COVID Place making
September 17, 2020

How do we start limiting congestion NOW?

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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One of the drawbacks of the use of wind turbines is the massive amount of birds killed by them each year.  It is estimated by Audubon that of this form of “green” energy is actually the most deadly. In the United States there are 49,000 wind turbines in 39 states. They are responsible for the death of 140,000 to 328,000 birds annually. Another study suggests that number is higher, and does not include the deaths of 800,000 bats annually.

In Canada there are 6,600 wind turbines that kill 54,000 birds annually. Nature Canada estimates that  in ten years as wind energy increases ten-fold, bird kills will approach 500,000 on an annual basis.

There are various techniques that have been trialled to keep birds away from the blades of the turbines including radar, GPS, bright lights, and even dressing turbines up to mimic trees. Industry has even tried to produce “smart blades” that sense when a bird is approaching.

And it’s not just about the birds, as damage from bird strikes also compromises the blades which are difficult and expensive to repair.

 But as Alex Fox in The Smithsonian and Mark Kinver with the BBC have reported a new study published in Ecology and Evolution has found that if just one of a wind turbine’s blades is painted black, the number of birds killed is greatly reduced. The study done in Norway found that turbines with one black blade killed 71.9 percent fewer birds.

At the Smøla wind farm in Norway “the researchers found that nearly 500 birds were killed by the site’s 68 turbines over a 10 year period. After finding a 2002 study suggesting a single black blade may help deter birds the team decided to try it out on four turbines beginning in 2013.”

The next year found only six birds killed by the painted turbines versus 18 killed by four unpainted turbines. How does this work?

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Ian Robertson found one solution in Paris.  From Euroactiv:

In Paris, as in many European cities, the number of cars is declining, which is leaving a vast amount of underground car parks empty. With its start-up project called “La Caverne”, Cycloponics is reclaiming these urban territories and using them as a way of growing plenty of organic vegetables. …

At Porte de la Chapelle in Paris, the two have set up a 3,500 m2 urban farm located underground, in a former car park. …  Gertz and Champagnat responded to call for tenders from Paris, whose empty car parks were squatted by consumers and crack dealers. It’s been more than two years now since ‘organic has replaced crack’, and about fifteen jobs have been created. …

 

 

Small packets of water-soluble, sterilised and packaged straw are hung from floor to ceiling, and the mushrooms grow through tiny holes. Everything is calculated to ensure their optimal growth. The air is saturated with moisture, the endives grow in the dark, and the mushrooms get a few LED lights.

But the car park has definite advantages over the limestone cavities usually used to grow mushrooms, as there is a permanent and precise control of the weather, as well as better thermal stability. …  Farming in car parks also makes it possible to better resist the climate crisis. Parasites and other insects, for instance, are rather rare in the subsoil, even if endive tubers and straw bought outside can also be vectors of diseases, such as sclerotinia, which destroyed part of this year’s endive harvest. …

“In Paris, as in many European capitals, people no longer have cars, there are too many parking lots, especially in the poorest districts. But we also visited unused car parks on the Champs-Elysée. It would be possible to do something about it!” according to the entrepreneurs.

Full article here.

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The Province of British Columbia has started rolling out their first tickets for the Intersection Safety Camera (ISC)  Program announced last year. That means  7,353 motorists have received letters indicating that they are being fined for speeding through one of the 15 of 35 red light intersections equipped with special cameras capturing speeding drivers.

As Dan Fumano in the Vancouver Sun observes that compares with “police throughout B.C. issued a monthly average of 16,414 speed-related violation tickets in 2018, the most recent year for which data was available).”  Managing speed by automation is an accepted trend and works well in Europe, where steep fines keep drivers to posted speeds.

Of course those receiving speeding tickets will be outraged, and there will be hand ringing going on as lawyers test the legalities of the process. But look at the statistics the Province has produced~60 percent of all crashes happen at intersections. At the locations where the cameras have been located an average of 10,500 vehicles annually travel 30 km/h an hour over the posted speed limit in those intersections. Each of the chosen intersections  have an average of 84 crashes a year. That’s one crash every four days, or seven crashes a month per intersection.

The intersections for cameras were specifically chosen by the type of crash, the severity, and frequency. There’s been lots of notice about the cameras  in media, and online on the ICBC and Province’s Public Safety and Solicitor General’s website. The links even contain maps showing which cameras are activated for speed.

The statistics are sobering. In the summer of 2019 the highest speeding ticket issued was for a vehicle travelling 174 km/hr in an 80 km/h zone. In the fall of 2019 the highest speeding ticket given was for a vehicle travelling 154 km/hr in an 80 km/hr zone. In both cases this speed is close to double that of the posted speed. This occurred despite the fact that each intersection in the camera program has large signs posted indicating that speed cameras are in operation.

Currently Alberta, Saskatchewan and Quebec are the other provinces with automated speed enforcement, and Quebec has statistics that show their program works. In Quebec there has been a 13.3 km/h reduction in average speed at camera intersections, and a 15 to 42 percent reduction in crashes at “mobile and fixed speed” locations.

The speeding ticket goes to the owner of the vehicle, not the driver at the time of operation, and those ignoring the ticket will be personally served with the ticket at their home address. And this is no cash grab~the Province is moving all the net revenue from the program to municipalities that have policing budgets, with the stipulation that the funds “support community safety and address local policing priorities”.

