October 28, 2016

Fixed Link to the Sunshine Coast?

The Vancouver Sun has reported on the latest open houses held in the Gibsons area once again chatting about a new link for access to the Sunshine Coast. This idea has been discussed in 1998 and 2001-and it is back again.

By virtue of geography — and unsteady, expensive B.C. Ferries service — Gibsons and the rest of the Sunshine Coast that stretch another 180 kilometres north are, according to local tourism promotional fluff, the province’s “best kept secret.”

There’s now a plan brewing, an ambitious scheme that would bridge the ocean-filled gap. B.C.’s Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure is floating proposals that would allow cars and trucks to bypass or traverse Howe Sound, the body of water that separates Gibsons and points north from the hurly-burly south.

The Vancouver Sun attended the Thursday evening session of The Sunshine Coast Fixed Link Study in a Gibsons’ hotel meeting room filled with inscrutable maps and busy display boards

The latest discussion involves several different plans. One or all could be adopted, eventually. The most viable, say people at Thursday’s open house, is a suspension bridge/road that would see traffic divert from the highway near Horseshoe Bay, cross Howe Sound at its narrowest point, touch land for a bit at tiny Anvil Island, then complete the crossing on a second bridge that would reach the shore north of Gibsons.

Now here is the interesting part-the estimated construction costs are between $ 2 Billion and $ 2.5 Billion dollars.Does that sound familiar? That is close to the estimate for the Massey Bridge across the Fraser until the Provincial Government said the exact cost was not $2.5 billion but  would be $ 3.4997 billion as reported in Price Tags last Monday.

While a fixed link would encourage local development, raise real estate prices and create jobs, an Anvil Island crossing has one more hurdle-the Island Trust which manages the islands in the Salish Sea and in Howe Sound.  A local Islands Trust trustee, Kate-Louise Stamford has stated that“It is Islands Trust policy that we do not support fixed links on any of the islands.” So despite the fact that the link to Anvil Island seems the most expedient, the Trust and the 18 property owners on the island may not think so.

And if past experience is any guide, that may be enough to sink this fixed link alternative and bring other options back to the drawing board, such as circuitous highway from Howe Sound up towards Powell River on the north end of the Sunshine Coast.



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There is a nasty positioning happening in the City of Toronto between advocates of motordom having full advantage of Toronto streets and the rights for vulnerable road users to also have a somewhat equitable share of the street. Toronto has demonstrated a  weak approach to vulnerable street user policy instead of steadfastly championing the right of citizens to be safe on the streets. Thirty-eight pedestrians and cyclists have died in Toronto this year. Shockingly eight have died this month. That is two people a week dying on Toronto streets in October.
The fatalities are largely people over 65 years of age who are hit by a larger vehicle. They are usually walking across an arterial road in the suburbs, and usually at a location without a crosswalk or traffic signal. You can also think of this as one vulnerable road user dying per 68,421 people. (A quick note, Vancouver is worse, with one pedestrian dying per 54,727 people).
The City’s response, instead of universally lowering speed (which is proven to reduce mortality and injury) or  re-examining road design or  regulating driver behaviour has been to focus on the visibility of pedestrians. And that reports the Globe and Mail has a lot of people really upset.

“Enough is enough, we have to end fatalities and serious injuries on our roads,” said David Stark, whose wife was killed when a vehicle mounted the east-end sidewalk where she was standing.The group – Friends & Families for Safe Streets – officially launched Tuesday at City Hall. It is spearheaded by people such as Mr. Stark, all of whom have lost a family member or close friend in a road collision.

In the early days of motordom, car crashes were termed “road violence” – a term that echoes protests from the early decades of motoring, when fatal collisions sparked outrage against “death drivers.”  “The gravity of the harm calls for actions,” said Yu Li, whose close friend was killed while cycling. “And the term of road violence will have that effect of bringing this to the conscience of everybody, that these are not accidents. These are preventable and these are tragedies with grave consequences.”

The group is calling for the city to go beyond the road safety plan announced this summer. That plan was slammed for its timidity when unveiled and was later beefed up. But critics say it continues to focus too much on small fixes and not enough on cultural change. A drop to the default speed limit – a key tactic in some cities – was not among the measures included.

