Climate Change
September 25, 2020

Does more WAH mean less VMT

Translation: Will the increase in people working at home mean we’ll drive less?

Answer: Apparently not.

Here’s a summary from the terrifically named Center for Advanced Hindsight:

While there may be less commuting, there will be more local trips for shopping and, no doubt, Zoom breaks.

There’s another big implication that’s not mentioned: possibly less congestion during the traditional drive times, but heavier traffic throughout the day.  More accidents too, I’d bet.  And more conflict in how we allocate or reapportion road space.  (In other words, bike lane wars.)

The real-time experiment as a consequence of the pandemic in how we manage our transportation network shouldn’t be wasted.  Minimally we should be measuring and reporting on the day-to-day changes that are occurring out there (as discussed here in “How do we start limiting congestion NOW?“)  and then trying out different options so we don’t lose the gains we’ve made even as we respond to the ‘climate emergency’.

(Of course, ‘climate emergency’ is not a concern of the Park Board apparently, which showed how easy it is to succumb to the desire to go back to ‘just the way it was.’   Even though we never can and never should.)

 

 

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PANDEMONIUM: Pandemics and Long-range Planning
by SFU Urban Studies Program

How is the COVID-19 pandemic affecting the basic tenets of city planning and the direction of longer-term planning processes currently underway?

All our core principles about successful urban places –density, mixed-use, eyes on the street, reliance on public transit and non-motorized transport, and active public spaces – have been called into question by the pandemic. At the same time, new rules about cities, space, work, travel and social life have been imposed as emergency measures, without time to consider their long-term implications. In this session, we will learn about how urban and regional planning efforts underway before the pandemic will be influenced by it, what, if any, concepts need a radical rethink, and what new lessons will be incorporated.

Speakers:
Kennedy Stewart, Mayor of Vancouver
Reconstructing Our City
Jennifer Keesmaat, founder, The Keesmaat Group and Sponsor of the 2020 Declaration for Resilience in Canadian Cities
The New Imperative for Resilience in Canadian Cities
Heather McNell, general manager, Regional Planning and Housing Services, Metro Vancouver
The Vancouver Region in 2050: Implications of COVID-19
Yunji Kim, assistant professor, Graduate School of Public Administration, Seoul National University
The Pandemic and the Impatient Nation: How Korea Responded to COVID-19
Am Johal, director of SFU Vancity Office of Community Engagement
Whose City is it Anyway?
Moderator: Ken Cameron, adjunct professor, SFU Urban Studies
Time for questions and conversation will follow the panel.
This event has been made possible by the generous support of SFU Public Square and financially supported by the Initiative in Urban Sustainable Development.
Technology Requirements
This event has a participatory aspect. To engage fully you will need:
A computer or smartphone
A microphone
Speakers or headphones
Please note: a link to join the webinar will be sent to registrants on the morning of September 30.

Date: Wednesday September 30

Time: 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. Pacific Time

You can find out more information about the event here.

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The Park Board has justified the removal of the bike lane in Stanley Park because “The data tells us we can return the park to its conventional traffic patterns.”  Now the question is whether the Beach Avenue bikeway will be removed for the same reason: winter is coming, so we’ll go back to the conventional pattern.

What our leaders do will tell us what kind of city we aspire to be.  Imagine the slogan: “Vancouver, the Conventional City.”  

Ian Austen who writes the Canada Letter for New York Times sees another kind of opportunity:

 

By late spring, it was becoming nearly impossible to buy a bike anywhere in the world. That was a reflection both of the unexpected surge in demand and a supply chain that was disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic. Most bikes, aside from high-end, customized offerings, are churned out by a small number of companies based in Taiwan that have extensive operations in China. My colleague Raymond Zhong recently profiled the biggest of those companies, the aptly named Giant, and its chairwoman, Bonnie Tu. (Article here.)

In Ottawa, Canada’s bicycle boom has exhibited itself in an unusual way. The morning and afternoon bicycle rush hour didn’t return. But when I’m out doing errands by bike, it’s now often a struggle to find a parking space outside stores. And on weekends, when I’m on rides measured in hours, it’s increasingly common to see people on very inexpensive bicycles, who are not wearing fancy cycling clothes, cycling well outside the city.

Many cities have responded. Cars have been temporarily barred from some lanes or entire roads in Vancouver, Winnipeg, Ottawa, Montreal and elsewhere. In addition to closing streets, Halifax has moved to slow motor traffic on some streets and limit vehicles to residents.

The question now is, will this enthusiasm for cycling survive winter and the post-pandemic period?

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Items in the Inbox from Daily Scot:

Have you seen the Keefer Yard in Chinatown?   My favourite outdoor Covid bar in the city.

Price Tags: Now that pop-up patios have been approved year-round in cities like North Van and Vancouver, we can expect a lot of innovation to keep us protected, happy and safe through the winter, not to mention a host of decorative responses in the spring.  Here’s an example from Coal Harbour:

 

Scot: What if we use the pandemic to convert some of the enclosed parking garages on Granville Island to beer gardens with plenty of space to social distance?

The structures would have a unique industrial chicness, drawing people from all over (which Granville Island needs, particularly in the winter).  And there is an immediate anchor available with Granville Island Brewing next door.  Other Vancouver breweries could take turns catering the spaces; food trucks could be part of the scene; nibbles could be provided by the Islands many food vendors.

Check out how other cities have created urban beer gardens:

Frankford Hall, Philadelphia

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A blunt announcement from the Park Board:

This is what the Park Board is essentially saying to cyclists who still use Park Drive:

“The data tells us we can return the park to its conventional traffic patterns” – and we’re all about sticking with the conventional.  So we’re throwing you back in with the vehicles now, where you can fight it out for the same space.  But be careful, motorists may now see you in the way and assume you should be back on the seawall – where you can fight it out with pedestrians given the inadequate space and your vastly increased numbers (which we assume will drop down to the, um, conventional).

