Infrastructure
October 16, 2020

From LA to BC, the Futile Future of Congestion Pricing

 

On Thursday, the Eno Transportation Centre presented another of their webinars, this one with an irresistible title:

The webinar hosts three authors from the UCLA Luskin Centre for History and Policy who summarize the results of a just-released study:

We examined a century of programs to reduce congestion and found that several strategies were pursued over and over again in different eras. Los Angeles repeatedly built new street, highway, and transit capacity, regulated drivers and vehicle traffic flows, increased the use of information about traffic conditions, and controlled land use to influence traffic.

So what were the consequences?  No surprise, but here’s the spoiler anyway:

Congestion has been addressed in every era and in numerous ways, but always has returned.

The report gives the details decade by decade – every possibility from expanded road capacity to land use.  Except one:

Congestion pricing … based on proven theory of human economic behavior promoted for a century, proven in application to sectors of the economy other than transportation, and enabled by recent advances in telecommunications technology. It has a proven track record …

Big picture conclusion: except for a handful of cities in the world, congestion (or mobility) pricing is a policy intervention that has often been proposed but never adopted.  Despite the fact it works.  And may be the only thing that does.

TransLink, the Province, Metro Vancouver – they’ve all studied the issue, most recently in 2018 with the Mobility Pricing Independent Commission.  The conclusion was the same: some form of road pricing makes sense.  And then saw the concept under whatever name rejected by most political leaders literally within a day of its release.

Within a few hours of the Eno webinar, there was another Zoomy opportunity to get a local perspective.  A coalition of transportation interests – Moving in a Livable Region – held an all-candidates forum online with representatives from each party:

Read more »

North Van City does it again.  Whenever the City or Park Board of Vancouver looks like they will consider doing something risky – like allowing liquor to be consumed in parks and public spaces – CNV does it first.  Curbside patios?  CNV did it years ago on Lonsdale.

And now as Vancouver just starts the process for the redesign of Beach/Pacific, CNV will redo Esplanade – a six-lane arterial the divides Lower Lonsdale:

The English Bay masterplan is a different kind of project, at a different scale, and definitely not the first time for Vancouver has redone a vehicle-dominant arterial. (Burrard and Hornby Streets!)    But this a major step in Metro for a small municipality to undertake.  Not without some nervousness.

The Esplanade) corridor works fairly well for transit, goods movement and people in passenger vehicles. It is, however, not an optimal experience for people on foot, travelling by bike or for local businesses.

Cycling groups have been adamant the street’s bicycle infrastructure must be improved from the current painted bike lanes sandwiched between the road and the curbside parking.

Coun. Holly Back signaled she would be very protective of parking out front of businesses.  “That’s a major concern for me, having been in business in lower Lonsdale. I totally understand the safety concerns for cyclists and everyone else but those businesses are going to suffer hugely,” she said, adding she hopes the Lower Lonsdale BIA will be included in the consultations. …

Mayor Linda Buchanan said the city depends on the Esplanade corridor for a lot of things and warned that Complete Street Project will have to balance those many needs.

 

“This is as a trucking route. We can’t take trucking off of this. It’s a major road network for TransLink, and we do need to be able to move goods,” she said. “I just want to make sure that when we are engaging with the public that they are very clear on what are the givens for this road – what can change and what can’t change.

Read more »

 

Do you know what the biggest use of bitumen is? Bitumen is “low-grade crude oil which is composed of complex, heavy hydrocarbons.” It is composed of sand,water and viscous oil, and needs a lot of energy to make it into any kind of useable product. It is what the oil sands  around Fort McMurray are full of.

Once refined, 85 percent of all bitumen product is used as a “binder” in asphalt applied on roadways, airports, and parking lots. Add in gravel and crushed rock to bitumen, heat it up, and you are good for road building.

The City of Vancouver has experimented with “eco” asphalt in the past, being one of the first in Canada to use a plastic based wax to create a “lower-heat” asphalt mix in 2012.

But as Maurits Kuypers in Innovations Origins.com describes the Dutch  have gone one step further in their adaptation of “bio” asphalt~asphalt that uses plant-based lignin to replace bitumen. This of course also fits in with using less oil based products.

Read more »

 

In the “you just can’t make this stuff up” department, three railway workers at Grand Central Station in New York City converted an unused room below the station into a private room for themselves.

The remodelling of the subterranean room was only reported last year, and the workers have furnished it with all the modern conveniences~there was a wall-mounted TV with a streaming device, a sofa, beer fridge, air mattress and microwave.  There was even a pull out bed cleverly hidden in an adjoining work room.

As reported by MSN, Metropolitan Transportation Authority Inspector Carolyn Pokorny understood the fascination with it all:

Many a New Yorker has fantasized about kicking back with a cold beer in a prime piece of Manhattan real estate– especially one this close to good transportation. But few would have the chutzpah to commandeer a secret room beneath Grand Central Terminal & make it their very own man-cave sustained with MTA resources, and maintained at our riders’ expense.”

The three men who allegedly created and used the room have been suspended without pay and denied their involvement, despite addressed packaging  and half filled beer cans with finger prints on the exterior.

Read more »

It was Eric Doherty that started it all in this article by Jennifer Saltman in the Province.  In the summer more than 250 government leaders who are affiliated with the Climate Caucus sent an open letter stating that Covid related economic recovery monies should not be used for expanding highways and airports but fr supporting transit service, walking and biking.

In Canada after oil and gas industries it is transportation that is the largest source of greenhouse gas emsisons. In British Columbia  transportation produces 37 percent of emissions. Mr. Doherty representing the Better Transit Alliance in Victoria sees Covid recovery as an opportunity to reinforce transit which is suffering with lower ridership in this phase of the pandemic.

There are a few changes already evident from the pandemic. The first is that there is a clear adaptation to working at home. Mario Canseco’s work shows that 73 percent of Canadians expect to continue some kind of work at home, while 63 percent think that business travel and meetings are gone,with internet applications like Zoom replacing those trips.

The second change is that there has been an increase in physical activity as one of Mr. Canseco’s latest polls with Research.co indicates.  Two-thirds of people in this province say they are walking more despite living at home, and 26 percent of all people are running or jogging more.

But if more people are working from home, and as in the case of London
England only 25 percent of workers have come back to work in the downtown because of Covid concerns, what shifts can be made?

Read more »

There are two kinds of towns in the Okanagan (and most of BC).

It depends on the provincial roads that connect them.  Some, as in Osoyoos, have a highway that divides the centre-right through its heart.


Very often the highway, like Crowsnest, is literally Main Street – a ‘stroad’ that has looked essentially the same for more than half a century: broad, muscular, low-slung and unambiguous.  Mid-century motordom, which even today, despite attempts to make them more friendly for people not in cars (which is the way most of them got there), are still car dominant.

Read more »

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.

Read more »

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?

Read more »

 

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.

Read more »