Climate Change
September 25, 2020

Does more WAH mean less VMT

Translation: Will the increase in people working at home mean we’ll drive less?

Answer: Apparently not.

Here’s a summary from the terrifically named Center for Advanced Hindsight:

While there may be less commuting, there will be more local trips for shopping and, no doubt, Zoom breaks.

There’s another big implication that’s not mentioned: possibly less congestion during the traditional drive times, but heavier traffic throughout the day.  More accidents too, I’d bet.  And more conflict in how we allocate or reapportion road space.  (In other words, bike lane wars.)

The real-time experiment as a consequence of the pandemic in how we manage our transportation network shouldn’t be wasted.  Minimally we should be measuring and reporting on the day-to-day changes that are occurring out there (as discussed here in “How do we start limiting congestion NOW?“)  and then trying out different options so we don’t lose the gains we’ve made even as we respond to the ‘climate emergency’.

(Of course, ‘climate emergency’ is not a concern of the Park Board apparently, which showed how easy it is to succumb to the desire to go back to ‘just the way it was.’   Even though we never can and never should.)

 

 

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Which country do you think has the most elevators? Did you know that it is Spain, with 19.8 elevators per 1,000 population?  But with 65% of Spanish citizens living in apartment buildings it makes sense that there are so many elevators. Compare that with the United States that have 2.8 elevators per thousand population, or China with 2.2 per thousand.

As reported in the New York Times by Keith Bradsher China now wants to change all of that, and hopes to retrofit as many as three million older walkup buildings with elevators, projecting the cost at roughly $100,000 USD per installation.

Why?  As China’s older population is aging, they have also acquired wealth, and are now demanding being better served by their government.

During the Mao regime in the 1960’s families were urged to have many children who are now coming to be 60 years of age. A subsequent “one child” policy in the 1970’s  means that these seniors do not have children and grandchildren ot assist them as they age.

The city of Guangzhou has taken advantage of a federal government grant of $93,000 per elevator installation and has already retrofitted 6,000 older buildings. That city required two-thirds of strata  owners to agree to the project before installation.

This “elevator policy” is seen as a national employment incubator to provide jobs for millions of unemployed migrant workers. But there is a wrinkle~elevators come from a very small group of global manufacturers and are dominated by names familiar to North Americans. Otis Elevator, Schindler, and Kone are prominent. So while those firms will get the contract to install elevators, the job of the building retrofit for the elevator will be done by a small group of specialized Chinese contractors.

Back to British Columbia which also has a lot of three storey walk up apartments in towns and cities that do not have elevators. What happens when a resident has a mobility issue and requires an elevator or a stair assist?

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The Park Board has justified the removal of the bike lane in Stanley Park because “The data tells us we can return the park to its conventional traffic patterns.”  Now the question is whether the Beach Avenue bikeway will be removed for the same reason: winter is coming, so we’ll go back to the conventional pattern.

What our leaders do will tell us what kind of city we aspire to be.  Imagine the slogan: “Vancouver, the Conventional City.”  

Ian Austen who writes the Canada Letter for New York Times sees another kind of opportunity:

 

By late spring, it was becoming nearly impossible to buy a bike anywhere in the world. That was a reflection both of the unexpected surge in demand and a supply chain that was disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic. Most bikes, aside from high-end, customized offerings, are churned out by a small number of companies based in Taiwan that have extensive operations in China. My colleague Raymond Zhong recently profiled the biggest of those companies, the aptly named Giant, and its chairwoman, Bonnie Tu. (Article here.)

In Ottawa, Canada’s bicycle boom has exhibited itself in an unusual way. The morning and afternoon bicycle rush hour didn’t return. But when I’m out doing errands by bike, it’s now often a struggle to find a parking space outside stores. And on weekends, when I’m on rides measured in hours, it’s increasingly common to see people on very inexpensive bicycles, who are not wearing fancy cycling clothes, cycling well outside the city.

Many cities have responded. Cars have been temporarily barred from some lanes or entire roads in Vancouver, Winnipeg, Ottawa, Montreal and elsewhere. In addition to closing streets, Halifax has moved to slow motor traffic on some streets and limit vehicles to residents.

The question now is, will this enthusiasm for cycling survive winter and the post-pandemic period?

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The Canadian Rural Revitalization Foundation (CRRF) presents a two day free online conference hosted by the Rural Policy Learning Commons.

“Join us for two full days of FREE content and interactive discussions – you don’t want to miss this jam-packed program of rural researchers and thought leaders as they share rural-specific lessons and insights about the challenges and opportunities posed by the pandemic.

CRRF is delighted to offer this high-value virtual event for free. If you are planning to attend and able to do so, please consider becoming a member of CRRF or making a donation to help us continue supporting rural research and researchers across Canada.