I’ve been back four times to Ontario this year and the behaviour of vehicle drivers to vulnerable road users is markedly different. In Vancouver, most motorists yield to pedestrians and cyclists. That is just not the case in Ontario’s major city.
Being visible whether you are a pedestrian or a bicyclist is so important, and can be so challenging. The most dangerous time for pedestrians is in the autumn and winter, with Ontario statistics showing that over 40 per cent of serious injuries and 42 per cent of pedestrian fatalities occur at that time. (2010, Ontario Road Safety Annual Report). But wearing reflective clothing is a personal choice that a pedestrian or cyclist makes to be visible to vehicles. It does not condone speed, driver behaviour, or bad road design.
In Finland, every child going to school must wear three pieces of reflective items on their clothes and their backpack.  The safety reflector was developed in Finland in 1960, and it is the law that pedestrians wear reflective clothing and reflectors in the dark.   Indeed, wearing reflectors and reflective clothing is completely accepted as daily wear in Scandinavia. That part of the world also has the lowest incidence of pedestrian accidents.
A similar program in Great Britain reduced pedestrian deaths with children by 51 per cent. Studies show that wearing a reflector increases the visibility of pedestrians from 25-30 meters to 140 meters, increasing the reaction time from two seconds to ten seconds  for a car being driven at posted  municipal speeds of 50 kilometers an hour. That is eight seconds more for a  driver to react, and for a pedestrian to survive.
Sure reflectivity of pedestrians will enable vehicle users to see vulnerable road users. But reflectivity is not the sole response.

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In the “you just can’t make this stuff up” department , BBC reports that the famous Ulm Minster Church in Ulm Germany  which houses the world’s tallest church tower has an acid problem. The stone base is being eroded by the salts and acids in the urine, Suedwest Presse reports. The city doubled fines for those caught to 100 euros ($110; £90) earlier this year, but it has made little difference.

“I’ve been keeping an eye on it for half a year now and, once again, it’s coated with urine and vomit,” says Michael Hilbert, head of the department that maintains the building. Mr Hilbert tells Suedwest Presse that he’s not the “Pinkelpolizei”, or “pee police”, but wants official action over the anti-social problem. “This is about preserving law and order,” he says.

Ulm Minster’s steeple measures 161.53m (530ft), and the building is often referred to as a cathedral because of its sheer size. Its sandstone base recently underwent a costly restoration, Deutsche Welle notes. As in many cities, the area around the church is used for events throughout the year, and Mr Hilbert says organisers should provide free toilets so that men stop gravitating towards the building’s magnificent Gothic frontage when nature calls.

A city spokeswoman tells Suedwest Presse that while police patrols have increased, virtually nobody has been caught in the act recently, and she accepts that the higher fines have had no effect. The problem is likely to persist for as long as there are people, she says.

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The Vancouver Sun has written an article about the the first meter maids in the City of Vancouver. And they were “maids”-all female. One of the nicest people at the City of Vancouver who went on to have a fruitful career in the planning department started as a meter maid. And Branca Verde, who is delightful and a very good judge of character is also persuasive and very good at collaborative problem solving. I am sure those are all skills honed as one of the meter maids hired to check those parking regulations.
Parking meters were installed in the City of Vancouver in 1976, and became a major source of revenue for the City of Vancouver. While the City does not like to say, the monthly return of parking meters can be very lucrative. Think of it-the city is  renting by the minute road space the city owns, and other than collecting the coins and regulating the space, it is a very nice cash cow. In fact in 2011 revenues from Vancouver meters were approximately 40 million dollars. 
In this article, Branca does reveal a few secrets of checking on parking. Downtown office workers would try to trick them.“People would park all day and re-meter,” Verde said. “The whole intent was to have a turnover for small business and their customers, not for someone to park all day.“We started putting a Smartie on top of the tire under the wheel well. They’d run out and rub out the chalk we’d marked their tire with and think they’d fooled us, but we’d find the Smartie still there.“It was pretty high-tech stuff.”

Today parking officers enforce a lot more bylaws than back then, including anti-idling, leaf cleaning and lawn watering during bans. And there are 9,900 meters today, more than triple the number back then.Today’s average meter rate is $2.23 an hour; in 1976 hourly rates were 10, 20 and 40 cents.Vancouver’s 104 parking officers wrote 377,324 tickets in 2015 (a figure for 1976 is not available).And they no longer appear in court, they record everything digitally.

With driverless technology, metering and enforcement could become a thing of the past. It was people like Branca that pioneered a truly 20th century vocation, and adapted a new use for candy Smarties as one of the tools of the trade.

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In a surprising move to some Toronto Mayor John Tory has stated it’s not in the best interest of Toronto to be supporting an Expo  World’s Fair 2025. Now the Mayor is supposed to be relatively neutral on this issue, according to Mayoral etiquette.
Mr. Tory said Wednesday the cash-strapped city could not support a bid for a world’s fair without federal or provincial assurances that those governments would help pay for it, and do so without siphoning away money still needed for the city’s long list of transit and public-housing repair projects.
“I will tell you right now, I am not going to take money out of what we need to fund transit and housing to support an Expo, or just about anything else for that matter,” Mr. Tory told the committee after nearly five hours of presentations from Expo boosters.

