Some recent stories about the impact of rail-hailing companies, particularly Uber, and the longer term implications.

First, another confirming story that rail-hailing is measurably increasing congestion – from Tech Crunch:

In San Francisco … ride-hailing services are undoubtedly partially to blame (for the rise in traffic and congestion), but not entirely to blame, according to a new study from the San Francisco County Transportation Authority. …

Between 2010 and 2016, according to the SFCTA, ride-hailing services accounted for:

  • 51 percent of the increase in daily vehicle hours of delay
  • 47 percent of the increase in vehicle miles traveled
  • 55 percent of the average speed decline
  • 25 percent of total vehicle congestion citywide

So not surprising, then, that Uber wants to address the problem of congestion by supporting a mechanism that would reduce ‘free-riders’ on the streets they help congest.

From the Seattle Times:

Uber says it plans to spend money lobbying for congestion pricing in Seattle as part of a $10 million push for “sustainable mobility” policies in various cities.

The ride-hail app company and its rival, Lyft, have previously expressed support for the idea of tolling downtown streets in Seattle, where Mayor Jenny Durkan’s administration is working to develop a proposal.

But Uber’s new commitment to actively press for congestion pricing in the city, shared with The Seattle Times last week, could be the biggest boost yet for an effort certain to encounter political roadblocks, including concerns about affordability.

Uber thinks big and it thinks strategically – literally globally.   It can afford to.

From Vanity Fair:

The Wall Street Journal reported that the company had received proposals from Wall Street banks estimating its initial public offering at a market valuation as high as $120 billion, virtually twice its current private-market valuation, and larger than the combined market capitalizations of General Motors , Ford Motor Company, and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. …

Uber … has a large, global footprint, and is possibly a primordial holding company for a series of future companies …  Uber already has one of the largest food-delivery platforms around today, and it is expanding its freight business, which has the possibility to grow infinitely. And then there’s the driverless car I.P. that the company owns, not to mention the investments in other global ride-sharing services …

“Some people see Uber as a car company,” (an Uber insider said).  “Uber sees itself as the next potential Amazon.”

I think this is bigger than even the evolution of another Amazon (if it first doesn’t buy or dominate Uber.)

We’re still thinking about transportation as essentially a problem of hardware: expensive pieces of metal crammed with technology, jamming the streets and highways. Motordom 1.0.

We analyse the problem from the point of view of the user, each distinguished by the hardware of choice: car or truck drivers, transit users, cyclists (and okay, maybe shoe wearers).

We assume this is primarily a problem for government – the owner of the streets, the licensor of vehicles, the regulator of traffic.

We need to shift our focus to Motordom 2.0 – the integration of every imaginable mode of movement, joined by information technology, delivered to us by a service provider who sells us transportation in the way telecommunications providers sell us data.  The TSP: the Transportation Service Provider.

We should be thinking not about hardware but about what Motordom 2.0 will really be about – issues of ownership, regulation, taxation and equality.  Above all, the vision we have for our urban environments, what we build, for whom, and who gets to decide.

Uber or its successor will likely want to be that decider – the shaper of cities, the creator of wealth, the leader of civilization.  Because that’s what we call what we build, how we move, and who rules over it all.

Read more »

I wasn’t able to identify the firm or designers who did the Concord Community Park by the time I posted some pics here.  Fortunately I ran into Derek Lee from PWL, who sent this:

…  a pic of the North East False Creek temporary park that our associate Katya Yushmanova took on her commute this morning.  She was instrumental in the park design among several of our other talented staff who pulled this off.

Notice the new paint job on the ground plane that is intended to celebrate the brilliant colours and forms reminiscent of our world’s fair – certainly a colourful a shot of joy in the proverbial arm of False Creek.

Read more »

Two excellent articles point at the need for a comprehensive approach in choosing the candidates for Mayor and Council in the various Metro Vancouver municipalities this Saturday.

Noted journalist Daphne Bramham points out the “complexity that the City of Vancouver has a voters’ planning guide on its website with candidate-supplied photos and profiles of the 21 people running for mayor, the 71 who want to be on council, and the 33 running for each of the park and school boards. Of course, Vancouver voters aren’t the only ones facing difficult choices with so few incumbents running, the collapse of traditional parties and so many Independents. In Surrey, there are 48 council candidates, eight running for mayor and 30 for school trustee, while Richmond has six mayoral candidates, 30 people running for council and 26 for school trustee.”

Decisions need to be made about housing affordability,  transportation accessibility and the overdose epidemic. And it is the  Duke of Data, Director of Simon Fraser University’s City Program that has come up with the “Handel’s Messiah or Highway to Hell” analogy. The people elected by citizens need to act for the greater good of all residents, not just the interests of the newly elected pundits’  inner circle. That includes diversity and listening to different voices.