Both days of the conference run from 8:00 a.m to 1:30 p.m. Pacific Time and are being hosted on Zoom by the Rural Policy Learning Commons. The Virtual Conference is being offered ‘a la carte’ style, so you can choose the sessions that are most interesting to you and work with your schedule by registering for each session separately.

Date: October 1 and October 2

Time: 8:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Pacific Time

Click here to find out further information and to register for the sessions you would like to attend.

Image: OxfordAmerican

 

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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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Yesterday Vancouver’s City Manager, Sadhu Johnston resigned from the City. This is a very big thing.

The job of the City Manager is all encompassing. The position manages the city budget, manages city personnel, and reviews staff reports going to Council. The manager sets the tone in terms of city policy, direction, and interpretation. It is in many ways a thankless job with endless meetings, tight schedules, and long hours.

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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.

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Mayor Robert Crowell (who is known by everyone there as Mayor Bob) passed away last week while serving his third term as Mayor of Carson City Nevada.  He was a lawyer who specialized in governmental relations, and a retired Navy captain. But he was also a Mayor that knew every member of Carson City’s staff by name, was very active in the community and single handedly steered his city to a remarkable change~he advocated and completely overhauled the town’s  main street, which was previously a commercial thoroughfare and a marked highway.

 

By stewarding a car centric downtown into a walkable, bikeable destination, Mayor Bob changed the culture and commerce of his community, and made the downtown a place residents flocked to and spend time in.

The state capital of Nevada is Carson City which has a population of 56,000 and is thirty miles south of Reno Nevada. Despite being a state capital, Carson City is a town that was  forgotten by development. There are  many Victorian era buildings in the downtown, a legacy of its 1858 settlement that serviced nearby ranchers.

Despite a downtown that contained a lot of important heritage buildings as well as the grounds for the state capitol, the  four lane highway barrelled through the main street, with  traffic proceeding at  speed requiring steel fencing to corral pedestrians along sidewalks. Even with the barriers, pedestrians were maimed and killed while trying to cross the street.

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Let’s begin in Osoyoos, the southern-most town of the Okanagan:

The shot above was taken on August 27, 2020.

Here’s the equivalent from the lookout on Anarchist Mountain in 1977:

Beautiful BC magazine via BC Archives

Compare urban development in the two shots.  Notice how almost nothing has changed except some development on the middle right along the lakefront, a large white complex in the lower centre and what is probably an industrial strip in the upper left.

In a world where values rise when land is flat, easily serviced, near major roads and close to an urban core, how can this be?  Especially in the Okanagan, where the liaison between real-estate interests and local politicians has been, shall we say, often intimate.

The answer is the yellow line in the map below:

Water Science Series, BC Government

The line, almost block by block, is the boundary of the Agricultural Land Reserve, originally established in the early 1970s.  (To considerable opposition by many who owned the land within it.)

In an economy based on tourism and retirement, it’s extraordinary that there is anything green between the white municipal boundary and the yellow ALR.  Today, that economy of wine and fruit and tourism based on the appeal of a natural landscape was made possible by the vision of the NDP government in 1972 to establish the ALR (which paid for it in the loss of 1975) and the reluctance of successive Social Credit and Liberal governments to pay the political price to undo it.  (Not that there haven’t been nibbles of alienation – like golf courses as illustrated in the above report – but there hasn’t been huge bites of removal.)

Osoyoos may be a particularly graphic example of the juxtaposition of urban and agicultural, where vineyards come with a kilometre of the city centre.  But the same is true for much of the Okanagan (and arguably even Vancouver, hello Southlands), with one particularly egregious counter-example.  We’ll get there soon.

 

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We have a culture that makes excuses about the fact we don’t require a public basic service for a basic human need. Instead of providing public washrooms it has defaulted to businesses, restaurants and department stores to provide public washroom facilities.

It was Stanley Woodvine, The Georgia Straight  writer who wrote on his twitter account how dire the Covid pandemic was on the homeless throughout the city. Without libraries and community centres open to use washroom facilities, and with park washrooms closed, there are no options. Mr. Woodvine recalled what happened in San Diego between 2016 and 2018 when a Hepatitis A outbreak occurred. The outbreak was directly linked to the lack of public washroom and hand washing facilities, and sadly San Diego had been told by two grand juries investigating municipal government to install more washrooms downtown. The reason San Diego did not do it? Financial.

But with 444 cases of hepatitis and  the unwanted international attention,  the city installed new washrooms and initiated more street cleaning, bringing downtown San Diego’s public washroom total to 21. No matter what the cost, ensuring every citizen has access to a washroom is basic human dignity, and a tenet of public health.

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