program is a brilliant one that I hope one day to attend and obtain a certificate from. It has to be one of the best urban planning /sustainable design / urban issues program anywhere for the common man to dive into.

There were so many good nuggets of gold in this article that I will have to stop myself from quoting it too much. But here are two such nuggets from this exceptional paper.

"Inside those one-mile squares are collector roads, and then, if a subdivision plat was laid down after the Second World War, most likely a squiggle of cul-de-sacs and curves. Disrupting the right angles of the grid are major historic routes - Old Yale Road, the Fraser Highway and the Trans-Canada. Main-line railway tracks and the interurban right-of-way now angle across the agricultural lands and the sprawl of suburbia that long ago absorbed once-isolated country stations."

"However, even without a working model of success, transportation planners and engineers continue to build and widen roads and to build more bridges in every drivable direction. Our dependence on cars is extended wherever we accommodate growth, mainly because there seems to be no acceptable alternative. This is the ‘psychology of the previous investment’ - or path dependence. Decisions today are limited by decisions made in the past, even though past circumstances may no longer apply. We keep on doing it because that’s the way we’ve done it."

Sound familiar? Much like our greater Vancouver SkyTrain system that we just keep on building and expanding on. Its 30 year old metro technology that is used in a handful of locations around the world, but our decisions today remain limited by the decisions made in the past. We could use Light Rail Transit (LRT) at grade, and build minimalist bus stop LRT stations such as those in Portland, OR. These stations would be no more than perhaps $10K each to build? But we would much rather continue our use of SkyTrain and build $40M concrete stations in the sky, along with the extensive elevated guideways that go along with it.

But hey, let's not get creative now! 70 communities across North America (including several Canadian cities) are in some stage of LRT system implementation, but we will continue to choose SkyTrain because it is what we always do.


Unknown said...

I look forward to reading that!

The only time we don't think about doing what we already do is when it makes big money for ourselves and/or our friends, or maybe just makes us look REALLY cutting-edge. Case in point: "hydrogen highway." No no, skip the realistic stuff that's already going well everywhere else and try to reinvent the wheel with the impossible and unsustainable. GREAT idea, let's do it! Sigh... When will someone step up and get creative? Haven't we had enough experts visit yet? (I can think of at least three.)

Joe Zaccaria said...

I see the key as political will. If there was the will, things would be more progressive. I also blame the apathy of the average citizen who won't get involved or vote. We now have over 60 people on our mailing list that keep in touch and also comment on this blog. We appreciate that, but when it comes to meetings, we get somewhere between 7-15 people out. If we could pack in the meetings then I believe we could increase the political will.