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

First, another confirming story that ride-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.

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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.

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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.

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After attending about a half-dozen candidate forums (I think I could do some of the candidate’s stump speeches for them), I collected a few common tropes and promises worthy of analysis (and a little ridicule).

 

Biggest bullshit line used by every candidate: The problem with City Hall is its failure to consult. It doesn’t listen to the people. The process is broken.

Every candidate goes into office promising more and better consultation – and then in many cases actually provides more opportunities (additional advisory committees, more surveys, more staff) to do so. And then, because some participants don’t like the conclusions or actions taken, they criticize the process. (We talked about that here.)

Advocates believe that if proper consultation was conducted, it would result in the conclusion they or ‘the community’ agreed with. If not, then clearly the consultation was inadequate.  Or else the politicians weren’t listening.  (“If they were, they’d support my position!”)

By the end of their term, the incumbents will hear exactly the same critique of them that they made when they first ran.

Oh, and be aware when wailing away at the size of civic government’s communications staff:  those are the people who do the consultation, as well as the analysis and recommendations.  

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A two-year project to replace the exterior of the Cannacord Tower at the corner of Granville and Dunsmuir proceeds.  (More here in the Daily Hive.)

It’s not technically a curtain wall, but the project does entail the replacement of over 145,000 square feet of window panes – and a change of colour.  Which has always been a sensitive point in this city.

The building, originally named the Stock Exchange Tower when it was completed in 1981, was one of four in the Pacific Centre complex, and it was intended to be as black as its predecessors to the south: the Toronto Dominion and IBM Buildings.  (Changing Vancouver tells the story here.)

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I’ve been fortunate to meet a lot of young people in my jobs as Vancouver city councillor and SFU City Program Director.   You know almost immediately that some are ones to watch.  Someday they’ll be thinking of running for office in their city.  Someday they’ll be running their city.

Like Paul Hillsdon.  He’s running for council in Surrey – one of those Millennials who are jumping over the Gen Xers, aiming for an empty seat.  He’s 28, born and raised in Surrey.   That means he was born four years after Expo 86.  After Expo.  And this is his second run for city council.  Take that, Boomers.

The Expo Generation has come of age, and they reflect the demographic and immigration realities of their generation, more of them with roots in the global south and Asia than Europe.  Paul is half Japanese (his grandpa and family were interned in Greenwood), the only Asian guy in his class with one other South Asian guy. “We were bananas and coconuts, and felt the need to westernize – but still with the sense of being identified with the underdog.”   Today, his husband is South Asian and a Muslim.  He’s running with a party, Surrey First, whose leader is South Asian.

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I’ve revised this post on the consequences of negating the CAC mechanism – and why most candidates probably don’t understand the implications of their own platform.  Yeah, it gets into the weeds – as it should – and I’m open to criticisms of points I may have missed (or, gasp, failed to understand fully.) Comments encouraged.

 

Does any candidate really understand Community Amenity Contributions (CACs)?  Maybe one or two.   A lot seem happy to entertain the idea of gutting them in the name of transparency or fairness or expediency or something better.  Whatever.  But something valuable –  literally some of the value of land that CACs are meant to capture – may get lost.

To begin, here are some basics.

Community Amenity Contributions are not a tax.  It’s in the title: they’re “contributions”.  And while some developers may roll their eyes when they hear that word (yeah sure, contributions), it’s still true that there is no obligation to pay them if they don’t want to.  And that’s because …

They are only applicable to rezonings.  

Let’s be really clear: when developers own or buy land, their rights are within the maximums spelled out in the Zoning and Development Bylaw. If they want more density, they may apply for a rezoning – but they are not entitled to it.  

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