October 19, 2016

Mexican Uber Advertising in the Annoying Drone Category


In the movie classic Back to the Future II Marty McFly encounters a drone walking a dog down the street.  Twenty seven years later the MIT Technology Review  reports that drivers stuck in traffic in Mexico City were subjected to a feast of drones holding signage with Uber sponsored messaging aimed at the single driver on the road. Messages included: “Driving by yourself?” some scolded in Spanish. “This is why you can never see the volcanoes”—a reference to the smog that often hovers over the mega-city and obscures two nearby peaks.


 As Bloomberg points out, Uber already does more business in Mexico City than any other city it operates in, and Brazil is its third-largest market after the U.S. and India. Uber sees Latin American countries as generally easier targets for expansion than either of its top two markets.

The use of drones for advertising services also points out the need for legislation to regulate what must be a very pesky annoyance when  stuck in Mexico City traffic.

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Business in Vancouver‘s Glen Korstrom  reports that Tsawwassen Mills has no intent to change the way the traffic circulates in the mega mall parking lot to alleviate the huge jams of idling cars trying to access and exit the 180 store behemoth  on Class 1 farmland. With only three exits servicing 6,000 parking spaces, things can get a little dicey. And a little heated.
The first opening weekend traffic flag people  hired by the mall as well as the Delta police and RCMP worked to make traffic flow. However that did not stop anxious car idlers from driving their SUVs’ over landscaping to escape the curvilinear feeder streets, nor did it stop shoppers from parking along Highway 17 and in an adjacent farmer’s field. Coupled with the rain, and some hot tempers  it was like watching an outdoors monster truck rally.

Approximately 284,000 shoppers jammed B.C.’s newest mall in the six days following Tsawwassen Mills’ October 5 launch and many of them complained about being stuck in parking lot gridlock that was so bad that it took up to four hours to leave the facility.

“To prevent [gridlock] from happening again, we’ve adapted some of the learnings to the traffic control people we have in place for the busier times,” the mall’s general manager Mark Fenwick told Business in Vancouver October 13.

The Bunt  and Associates Transportation Planning and Engineering plan for Ivanhoe Cambridge will not be amended. The mall manager states “What we’re doing is providing some educational material for guests to better show guests how they would exit the parking lot .It’s not as simple as having one exit on each side of the property. As people learn the site, it will flow a lot better, I’m sure.”

No mention of how to get there by  transit or how to access the site safely from nearby Tsawwassen by foot. Motordom is alive and well on this farmland floodplain location.

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The New York Times reports on a new phenomenon-the seniors are leading the way in retirement by showing us how we SHOULD be living-in walkable communities.

While people look for a comfortable house that works for families when they are younger,  “aging in place” is not necessarily the right term for older folks-“aging in community” appears more apt. This is especially important as the baby boom goes into their senior years, and will need access to shops and services, and may not necessarily be able to use a car.

In the age of the Fitbit and a growing cohort of active, engaged retirees eager to take their daily 10,000 steps, retirement communities have been slow to change. Eighty percent of retirees still live in car-dependent suburbs and rural areas, according to a Brookings Institution study.

Retirement communities are normally in two types: isolated gated communities, or large homes on golf courses, such as Tsawwassen Springs. The challenge is both of these types of developments are car dependent, and not great for walking, with curvilinear streets and dead ends. There is a new shift-getting out and walking to shops and services. Among senior housing projects, examples include Waterstone at Wellesley along the Charles River in the Boston area and The Lofts at McKinley in downtown Phoenix. 

Walkability, though, is much more than a hip marketing pitch. It’s linked to better health, social engagement and higher property values. Research shows that walkable mixed-use communities can reduce disabilities for the aging, enhance social contacts and creates community. The challenge is building senior friendly mixed use developments within existing cities, as mainstream retirement developers had traditionally favored suburban or exurban sites that involve sprawling “greenfield” building on relatively cheap farmland. The new approach, by contrast, is for dense, urban or town-centered sites that are accessible for services and socially vibrant.

Changes that will be needed to accommodate seniors are rezoning mixed use developments and infrastructure changes such as wider sidewalks, bike lanes, more public transportation options and longer pedestrian signal walk times. That way instead of moving to remote locations away from family and familiar services, Grandma and Grandpa can stay where they have always been and be part of the whole community.

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This article from Business Insider shows what these two representatives of disruptive technologies are doing to the price of a New York City “medallion” or taxi license.