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PT has often referenced Jeff Tumlin, Executive Director of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) – notably in this PriceTalks. 

Jeff was back in town to keynote TransLink’s New Mobility Forum: The Promise & Perils of Automated Transportation on January 14 – and gave what I think is his best talk ever (and I’ve seen a few of them.)  Polished, funny, insightful, so much content in a mere half hour – a Tumlin tour-de-force.

TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond opens with some remarks, and Jeff then shows up at 13:30.  (Click on headline to access video.)

It’s more than worth the 30 minutes.  The presentation slides can be found in the document library.

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Sad news: Car2Go (ShareNow) is shutting down its North American operations (and pulling out of a few European cities like London and Florence).

The company cited operational costs and the lack of necessary infrastructure to support new technology, like electric vehicle car-sharing, for the decision.

The company says it has more than 230,000 users in Vancouver.

“Vancouver was really very, very attractive for Car2Go,” Gordon Price of the SFU Centre for Dialogue said. “We were the car-sharing capital of North America, maybe the world. It wasn’t true in the rest of North America.

We made the switch to car-share when we scrapped our car with an incentive from the Province – for a year of Car2Go!  Loved it, especially the SmartCar which could fit into those tiny left-over spaces in the West End.

Along with Evo and Modo, Car2Go was making a difference: Vancouverites in dense neighbourhoods were making the switch.  There was even sign of ‘share-turation’ on some blocks. (Hopefully, Evo and Modo can fill some of the void.)

Losing money over time is never a winning business strategy, but Daimler (Car2Go’s parent) strategy may have been to dominate the market prior to the availability of autonomous cars.  They got the timing wrong on that (indeed, it may be a lot longer before self-driving cars are seen in dense, complex cities) and are moving away from research and development of autonomous vehicles elsewhere.

It doesn’t always pay to be first.

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Finally the SUV (sport utility vehicle)  epidemic which is killing pedestrians and responsible for an alarming uptake in automobile emissions is getting  national press attention.  I have been writing about the fact that SUVs are the second largest contributor to the global increase in CO2 emissions in the last ten years. The power industry is the biggest contributor. Other industries such as cement, iron and steel production and trucks and aviation lag behind the emissions produced by these vehicles.

The SUV is the automobile manufacturer’s cash cow, getting around the usual standard safety regulations required for cars because it is built on a truck platform. These SUVs are not built for city driving where they are now recognized as killing machines. Trucks and SUVs suck up 60 percent of all vehicular sales, and the SUV is solely responsible for a 46 percent increase in pedestrian deaths. A pedestrian is twice as likely to die being hit by the higher front end of an SUV.  Statistics show that drivers in these massive rolling living rooms are 11 percent more likely to die driving one.

Here’s the math: currently 25 percent of global oil is for vehicular consumption and related CO2 emissions. SUVs are responsible for an  emission increase by .55 Gt CO2 to 0.7 Gt CO2, as they require 25% more energy than the average mid-sized vehicle. Even with more “efficient” SUVs, this form of vehicle is the reason that there is a 3.3. million oil barrels a day of growth in the last eight years. That’s 3.3. million barrels a day of oil so that people can ferry themselves and family around in an overbuilt, oversized den-like vehicle.

The International Energy Agency has a big warning that the enchantment with SUV’s will undo the progressive shift to electric cars, by requiring an additional two million barrels a day of global oil by 2040, directly offsetting the carbon emission savings from nearly 150 million electric cars.

As Naomi Buck in the Globe and Mail states: Savvy marketing persuades buyers that SUVs are safe, comfortable and prestigious. And even if the ads show them carving through magnificent outdoor landscapes or parked next to glinting oceans, that’s not what these vehicles are really about. To quote Mercedes-Benz’s promotion of its latest G-class SUV: “More spacious. More special. Welcome to the great indoors.”

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Ian Robertson notes: “Sounds exactly like the Transit Service Provider you’ve written about.”

Augsburg has the first German city to introduce a mobility flat rate. For a fixed monthly fee starting at €79, residents of the city will be able to gain full access to a range of mobility services.

Alongside public transport services, Augsburg has been offering car sharing and rental bikes. This municipal utility now combines the offers and centralises them in a nationwide unique flat rate. …

The scheme is the outcome of a year-long test phase conducted by Augsburg Stadtwerke. The city has long been endeavouring to attract more people to use public transport, including plans to make all trams and buses within the ‘City Zone’ free to use from 2020 onwards.

Ian is right: Augsburg has become a TSP, providing “Mobility as a Service” (Maas) as part of the New Mobility.  All kinds of names for more or less the same thing.

It’s important to note that TransLink is taking the initial step as well:

We are excited to say we are partnering with with Evo Car ShareModo Co-operative, and Mobi by Shaw Go bike share to help make multimodal travel easier, more convenient and more seamless for residents in Metro Vancouver.

It’s a trial program at the moment – specifically the  Shared Mobility Pilot Program.   But it’s important than the public agency is taking the lead, because it’s only a matter of time before the big private sector players maker their moves.  (Is that Amazon I see?)

 

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