Read more »

As reported in the Seattle Times New York City owners in a 377 condo unit tower at 200 Riverside Boulevard on the Upper West Side went to court to have the name “Trump Place” removed off the 46 story building. The judge ruled that the residents “were not obliged by contract” to keep the name, and this week the big brass letters are being stripped from the building.

Close to 70 per cent of condo owners had voted to have the Trump name banished, citing security and resale concerns associated with it. This is the fourth building in New York City to have the Trump name banished, joining hotels in Toronto, Manhattan and Panama City in ditching the association.

Read more »

Charleson Park, Saturday, while I escaped for a few hours from the steady drumbeat of 2018 civic election tweets, robocalls, e-mail and paper flyers. The well-known bullshit overdrive.

I do have to express my disappointment that there’s no one busting photo-ops in a chicken suit. What the hell, already!  Have we grown up a bit or something?

Read more »

This is the first post from our newest contributor, #SaveChinatownYVR community and cultural advocate Melody Ma. Follow her on Twitter @MelodyMa.

The Save Our Skyline YVR advocacy group aiming to protect Vancouver’s public views and view cones issued a survey to Vancouver mayoral and council candidates to understand their positions on public views.

The future of Vancouver view cones and public views were a contentious issue during the PavCo Tower rezoning council vote this past July, and the Northeast False Creek (NEFC) Plan council vote earlier in February. The next Mayor and Council will be voting on upcoming NEFC rezonings for a Concord Pacific development, which includes buildings planned to protrude through the view cones. They can also decide to review and adjust the existing view cone policies, which was a frequently discussed topic during the debate on this topic throughout the year, as the last review was almost a decade ago.

All mayoral and council candidates were asked to participate in the survey. They were provided with all the resources and policy documents needed to answer the questions proposed. If candidates did not provide an answer, their positions based on their past voting records (if incumbent), or known public statements online or at public hearings, were included when applicable.

Any late candidate answers will be added to the website as it is received up until this Saturday’s close of polls at 8pm.

To view the candidates’ full answers to the questionnaire, click here.

SUMMARY

The survey questions aimed to learn about candidates familiarity with and positions on tower development in light of the existing policies on public views.

Read more »

This is an election like no other. While “unprecedented” is an overused word, it seems true for this campaign more than any other since the late 1930s:

  • Only three incumbents from the previous council.
  • More new parties than most of us can distinguish.
  • Credible independents, with a receptive electorate.
  • Campaign finance rules that, with some breaking of their intentions, changed the way the game is played.
  • A tumbled ballot.

Throw in a low turnout, split voting on left and right, along with a shift to densifying neighbourhoods and a decline of voters in aging communities (thanks, Andy Yan, for that data), and you have an outcome that no one can credibly predict.

I thought for awhile that this may be an election which changes the direction of Vancouver in a way that happened in 1972 when the NPA lost to TEAM.  That marked the end (and beginning) of an era.  But my sense now is, maybe not.  While there will be some momentous decisions to come, particularly with respect to neighbourhoods that haven’t seen much change in generations, the City will continue on as it has, with Council adhering to the foundational assumptions which all previous councils, regardless of ideology, have held:

  • Large and continued investments in basic infrastructure and maintenance.
  • Reliable emergency services.
  • Gradual but not dramatic increases in property taxes, still heavily weighted to the advantage of residential over business.
  • Ongoing commitment to local-area planning – but in the context of a city-wide strategy.
  • Opportunistic levering of senior-government funding, especially for housing and transit.
  • Continued immigration but less concentrated ethnicity.
  • Disproportionate support for arts, culture and social services, providing regional-scale programs, supports and institutions.

Because we’re a rich city, we can do all that and not have much political division on the basics.  Our politics may seem extreme (and shifted to the left), but in fact we have the luxury of debating and dividing over social issues and relatively trivial interventions (bike lanes!) that keep Vancouver’s reputation for leadership and controversy intact.

After attending numerous candidates’ forums (at least for mayor and council), I’m impressed by the overall level of competence and concern among those running.  These are mostly good, sane people running for office, who care sometimes passionately, but seem capable of getting along with others.  While there are certainly characters and outliers, we’re going to be in good hands.

 

So who am I going to vote for?  I was avoiding a commitment, ostensibly maintaining an ‘objective’ persona for purposes of commentary.  But who am I kidding?  Already in this space I have profiled candidates I think worthy of office, and have been reported on the donation I made to a mayoral candidate (thanks, Charlie Smith).So here are some of the people I think would serve us well.

Read more »