In 2014, a medallion was listed for sale for 1.4 million dollars. Early this month, a medallion — basically the right to operate a yellow cab in New York — was listed for $250,000 on

Medallions are tightly regulated, and you cannot operate a taxi in New York without one. They’re losing value with the cab business taking a hit amid the rise of rideshare apps like Uber and Lyft. 

Notably, although taxis are still beating Uber and Lyft in New York City, the share of trips shrank to 65% in April 2016 from 84% in April 2015, according to charts shared by Morgan Stanley analysts in July.

As a percentage of dispatched trips, conventional taxis have dropped by 9 per cent, while growth of dispatched trips are in the triple digits for Uber and Lyft. Will Uber and Lyft have the same impact in the Metro Vancouver market?

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Columnist Pete McMartin  went to the Tsawwassen Mills mega mall on opening day October 5 stating “The mall is alarmingly big, and its construction on what used to be prime farm land between Ladner and Tsawwassen was greeted by both loathing and eager anticipation by locals — of which I am one. Some saw it as a welcome addition to the retail landscape, which was limited, or an abomination that would forever destroy the cozy feel of their communities.”

He also stated that his wife refused to shop there, but may have been outnumbered by the consumers eager to experience the mall. The Province reports that 284,000 people went to the mall in the first six days, including 201,000 from October 5 to October 8.

Vancouver Sun columnist Douglas Todd did a double take on a “Waste of Farmland” billboard protesting the building of the Site C Dam located on Tsawwassen First Nations land. As Todd notes, “The billboard is not questioning, however, how the giant Tsawwassen Mills shopping mall has just been built on more than 1,000 acres of  adjacent farmland owned by the Tsawwassen band. The billboard is instead questioning why the B.C. government is building its Site C dam on farmland in the far-away Peace River district.”

Todd summarizes that as part of the 2007 Tsawwassen First Nation Treaty with the B.C. government and others “ added 1,072 acres of the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) to the Tsawwassen band’s land, on which the mall, one of Canada’s biggest, has been built. The 180-store mall was constructed on Tsawwassen First Nations land by Ivanhoe Cambridge, a multi-national conglomerate based in Quebec. Members of the Tsawwassen First Nations expect the deal to be an economic boon for them. It’s always interesting how ecological values are tested when money is involved.”

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 Some municipal transportation staff  believe that lower speed limits do not in fact slow vehicles, making it safer for pedestrians and cyclists to also share the street. In Edmonton new lower speed signage around schools HAS slowed traffic.
As reported in the Edmonton Metro News last Friday in areas around schools subject to new  30 km an hour zones, there has been a marked decrease in car accidents with pedestrians and cyclists. There is also some handy information about stopping distances on the City’s website, as well as some very sobering statistics:

  • Children aged 5 to 14 years are at the greatest risk for pedestrian-related deaths
  • Children aged 10 to 14 years have the highest incidence of pedestrian-related injuries 
  • The most common action that results in injury or death of a child is crossing at an intersection

In Edmonton twelve school zones had new pedestrian crossing lights, freshly painted sidewalks, reader boards indicating drivers’ speed, and reflective stop sign poles implemented.

Collisions causing injuries to cyclists and pedestrians fell by more than 70 per cent from an average of seven before the change was implemented in 2014 to just two during the school year in 2015.

This is all part of Edmonton’s Vision Zero strategy to stop road deaths and injuries within the city. Some residents are now asking for the 30 km/h to be extended throughout the neighbourhoods.

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So far this year 11 pedestrians have died on Vancouver streets, the latest being a senior who was struck by a car at Yew Street  and 49th Avenue a few days ago. That is more than one citizen a month that is being killed, and the majority of those deaths are senior Vancouverites.  If it was a disease and  not cars killing residents, we would be calling this an epidemic.
In 2012 seniors (those folks that are over 65 years of age) were only 13.2 per cent of the population. Forty per cent of  pedestrian fatalities that year were seniors.
Two mindful and very involved women in the west side of Vancouver decided to do something about this. Lynn Shepherd and Sabina Harpe come from professional librarian and social work backgrounds and were deeply concerned with the fact that no one is looking at seniors’ pedestrian safety in Vancouver winters.  Even the City of Vancouver gives short shrift to pedestrian issues, with no dedicated staff resourcing,  lumping those issues with cyclists in a volunteer advisory committee to Council.
Pedestrians issues are very different, and it is also the disenfranchised that do a lot of walking-those too young , too  infirm, too old and/or too poor to choose other alternatives. They are truly the voiceless, and no matter how well meaning  any volunteer advisory committee is, the importance  of walking mobility deserves to be championed and staffed separately and aggressively at city hall.

