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February 29, 2016

The Path of Least Resistance

We all know them-sure that paved and fenced path is designed for you to follow  by bike or by  foot, but that little route off the beaten track is often so appealing.  And rightly so too-if planning followed where people actually want to travel, the world could be better. Here under desire lines is an interesting article by Kurt Kohlstedt describing how these self reinforcing pathways beaten off the “official” paths are used by universities in their campus pathway planning, and by Finnish communities to look at their trail planning processes.  You will also see some photos of ancient holloways left by thousands of ancestral street, and learn about “sneckdowns” those snowbanks in winter city parking lots that are not for people or cars.  Perfect Monday morning reading.
And where is your preferred pathway off the road more travelled? The photo above is of  stone hopping at Tupper Neighbourhood Greenway .
 

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I have enjoyed my time  as guest editor with Price Tags and I am turning over the file cabinet keys to remarkable photographer and bicyclist around town Ken Ohrn and our London correspondent Michael Mortensen .
Thank you again, and see you soon. Happy New Year!
Best wishes,
Sandy James
Director, Walk Metro Vancouver Society
www.walkmetrovan.ca
Artwork from “Sculpture by the Sea”  Bondi Beach Public Art Festival 2014.
 

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Why does walkability in a city get such short shrift when it is completely sustainable and carbon neutral, is highly recommended for mental and physical health, and is a key ingredient to enhanced sociability and city life? Walkability and spaces designed for those on foot also provide universal accessibility for the young and old, disabled, and those without financial  means of transportation.

The  City of Vancouver is doing a great job bringing on bike lanes and making plans to make bike riding safer, faster and more convenient…but there is barely a mention about public realm and sidewalk improvements for pedestrians. And does not every journey, no matter what transportation mode you are using begin and end with a walk?
The recent City of Vancouver Council committee on December 10 considered the  Active Transportation Update to the  2040 Transportation Plan.
The update will provide new bike lanes, and upgrade some of the existing bicycle routes and facilities. But little breath is given to walkers.  This gap was also noticed by the Vancouver Public Space Network who noted on their blog that the word “pedestrian” appears only twice in the report and the word “walking” appears 17 times compared to the words “cycling” (59 times) and the word “bike” (66 times). Here is their take below:
http://vancouverpublicspace.ca/2015/12/09/on-bikes-budgets-and-making-more-room-for-the-sidewalk/
The City’s  2016 budget does provide for sidewalk maintenance, curb drop construction, and new pedestrian and cycling signals. But walking is more than this, it is the mindful connection of  complete streets, enhanced pedestrian plazas or spaces. This is all work that was championed from the City’s Urban Landscape Taskforce in the 1990’s in the creation of Greenways which were streets for walking and cycling before cars.
How does walking and walkability get back on the Civic Agenda?
Sandy James
http://former.vancouver.ca/ctyclerk/cclerk/20151210/documents/ptec7.pdf

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The  Pro Walk Pro Bike Pro Place Conference is coming to Vancouver in October 2016 in concert with the folks at People for Public Spaces in NYC and local sponsors.  The conference theme is “Moving towards a Healthier World”.
More information on the conference and the conference call below:
http://www.pps.org/blog/now-accepting-proposals-for-pro-walkpro-bikepro-place-2016-moving-towards-a-healthier-world/
 

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One of the more curious elements of 2015 was the December burst of information about the Province’s new crossing of the Fraser River between Richmond and Delta. This not yet named bridge is being referred to as the Massey Bridge, after the tunnel this link will be replacing.
Whatever the reason for the new bridge-linking the  Roberts Bank and B.C. ferry terminals, allowing more industrial/residential development on the sensitive river delta, or simply relieving the four lane tunnel congestion with a ten lane superbridge-there is a lot of diverse comment in terms of regional  growth, assessed need and local impact.
But what of the view on the south side of the Fraser River?
The Mayors of Richmond, Vancouver and Surrey have questioned the project, with the Mayor of Surrey hoping that any  funding could go towards more transit oriented initiatives.
Mayor of Delta Lois Jackson weighs in through the Delta Optimist that it is Delta’s turn for a new transportation link to Vancouver, noting that 64 per cent of trips through the tunnel are destined for Richmond, not Vancouver.
http://www.delta-optimist.com/jackson-defends-bridge-amid-criticisms-from-region-s-mayors-1.2135936
This viewpoint  is reinforced in this editorial from the Delta Optimist on the December 23rd:
http://www.delta-optimist.com/opinion/stone-sure-beats-coal-1.2138998
The December released provincial  Massey Tunnel Replacement Project Definition Report outlines the rationale for the bridge and and pinpoints opportunities for the public to  participate in their formalized process:
https://engage.gov.bc.ca/masseytunnel/files/2015/12/GMT-Project-Definition-Report-Dec-2015.pdf

