Policy & Planning
October 26, 2020

Free Webinar~Shane Phillips & The Affordable City

Arizona State University’s (ASU) School of Sustainability and Island Press are partnering on a fall speaker series featuring Island Press authors and Urban Resilience Project contributors. All events are free, hosted by ASU, and promise to inspire.

Join Shane Phillips, author of The Affordable City, for a discussion moderated by ASU urban planner and sustainability scientist Deirdre Pfeiffer.

From Los Angeles to Boston and Chicago to Miami, US cities are struggling to address the twin crises of high housing costs and household instability. Debates over the appropriate course of action have been defined by two poles: building more housing or enacting stronger tenant protections. These options are often treated as mutually exclusive, with support for one implying opposition to the other.

There is no single solution to the housing crisis—it will require a comprehensive approach backed by strong, diverse coalitions. Hear how professionals and advocates are working to improve affordability and increase community resilience through local action.

To register for this webinar please click here.

Date: Thursday October 29, 2020

Time: 1:00 to 2:00 Pacific Time

 

Read more »

 

 

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.”

Read more »

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.

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.

Read more »

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.

Read more »

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

Read more »

Here’s more data showing  that simple changes to speed and design of city roads can make all the difference in reducing pedestrian and cyclist fatalities and serious injury.

Planner Eric Doherty posted this article from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety that shows that ‘centreline hardening’ using rubber curbs and bollards at intersections to force drivers to slow down and proceed carefully through intersections  reduces left-turn speeds and increases safety for pedestrians in the intersection.

In the United States pedestrian fatalities have risen 53 percent from 2009 to 2018 and are 17% of all traffic deaths. As over half of Vancouver’s fatalities are with turning movements in intersections, tightening the corner for drivers to proceed slowly would also be safer for pedestrians.

Seattle’s Transportation Engineering champion Dongho Chang has reported out on the implementation of leading pedestrian intervals at forty locations in Seattle.

I have written about Leading Pedestrian Intervals that give pedestrians an advanced green crossing time ahead of car traffic, enabling a pedestrian to be well into the intersection before any driver turning movements through the same space.  The leading interval time is usually between six to eight seconds.  Over 2,200 of these devices  have been installed in New York City which has seen a 56 percent reduction in pedestrian and cyclist fatalities.

In one year Seattle has seen a 33 percent reduction in pedestrian collisions  with the installation of Leading Pedestrian Intervals compared with three years of previous data at the same intersections.

Read more »

As it becomes clearer that we simply can’t drive our way out of congestion, some cities like Paris are planning on keeping walking and cycling as the main way to get around within busy downtown areas. I have already written about the City of London England which sees the continuation of wider sidewalks with more amenities and the placement of more protected bike lanes as Covid infrastructure that will stay.

These are not new trends, but simply the acceleration of trends that were already in place, to have cities and places that were designed for people to live in place and walk, roll or cycle to schools, shops and services in a two kilometer area.

Fiona Harvey of The Guardian writes about  health innovations . It was researchers at the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP)  that have developed a scale to assess “walkable cities”~those places that ” improve health, cut climate-heating transport emissions and build stronger local communities and economies.”

Surprise! Cities in the United States rank pretty low on those parameters as they are dominated by vehicles and vehicular infrastructure which makes an easy walk to and from a commercial area pretty impossible.

The following criteria were used: the number of people living within one hundred meters of parks, streets for walking only, and squares;  the number of people that are living within a kilometer of healthcare and education; and the average size of city blocks (smaller is better for walkers and means less detouring).

Of course those walkable places also have lower air pollution, a less obese population, “more children’s play time, fewer road deaths and better performing local businesses, as well as reduced inequality. Walkable places are safer too.

Read more »

There’s  a lot of content in free webinars and some real opportunities to learn more about emerging areas of planning. The Centre for Conscious Design has an impressive list of fellows including neuroscientist Dr. Robin Muzumder. 

They also have an ambitious set of free webinars straddling many of the major cities across the globe. Here is the chance to hear from practitioners in other places, as well as our own cities.

You can take a look at three upcoming webinars on Conscious City’s Toronto link. From October 19th to the 23rd they are hosting a “Shaping the Equitable City” event. One webinar is “Harnessing Change”.

How can evidence-based design be used to strengthen the wellbeing of entire communities?
Communities from coast to coast have been using DIALOG’s Community Wellbeing Framework to guide conversations on meaningfully improving their wellbeing–through the design of a park, the planning of a neighbourhood, or the construction of a building. Geared to grassroots organizers, designers and place-makers of all capacities, this workshop equips participants with the tools to facilitate design processes for wellbeing in their own communities.

Presenter: Antonio Gómez-Palacio Principal, Planning & Urban Design
Antonio’s professional experience and research focuses on the intersection of architecture, planning, and urban design. An informative and engaging speaker, he’s internationally recognized for transforming cities into vibrant urban places that respond to their social, economic, and environmental contexts. Antonio has worked on a wide range of projects focused on urban intensification, master planning, mixed-use, transit, heritage, economic development, and sustainability. His project work includes light-rail transit (LRT) projects for Mississauga, Brampton, and Edmonton, downtown plans for Halifax and Regina, and campus plans for Seneca College and Laurentian University.

Date: Thursday October 22, 2020

Time: 2:00 p.m. Pacific Time

Click on this link for further information.

Images: ConsciousCity,ActiveHouseSymposium

Read more »

 

Last week the Duke of Data, Director of the  City Program at Simon Fraser University Andy Yan and I ventured to do some retail market research at Tsawwassen Mills Mall. I have written about this merchandising mega mall since before its inception and covered its opening day. The CBC interviewed retail consultant David Gray four years ago who said

“It’s not going to be a slam dunk They’re not going to be a convenience mall or mall for locals. Sure, locals will shop there, but for them to be successful, they’re going to be what’s known as a destination mall or a mall where people are going to make some pretty major time investments for their shopping trips.”

Mr. Gray was right. The mall has had challenges attracting staff and now provides buses for employees to get to the mall and back. And while there was a burst of interest when the mall first opened, it has not been able to keep all the shops open with approximately 20 percent creatively shuttered behind facade treatment that blend into the mall decor.

A walk around the mall does provide 2.5 kilometers of walking. But it is a huge space to maintain with 1,100,000 square feet and has 188 storefronts.

At the time of opening the mall, which is the third in the Ivanhoe Cambridge  mega mall stable along with Cross Iron Mills near Calgary and Vaughan Mills near Toronto hopes were higher for retail success. Ivanhoe Cambridge saw this location as centred in the third largest urban area in Canada, and felt that traffic would come from all over the region. With the mall’s location near the ferry terminal and connecting to Highway 99, customers spend the most time at the mall than any other in the developer’s portfolio, 113 minutes.

But think of that~they have driven 30 minutes if they came from Vancouver, and just the size of the mall means that you are spending a lot of time just traversing the place from one store to another.

Read more »