Design & Development
March 19, 2021

Master Class: Green and Livable Cities

Anthony Perl at SFU passes along (with a recommendation) this online course on how cities can become more green and livable places by reducing their dependence on the car.

The presenter is Emeritus Professor Jeffrey Kenworthy, an internationally well-known researcher with 40 years of experience in sustainable transportation, public transport and urban planning.

This course, spread over eight afternoons, is a globally-oriented course which will take participants on a broad tour of ‘the good, the bad and the ugly’ of urban environments around the world. It will emphasize many important positive changes that are occurring in urban environments worldwide in this, ‘the century of the city.’

Information and registration here before May 17.

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Councillor Tony Valente has been advocating for ‘complete streets’ even before he ran for council in the City of North Vancouver – a city laid our before the dominance of the auto (check out its City-Beautiful aspirations on Keith Road or Grand Boulevard) but succumbed to Motordom as a post-war suburban city (check out Third Street west of Forbes or, worse, Esplanade).

Esplanade was a particular target for Tony (who now lives on the arterial) in his advocacy for streets that could serve a variety of modes safely and beautifully.  He’s now seeing it come to fulfilment.

The changes, complete with separated bike lane, are part of a greater transformation of Lower Lonsdale – with some big changes, small indicators, and one that’s quite surprising.

Here’s a delightful touch on Carrie Cates Court at Lonsdale Quay – a glass-enclosed canopy for bike racks on a newly widened and well-furnished sidewalk in front of a mixed-use tower.  Check, check, check.

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A trip across the water last week to meet City of North Vancouver Councillor Tony Valente for an e-bike tour.

Began at Lonsdale Quay – home to one of the best but once-dullest transit exchanges in the region.


That’s changed.  As part of the station upgrades which TransLink has been doing these past few years (and which have had the misfortune of finishing during the pandemic), Lonsdale has gone from dismal gray to crisp white.

There is still a lot of gray, particularly in the tile work.  And I had been expecting more animated LED lighting for colour, particularly along the so-seventies ribbed concrete walls on the side (though there is such an art work at the north entrance, right, plus some highlighting of a light well.)  Other changes are illustrated in this Hive article and before-and-after video from the North Shore News:

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For the last three decades, American cities have promoted, planned and built Transit-Oriented Developments – predominantly housing projects on land immediately associated with rail transit or adjacent to station areas.  It’s been a record of mixed results.  And even the successes have required significant government investment.

This paper provides some good detailed analysis of case studies:

Some of the cases are well-known successes, others well-known failures, sometimes in the same city – for instance, the success of the Pearl District in Portland along the streetcar line in contrast to the double bankruptcy of The Round along the MAX line to the west.  Or in the Washington DC area, the long-term dynamic growth in the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor compared to the long-term lack of investment around White Flint Metro.

There is still debate on how much rail transit, whether metro-scale or streetcar, has been the primary impetus for urban transformation. In places like North Hollywood or Fruitvale (beyond the Village) in the San Francisco Bay Area, metro rail does not automatically lead to a take-up by the market. In America, tax incentives, subsidies and grants play a much bigger role than in Canada, and even those are insufficient in the face of market weakness for high-density TOD – another cultural difference between our region and most American examples.

Even a single station area on SkyTrain like Brentwood or Lougheed dwarfs almost every US example, and rarely requires any more government support than a rezoning and a commitment to funding non-market housing.  As well, rather than the subsidy by government, the growth in land values and extraction of CACs is expected to help fund the social and physical infrastructure anticipated by the growth itself.

In any event or by any comparison, in the US rail transit does not automatically result in favourable conditions for high-density development, or even any at all.  That is a prayer not always answered.



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Did you know the City of Vancouver is swapping out old parking meters and installing a new system at a cost of 14 million dollars? As reported in this article by CBC News the city is getting rid of stand alone parking meters which served two parking spaces and going for new parking stations on the street which will serve entire blocks.

This type of parking and paying in one pay station is already pretty standard in Europe and in South America. In fact in Chile some commercial areas in cities had parking wardens  with the parking stations. Twenty years ago you parked your car on the street and  left your stick shift car in neutral, you paid at the parking station, and the parking warden pushed and bumped the vehicles together to squeeze one more in, or take one vehicle out.

Vancouver has about 11,000 parking spaces served by meters that will be decommissioned in favour of the pay stations. That will also alleviate the vandalism, and theft from coin meters. In Vancouver parking is a big revenue item for the City, bringing in about 60 million dollars a year pre-pandemic.

Of course there are some downsides in paying at  street parking stations. The City will be able to monitor them and you could be paying a premium for event parking on the street with the use of demand pricing. There will also be no more lucky finds of arriving at a  parking meter with already paid-for time.

