December 5, 2018

The 1970s are Coming Down – 5

Well, in this case, the 1960s are coming down.

Nineteen sixty-one, to be specific – when Royal Towers was built as a hotel across the street from New Westminster City Hall. Now the aldermen, as they were known then, had a place to get a beer before and/or after council meetings. They probably drove over, given that the place was obviously designed for the car:

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November 23, 2018

This sign is on a main motor vehicle thoroughfare on Granville Island.

It’s a bit ambiguous, but judging from recent pedestrian campaigns, the administrators are aiming the message at those oblivious waddlers among the duck population.

They’re probably colourful enough, what with the fancy feathers and all, so no earnest exhortations about wearing neon-lime-green vests.

But I am surprised that the ducks aren’t pictured waving little flags in their bills.

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Image: CBC

Increasing speed limits on several British Columbia highways caused  carnage and a higher accident rate and was a  failed experiment of the previous Liberal Provincial government. Price Tags has already written about the 118 percent increase in road deaths and 43 percent increase in vehicular claims received by ICBC, the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia. With higher speed limits implemented in 2014, the past Provincial government was not nimble in addressing the increasing road deaths and insurance claims as reported by researchers.

Claire Trevena, the Minister of Transportation for the Province has now announced an immediate decrease in speed limits on fifteen highway segments based upon a review of the serious and fatal crashes that have occurred in the past three years. These lower speed limits will be on the Sea to Sky Highway, the Okanagan Connector, the Island Highway and some sections of Highway 1.

The Minister also connected the lower speed limits to reducing the incidence of speed related crashes.

“We are making every effort now … to make sure that people can travel safely on our highways. Nobody should be dying on our highways.”

The change to lower speed limits will mean that 570 kilometers of highway will need to have speed limit signs replaced, a task to be completed this week.

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This piece very much confirms my thesis: transportation choices will be consolidated (and restricted) by ‘Transportation Service Providers”, in the hope that one or a few will emerge dominant, following the precedent of Telecommunication Service Providers like Telus, AT&T and eventually something Amazon-like. 

From Fast Company:

By David Zipper, a fellow at the German Marshall Fund

If you’re not a techie, you may not have come across the term “walled garden” before. But it’s a critical concept these days in technology business strategy–and it has the potential to fundamentally change the ways we travel throughout cities.

In essence, a walled garden is a closed technology platform that limits the information and options available to a user.  … You can find walled gardens in products ranging from e-readers (Amazon Kindle) to social media (Facebook) to various video game consoles. For the first time, the walled garden strategy is now being applied to urban transportation, with ride-hail giants Uber and Lyft racing to add new mobility modes to their apps. Read more »


Beth Osborne, Director of Transportation for America, was asked: Can you paint a vivid picture of your nightmare scenario of what our cities look like when AVs are all over the roads?

“My nightmare scenario, which I can visualize perfectly,” she responded, “is sitting in the middle of stand-still traffic in which I am the only human being there.  And all the other cars are clogging up the roads but there are no people in any of them.”

The full response can be found here:

It’s a podcast with Slateand this episode is the best exploration I’ve heard of the context for autonomous vehicles (and what the history of Motordom can tell us).

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It’s time for two great events~Halloween, high on every kid’s calendar, and of course the post event Halloween Trick and Treat Count of best places to get candy plunder undertaken by the Duke of Data, Simon Fraser University’s Andy Yan.

This time of year is also the danger zone for pedestrians. The Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC) observes that November, December, and January are months when vehicles crash into pedestrians, with dusk being the worst time. Even more sobering 75 per cent of pedestrians are being crashed into at intersections, with 57 per cent of those crashes happening when the pedestrian actually was legally crossing and had the right of way.

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Some recent stories about the impact of ride-hailing companies, particularly Uber, and the longer term implications.

