February 2, 2007

Road Show

The B.C. Ministry of Transportation is hitting the road to peddle Gateway:

Would You Like to Share Your Ideas on the Gateway Program and Effective Infrastructure with BC MoT?
BCTA (BC Trucking Association) has arranged for an exclusive meeting for BCTA members with both Gateway Program personnel and B.C. Ministry of Transportation (MoT) representatives … to:
* share their experiences and ideas in a policy discussion about supporting the movement of commercial vehicles (e.g., truck-only lanes, accident clearing) on the infrastructure that we currently have and will have in the future. Since there is recognition that we will never be able to build “enough” infrastructure, we need to figure out ways to make better use of the infrastructure that we do have.
* receive an update report on the Gateway Program, including specifics about the Brunette, Cape Horn and 176th Street interchanges, and provide feedback. The Gateway Program aims at enhancing three major transportation corridors by twinning the Port Mann Bridge and improving Highway 1, creating the North Fraser Perimeter Road and building the South Fraser Perimeter Road. Together, these and other elements of the program are projected to reduce travel time, depending on origin and destination, by up to 30 percent in the Lower Mainland. Moreover, even though the Gateway Program is centred on the Lower Mainland, it is equally important to the rest of the province as Vancouver is B.C.?s and Canada?s main gateway to the Pacific and connector to the U.S.
Your participation in this meeting is crucial since the Gateway Program, despite its tremendous potential to relieve congestion and help B.C. take advantage of trade opportunities, has received significant negative public attention. Help us show the government that there are also strong supporters who value the implementation/completion of this project.
[Emphasis mine.]

Let me add a little more negative public attention.
Gateway affirms, literally, the Highwayman’s Motto: “It won’t work, we know it won’t work, we’re going to do it anyway.”
I’m not quite sure what the quotes around ‘enough’ mean, but be assured, they don’t really believe that – as indicated by the quote below: Gateway will reduce travel times up to 30 percent.
Here’s the problem: they have no evidence, no proof, only assumptions. They assume two things in particular: a toll will discourage enough drivers to keep the highway uncongested. (That means they’re going to price people out of the use of their cars, though of course they would never say that; it’s inherent in the argument. It also means they have to raise tolls high enough and often enough to keep the disincentive working – though they don’t say that either.)
Second assumption: regional and municipal land-use planning will work (though the Minister rejects the Livable Region Plan as outdated) in order to prevent growth and induced traffic from filling up all the new asphalt. Gateway has never provided models or evidence to refute Anthony Downs’ Triple Convergence theory: once new road space is available, people switch time, mode and alternative routes to use it all up, regardless of growth.
The tragedy for those South of the Fraser is that the time and money it will take to build Gateway could have been used to give them some alternatives. The problem for the truckers is that routes built for cross-regional and long-haul movements will be filled up with suburbanites using Highway 1 as their Main Street.
And finally, Gateway has never had to explain how building car- and truck dominant transportation systems will address climate change. But then, they’ve never thought they had to.

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So it begins.  From the Calgary Sun:

EDMONTON — Alberta can’t make absolute reductions in greenhouse gas emissions during the current boom, says Environment Minister Rob Renner.
“You’re not going to get reductions in total amounts as long as the economy continues to grow and you have increased processing capacity,” he said.
“We want to ensure that anything that the federal government does doesn’t in any way target Alberta businesses and emitters.”

Translation: The Earth is a nice planet and all that, but we in Alberta can’t afford it.  We have no obligation to the future if it in any way stops us from putting out the carbon and raking in the dollars.
That has all the moral foundation of quick sand.  Or, should I say, tar sand.

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February 1, 2007

Michael Klassen – newly appointed to the Vancouver City Planning Commission – sends along a snippet from his blog (via City Comforts) that features:

These painted highrises in Moscow are actually from a blog called Russian Art & Culture News.

