Motordom
August 24, 2018

Cojones with Major Chutzpah

Due to finding unprecedented new levels of audacity and shameless behaviour, AP News’ Will Weissert reports this:

Big Oil asks government to protect it from climate change

PORT ARTHUR, Texas (AP) — As the nation plans new defenses against the more powerful storms and higher tides expected from climate change, one project stands out: an ambitious proposal to build a nearly 60-mile “spine” of concrete seawalls, earthen barriers, floating gates and steel levees on the Texas Gulf Coast.

Like other oceanfront projects, this one would protect homes, delicate ecosystems and vital infrastructure, but it also has another priority — to shield some of the crown jewels of the petroleum industry, which is blamed for contributing to global warming and now wants the federal government to build safeguards against the consequences of it.

The plan is focused on a stretch of coastline that runs from the Louisiana border to industrial enclaves south of Houston that are home to one of the world’s largest concentrations of petrochemical facilities, including most of Texas’ 30 refineries, which represent 30 percent of the nation’s refining capacity.

Texas is seeking at least $12 billion for the full coastal spine, with nearly all of it coming from public funds. Last month, the government fast-tracked an initial $3.9 billion for three separate, smaller storm barrier projects that would specifically protect oil facilities.

This tweet, below, sums up my reaction rather well.  Aside from weariness at the mantra heard all too often:  “Profits, ours; problems, yours”.

From Robert W. Crowley:  The irony of the double standard. Government is bad for business but we need government to protect our businesses from a phonomenon that does not exist. Brilliant!
7:42 AM – 23 Aug 2018

And we are surely now well into the age of climate change adaptation, since any hope of slowing fossil fuel usage has been exposed as futile. This clamor for more billions from big oil is just the beginning, and the costs are heading like a missile for the public purse.

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. . .  oh yes, and votes too.  Eventually.  Hopefully.

It’s a slow, churning time in the 2018 Vancouver civic election.  A time to set foundations, erect platforms, and see how many, if any, voters will come to the party.

In addition to the group we discussed recently on PT (RCCCD), here are a few more attempts to support a candidate or two. Or at least to try to push someone else out of the race.

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One of the Price Tags editors has just returned from a week in Switzerland driving across the country. There is a major difference in driving in Switzerland~speed cameras are everywhere~on local streets, at the entrances to small towns, and on every major highway. The fines for speeding are steep~drive 6 to 10 km/h over the speed limit and you are looking at a fine of 100 Swiss Francs, roughly equivalent to $135 Canadian dollars. Increase that to driving 16 to 20 km/h over the posted speed limit and you are looking at a whopping 250 Swiss Francs, in the $330 Canadian dollar range. You can take a look at the speeding fine structure and how easy it is to lose your licence by speeding here.

Between 2001 and 2006 Switzerland enforced speed limits resulted in a fatality decrease of 15%  per year, bringing road deaths down from 71 to 31. Enforced slower speeds (the maximum travel speed is 120 km/h and that is rigidly enforced) has made Swiss motorways the safest according to the European Transport Safety Council. The roads are also easier to drive on, with consistent motorist behaviour and plenty of reaction time due to the speed conformity on the motorways.

A new poll conducted by Mario Canseco shows that 70 people in British Columbia are now supportive of the use of a camera system similar to the Swiss to enforce road speed limits in this province.

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A bold-looking mixed-use Oakridge Centre is rising in the city, on 28 acres, at the site of a Canada Line transit station. Henriquez Partners Architects have designed something that is billed as the largest development in Vancouver’s history. Completion date looks to be 2025, costs somewhere around $5B, with 2,548 new residential units, and two 40+ storey towers among 12 other buildings. And it’s right in the middle of a predominantly single-family residential area, with rising density nearby.

Part of the design rationale is, however, specifically to generate density at an important transit hub.  Mission accomplished, it seems to me.

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PT contributor Scot Bathgate forwarded us this video from Ford from a few months ago that takes the “kids on bikes witnessing the otherworldly” trope last seen in the Netflix series Stranger Things, and goes one step beyond.

