When I first heard about the proposal for ‘Transport Pricing’ in the City of Vancouver’s Climate Emergency Action Plan that went to council a few weeks ago, I thought, sorry, that’s a lost battle.

The political capital required to start ‘taxing the road’ is so high, reports that recommend it – like this one – are typically dead on arrival.  As elections approach, political leaders jump over each other to reject anything that looks, sounds or smells like a toll.  Here’s Bowinn Ma from the NDP, passing along the blunt words from John Horgan (who won the 2017 election by taking tolls off the Port Mann): “I have to be clear: it (congestion pricing) is not in our platform … and John Horgan has stated very clearly today that it would not be supported by our government …”

Not that it matters.  Congestion charging as it has been demonstrated in a handful of cities so far, notability Singapore and London, is way out of date – so 20th century.  Using gantries, cameras, IED passes and other visibly intrusive technology to establish a geographic cordon for pricing entry and exit for one particular part of a region will never pass the fairness test.  Why wouldn’t we include other places – for instance, the North Shore – where congestion is bad and getting worse?  (Minimally, there will have to be ‘discussion’ among the municipalities on either side of Lions Gate Bridge.)

Again, so much more political capital required.  Add in an equity requirement*, and good luck in getting a majority vote.  That’s why so few cities have done it.

So I was impressed when Council, by a bare majority, voted to support the part of the report that had actually recommended Transport Pricing (despite media, and my own, perception of what was being proposed).  Staff, having played in this rodeo a few times before (a previous report listed 14 examples), really wanted one key thing from council:  ‘Authorize us to develop a road map that will get us to Transport Pricing (TP).  Do not take it off the table, ship it off to the region, qualify it into irrelevance or remove any deadline for response’ – and that’s what they got.

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Vancouver is the only city in Canada that still has a separate park board. That means that there is a separately funded staff that exclusively  manages parks and recreational centres, and reports directly to Vancouver City Council on their budget. The mandate of the Park Board is to “provide, preserve, and advocate for parks and recreation services to benefit all people, communities, and the environment.”

Part 23 of the Vancouver Charter sets out what the Park Board does, and allows for seven Park commissioners to be elected at the same time as the City of Vancouver’s council is elected. This section is pretty clear that the mandate of the Park Commissioners is for parks, things that happen in parks and recreational activities/buildings that are associated with parks operations.

For 2020 the Vancouver Park Board had an operating budget of 136 million dollars, with 63 million dollars coming from revenue and 73 million dollars coming from taxes.  The Commissioners themselves receive $17,600 a year with the chair of the Park Commissioners receiving $22,000 a year.  The Park Commissioners meet once or twice a month and you can view their schedule here. The meetings can be a bit surprising to listen to, and it appears that sometimes the Commissioners forget that the public are listening in to their chat on Zoom.

The Park Board has been a bit of a training ground for the politically minded that then go on to try for a Councillor position at the City of Vancouver. The highly regarded Mayor Philip Owen was first a park commissioner. He went on to serve on City Council and then was elected for three terms as Mayor, in 1993, 1996, and 1999.

There are two more years before the next Civic election and that may explain some of the posturing that is being seen as Park Commissioners publicly comment on things that are clearly outside their jurisdiction.

One Park Commissioner has been making unfortunate remarks on how the City of Vancouver manages its own Slow Streets and other initiatives outside of Stanley Park, specifically on Beach Avenue.

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In 2015, Toronto-based developer Cadillac Fairview attempted to get approval for a 26=storey office building at 555 Cordova, shoe-horned up against the east side of Waterfront Station in Vancouver. (Cadillac Fairview owns Waterfront Station, and the proposed building site has been the eastern access and parking lot for the Station since it opened in 1914.)

The building, dubbed the Icepick, was withdrawn in 2015, following wide-spread concerns expressed by the Urban Design Panel and the public.  The proposed site is not a separate building lot and far too small to accommodate a giant office building.

Now Cadillac Fairview is back with Icepick 2, a slightly revised version of the original. Responding to design objections, the developer rotated and pushed the building a little further west and north, slightly reduced its footprint, and made it possible to see and walk through the ground floor.

With these changes, the developer seems intent on getting approval at a Development Permit Board Meeting scheduled for March 22, 2021.

It’s important to know that that in 2009, Council-endorsed Central Waterfront Hub Framework to deal comprehensively with the many issues in this part of the city – our most important transportation hub and a last remaining part of the waterfront still to be connected to the publicly accessible

Because the proposed building is not consistent the Hub Framework, in October 2017, Council approved a program to update the Framework and resolve implementation issues. This work is in progress.

The proposal does not conform to planning guidelines for the area. The most recent proposed building is more than twice the suggested height of 11 stories, and six times the recommended floor space. It overwhelms heritage buildings on either side and provides an uninviting gateway to Historic Gastown.

The Hub Framework requires removing the top of the garage at the end of Granville to provide views of the ocean, mountains, cruise ships and access to a public walkway along the north side of the city.  Cadillac Fairview owns the parkade at the foot of Granville but has not agreed to an extension of Granville Street to the waterfront.

Removing part of the parkade’s top level was a central concept of the original Hub Framework. It would open the street to the waterfront, and provide an opportunity to build a public walkway connecting Stanley Park, the waterfront, Gastown, Chinatown and False Creek. This space at the entrance to Gastown would also make a splendid public plaza.  As the most important transportation hub in the region, this site is critical to the future of the city.

Approving Cadillac Fairview’s latest proposal will preclude the current planning process and seriously undermine future options for the City’s waterfront.  Does it make sense to put approvals before planning? Should a private developer be able to sabotage a public planning and design process?