In Russia where is in winter sun is a very rare thing such kind of art might keep the winter depression away. For instance this fall-winter there were no visible sun in Moscow for more than 30 days. Due to this it was reported that a lot of people simply refuse to go to work because of an enormous depressive state they were in.
Maybe such urbanistic art would keep the depression away.

Not if you read the blog, says Michael, which apparently is quite a downer. Still, the pictures are cool.

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Solutions to the housing crunch in Vancouver? Ways to create more affordable housing? For everyone?

Enough with the questions.  Time for answers.  Last October, the Vancouver City Planning Commission, Smart Growth BC and the City Program brought together some of the brightest minds in the city to take that one on. And now you can see the results for yourself here:

This summary of the two-day conference highlights the remarks of public-lecture speaker Karrie Jacobs (The Perfect $100,000 House) with response from Dale McClanaghan and Lance Jakubec; distills the speech of keynote speaker Larry Beasley (New Possibilities; Old Barriers); and sums up the comments of our panel of experts Bill Buholzer, Bruce Haden, Bob Ransford and Jay Wollenberg (Overcoming Barriers to Affordable Housing Strategies).
Most importantly, the report documents (with helpful illustrations) the recommendations of the small-group discussions:

  • Small infill houses on laneways
  • Adaptive re-use and enhanced housing mixes in single-family areas
  • Intensification along major roads, new nodes and transit-oriented development
  • Thinking outside the box

This conference did more than talk about a problem; it supplied some realistic and practical solutions.
Now the challenge: translating it all into action.

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A sterling example in today’s Oregonian (thanks to Sightline’s TidePool) on the attitude of the Federal Highway Administration when it comes to planning for the future.
Metro, the regional government responsible for strategic planning in the Portland area, is giving the highest priority to projects that support the region’s goals for coping with growth, whether that means more roads, more transit or more bicycle lanes.
Not good enough for the FHA.

The highway agency scolded Metro for not focusing more on highways, cars and parking.

“The plan should acknowledge that automobiles are the preferred mode of transport by the citizens of Portland,” the agency said. “They vote with their cars every day.”

So there we have it: People vote with their cars, therefore we must build more roads, so people can drive more, which means they’re voting for more roads – and more cars, forever.  Which is what keeps the FHA in business, providing infinite capacity for infinite demand.
Suggested motto for the FHA: “It doesn’t work, we know it doesn’t work, we’re going to do it anyway.”

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An Op-Ed in today’s Sun: 

The 2002 B.C. Energy Plan strongly promoted fossil fuels, supporting coal-fired power plants, coal-bed methane development, and offshore oil and gas exploration. It was panned by those who pointed out that it would worsen climate change. These criticisms were ignored by the provincial government and also by most of us, the voting public, who did not truly feel the significance at that time.
The world has changed since then. Canada and the world have woken up to the reality of global warming. …
So in two weeks or less, Campbell has the opportunity to re-invent himself. He has done it before in his transformation from an opponent of the first nations treaty process to an advocate of reconciliation. Will he reinvent himself again in the crucial field of greenhouse gas emissions, and provide the leadership that British Columbians so clearly want?

The Gordon Campbell I knew would meet the challenge. 

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There is going to be a huge amount of response to the Fourth Assessment of the IPCC on Feb 2 – and lots of quotes.  In fact, it’s already started.  Here’s the best one I’ve seen today, from John Holdren, the president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science:

“We basically have three choices: mitigation, adaptation and suffering. We’re going to do some of each. The question is what the mix is going to be. The more mitigation we do, the less adaptation will be required and the less suffering there will be.”

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January 29, 2007

Brian Libby writes the definitive blog for those admirers of things architectural and urban in Portland. I sent him the recent issue of Price Tags on a comparison of our two cities – and he in turn has featured it in a post on his blog.
Another example of the self-referential world of the blog – click, click, click.
Brian asks:
The Portland-Vancouver BC Mind Meld: Is Price Right?
Click on over, add your perspective – and tell him I sent you.
 [And while you’re at it, click over to this piece in the New York Times on Portland’s aerial tram that was featured in Price Tags 90.]

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