Climate Change
October 16, 2019

Tunnel Vision, Induced Demand, & Marchetti’s Constant at the Massey Crossing

In early October the task force set up by the Metro Vancouver mayors came to a consensus and decided that an eight lane immersive tunnel would be the agreed upon option to replace the aging Massey Tunnel. The existing four lane Massey Tunnel still has another fifty years of service, but if used for transit would need seismic work for a one-in -475 year seismic event, and flood protection at entrances. Since these upgrades would be substantial, the task force examined five options, choosing the eight-lane tunnel. Two of the lanes of the tunnel would be dedicated for transit.

The Metro Vancouver Mayors’ Council will now review the report and the decision of the task force, and forward their recommendation to the Province. Under the previous Liberal government, the Province had more of a quick and dirty approach which favoured an expansive and overbuilt ten lane bridge with all the requisite overpasses and land usurping ramps. Using the immersive tunnel  technology allows for slope grades  that would allow transit lanes to be converted to rail in the future. While cost estimates were not discussed, it is suggested that the cost of this option is similar to building a bridge. Environmental impacts would result from excavating both river banks, as well as mitigating  damage to existing fish habitats. You can take a look at the report of  the Massey Crossing Task Force here.

While a smaller crossing  at the existing Massey Tunnel with a separate crossing of the Fraser River that aligned up to truck routes for Vancouver  port bound traffic may have made more sense, it appears that cost was a factor in the choice of one bigger tunnel. The fact that this proposed tunnel is being located on sensitive river delta that will be prone to future flooding also needs to be addressed.

This time the Province under the NDP government asked the Metro Vancouver Mayors’ Council to come to a consensus of what type of crossing would replace the existing Massey Tunnel. Of course a complete environmental assessment will also be necessary, expected to take a year to produce.

There’s no surprise that critics are decrying the fact that the previous Liberal provincial government’s massive bridge will not be built, throwing their hands up about the fact this could have been built faster. But while the previously proposed overbuilt bridge may have proceeded faster, the previous government had no plan on how to manage congestion on either side of the bridge. They never addressed the fact that traffic heading to Vancouver had to throat down to the two lane Oak Street Bridge. It was in many ways a pet project to produce jobs and votes, but did not have the supportive infrastructure to move increased projected traffic anywhere. It was also not supported by the Mayors’ Council with the exception of the Mayor of Delta who has been an outlier and port trucking traffic booster.

And that brings up the concept of induced demand. As described in this City Lab article,  induced demand “refers to the idea that increasing roadway capacity encourages people to drive, thus failing to improve congestion”. 

There is also “Marchetti’s Constant” .

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It’s hard to believe in this time of technology that we still require police officers to be vulnerable road users outside of their vehicles to flag over motorists for speed  transgressions on Canadian highways. Not only are they subject to being crashed into by the vehicle they are flagging down, they also may be hit by other  inattentive motorists.

I have written about how Switzerland has become the safest country in Europe on the roads by  regulating speed limits. In five years from 2001 to 2006 Swiss speed camera enforcement resulted in a fatality decrease of 15 percent per year, bringing road deaths from 71 annually down to 31. No need to have police flagging you down on the autoroute, a $330  ticket for driving 16 kilometres an hour over the speed limit  is in the mail.

The maximum travel speed is 120 km/h and it is rigidly enforced, making Swiss motorways the safest according to the European Transport Safety Council. Managing speed makes the roads easier to drive on, with consistent motorist behaviour and plenty of reaction time due to highway speed conformity.

A poll conducted by Mario Canseco  last year shows that 70 percent of  people in British Columbia are now supportive of the use of a camera system similar to the Swiss to enforce road speed limits in this province. While the Province has located 140 red light camera at intersections with high collision statistics, speed on highways does not have similar technology.

On the Thanksgiving weekend police forces across British Columbia announced a drive safely campaign, notifying that they would be out on highways  looking for anything that took away from safe highway driving. Anyone driving on highways from Abbotsford to Vancouver quickly saw the difference, with motorists staying to posted speed limits on highways.

But last month one  Delta Police Force member was nearly struck by a vehicle driver that was weaving in and out of traffic along a busy section of highway as the officer was outside of his vehicle attending to another stopped car.  That officer was nearly clipped and this was caught on a dash camera.

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Dean A sent in this article from The Guardian, with readers’ photos of the best and worst of the world’s bike lanes.  Here are the worst, because they’re much more appalling than the good ones are great.  (Click title for all the photos.)

To begin with a classic from Bucharest:

 

“This photo was taken in Bhubaneswar in eastern India where part of a street was recently painted for cycling but garbage has been dumped on it.”

