Design & Development
October 22, 2020

The Amazing New New York Subway Map

For years the MTA subway map of New York has been a city icon – and much debated in the graphic world as it tried to achieve an almost-impossible set of needs: accuracy, elegancy, clarity, trying to combine a huge amount of information on what happens below ground with some utility as an above-ground navigation tool.

This new online one, suitable for the way we actually get information, seems to do the job.  So, transit nerds, set aside some time to explore.

From Curbed:

Today, the MTA is unveiling its new digital map, the first one that uses the agency’s own data streams to update in real time. It supersedes the blizzard of paper service-change announcements that are taped all over your subway station’s entrance. It’s so thoroughly up-to-the-moment that you can watch individual trains move around the system on your phone.

Pinch your fingers on the screen, and you can zoom out to see your whole line or borough, as the lines resolve into single strands. Drag your fingers apart, and you’ll zoom in to see multiple routes in each tunnel springing out, widening into parallel bands — making visible individual service changes, closures and openings, and reroutings. Click on a station, and you can find out whether the elevators and escalators are working.

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He came at a time when TransLink was maligned and demoralized, thanks to Christy Clark’s pointless and destructive referendum.  He led the organization to its greatest success, to become the best transit agency in North America.  And to improvements which continue to roll out. (If not for the pandemic, we’d still be seeing significant increases in ridership.)

I suspect he received calls from headhunters every week.  And with opportunities that became irresistible.  I will not be surprised if he becomes the next Secretary of Transportation in a Biden administration.

Here’s the interview PriceTalks did with Kevin Desmond last year – still revealing for the backstory of a public servant who will be much missed but with whom we received much benefit.

The Sky’s the Limit for Kevin Desmond, CEO of North America’s Transit Ridership Leader

Happy hiking, Kevin.

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Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs) are the automotive darling of this century, growing in popularity as safe and secure for occupants, but are killing machines for other vulnerable road users. The SUV rides high above the road to give drivers good visibility.  I have been writing about how SUVs and trucks which make up 60 percent of all vehicle purchases have been responsible for a 46 percent increase in pedestrian deaths.

Statistics show that SUVs with the high front end grille are twice as likely to kill pedestrians because of the high engine profile, but this information has not been well publicized. In the United States a federal initiative to include pedestrian crash survival into the vehicle ranking system was halted by opposing automakers. Writer and city planner Angie Schmitt has just written the excellent book  “Right of Way” which details how road deaths in the United States have increased with rising sales of the SUV.

SUVs are also ‘Climate killers’. There has been little progress on reducing  road transport carbon emissions in Europe, comprising 27% of all emissions. While the automobile industry blames regulators for turning away from diesel (lower in carbon but more toxic)  regulators blame the lack of progress on SUVs “driven by carmakers’ aggressive marketing”.

Yet none of these factors have deterred the auto industry in marketing bigger, larger, more den-like SUVs with all kinds of driver assisted systems and even a 38 inch OLED screen.

The Verge’s Andrew Hawkins details his day driving the new 2021 Cadillac Escalade. It is the size of a small boat, nearly 18 feet or 5.5 meters long and nearly 6. 5 feet or nearly two meters high. It is bigger and longer than the model from the previous year and as Mr. Hawkins duly notes, is called by Cadillac ““the largest and longest Escalade ever.

But there’s more.

“Sitting in the driver’s seat, it’s easy to feel disconnected from the outside world — mostly because you can’t see a lot of it. The grille was like a sheer cliffside, obstructing my view several feet out in front of the wheels. An entire kindergarten class could be lined up in front of this vehicle and I wouldn’t see them.”

He used social media to send out images of his three year old son in front of the grill of this SUV to show how impossible it was to see a child in front of this vehicle. Mr. Hawkins also referenced this sobering study produced by WTHR News in Indianapolis last year  which shows how huge the “blind spot” in front of SUVs are. And the Escalade had the longest blind spot. In the horrifying video attached to this article news reporters had a group of crosslegged school children sit down in front of the SUV in a line, and kept adding school children until the driver could see them.