And although it’s odd for a car manufacturer, one so long steeped in motordom mythology, not only embrace the role of the bicycle in a liveable community, with fleeting glimpses of mass transit and pedestrian activity (and always a glowing, flying orb), it’s all about Ford telling us that the company really understands the importance of mobility mix — the new marketing mix.

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The City of Surrey is ready to “speed up traffic”, reports the Surrey Now-Leader, in transportation news from the second-most populous city in Metro Vancouver (and the province).

Going into a civic election in October this year, Surrey council has decided that congestion is a noteworthy issue, and that the city can build its way out of congestion by widening roads and improving bridge interchanges. It’s called the Congestion Relief Strategy (2019 – 2023).

To be fair, there is mention of “complete streets” and bike lanes. But it comes along with potential widening of the roads that parallel the light rail lines, to maintain capacity on them.

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Some important statistics from the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC), the provincial Crown Corporation responsible for driver licensing, registration and primary insurance coverage, came out yesterday.

If you’ve felt that driving in BC was getting a bit more dangerous, you’re right. ICBC has confirmed that, in 2017, there were 350,000 crashes province-wide. Think of that number — that means there were almost 1,000 crashes every day last year. Statistically, this also suggests (conservatively, assuming single-car crashes) that about one in every ten drivers will be involved in a crash this year.

That figure of 350,000 crashes also works out to 40 crashes every hour in the province; overall, this costs ICBC $4.8 billion, or roughly $13 million per day.

This is also $1 billion more than the cost of the proposed 10-lane Massey Bridge (last estimated in the $3.7 billion range).

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We’re seeing more and more examples of cities and neighbourhood groups just getting it done on streets with cans of good latex paint.

There is absolutely no doubt that paint is the most inexpensive way to change the nature of the street, expand pedestrian refuge areas, and make crosswalks more visible for pedestrians and vehicles alike.

In her groundbreaking book Streetfight, Janette Sadik-Khan points out that making infrastructure for pedestrians and cyclists makes good economic sense, contributing to the street life in the city. She also argues that everything New York City needed in order to create 60 pedestrian plazas, 180 acres of new public space and 400 miles of bike lanes was all in the city yards — paint, bollards, and cement planters.

That’s why it’s wonderful to see NYC’s examples of paint-and-planters replicated elsewhere.

In Bukchon-Ro in Seoul, a traffic circle was painted in the middle of the street, separating this historic area from a commercial district. Simply painting this image caused vehicles to proceed more slowly and enabled the many pedestrians — visiting local galleries, tea houses and cafes — to cross more safely. Paint established “pedestrian priority streets”, and has helped make the streets more walkable and lively.

The town of Mandan, North Dakota, with a population of 22,000 and located just across the Missouri river from the state capitol of Bismarck, is doing the same thing. City planner John van Dyke got it right by installing three temporary painted traffic circles at intersections, calling it a “demonstration project”, and inviting public response to the changes.

Mandan also added temporary curb extensions using bollards to make a shorter crosswalk distance for pedestrians, with a planned evaluation of the project at the end of August. You can see the reporting of the local news station on the temporary traffic circles here.

images-sandy james & pininterest.com

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Daily Durning found another Great Mistake to add to the list, from Streetsblog: 

Parking spaces are everywhere, but for some reason the perception persists that there’s “not enough parking.” And so cities require parking in new buildings and lavishly subsidize parking garages, without ever measuring how much parking exists or how much it’s used.

Now new research presents credible estimates of the total parking supply in several American cities for the first time. The report from Eric Scharnhorst at the Research Institute for Housing America, an arm of the Mortgage Bankers Association, provides city-level evidence of the nation’s massively overbuilt parking supply and the staggering cost to the public [PDF].

Scharnhorst states:

After decades of requiring parking for new construction, car storage has become the primary land use in many city areas.

In Seattle, one-third of the city’s parking supply is located in downtown garages.  … the parking occupancy rate downtown is 64 percent. …

Scharnhorst concludes that cities should change course, and that in places with excessive parking developers should “allocate capital to non-parking uses” — a.k.a. housing, commercial buildings, and, in general, the sorts of things that make cities habitable for people instead of cars.

Images: Research Institute for Housing America

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