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We’ve all seen them~those lovely rainbow crosswalks in cities that represent inclusivity and are often tied into  events celebrating gay, nonbinary and transgender people. Those crosswalks also just make people happy. In Peace River Alberta which has the most northern Pride Parade the city decided to paint a signalled pedestrian crosswalk in rainbow colours after examining the experience of rainbow crosswalks in Edmonton. In Edmonton’s pilot project summary  the city found that

the rainbow crosswalks did not decrease pedestrian safety. Stopping and encroaching behaviour differed at locations with and without the rainbow crosswalks. The observed motorist behaviour was consistent with the survey findings where people felt the rainbow crosswalks made intersections safer and were not a distraction.”

After over two months of observation and a survey of 3200 people, Edmonton found that motorists who drove through the rainbow crosswalks did not find them distracting. Based upon that information, Peace River painted up their own.  The city’s engineer found that the painting of crosswalks did conform to the Highway Marking Guide and to the Transportation Association of Canada standards.

But in the “you just can’t make this stuff up” department the town of  Ames Iowa (population of 65,000) received a letter from the Federal Highway Administration (FHA) saying that  the rainbow crosswalk in that city was a “safety concern, and a liability for the city”.  In the United States the FHA regulates national roadway signs and traffic signals. The letter wanted the City of Ames to remove their rainbow sidewalks.

The Ames City Council ignored the letter (by unanimous consent) after hearing the city’s lawyer respond : “Honestly, I just do not think they  (the FHA) have any jurisdiction over the roads in the city that we’re paying for with our own tax money,”

There is absolutely no reason NOT to have colourful crosswalks in any design. New York City, Seattle and Portland Oregon all have colourful crosswalks and they have not caused driver distraction or resulted in an increase of vehicular crashes. As the New York Times reports the FHA told the City of Ames that painted crosswalks:

diminishes the contrast between the white lines and the pavement, potentially decreasing the effectiveness of the crosswalk markings and the safety of pedestrian traffic. The purpose of aesthetic treatments and crosswalk art is to ‘draw the eye’ of pedestrians and drivers in direct conflict with commanding the attention of drivers and motorists to minimize the risk of collision.”

There’s no data to this odd governmental critique of a city’s colourful crosswalks, and the way it is written talks more about a bureaucrat’s pet peeve, not any actual impediment to pedestrian or vehicular behaviour.

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Image: Carscoops.com

It was only a few years ago when semi autonomous vehicles were the shiny pennies pledging to undertake all the  pesky logistics of driving. But as reported in The Verge.com things are not quite as touted, even with the Automatic Emergency Braking Systems. These vehicles are testing out as unconscious killers of vulnerable road users, who are being slaughtered at an increasing rate on roads in North America.

The most important aspect for any vehicle on the road is the ability to recognize and avoid vulnerable road users, those pedestrians, cyclists and other wheelers that are using the street without the protection of a vehicular steel shell.

It appears that while car companies fill their vehicles with toys (I have already written about the huge dashboard reader screens) the technology is still not reliable to keep everyone safe on the road. That’s the nice way of saying that today’s semi autonomous vehicles are murderous for other road users despite the fact that they have been portrayed as being logically smarter and safer than human drivers.

This report by the American Automobile Association (AAA) looked at the automatic braking systems of semi autonomous vehicles from different makers when confronted with a pedestrian (thankfully they used mannequins).  Four different 2019 model vehicles were used~a Chevy Malibu, Honda Accord, Tesla Model 3, and Toyota Camry.

Unbelievably  the vehicles hit the dummy pedestrians a horrifying sixty percent of the time-“and this was in daylight hours at speeds of 20 mph/30 km/h”. When child sized dummy pedestrians were used on the roadway, they were hit eighty percent of the time, 89 percent  of the time if between cars.These findings also occurred at higher speeds and at night.

Pedestrian fatalities were even worse if the victim had their back towards vehicles. The Truth About Cars writes “The researchers tested several other scenarios, including encountering a pedestrian after a right-hand turn and two adults standing alongside the road with their backs to traffic. The latter scenario resulted in a collision 80 percent of the time, while the former yielded a 100 percent collision rate.”

Thankfully in their conclusions  of the study AAA states that the high-tech detection systems are inadequate, with none of the various vehicles tested being able to detect an adult walking on the roadway at night. Only one vehicle was able to detect that an object was even in front of the car, but it still did not brake.

As Allison Arieff writes in the New York Times –while over 80 billion dollars has been spent in the last five years on “smart” or connected cars and AVs supposedly to make them safer, “investing in the car of the future is investing in the wrong problem. We need to be thinking about how we can create a world with fewer cars.”

In 2018 6,227 pedestrians (that’s the population of Yarmouth, Nova Scotia)  were killed in the United States.That’ is an increase of 4 percent from 2017. Canada is also in the club, being one of only seven industrialized nations in the world where pedestrian deaths are increasing.

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… or at least Italy, from where John Graham reports:

In the south of Italy – here in Sorrento at the end of the Amalfi coast – the e-bike with fat tires is taking over. And not by the mountain-biker demographic, as you can see from the front basket and rear child seat.

This bike on the main pedestrian shopping street is their version of the mini SUV. The fat tires are for the rough and variable cobblestones.