You can send your views to the Mayor and Council, and to the Development Permit Board through kaveh.imani@vancouver.ca.  And you can send your comments to https://shapeyourcity.ca/555-w-cordova-st.

From notes provided by the Downtown Waterfront Working Group

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Remote working, fad or future?

The pandemic has had a major impact on transportation, including prompting a massive shift towards working from home. At the outset of the public health crisis, one in ten Canadians traded their work commutes for a home office to ensure social distancing. With the remote-work trend presenting major challenges and opportunities for employers and employees alike, many are asking if mass tele-commuting will endure.

TransLink’s Transport 2050 conversation about remote work and transportation will discuss the trends, impacts, and how remote work can fit into the future of regional transportation.

Panel

  • Eve Hou, Manager of Policy, TransLink (facilitator)
  • Patricia Mokhtarian, Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering and Associate Director, Institute of Transportation Studies, Georgia Tech
  • Havi Parker-Sutton, Director, Sales – Enterprise Health & Crowns, Telus
  • Leah Riley, Managing Director, Nelson\Nygaard and former Director, Portland Bureau of Transportation

 

Tuesday, November 24

10 – 11:15 AM

Registration link here         

 

 

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Last week I wrote about how no one imagined that a pandemic would force the lockdown of assisted and long term care facilities. Many residents became prisoners and confined to their facilities or to their rooms during the pandemic.

As the Province’s Seniors’ Advocate Isobel MacKenzie stated, while there are 147 residents who have died of Covid 19 in long term care facilities, sadly  4,500 residents have died of something else. Those 4,500 people were isolated from their families at their time of death. Surely we can do better. Hopefully an announcement of a new visiting protocol will be part of  a report with the results of a survey about visitor restrictions to long-term care and assisted living homes. Called Staying Apart to Stay Safe the report is scheduled for release on Tuesday November 3 at 10:00 a.m. Pacific Time.

The news conference can be watched here in this livestream.

I have written about Ontario deciding that family, comfort and care was important to facility residents. Ontario realized that facility operators had been inconsistent in providing clear policy on visits by caregivers (including families).  Ontario is now allowing  two designated caregivers to visit at any time including during a covid outbreak subject to “direction from the local public health unit”.

In June in British Columbia  care facilities were asked to submit plans to the Province to allow one visitor at a time per resident for one half hour behind plexiglass or outdoors. Each facility has a different management plan, and family members cannot touch or assist the resident in any way. And it’s not easy to see your loved ones.

One Price Tags commenter, David Walker describes his experience with this policy below.

“My in-laws are in a private care facility and have been cut off from family since the spring. Over the summer months we were able to book 20 minute visits outdoors under a gazebo with a floor to ceiling plastic sheet separating the two sides. At more than 3 metres apart and with the sheet in place it was often impossible to hear one another. More recently we sat outside with a microphone and speaker while my father-in-law sat inside with his own microphone and speaker. A large window allowed us to see each other more clearly than we’d been able to through the plastic sheet of summer. My mother-in-law is in a different part of the care facility and she was, at the time, locked down because of a potential COVID exposure. Those brief “visits” have to be booked weeks in advance.”

Mr. Walker also describes the need for public facilities to recognize that senior couples are living longer, and in those last few years of life requiring assisted living may need to housed together, not apart. He noted that government run care facilities are designed for widows.

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Arizona State University’s (ASU) School of Sustainability and Island Press are partnering on a fall speaker series featuring Island Press authors and Urban Resilience Project contributors. All events are free, hosted by ASU, and promise to inspire.

Join Shane Phillips, author of The Affordable City, for a discussion moderated by ASU urban planner and sustainability scientist Deirdre Pfeiffer.

From Los Angeles to Boston and Chicago to Miami, US cities are struggling to address the twin crises of high housing costs and household instability. Debates over the appropriate course of action have been defined by two poles: building more housing or enacting stronger tenant protections. These options are often treated as mutually exclusive, with support for one implying opposition to the other.

There is no single solution to the housing crisis—it will require a comprehensive approach backed by strong, diverse coalitions. Hear how professionals and advocates are working to improve affordability and increase community resilience through local action.

To register for this webinar please click here.

Date: Thursday October 29, 2020

Time: 1:00 to 2:00 Pacific Time

 

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On Thursday, the Eno Transportation Centre presented another of their webinars, this one with an irresistible title:

The webinar hosts three authors from the UCLA Luskin Centre for History and Policy who summarize the results of a just-released study:

We examined a century of programs to reduce congestion and found that several strategies were pursued over and over again in different eras. Los Angeles repeatedly built new street, highway, and transit capacity, regulated drivers and vehicle traffic flows, increased the use of information about traffic conditions, and controlled land use to influence traffic.

So what were the consequences?  No surprise, but here’s the spoiler anyway:

Congestion has been addressed in every era and in numerous ways, but always has returned.

The report gives the details decade by decade – every possibility from expanded road capacity to land use.  Except one:

Congestion pricing … based on proven theory of human economic behavior promoted for a century, proven in application to sectors of the economy other than transportation, and enabled by recent advances in telecommunications technology. It has a proven track record …

Big picture conclusion: except for a handful of cities in the world, congestion (or mobility) pricing is a policy intervention that has often been proposed but never adopted.  Despite the fact it works.  And may be the only thing that does.

TransLink, the Province, Metro Vancouver – they’ve all studied the issue, most recently in 2018 with the Mobility Pricing Independent Commission.  The conclusion was the same: some form of road pricing makes sense.  And then saw the concept under whatever name rejected by most political leaders literally within a day of its release.

Within a few hours of the Eno webinar, there was another Zoomy opportunity to get a local perspective.  A coalition of transportation interests – Moving in a Livable Region – held an all-candidates forum online with representatives from each party:

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