September 20, 2007

Gateway Rumour of the Week

This is really delicious – and it comes from a pretty reliable source:

Regarding the Evergreen Line, a mayor of an eastern municipality is convinced an announcement is coming soon. Perhaps at the UBCM.  The mayor also thinks that the Evergreen Line will take the southwest route along Lougheed AND a branch will  head off over the Port Mann to Guildford (maybe further).
I wouldn’t  be surprised if rail goes to Walnut Grove and then down 200th to Willowbrook and Langley Centre. Jordan Bateman, a Langley councillor and Liberal insider has been pushing light rail on 200th.
There is massive development being planned along the Lougheed United Boulevard corridor included Fraser Mills and Riverview. Both United and Lougheed are lined with low density retail and industrial development which Wilson seems keen on redeveloping.
The southwest route is significantly less expensive than the northwest route due to the lack of tunnelling. If the construction of the Guildford branch is concurrent with the highway expansion, the cost to  Coquitlam Centre and Guildford would be similar of the northwest route to just Coquitlam Centre.
The southwest route also means there is a old Canada Line tunnel boring machine sitting around that could be used for the Millennium Line extension. It also means that the Evergreen Line won’t be going through Port Moody which might be why Trassolini is not very happy.
It seems odd in the RFP that they are building the space for light rail now. This is an extra expense that will not increase the revenue in the first few years of operation. Rail over the bridge both in the short and long term will likely generate more revenue than using the two lanes reserved for light rail for general purpose traffic.
Rail also protects project revenue against increases in gas prices and TDM measures designed to reduce automobile use because as car use and revenue goes down, rail use and revenue would go up.
Since most of the opposition to the expansion is coming from Vancouver and Burnaby, the province might also chose to delay the expansion west of Coquitlam.
It also wouldn’t surprise me if the Gateway Program is moved over to the new TransLink. It always seemed rather cumbersome to have both MoT and TransLink responsible for roads in the region. This could be the real reason why Falcon is rejigging TransLink.
Again all of this is rumor and guesswork.  Given Campbell’s ability to outmanoeuvre the opposition, none of this would surprise me at all.

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September 19, 2007


According to Leif Toudal Pedersen from the Danish National Space Centre, the ice-covered area (light green in this image) is currently around 3 million sq km, which is about 1 million sq km less than the previous minimum levels recorded in 2005/6. Over the last ten years the sea ice coverage has shrunk by around 100,000 sq km per year, so a drop of 1 million sq km in just one year is an enormous change.

The strong reduction in just one year certainly raises flags that the ice (in summer) may disappear much sooner than expected and that we urgently need to understand better the processes involved.

Shouldn’t we be scared, even a bit?

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… to find out what’s happening in Vancouver.
Here’s a report from one of the coolest named papers in the States:

Four Cleveland designers among the winners in global design competition in Vancouver

Cleveland Plain Dealer architecture critic Steven Litt
Four architectural interns from Cleveland emerged as winners in an international design competition in Vancouver, along with designers from Rome and Toronto.

The competition was meant to generate ideas and to stir debate in Vancouver – not to provide a concept for an actual construction project.
The winners were Jonathan Kurtz, Kevin Stitak, Kyle May and Dru McKeown. All work for Westlake Reed Leskosky except May, who left two weeks ago for a position in New York.
“I think it’s great,” Kurtz said today. “We assembled ourselves collectively outside the office. We saw it as an opportunity to engage a wider architectural audience..”
May and McKeown hold architecture degrees from Kent State University; Stitak is a graduate of Miami University; and Kurtz holds an architecture degree from Harvard.
The competition, organized by a group of architectural interns in Vancouver, sought new ideas about how the city could move beyond the “podium-tower,” a type of building that has become ubiquitous on the skyline.
A podium tower consists of a tall tower set upon a low base, perhaps several stories high, which fills most of the block on which it sits. The terms of the competition are outlined on the “Poto” website.
The winners — who submitted the best of 45 international entries — earned $2,000 prizes and high praise from the “Potogroup,” which said their proposals “demonstrated equal merit in their solution and presentation of their schemes.”

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Next Saturday, the character of Vancouver is going to change – just a little.  In the neighbourhood of Triangle West, it’s going to change a lot.
Triangle West?  Those are the blocks west of Thurlow, between Georgia and Hastings – often lumped in with Coal Harbour.  It’s where the highrise condos seem to be rising two to a block.
It’s meant to be a distinguishable neighbourhood (it has its own street design and public art) – but it’s still so new and it has no centre.  In particular, no commercial village.
That was a mistake we made when planning Coal Harbour too – you can read the details in Price Tags 88:

Planners expected the residents of Coal Harbour would walk to Robson for their shopping. Up hill. Across Georgia. A kilometre away.

Didn’t happen, wasn’t going to. So the City corrected the mistake by allowing for a new grocery store in the Cielo at Bute and Cordova –a stop along the eventual streetcar line. A major drug store is expected a few blocks south. An Italian coffee shop is pioneering. The ingredients accumulate.

