TransLink is hosting regional conversations on Transport 2050, the latest version of its strategic plan.  Last week at a packed Robson Square theatre, it began with “The Future of Mobility” – lots of thought nuggets from TL’s strategic planner, Andrew McCurran and a panel of those in what we used to call alternative transport (not any longer) – ride-hailing, car-sharing, bike-sharing, electric mobility, and scooters!

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Here are a few tasty items:

Say good-bye to the ‘bike lane’;  hail the ‘mobility lane.’  Since it’s illegal for electric scooters to use the sidewalk (yeah, right) and it’s obvious already that electrification is leading to new kinds of vehicles faster than self-powered two-wheelers, they will all use the bike lanes or demand their own right-of-way.  Expect conflict.

(By the way, in cities with both bike- and scooter-share, the latter outperforms the former.)

Will there be space available on a reconfigured road as the number of traditional vehicles (you know, cars) diminishes?  Assuming, of course, that the number of cars really does drop.  Data from the use of Uber and Lyft in American cities indicates just the opposite: more cars and more congestion.

It’s all about the parking, especially curb space.  As car-sharing increases, should it get a larger proportion of street parking?  With more and more home delivery, same question for loading zones.

With electrification of cars, commuters will be looking less for parking and more for charging outlets so they can plug in for the day.

For electric bikes and scooters, they’ll be looking for ‘electric corrals’ – docking stations with plug-ins.

It’s also all about equity.  If transit use (and service) diminish as more people who can afford it switch to ride-hailing (which, again, is the pattern in American cities) and cities introduce congestion and road-pricing policies, do low-income people get hosed?

It may be that equity issues will be more easily addressed.  For one thing, there will be more choices at various price points.  And some cities are demanding equity arrangements from the new mobility companies as a condition of service.  Many already have such provisions.

As the self-owned vehicle becomes less and less the norm, will it be politically easier to impose congestion charges (New York already has one for Uber, etc.) – as well as requiring equity arrangements?

British Columbia and Metro Vancouver have been cautious in allowing new mobility – especially ride-hailing and electric scooters.  This may serve us well.  As Andrew noted, we’re not going to be first adopters; we will be lesson learners.

TransLink expects to see a drop in use as ride-hailing is allowed.  But they’re not worried; new mobility options may help us get to that ‘happy place’ if we focus on integration and multi-mode trip planning.  Polymodal transport!

So why is transit use growing so dramatically in Metro Vancouver.  (Another astonishing year just reported: 7 percent increase – a continuation of growth unlike anywhere in North America, where many cities are seeing a drop in use.)  Andrew has a number of factors:

  • consistent investment in transit and better service
  • the consequences of good land-use planning, where growth is concentrated along the Frequent Transit Network
  • employment growth
  • high gas prices
  • Lack of ride-hailing
  • alternatives to the single-occupancy vehicle.

Another highlight: my first use of an electric scooter on the Robson Square rink:

photo by Terence Chu

A scooter virgin no longer.

Comments

  1. The future will indeed provide many interesting options, however one needs to distinguish between dense portions of Vancouver, Richmond, Burnaby or N Van, with less dense outer parts of these cities or W Van, Delta, Surrey etc ..

    Also weather plays a major role. Riding an e-scooter or (e)bike is fun when it’s not raining, but add a bit of snow, rain and wind and many of these modes’ ridership collapse. Even today you see more crowded roads in rainy weather as more folks abandon waking, biking or even taking the bus.

    The lack of Uber or Lyft is a major policy failure in B.C. as is the lack of rapid transit while pumping out condos by the tens of thousands in N Van, UBC and soon, JerichoLands. More buses not the answer to it.

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