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Peter Ladner has always been ahead of his time. I remember when as a Councillor at City Hall  he gave up his parking spot for a bike rack, way way before biking was popular.
In Business in Vancouver Peter weighs in at the end of  the year on an uncomfortable and very major  issue for Metro Vancouver mayors, communities and residents-how we obtain a regional transit and transportation plan, and how we get that paid.
Titled “2015 Unfinished Business-Mayors’ Transportation Plan” Peter says the following:
“Without TransLink reform or a new referendum, the premier’s most reasonable course of action is to waive the one-third regional funding requirement, as the feds have hinted they would. Having the province pick up the difference would be costly, but it could bring in timely federal funding that would otherwise go elsewhere. In Greater Toronto, the province is picking up 87% of its $12.3 billion total bill for transit improvements. The region is paying 4% with the feds covering the rest.
According to a recent article by Nathan Woods of Unifor and Tom Sigurdson of the BC Building Trades Council, none of the other urban competitors for the federal money – including Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Edmonton and Calgary – require one-third local funding.
Interestingly, B.C.’s two ministers went to Ottawa with the new, $3 billion Massey Bridge on their wish list, along with the bridge and transit projects from the Mayors’ Plan. Perhaps a federal contribution to the Massey Tunnel replacement could free up provincial money to fill the regional transit-funding gap?”
Read Peter’s full column below.
https://www.biv.com/article/2015/12/2015s-unfinished-city-business-mayors-transportati/?platform=hootsuite

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First opened in June 2015 on the grounds of the Vancouver Airport Authority, the  McArthurGlen shops owned by a London based company exceeded their footfall projections by 66 per cent in the first 90 days.
But is it a mall? The current retail manager does not use the “m” word, noting the fifty stores and 240,000 square feet of retailing has a resort feel akin to Whistler Village, or UBC’s Wesbrook Mall shopping area. The CEO of the McArthurGlen group states “we are thrilled by the reaction we’ve seen from our shoppers there and their positive response to our European day-out shopping concept”.
 

The consumer response has been positive, with several retailers who expected to have 5 million dollars in sales reporting sales of 10 million dollars. With 2,000 parking spaces and 30 per cent of trips by public transit (Templeton Canada Line Station)  or bike, McArthurGlen says that 60 per cent of their shoppers are local.  The company  expects to break ground on phase 2  with an additional 140,000 square feet of retail space in the new year.
Stories from the Vancouver Sun and Business in Vancouver are referenced below.
http://www.mcarthurglengroup.com/news/vancouver-wins-mapic-awards.aspx
http://www.vancouversun.com/business/richmond+outlet+centre+takes/11605504/story.html?__lsa=22b4-35da

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It is the end of the year, a time to reminisce and the time for a new category of awards, that in honour of Gordon Price I would like to call “The Gordies”.
The Gordies are  awards for the good, the bad, the ugly, and the just plain memorable Metro Vancouver planning and transportation moments of 2015.
Gordon Price is a champion of open discussion on all things urban and moving in Metro Vancouver on Price Tags. Price Tags has documented an eventful year with  the defeat of the Transportation Referendum, the unveiling of the  new Vancouver Art Gallery Design, the Massey Bridge, and many other stories. What has most inspired and what has most dismayed you in 2015 in Metro Vancouver?
 

 
To get started, I am attaching from Curb.com the New York City Annual Curbed Awards, handed out to the “most deserving people, places and things in the real estate, architecture and neighbourhood universes of New York City”.
 
http://ny.curbed.com/archives/2015/12/21/nyc_urban_planning_in_2015_the_good_the_bad_
Please send your nominations for the Gordies in the following Greater Vancouver categories:
The Good: Best Metro Vancouver architecture/planning/transportation story of the year with a happy ending.
The Bad: Metro Vancouver architecture/planning/transportation story of the year on the not so happy spectrum.
The Ugly  or Most Puzzling: Most overrated  or questionable architecture/planning/transportation story of the year.
Please comment below or send your missives to PT.Guested@gmail.com

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Yes it is the second take on this housing form-rather plain bread to look at, but with lots of space and quite adaptable in the interior. The Vancouver Special was the “big box” of its time, providing the maximum allowable square footage of housing space on a lot.
 
Bob Ransford in the Vancouver Sun picked up the story previously published in November in Price Tags. The synopsis-Michael Mortensen suggests melding two  or three 33 by 120  foot lots together to create four 1500 square foot units on three levels in the front structure, and a two story dwelling in the back, that could house a 1,000 square foot unit and two 500 square foot studios.
 
Of course under current zoning restrictions, this cannot be done. But what Michael suggests in his original proposal was the advocacy of a pilot program and the release of design licences with pre-approved development permits for a number of  two or three lot configurations in any single family housing  zone.  As a  pilot project  these developments could connect to  existing water, sewer and electrical lines. The form and its success could then be monitored and evaluated.
 
Michael notes that 1000 of these developments could yield 6,000 to 7,000 units. While the City is doing some good work on stacked form, its always refreshing to get an outsider’s perspective.
 
And I am reminded how in the late 1980’s it was almost impossible to have a legal basement suite in a single family house . A decade ago a legal laneway house behind a single family house would be out of the question. The City is densifying and we need to find smart ways to house a growing population.
 
Perhaps this idea is not too far off. Would this work as a demonstration project? Can this fit into single family areas? Do we still need to think of parking spaces for every unit in a single family zone?
 
http://www.vancouversun.com/business/Reviving+Vancouver+Special/11599901/story.html?__lsa=22b4-35da

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