You really shouldn’t be surprised, given that we have repeatedly demonstrated in Kits and Jericho Parks that we don’t intend to find reasonable accommodation, and will relegate you to dirt paths and parking lots, regardless of conflicts and accidents.  And even though we have plans and budgets for improved facilities for cycling in Stanley Park, we haven’t spent it and don’t have immediate plans to do so.

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A challenge question for PT readers:

How should we start to limit congestion before it becomes unacceptable?

There’s a real-life experiment unfolding on our streets – one that will fundamentally affect our future – discussed here in “Our Real World Experiment in Traffic Congestion. “

As people switch from transit to cars, it won’t take much to fill up available road space.  It may only take a 10-15 percent to reach a level of inefficiency and frustration where we reverse the gains we’ve made in this region, notably with transit, in the last half century.   Without response, something has to break, even if we don’t yet know what that level is.  Waiting until we get to a breaking point seems kinda stupid knowing how much more difficult it is to reverse something if instead we can limit it before it happens.

Knowing we will have to slow, stop and reverse a move to post-Covid motordom worse than pre-March, what steps should we take now?

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Sometimes change happens when you least expect it~as Natalie Obiko Pearson  and Divya Balji write in the Vancouver Sun Jimmy Pattison who built a multi-billion dollar  “empire from a single, loss-making Vancouver car dealership” acquired in 1961 has done the impossible.

Looking at how to invest and protect money in the post-Covid world, this billionaire is now focussing on the environment. As Mr. Pattison stated “We have got to focus on the environment, the environment, the environment. Anything that is negative, in my opinion, to do with the environment is going out of business sooner or later.”

To back that claim, Mr. Pattison took a hydrogen fuelled car around southwestern British Columbia on a weekend and declared that he was surprised at the experience.
“All I’ve driven is engines all my life and so when you get something that’s this smooth and fast and goes like a dart and quiet. Boy, I never drove anything nicer.”

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A report from Global News reporter Nadia Stewart, with a headline that distorts the story:

The protest had three dozen people – surely worth a qualified ‘some’ when the headline starts “Vancouverites upset.”  But that quibble doesn’t matter when judged against the absence of data and other points of view (like, say, comments from passing cyclists).  Importantly, the video story was supplemented in the online print version, where reporter Simon Little provided important information:

Vancouver Park Board manager Dave Hutch says about 93 per cent of Stanley Park Drive is open to vehicles, and that about 70 per cent of parking in the park remains open.

He said after talks with the city’s disability advisory committee, the board also added 10 new handicapped parking spaces.

“We’re seeing that the park and parking is nowhere near capacity this year. The busiest day was in mid August, we had 63 per cent capacity. We would expect about 90 per cent in August,” he told Global News.

Still, impact-wise, the protesters had the visuals and screen time.  There have been demanding that Park Drive be restored to two lanes for cars and have all the parking returned – in other words, back to the standards of mid-century Motordom.  That’s what we did in the post-war decades, and the roads of Stanley Park were designed accordingly: a transportation system where cars are given most of the space, there are no separated bike lanes (cars and bikes fight it out for priority), parking is provided in excess, and the seawall has to accommodate the crowding of all active transport users.

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We have a culture that makes excuses about the fact we don’t require a public basic service for a basic human need. Instead of providing public washrooms it has defaulted to businesses, restaurants and department stores to provide public washroom facilities.

It was Stanley Woodvine, The Georgia Straight  writer who wrote on his twitter account how dire the Covid pandemic was on the homeless throughout the city. Without libraries and community centres open to use washroom facilities, and with park washrooms closed, there are no options. Mr. Woodvine recalled what happened in San Diego between 2016 and 2018 when a Hepatitis A outbreak occurred. The outbreak was directly linked to the lack of public washroom and hand washing facilities, and sadly San Diego had been told by two grand juries investigating municipal government to install more washrooms downtown. The reason San Diego did not do it? Financial.

But with 444 cases of hepatitis and  the unwanted international attention,  the city installed new washrooms and initiated more street cleaning, bringing downtown San Diego’s public washroom total to 21. No matter what the cost, ensuring every citizen has access to a washroom is basic human dignity, and a tenet of public health.

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For anyone that has loved ones or friends in long term care facilities in British Columbia the pandemic has been brutal. Often family members provided much of the basic care, and also provided social and mental wellness support to people in these facilities.

And then came the Covid pandemic.

Jen St. Denis wrote in July about the management of the Veterans Memorial Manor at 310 Alexander Street which was not allowing visitors to come into the facility. This facility houses 133 vulnerable seniors and veterans who did not have much external  interaction but management felt  the “no visitors”policy was important to protect vulnerable residents during the Covid pandemic. Of course this policy also impacted the physical and mental health of some residents who relied on visitors for social stimulation and a way to spend their day.

I have previously written about Long Term Care for seniors which appeals to the “Greatest Generation” and the”Silent Generation” cohort (those born 1910-1924 and 1925-1945.) Those two generations considered having restaurant style prepared meals in central dining rooms, structured and organized activities, and personal service in room cleaning and management a luxury.

Of course no one imagined that a pandemic would force the closure of these long term care facilities in such a way that many residents became prisoners and confined to their facilities or to their rooms during the pandemic.

In June in British Columbia long term care facilities were asked to submit plans to the Province to allow one visitor at a time per resident for one half hour behind plexiglass or outdoors. Each facility has a different management plan, and family members cannot touch or assist the resident in any way.

Take a look at what Ontario has just unveiled.

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