First, another confirming story that ride-hailing is measurably increasing congestion – from Tech Crunch:

In San Francisco … ride-hailing services are undoubtedly partially to blame (for the rise in traffic and congestion), but not entirely to blame, according to a new study from the San Francisco County Transportation Authority. …

Between 2010 and 2016, according to the SFCTA, ride-hailing services accounted for:

  • 51 percent of the increase in daily vehicle hours of delay
  • 47 percent of the increase in vehicle miles traveled
  • 55 percent of the average speed decline
  • 25 percent of total vehicle congestion citywide

So not surprising, then, that Uber wants to address the problem of congestion by supporting a mechanism that would reduce ‘free-riders’ on the streets they help congest.

From the Seattle Times:

Uber says it plans to spend money lobbying for congestion pricing in Seattle as part of a $10 million push for “sustainable mobility” policies in various cities.

The ride-hail app company and its rival, Lyft, have previously expressed support for the idea of tolling downtown streets in Seattle, where Mayor Jenny Durkan’s administration is working to develop a proposal.

But Uber’s new commitment to actively press for congestion pricing in the city, shared with The Seattle Times last week, could be the biggest boost yet for an effort certain to encounter political roadblocks, including concerns about affordability.

Uber thinks big and it thinks strategically – literally globally.   It can afford to.

From Vanity Fair:

The Wall Street Journal reported that the company had received proposals from Wall Street banks estimating its initial public offering at a market valuation as high as $120 billion, virtually twice its current private-market valuation, and larger than the combined market capitalizations of General Motors , Ford Motor Company, and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. …

Uber … has a large, global footprint, and is possibly a primordial holding company for a series of future companies …  Uber already has one of the largest food-delivery platforms around today, and it is expanding its freight business, which has the possibility to grow infinitely. And then there’s the driverless car I.P. that the company owns, not to mention the investments in other global ride-sharing services …

“Some people see Uber as a car company,” (an Uber insider said).  “Uber sees itself as the next potential Amazon.”

I think this is bigger than even the evolution of another Amazon (if it first doesn’t buy or dominate Uber.)

We’re still thinking about transportation as essentially a problem of hardware: expensive pieces of metal crammed with technology, jamming the streets and highways. Motordom 1.0.

We analyse the problem from the point of view of the user, each distinguished by the hardware of choice: car or truck drivers, transit users, cyclists (and okay, maybe shoe wearers).

We assume this is primarily a problem for government – the owner of the streets, the licensor of vehicles, the regulator of traffic.

We need to shift our focus to Motordom 2.0 – the integration of every imaginable mode of movement, joined by information technology, delivered to us by a service provider who sells us transportation in the way telecommunications providers sell us data.  The TSP: the Transportation Service Provider.

We should be thinking not about hardware but about what Motordom 2.0 will really be about – issues of ownership, regulation, taxation and equality.  Above all, the vision we have for our urban environments, what we build, for whom, and who gets to decide.

Uber or its successor will likely want to be that decider – the shaper of cities, the creator of wealth, the leader of civilization.  Because that’s what we call what we build, how we move, and who rules over it all.

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Traffic congestion on Georgia and Pender last night.  What could we possibly do about it?  Scott de Lange Boom provided a perspective.

Lets assume each car has one person and the congestion extends all the way to the viaducts. That is 1.9 km, lets assume 15 percent of that is intersections. Assuming each car occupies about five metres, each lane would have 323 cars. With five lanes of traffic, that is 1,615 people. An articulated bus can carry 104 people. That is about 16 buses worth of people.

Those 16 buses would occupy one lane for two blocks.

But here’s the thing: it wouldn’t take 16 buses full of passengers who shifted from driving to get the traffic moving – maybe only two or three, depending on the latent demand.

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On the emerging election issue of a subway to UBC, we have a few diverging opinions — within the same big tent. I suppose it’s healthy, but it does seem to be less a matter of opinion and more a matter of missing homework.

Then we have Bowinn Ma, MLA, P. Eng., schooling the twitterverse on transportation’s immutable law of induced demand, and its vicious circle of negative effects on city-building. Ms. Ma is BC NDP North Van-Lonsdale MLA. Parliamentary Secretary for TransLink.

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