The rider was a woman in her 40’s who got off and went into the cosmetic shop behind.

 

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I have been writing about how SUVs and trucks which make up 60 percent of all vehicle purchases have been responsible for a 46 percent increase in pedestrian deaths.

Never doubt the power and strength of the motor vehicle lobby. A SUV  (sport utility vehicle) is a vehicle built on a truck platform with a “high profile” on the street. Statistics show that SUVs with the high front end grille are twice as likely to kill pedestrians because of the high engine profile, but this information has not been well publicized. In the United States a federal initiative to include pedestrian crash survival into the vehicle ranking system was halted by opposing automakers.

It was the City of London England that banned a certain type of truck when the city realized that it was responsible for 50 per cent of all cycling mortalities and over 20 per cent of all pedestrian deaths. Of course there was pushback, but the Mayor of London just said no.

Laura Laker  in  the Guardian  now asks the question~is it time to ban SUVs from our cities? SUVs are heavily marketed and are highly profitable for car companies, but they are also deadly. Drivers have an 11 percent increase in the chance of fatality in them, as their size and bulk is connected with more reckless driving. They are also killing machines in the conventional sense. In September a SUV driver in Berlin lost control of his vehicle and killed four people on a sidewalk, a grandmother and grandson and two twenty year old men.

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What is this — a café? A library? A corner store?

Unless you regularly travel by transit to Langara College or the Alliance Française, you’re forgiven for not recognising this as the 49th and Langara Skytrain station. This photo was taken from the west side of Cambie Street looking east on 49th Avenue.

And unless you’re standing in front and looking directly at the entrance, there’s no way to identify this as an essential part of urban infrastructure.

Why is Translink so bad at signage? The last time we travelled by Skytrain from Waterfront Station to the airport, we wondered why, unlike every other subway system on the planet, Translink didn’t have big prominent station names on the walls of the stations. One station looks pretty much like another, and when you look out the window at a station platform upon arrival, there’s no obvious signage to tell you where you are.

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Dean A recommended this piece in the New York Times:

Among the safety measures proposed by car companies are encouraging pedestrians and bicyclists to use R.F.I.D. tags, which emit signals that cars can detect. This means it’s becoming the pedestrian’s responsibility to avoid getting hit. But if keeping people safe means putting the responsibility on them (or worse, criminalizing walking and biking), we need to think twice about the technology we’re developing. …

 

Peter Ladner was motivated to write this response with respect to our bike routes:

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Price Tag readers will know we’ve been writing and following up on the Massey Crossing saga, where the previous Liberal Provincial government decided a ten lane bridge would replace the Massey Tunnel. Trouble was this multi-billion dollar bridge became a boondoggle, unsupported by every mayor on Metro Vancouver’s Mayors’ Council. It was only the Mayor of Delta that thought the bridge was a brilliant idea, obviously putting the municipality’s proximity to industry and  Deltaport as factors over other smarter, more sustainable, and simply more thought out approaches.

The current provincial government thankfully took another look at the proposed crossing in a prepared report, and indicated that any option chosen would have to be agreed upon by the Metro Vancouver Mayors’ Council.

As Global News Sean Boynton reports five options for a crossing of the Fraser River near the Massey Tunnel were examined at a Metro Vancouver mayors task force and surprise! Not ONE of the options included the ten lane bridge being championed by the previous provincial Liberal government. Instead the consensus of the task force was to “replace the existing George Massey Tunnel with an eight-lane immersed-tube tunnel — two of which will be dedicated to transit.”

You can imagine how fun that hours long meeting was before consensus on an immersed tube tunnel construction was decided upon as the preferred option. This is built using prefabricated tunnel pieces that are put in place within the river bed. This option is estimated to be one-third the cost of a deep bore tunnel and will require one kilometre of tunnel and  moving 1.5 million cubic metres of soil that is salt sodden.

While cost estimates were not discussed, it is suggested that the cost of this option is similar to building a bridge. Environmental impacts would result from excavating both river banks, as well as mitigating  damage to existing fish habitats.

Next steps include having the recommendation of an eight lane tunnel reviwed by the finance committee of Metro Vancouver and board, followed up with a public process about the project and its impacts.

Transportation Minister Claire Trevena  responded to the Mayors Council task force tunnel option by saying “It’s giving us a lot of direction. The previous government just went ahead with a very large bridge that was not what the Metro region wanted. So we wanted to consult with Metro [Vancouver].”

Thinking about the tunnel option, Richmond Councillor Harold Steeves observed that the two lanes that will be designated for public transit could in the future become a rail link. The previous ten lane bridge concept was too steep and had approaches in the wrong location to accommodate rail transit. Of course the other challenge that is already being discussed by transportation planner Eric Doherty  on twitter is that “Urban highway expansion is climate crime. Highway 99 expansion would not be on table if BC’s #cleanbc climate plan wasn’t a hollow shell.” 

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