The Escalade had the largest front blind spot of 10 feet, two inches, with the driver sitting in a natural, relaxed position. It took 13 children seated in a line in front of the Escalade before the driver could see the tops of their heads.”

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The Cities Health and Active Transportation Research Team  (INTERACT) led by the very capable Dr. Meghan Winters is known for studying the important intersection between active transportation and population health in cities.

The team is looking at an important question~Can urban design changes in our neighbourhoods make us healthier and happier?

In a study led by INTERACT,  researchers at Simon Fraser University and the University of British Columbia, in collaboration with the City of Vancouver and scientists across Canada are examining that question.

In 2018 the team  launched a five-year study to uncover how the development of Vancouver’s Arbutus Greenway is impacting physical activity, social participation, and well-being of nearby residents, and whether these impacts are felt equally across different socioeconomic groups.

You are invited to participate, on two on-line data surveys and join a national community of scientists, urban planners, public health experts, and engaged citizens with a common interest in designing healthier cities for all.

Please click this link for more information.

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Scot writes:

A friend gifted me a beautiful replica 1928 map of ‘Greater’ Vancouver (just before the amalgamation of Vancouver, South Vancouver and Point Grey in 1929).

 

Upon further examination there are some neighbourhoods listed that I’ve never heard of, or perhaps have been renamed.

Rosedale – Renfrew & Grandview Highway:

Riverview – Victoria Drive & 59th:

Magee – West Blvd & 52nd:

In addition they are showing a neighbourhood called Strathcona located just south of King Edward west of Granville street

Any insight, PT historians?

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For the first time, Urban Design Theory and Practice course will be delivered fully online. Developed and led by renowned Canadian urban designer Michael von Hausen, this course explores the fundamentals of the field over four weeks, covering:

  • Urban design history and trends
  • Rural and suburban design
  • Place-keeping and place-making

Urban Design Theory and Practice
Oct 26–Nov 16 | 4 weeks online
Instructor and facilitator: Michael von Hausen

Register Read more »

Last week I wrote about the international poll on walkability which found North American cities lacking. Those cities have  not thought through the importance of people being able to access schools, shops and services within a three kilometre radius of dwellings. They have also not embraced that housing people at density means having access to nearby public spaces, squares and parks and making the whole experience “lively”.

In Metro Vancouver, parks are planned like they are for 1960’s. It’s kind of intended that Moms and Dads have vehicles that can whisk kids to washrooms and restaurants. We don’t put picnic tables in all parks, and  we don’t install washrooms in many.

In a place that is attempting to house families at higher density, we also have to provide safe,comfortable and convenient access to useable, year round park spaces. And that’s not the half-century old “soccer field in the park concept.” We simply need to reboot what we think open public space is, and centre a new definition of park space as something that is accessible to everyone, and useable twelve months of the year.

Stephen Quinn’s radio interview on walkable outdoor space on CBC Radio  touched on this.

In the 21st century we are not a  city of public washrooms nor do we provide covered outdoor public spaces during inclement weather. There’s lots of talk about this being an equity issue, and it seems odd that these basic amenities are not provided.

But remember the pre Covid pandemic reality was that there were other indoor spaces available that were public, like libraries and community centres. The closure of libraries during Covid was a tremendous loss to citizens, but especially to the homeless and disenfranchised. The library was a place that everyone had access to and had equity. With the Covid closures these important places where people could rely on for washrooms, reading, and getting out of the elements were instantly erased.

The Georgia Straight’s Stanley Woodvine  is a homeless writer that keenly and cogently expresses  that there should be universal access to covered public spaces and public washrooms. There’s also a need for  electrical outlets to be conveniently located to charge cell phones and other devices. (The average cell phone uses 25 cents of electricity annually.)

Mr. Woodvine feels that covered public spaces were not created in parks to stop  homeless from congregating. I think the reason is less sophisticated ~I don’t believe that it was on the Parks Board’s radar for cost and liability reasons.