Private-sector boosters paid for a feasibility study that concluded Expo 2025 could be held for just $1.9-billion in capital costs, a number that excludes billions needed for flood-protection and other infrastructure in the Port Lands. The event itself would cost another $1.6-billion to run, an amount covered by revenues and corporate sponsors, the report says, adding that it would create jobs and big economic benefits. Other Expos have not been nearly so cheap. Milan’s event in 2015 ended up costing $19-billion (Canadian). Shanghai’s, in 2010, cost an estimated $60-billion.

The late Mayor Rob Ford had a “war on the car” and announced an end to Transit City light rail in Toronto, insisting that subways were the only way to go in the vast metropolitan area. Needless to say the region is paying catch up in bringing the region together and going forward with a transit program. Kudos to the current mayor who is valuing good transit and housing for Torontonians over a world’s fair and the requisite summer party.

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Did you know that 35,092 Americans died on roads last year. They were drivers, pedestrians and cyclists. They all had families. They didn’t think they would be dead.  A population of 35,092 is similar to the population of Penticton, Powell River, or Prince Albert. It is a lot of people.
Tree Hugger author Lloyd Alter notes the contradiction of the unfortunate and strange policies in the City of Toronto, “where the mayor wants to reduce congestion and speed traffic up, while at the same time, reducing the carnage on the road that killed or injured a thousand people since June, and which can mainly be done by slowing traffic down”.

It’s absolutely clear that vehicles and their movement have precedence over vulnerable road users, those pedestrians and cyclists. “Especially troubling, this national data shows that the most vulnerable road users – people walking and biking, statistically more likely to be old or very young, poor, or of color – are, each year, an increasingly larger proportion of traffic fatalities. These fatalities, and the more than 2.4 million serious and life-altering injuries that happen annually on U.S. streets, are statistically predictable and preventable through better street design and reduced vehicle speeds”.

There is actually a paradox right now-while cars equipped with airbags and seat belts have been saving the lives of folks driving them, the environment for pedestrians and cyclists has really not improved in the same way. Vehicles are getting better, and are becoming mobile living rooms, with video players and distractions. It is suggested that this increased distraction coupled with busier roads is the reason that American pedestrian deaths were up 10 percent last year, the biggest increase ever.

We know that road speed can mean the difference between life and death for a vulnerable pedestrian or cyclist. NACTO (National Association of City Transportation Officials) “have proven that better street design, coupled with smarter, automated speed enforcement, is the best way to increase safety and save lives on U.S. roads. In Seattle, shortening pedestrian crossing distances on Nickerson Street reduced crashes by 23% and brought excessive speeding down from 38% to less than 2%”

Redesigning our streets is absolutely key, because car drivers drive at the speed the road is designed for. Anyone driving Highway 17 out to Langley can attest that no one is driving the posted 80 kilometers per hour on that stretch. And there are many arterial roads in Metro Vancouver  where drivers are speeding above the posted speed limit.

Sure we can lower speed limits, but we need to couple that with road design and enforcement. Sweden has led the way with the Vision Zero program. The Medical Health Officer of British Columbia’s Annual Report this year, Where the Rubber Meets the Road calling for lower speed limits and better road design to halt the 280 deaths and 79,000 injuries resulting from annual vehicle crashes. As Lloyd Alter notes, we can’t wait for driverless car technology to save us. We need to start this conversation now.

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It was not a matter of if, but when– did anyone think that driverless technology’s first commercial delivery would be a load of 2,000 cases of Budweiser beer?

Scot Bathgate sends in this article from the Toronto Star:

On Tuesday, Otto, the Uber-owned self-driving vehicle operation, announced the completion of its first commercial delivery, having delivered its beer load from Fort Collins, Colorado, to Colorado Springs, a roughly 190-kilometre trip on Interstate 25.”

It was last August that Uber bought “Otto”, a San Francisco start-up with many employees who had previously worked on Google’s driverless car technology.

“Though largely symbolic, the beer delivery marks the first commercial partnership for Otto, which was founded less than a year ago. Terms of the deal between Otto and Anheuser-Busch InBev, which owns the Budweiser brand, were not disclosed.”

“For this initial delivery, Otto’s truck departed Anheuser-Busch’s facility in Loveland, Colorado, in the early morning before reaching the interstate in Fort Collins. The truck drove through Denver — alongside regular passenger car traffic — and navigated to its destination in Colorado Springs without incident. Otto said a trained driver was in the cabin of the truck at all times to monitor the vehicle’s progress and take over if necessary. At no point was the driver required to intervene, the company said.”