Lynn and Sabina have done a lot of the work that the City of Vancouver should have done-they met with experts in the field, spoke to seniors groups and those with mobility challenges, and decided to focus on a project to encourage seniors to walk prudently and safely in winter, the time where most seniors are the most vulnerable to being hit by cars. They formed a committee through the Westside Seniors Hub at Kits House that included representatives from BEST, the Dunbar Residents Association/SFU, the Jewish Family Agency, Walk Metro Vancouver, Kits Community Centre, Brock House Society, ICBC and the Vancouver Police Department. They did their research and found that Sweden has had a three-fold reduction in vehicle and pedestrian fatalities and injuries since the adoption of a Vision Zero campaign in 1997. Besides encouraging better driver behaviour and pedestrian compliance to using intersections and crosswalks, visibility was key.
Vancouver’s low-light winters and rainy days mean that walkers need to be visible-the use of reflective items similar to those used in Finland could bring traffic accident and deaths down. While countries like Finland mandate that children must wear reflective items on their clothes, there is nothing like that in North America. By creating the “Walk and Be Seen Project” seniors that are walking in winter will be asked to walk with and trial various reflective items, including the reflective safety sash and snap on reflective bracelets. They are creating a pilot  project for 150 walking seniors on how to increase safety and visibility in winter by the use of reflective items. Their objectives are to encourage safe walking in low-light, complement ICBC and Vancouver Police Department safety campaigns, gather feedback, and use the date for further initiatives. And I completely expect those seniors to model behaviour and lead the way in us all wearing reflective items while walking  in our low light and potentially dangerous winter street environments, and start the dialogue on championing other pedestrian initiatives-road design, speed, and driver behaviour.
Kudos must be given to these two extraordinary women who are championing vulnerable seniors’ walkability and safety. You can find out more about this project at the Kitsilano Autumn Fair at the Kitsilano Neighbourhood House Open House from 10:00 a.m.  to 3:00 p.m. on Saturday October 22nd, or by emailing

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In the “why didn’t I think of that” department, The St. Louis Dispatch reports on an innovative idea-they are planning to turn a closed school into affordable housing for the system’s teachers.

“the Wilkinson School, closed in 2008 after 80 years of use, has been purchased with the intention of transforming it into affordable housing for teachers to help “attract and retain good teachers that might otherwise leave for better paying jobs in the county,” said SLPS Real Estate Director Walker Gaffney.

Former schools have been turned into apartments elsewhere in the city, but this is the first time St. Louis has explicitly aimed to house teachers affordably there. According to a report by the National Association of Realtors, St. Louis is one of a number of metro areas where rents outpaced income growth for adults aged 25 to 44 between 2009 and 2014. That’s put pressure on new public school teachers especially, whose salaries are on the low end for college-educated professionals.

The intent is to retain quality teachers in St. Louis and protect their rent increases as well. The article also describes that earlier this year, San Francisco’s lawmakers unanimously passed an ordinance that would make teachers nearly immune to no-fault evictions. Last month, after landlords sued, a judge threw it out. “The court is cognizant of the desire to prevent disruption of the educational process,” he wrote in his decision. “[But] that concern must be addressed some other way.”

Certainly converting unused schools into affordable accommodation for teachers is a way to retain good teachers and reuse closed schools. It’s a solution worth a ponder.

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Douglas Massey, the son of George Massey the MLA that championed the design and development of the Massey Tunnel which opened in 1959 has weighed in to the Delta Optimist about the proposed Massey Bridge replacement. Massey responds to comments that the tunnel is not ecologically prudent, warranting its removal.

“The George Massey Tunnel was built below the riverbed and does not interfere in the migration of salmon or other fish species, nor does it interfere in the flight path of birds. Should we not be more concerned about the environmental effects of a high level bridge, hundreds of feet in the air, combined with the new overhead high voltage transmission lines (that presently go under the river bed in the tunnel)? Would this not result in more bird kill?

Or with the proposal to remove the George Massey Tunnel and to dredge the riverbed deeper to make the Fraser Surrey Docks a viable operation at taxpayers’ expense? What effect will this increased depth have on migrating salmon or sturgeon who live in the riverbed? What effect would the increased number of ships navigating the river and the increased industrialization have on the foreshores and existing dikes and the habitat on the wetland marshes and would recreational kayaking still be viable?”

While Douglas Massey advocates for the right fit for the environment, another letter writer to the Optimist worries about the tolled bridge as being expensive for lower wage workers, and wonders if the tunnel could continue in operation as an HOV/transit-dedicated route “for those of us who are required to travel to Vancouver every day”.

 If only.

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