Motordom
July 10, 2019

Crash Intersections Finally Get a 21st Century Makeover with “Speed-On-Green” Cameras

 

While we rely on police forces to ensure the security and safety of citizens, we don’t think about what it like for police to stop or enforce speed limits on highways. Think of it~those police officers  are vulnerable road users without the protection of a vehicular steel cage flagging vehicles to pull over. Why are we using such a 19th century enforcement to maintaining speed limits and enhancing safety on our roads?

In June I wrote about the man with numbers, pollster Mario Canseco’s  findings that 58% of British Columbians say they would “definitely” or “probably” like to see the speed limit reduced to 30 km/h on all residential streets in their own municipality, while keeping the speed limit on arterial and collector roads at 50 km/h.”  That indicated that in our cities and towns we are willing to look at reduced speeds to enhance livability and quality of life in those places, as well as dramatically increase the survivability of pedestrians and cyclists involved in crashes. But how about speeding at intersections and major roads in British Columbia?

Last summer Mario Canseco’s Research Co. conducted another poll that showed that 70% of  people in British Columbia were  supportive of the use of a camera system  to enforce  speed limits in this province, and make intersections safer.

In the online survey of a representative sample of British Columbians, seven-in-ten residents (70%) approve of the use of speed-on-green cameras, or red light cameras that also capture vehicles that are speeding through intersections. Automated speed enforcement works by using cameras or sensors to pick up a vehicle speeding. A ticket is then issued to the owner of the vehicle. Driver’s license points are not issued as the driver of the vehicle cannot be identified.

Mario’s latest article in Business in Vancouver discusses the findings of the provincial government when it studied speed and crash statistics from 140 intersections which have red light cameras. What the government found is troubling~”The findings revealed that, during the course of an average week, 201 cars drive at least 30 km/h over the advertised speed limit.”

The provincial government is converting 35 existing  red light cameras to “speed-on-green” equipment to photograph vehicles at speed through intersections.While there are two cameras in Langley, three in Burnaby and seven in Surrey, there will be twelve in Vancouver.

The government’s approach is similar to that adopted by the City of Delta.

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Gary Mason in the Globe and Mail in an article entitled “It’s absolutely heartbreaking to see such stupidity about Vancouver’s affordable rental housing market”  weighs in on the City of Vancouver’s Council majority nixing a planned 21 rental unit project at 4575 Granville Street, which would have abutted an eight bed hospice. This rental project was under the auspices of the City’s Affordable Housing Choices Interim Rezoning (AHC) policy. As it is a rezoning, it requires the associated public hearing to garner residents’ comments, as well as Council’s approval.

Council voted 7-4 to reject the rental housing proposal, and the voting did not go along party lines. There was a litany of reasons for this choice, including items like developer profit margin and parking capacity that could have been been negotiated with the Directors of Engineering and Planning.

 Mason observes “those who didn’t want to see a rental project go up in this neighbourhood used the hospice as a pretext, saying construction would have been too disruptive for those using the facility.”

Mason also states “Rental townhomes are precisely what the city needs. There are an increasing number of small, rental apartments, but not anywhere near enough units for people with families. That’s exactly the need this project would have filled, yet council killed it in a moment of fantastic short-sightedness. (One councillor thought the underground parking lot being proposed was too big. Seriously).”

Price Tags publisher and former City Councillor Gordon Price was blunt on the turning down of this rental project by local residents who used the hospice as a fulcrum for defeat. Gordon in his Price Tags post blasts that this City Council indicated: 

No matter what we as councillors say, no matter what policies we pass, no matter what support you get from staff, no matter how great the need we acknowledge, none of that really matters.  If enough of the residents complain, we will protect the status quo.”

I have a unique perspective on hospice care. In the 1980’s I was involved in the confidential acquisition of property for an AIDS hospice on Granville Street.

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A few decades back a trip to Europe was a more dangerous experience if you were driving on the roads, biking or walking in European cities. But as Joe Cortright who contributes to Strong Towns and runs the City Observatory notes that paradigm has changed. Meanwhile the pedestrian fatality rate on roads in the United States has risen by 50 percent in just one decade, from 4,109 dying in 2009  to 6,227 dying in 2018.

While Europeans have high rates of vehicle ownership, pedestrian fatality rates are lower, declining 36 percent in the last eight years from 8,342 deaths to 5,320.

Cortright asks~if more people walk in Europe than the United States, why aren’t fatality rates the same or more for pedestrians?