Uber is now going to be testing Otto driverless commercial delivery technology on different road types and weather challenges. The company perceives this driverless technology as a potential game changer for commercial service delivery, with annual trucking industry revenue at $720 billion in 2015. Top brands such as Budweiser owners Anheuser-Busch deliver a million truck loads of beer every year.

No word yet on the future of the Budweiser Clydesdale horse driving team.

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This article  from Next City shows what happens when you have a very successful walking city like New York City. Those sidewalks get full and people spill onto the streets, which is not a good thing with traffic in the way.

Recently a city councillor  introduced a bill that would require NYC DOT to study 10 locations with heavy pedestrian traffic and come up with a plan to alleviate the overcrowding. New York’s pedestrian fatalities sound staggering-over 85 pedestrians killed out of a population of 8.5 million  and 7,000 injured since the start of the year-or one fatality for every 100,0000 population. (Just a quick note that Vancouver  has a worse record with 11 pedestrian deaths this year and with a population of 603,000 has  had one fatality for every 54,800 population) .

With Vision Zero in New York City Council is talking about a new era where pedestrian (and of course tourism by foot) gets priority. “Streets and sidewalks are 80 percent of public space in the city,” says Caroline Samponaro, deputy director for Transportation Alternatives. “This bill really gets at the importance of really making the most equitable, sane use of that public space. Many of our streets and sidewalks haven’t changed in more than 50 years even as travel habits and patterns have changed. We need to be able to do more than just stay alive while walking and biking,” she explains. “I think this bill calls that out in a good way. It forces the city to keep doing what they’re doing with pedestrian safety, but also push beyond that and think about what we are doing to make really dynamic public spaces.”

So it’s not just about using the street as transport whether you are on bike or foot, but actually using the space as public space to go to and linger in. Widening pedestrian spaces, providing places to sit in, and making a high quality pedestrian environment that everyone wants to use.

There’s still no date for when this bill will be going forward to New York City Council, but you can be sure it will be actively followed by many across North America, looking for groundbreaking ways to enact Vision Zero and enhanced walkability in our cities and spaces.

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There is one group that has been quietly benefitting from Airbnb and it may surprise you-seniors.

Currently about 10 per cent of Airbnb hosts in Canada are seniors, and half of that group say they  are using the income to supplement their pensions. And Airbnb have been collecting those statistics as reported in this Globe and Mail article. Hosts aged 60 and older are Airbnb’s fastest-growing demographic. Senior women make up nearly two-thirds of all senior hosts. They also get the highest ratings from guests.

“Seniors come to Airbnb to earn a bit of money to pay for extra expenses. But it’s not just the increased earnings. It’s the whole component of social inclusion that comes with being an Airbnb host. This is a generation that grew up in an era where travel was about meeting people. It wasn’t about scoring the perfect selfie.”

In this Airbnb report hosts that are 60 years and older receive not only the highest percentage of five-star ratings, but the percentage of five-star reviews increases commensurate with the host age. Over 62 per cent of trips hosted by seniors garner a five-star review. Food for thought on your next Airbnb booking.

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The University of Calgary has published an interesting analysis of some groundbreaking work between the Faculty of Environmental Design (EVDS) and the Public Health, Nursing and Medicine Departments.Knowing that by 2030 four of every five new households will be by seniors, and also that older people will  make up 80 per cent of the housing demand, the university wanted to explore homes that allow seniors requiring monitoring  and those with limited mobility to age in place. These are not for active seniors, but those that require sophisticated design in order to maintain independence and live near families.

The senior architecture design studio incepted a very cool small laneway house that could be constructed in the typical Calgary back yard. The difference between what we in Vancouver call a laneway house? These are smart moveable adaptable spaces designed for older people with slower reflexes and not as good perception, created in consultation with health care professionals, planners and architects. And those spaces are going to be examined and trialled by oldsters. This Global TV video walks you through a smart seniors moveable unit catering to seniors requiring assistance.

While advances in home health technology have the potential to solve some of the housing obstacles facing Canada’s seniors, limited commercial success has been experienced to date, in part because the technology has been developed in isolation from the expertise of architects and planners, the realities of the residential construction industry, and the priorities of the housing market.

 The CBC reports that the 460 square foot living quarters locate on a single family lot would be cheaper than a hospital or long-term care facility, and allow seniors closer access to family. The homes could be self-contained or have an above ground “umbilical cord” that could tap into water, heat, electricity, cable and internet from main home. These units would require a medical note, and would be rented just as a wheelchair or other assistive device is acquired.

The intent is for the units to be leased and to be moved from property to property as they are needed.When the unit is no longer needed it can be moved to another property and used by another senior. The City of Calgary is looking at how to permit a temporary use designation for these units, seeing this as a way to allow infirm seniors to continue to age in place in their own communities.

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