Sunset Park in the 400 block of East 51st  Avenue did have a shelter installed, but it was for Tai Chi and for picnic tables. The Covid pandemic and the increasing density of the city means that outdoor space needs to be more user-friendly nimble and  practical during inclement weather. That’s where ingenuity needs to step in.

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You have to really like a pollster that uses the word “blunder” in describing driving habits in Canada .

Mario Canseco the principal of Research.Co has just released a new national poll conducted at the end of September with 1,000 Canadians. In the poll, people were asked what driving behaviour was like, and whether it was getting better or worse on Canadian roads. Surprisingly the poll found that people “are expressing a higher level of satisfaction with drivers, and there is a decline on the incidence of specific negative behaviours” on Canadian roads.

The survey found that that the number of people that said drivers in their towns were worse than  five years ago dropped by 8 percent from the same survey in 2019 to 39 percent. A total of 44 percent of survey takers said the quality of drivers had not changed, while 7 percent “believe they are “better” than five years ago”

Mr. Canseco found that Canadians over 55 had a more negative view of driving ability, with half saying driving was worse now. Surprisingly younger drivers in the 35 to 54 year old cohort and the  18 to 34 year old cohort  were more optimistic,with  43 and 20 percent respectively saying drivers were worse today.

Mr. Canseco specifically asked about six driving “blunders” or behaviours including drivers not signalling at a corner, or drivers not stopping at an intersection. Vehicles straddling two parking spots, doing incorrect lane changes, and (real blunders) potentially catastrophic bad driver behaviour requiring veering off the road or stopping abruptly.

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Have you ever wanted to learn how green roofs are designed and what the metrics are for water capture and performance? The company that used to be called xeroflor® Canada has started an exciting new chapter as Next Level Stormwater Management™. They are offering a free webinar on how vegetated roofing systems work.

Urban centers have high concentrations of impervious areas which pose a challenge in managing large volumes of stormwater. Heavy rain events or back-to-back storms cause problems like flooding, property damage, and combined overflow sewer discharge. Green infrastructure, such as vegetated roofs, can help mitigate these problems because they restore the hydrologic cycle in urbanized areas. Vegetated roof systems designed for maximum stormwater management decrease the volume of stormwater within the urban core and reliably delay travel time of stormwater to the treatment plant. These retention and detention strategies help alleviate the burden of heavy stormwater on our cities’ infrastructure.

Click here to register.

Date: Tuesday Oct 20, 2020

Time:10:00 AM in Vancouver

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On Thursday, the Eno Transportation Centre presented another of their webinars, this one with an irresistible title:

The webinar hosts three authors from the UCLA Luskin Centre for History and Policy who summarize the results of a just-released study:

We examined a century of programs to reduce congestion and found that several strategies were pursued over and over again in different eras. Los Angeles repeatedly built new street, highway, and transit capacity, regulated drivers and vehicle traffic flows, increased the use of information about traffic conditions, and controlled land use to influence traffic.

So what were the consequences?  No surprise, but here’s the spoiler anyway:

Congestion has been addressed in every era and in numerous ways, but always has returned.

The report gives the details decade by decade – every possibility from expanded road capacity to land use.  Except one:

Congestion pricing … based on proven theory of human economic behavior promoted for a century, proven in application to sectors of the economy other than transportation, and enabled by recent advances in telecommunications technology. It has a proven track record …

Big picture conclusion: except for a handful of cities in the world, congestion (or mobility) pricing is a policy intervention that has often been proposed but never adopted.  Despite the fact it works.  And may be the only thing that does.

TransLink, the Province, Metro Vancouver – they’ve all studied the issue, most recently in 2018 with the Mobility Pricing Independent Commission.  The conclusion was the same: some form of road pricing makes sense.  And then saw the concept under whatever name rejected by most political leaders literally within a day of its release.

Within a few hours of the Eno webinar, there was another Zoomy opportunity to get a local perspective.  A coalition of transportation interests – Moving in a Livable Region – held an all-candidates forum online with representatives from each party:

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