As Cortwright observes: “It’s worth noting that this trend is occurring even though walking is far more common in Europe, streets are generally narrower, and in older cities, there aren’t sidewalks, but pedestrians share the roadway with cars. Despite these factors, Europe now has a lower pedestrian death toll per capita than the U.S.”

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While the City of Vancouver dithers about reducing speeds to 30 km/h in their neighbourhoods, the City of Montreal just gets it done, and they are reducing speed on their arterial roads too. Montreal is not just doing lip service to Vision Zero, the concept that no serious injuries or deaths should result on city roads. They identified reducing speed limits as essential, especially where pedestrians and cyclists used the street.

In Vancouver we don’t talk about Vision Zero officially, as the previous Vision controlled council did not like the term for their own political reasons. It’s time  for this Council to take control and bring the right term  back.

It has been proven internationally that the one way to save lives on roads is to lower speed limits. That increases the survivability of a crash for a pedestrian and cyclist, and also allows for more reaction time for the driver. It is also more sustainable to travel at slower speeds, and allows the streets to function in a sociable way for residents walking and cycling, instead of just facilitating fast vehicular traffic.

As the CBC reports some of Montreal’s  boroughs have already adopted speed limits of 30 km/h in neighbourhoods and 40 km/h on arterial roads. Listen to the messaging from the Mayor of Montreal, who says that not only is it important to methodically implement slower speed limits for enhanced street use and livability, but that those limits need to be lowered quickly. They are serious about reducing injuries and saving lives.

Montreal’s Vision Zero plan is direct and to the point. Besides reducing speeds, they are banning heavy trucks from some of the street network, improving safety around schools, and improving crosswalk visibility. I have already written about the City of London banning certain trucks and requiring sideguards on others. London realized that one kind of truck was in three years responsible for 70 percent of that city’s cycling deaths. Those trucks  are now completely banned from the inner core of London.

The City of Montreal has buy-in from the  public health department, Quebec’s automobile insurance board and both the Federal and Provincial Ministries of Transport. Montreal has also led a fulsome public process engaging with citizens and over thirty different groups, including the trucking industry.

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I’ve heard this twice from people that are experts in their fields, and now the BBC News writer Matt McGrath is reporting  on a new study published in  Science that recommends planting trees~billions of trees~to counter global warming.

Trees have a natural ability to capture carbon dioxide on a remarkable scale, and estimates suggest that there is a capacity the size of the United States that could be reforested around the world. Of course while tree planting may be an effective strategy it is still critical to arrest fossil fuel emissions. Estimates in the research study suggest trees can neutralize two-thirds of all carbon burden. That means that planting 900 million hectares of trees would result in an additional storage of 205 billion tons of carbon.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said that if the world wanted to limit the rise to 1.5C by 2050, an extra 1bn hectares (2.4bn acres) of trees would be needed. The problem has been that accurate estimates of just how many trees the world can support have been hard to come by.This new report aims to show not just how many trees can be grown, but where they could be planted and how much of an impact they would have on carbon emissions.

Scientists from ETH-Zurich used Google Earth mapping software to create a predictive map exploring where new tree canopy could be located. Excluding farms and cities, they estimate that globally nearly 1 billion hectares of tree cover could be added. And those trees once matured “could pull down around 200 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide, some two-thirds of extra carbon from human activities put into the atmosphere since the industrial revolution.”

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I have written before about the work of Stanley Woodvine who writes for the Georgia Straight. Mr.  Woodvine is a homeless writer as well as a graphic artist, and brings a unique perspective to the city.  I wrote about his take of people carrying large sandwich boards in the city, and the scramble for retail positions in a shifting storefront market.

Stanley Woodvine also likes to dumpster dive, and his combination of interest in city events and looking for that elusive item hit paydirt. And his latest find is truly  the stuff of legends~Stanley’s  “pastimes of binning and blogging unexpectedly came together on Friday (June 28) when I pulled actual blueprints for a Granville Street Skytrain station out of a cardboard Dumpster in the 1400 block of West Broadway.”

Unbelievably a set of blueprints for the proposed new Granville Street station were dated May 24, 2019, and stamped by  architectural firm Musson Cattell Mackey Partnership (MCM) and building contractor PCI Developments. The plan showed that the new Broadway subway’s Granville street station will be on the northeast corner of West Broadway and Granville Street where the existing Royal Bank building is at 1489 Broadway.