In this interview with CBC’s Stephen Quinn on The Early Edition ,Vancouver Transportation Director Paul Storer  (one of the most thoughtful engineers and well versed to discuss sparky issues) talk about the changes that will be occurring with the new pay station system.

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We should probably append all these myth busters in a book, as they continually circulate, just like the idea that sidewalks create crime. (Which they do not, and I can prove that with data too.)

Laura Laker reports in The Guardian about one canard that still quacks away at every public meeting that I attend~and that is that if you make pedestrian priority streets and if you do traffic calming, that will delay emergency vehicles.  Ms. Laker lays this myth to rest.

This is such a popular myth. When I was involved in installing traffic circles in various locations with the City of Vancouver, there was a lot of fear that the circles themselves would slow down emergency vehicles. In fact there are computer programs that model the size of the largest emergency vehicle and the radius that is needed for the traffic circle and that works perfectly well.

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February 18, 2021

When SkyTrain opened for Expo in 1985, it was hoped it could become a popular alternative for rapid transit.   Other than in a handful of cities, like Kuala Lumpur, it hasn’t.   But maybe a technology of the 80s, like music and fashion, is coming back.

Consider the global impact if a SkyTrain-like transit alternative happened in a trend centre like Los Angeles.

They don’t call it SkyTrain, of course.  When they see an elevated train, Americans think of monorail (cue The Simpsons).  One of the two bidders for the project calls it LA SkyRail Express .  The technology may be different but the scale and purpose is the same.  (The other bidder is for more conventional light-rail rapid transit.

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Broadcaster Sonari Glinton and podcaster Mike Pesca discuss GM’s recent proclamation to go electric by 2035.  (Full podcast here.)

Pesca: A couple of months ago, the state of California announced no new gas vehicles, they were going electric and they put a time stamp on it of 2035. The UK then ups the ante and announces no diesel or gasoline or as they say, petrol, cars and vans will be sold in that country starting in 2030. And then GM and their CEO, Mary Barra, announce, OK, GM sees that and we too will no longer make gas and diesel powered vehicles by 2035. I guess they figured if California won’t be buying them, what’s the use of making them?

Glinton: … what’s happening now for some people is that America is not in the driver’s seat.  When it comes to electrification, it is not even in the driver’s seat when it comes to the auto industry anymore. What our vehicles, our regulatory regime, even the styling is increasingly led by what China wants. That is where the industry is making the money. That is where the future is: Brazil, Russia, India and China. And I would throw in Africa for the long game.

Pesca: is it plausible that China can go gasoline free with their cars within the same kind of time frame we’re talking about with these Western countries and companies?

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Responding to criticism that they are not nimble, Vancouver City Council fast tracked an incomplete report with  missing input from Council Committees and the public and unanimously approved the placement of Electric Vehicle (EV) Cord Conduits on city sidewalks in front of residences. You can watch the whole thing here on Council’s video recording.

I previously have written about the importance and the right to clear access of sidewalks and how in this rush to be “environmentally responsible” we seem to be promoting private vehicle ownership as long as it is  electric vehicles.  The fact that any Climate Emergency Action Plan (CEAP) should probably always address the most vulnerable sidewalk user is lost in the haste to make the electric vehicle car owner happy. Those EV owner folks already have had up to $8,000 in grants given because they could afford to buy that kind of car, and research is already showing that men are the predominate  owners of these vehicles, as they are still too expensive for most women, who have  lower incomes.  But that’s not part of this equitable dialogue.

Despite the fact that everyone can charge these vehicles at faster electric stations located elsewhere, the City of Vancouver has decided that residents  can now legally charge their vehicles  in front of their homes, dangling cords across front lawn areas, tucking them under plastic conduits on the sidewalk, and into their vehicle.  The charge allowed is only the Level 1 trickle,  which takes forever, and which means that vehicles will be charging overnight and weekends.  A one hour charge at Level 1 allows you to drive three to six kilometers. Turtle time.

Sounds fine right?

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There’s been an active comment section to this post on mobility pricing (some of it even on topic) – but this recent one by Joe Sulmona is worth reprinting as a separate post.  With his combination of technical  experience and political smarts, Joe effectively explains why the prospect of visible tolling on BC’s roads and bridges is a non-starter, now or anytime soon:

“Bold progressive mobility pricing type Leadership” simply does NOT apply to current B.C. situation, when one of the current Premier’s first acts was to gut the tolling policy that loudly sent message to key constituents that they were treated unfairly by previous governments.

From what I can see, the principle “vested interest” here in B.C. is to get power, and once in power, stay in power. This is a maxim applicable regardless of political stripe, i.e. survival remains paramount ( and I work all over the world, and only the names’ change – the desired political outcome never does, never has, and I expect in my lifetime will likely remain so).

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