The drawings themselves detail a five story mixed use building above ground with a curious six floors of parking for 332 vehicles below ground, completely out of keeping with the density of the project.  Mr. Woodvine surmises that the five stories being built above ground may merely be a platform or podium for a tower that will require this parking capacity as part of their development permit. The drawings indicate the location of the “future residential elevator” which confirms Mr. Woodvine’s hunch. He also notes that the future tower may be 40 stories based upon the parking capacity noting that the new 40-storey condo tower at 1335 Howe includes 430 vehicle stalls.

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Do you know which state sells the most automobiles? It is California, and their automobile market of two million annual sales of vehicles  is roughly the same as Canada’s.  California also leads in having ten per cent of all vehicles already electric powered.

As the New York Times reports the size of that state’s vehicular market and the potential for Canada to adopt California’s strict car emission standards may be sufficient to roll back the proposed lower emission standards.

The current President of the United States intends to roll back current emission standards which required carmakers to develop vehicles with an average of 54.5 miles per gallon by the year 2025. A plan to make that standard only 37 miles per gallon would dramatically increase climate change causing greenhouse gases.

In a move described by a political professor as showing that the current Canadian Prime Minister “doesn’t want to appear to be Trump’s poodle”  

Justin Trudeau’s government is signing a deal with California to adopt that state’s more stringent vehicular polluting standards. That means that the market for cars in Canada will need to adhere with the higher standards already in place in California. This may be enough to sway automobile makers to maintain the higher standard, with one-third of American states standing behind it as well as Canada.

Canada has traditionally adopted the standards proposed by the American government instead of independently adopting standards proposed by a state. While the move to an adopted state standard of higher emission control could pressure manufacturers to create solely less polluting vehicles, there is also the chance that a two market system would be created. That would be a market where better performing vehicles are sold in Canada and in thirteen states, with the rest of the states going for more pollution emitting vehicles.

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The Sheraton Landmark’s Big Opening forty-five years ago.

Notice the photo that showed the direction that the top floor restaurant rotated. As Gordon says of its concrete pile demise ~”with its typical brutalist raw concrete, is is now looking more like sculptural art than architecture – and for scale, massing and contrast, maybe never looked better”.

 

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The naysayers are thinning out now that mounting evidence points to drastic changes in climatic patterns, and the term “climate refugee”  is accepted in Wikipedia referring to people forced to move “due to sudden or gradual alterations in the natural environment related to at least one of three impacts of climate change: sea-level rise, extreme weather events, and drought and water scarcity.”

Vancouver City Council has declared a climate emergency. And Christopher Flavelle in the New York Times asks an important question~as sea levels rise, which coastal  cities will be saved and which will be sacrificed? The sea rise that was expected to take decades may be occuring in a few short years, meaning that governmental policy and budgets must adjust to deal with billions of dollars of basic storm-surge protection and sea walls. Flavelle estimates that if all coastal cities with more than 25,000 citizens were to be protected, $42 billion dollars would be required.

“Expanding the list to include communities smaller than 25,000 people would increase that cost to more than $400 billion.

Noting that the next piece of “climate denial” is ignoring the costs of flooding remediation, the Centre for Climate Integrity wants oil and gas industries to pony up for some of the costs. And the costs are limited by research to sea walls. The estimates to move residents away from flooding areas, redesigning storm, sanitary and drinking water infrastructure has not yet been factored in.

Already the Mayor of New York City has asked the Federal government to pay a $10 Billion dollar bill to protect part of Lower Manhattan from sea rise. And the levee system in New Orleans upgraded for $14 Billion dollars after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 is already sinking, and may be redundant in as little as four years.

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This week the Province of British Columbia released their new Active Transportation Design Guide with the intent of creating consistent design for active transportation facilities across the Province. The Guide also provides expectations in  design guidance for any applications for grant programs to build active transportation infrastructure.

This Guide aims to double active transportation trips and also intends to adopt “Vision Zero” which has been implemented in Europe successfully to minimize death or serious injury related to vehicular crashes. The British Columbia Motor Vehicle Act is also going to be revamped to encompass ALL the different users of the roads, and also acknowledge the importance of active transportation. This will include a retooling of current driver education to include the legal rights of all road users.

The day to day use of “all human powered modes of transportation, focusing primarily on walking, cycling and rolling”  is finally going to be addressed.  This is an important step in that the new guide embraces novel ways of moving including segways, e-scooters, electric biycles and hoverboards. It is also looking at snow based activities like skiing and skating and water based like kayaking and canoeing as well as horseback riding.

The guide emphasizes holistic connections, so that people can walk or bike and easily change modes to bus, train or ferry transportation.

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