Next Saturday, the grocery store opens:

I lived in Yaletown before the Urban Fare opened on Davie Street.  I remember the dramatic difference.  Before we had a mid-sized, full-service grocery store, we drove out of the neighbourhood to shop.  The streets felt empty.  Retail struggled erratically on Pacific Boulevard.  Concord Pacific seemed like a gigantic stage set: stunning but lifeless. 

The store opened with some brilliant hype: Parisian bread flown in at $100 a loaf.  I doubt anyone ever bought any, and it soon disappeared, but the branding had been done.

Urban Fare anchored the local shopping village which began to cluster on a block of Davie in alliance with the Roundhouse Community Centre.  It was really the first place you could see who lived there.  Because there was a place to walk to do daily shopping, Urban Fare helped fill the streets with pedestrians.  It filled the sidewalk out front.  And it gave Yaletown a centre.

I suspect the same thing will happen at Cordova and Bute.  Residents will have a place to walk, to get provisions, and to check out who lives among them.  For the rest of us, it will give a sense of identity to an otherwise nameless neighbourhood.  It kickstarts community building – and it proves why a medium-size local supermarket is indispensible.



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Maybe because they have already gone through the trauma of serious water constraints, Queenslanders seem to be more serious about the consequences of peak oil.  Or at least some in their government are.
Peter Berkeley, the bike guy from Brisbane who was in Vancouver a few weeks ago, reports in on news at the state level:

Our Premier Peter Beattie retired last week (it all happened very quickly)  The upshot being that there has been a complete reschuffle of the cabinet … 
A major development is that Andrew McNamara, an MP from Harvey Bay has taken up a new ministry called Sustainability, Climate Change and Innovation.  In the hands of anyone else you might say that this is just a rebadging of the old environment department but Andrew has been trying to get the issue of Peak Oil on the radar of the Government and the community for years now. 
He was sworn in on Thursday and by Saturday there was a front page article in the Courier Mail on Peak Oil.  I have attached a link for your reading pleasure. 
Report warns of petrol chaos

From: The Courier-Mail
September 15, 2007
QUEENSLAND is heading for an oil shock. And it is not a matter of if, but when.
As crude oil prices hit a record high yesterday, an as-yet unreleased Queensland Government report warns of massive social dislocation, rising food prices and infrastructure headaches because of rising oil costs.
Video: Oil reaches record prices

Syvret: End of the Oil Age near

Concidentally, there’s a good piece in the New York Times by Gregory Mankiw today on the merits of carbon taxing over cap-and-trade:

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Stephen Rees has a nice post on how Gateway will generate and induce traffic. Here’s a key point:

Land use starts to change in response to the new capacity. Freeeways have this effect even in their planning stages and speculators have already started to buy land in the valley in the expectation of the new freeway capacity.
The province argues that this development would have happened anyway. But this ignores the impact that new freeway capacity has on perceptions of travel time. It changes the pattern of development in terms of its location and density. This induces more travel. The pattern of development is not transit or pedestrian oriented, but freeway oriented.
The pattern of driving to every destination is reinforced and the “no alternative” reason for car use spreads ever wider.

Yup, I know this is obvious stuff, often repeated among those of us interested in transportation in general and Gateway in particular. But it isn’t to many of those in leadership positions. To many in the media, it’s arcane; they don’t have an easy way to say it even if they do understand it.
The Province counts on this. It allows them to say things which are simply absurd, but to do it with authority. Namely: doubling the major traffic arterial in this region will have help solve congestion, produce no more greenhouse gases, and have no effect on growth patterns.
Where are the professionals? – the people who know better, and yet hold their tongues. In particular, the transportation engineering consultants.

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Andrew Ramlo and David Baxter of Urban Futures were fast off the mark with an analysis of the latest census figures on families and housing, just released on September 12.  And what they chose to highlight is so counterintuitive, it’s difficult to grasp.
Despite all the cranes on the skyline and the overhyped marketing campaigns, this has been one of the slowest periods of housing growth – in both real and percentage terms – in three decades.

The 2006 data show that the 2001 to 2006 period represented the slowest growth in the region’s housing stock since the early 1970’s.  In addition, the stock of rental housing actually declined by over 10,000 units between 2001 and 2006….

The most recent Census release showed the number of occupied dwellings in the Vancouver CMA (essentially the same geography as the GVRD), has grown to 816,765 dwellings by 2006, eight percent more than the 758,385 that were occupied in 2001 (Figure 1).

While headlines bemoan what is perceived to be a white hot construction market, this actually represents the smallest percentage increase in the occupied housing stock the region recorded in the last 35 years, even below the 11 percent increase that occurred during the deep recession of the 1981 to 1986 period. It is also the second smallest absolute increase, falling just above the 1981 to 1986 low of 52,330 additional occupied dwellings.

And that’s one of the reasons so many young people are living at home.  (It’s just not kids; over 10 percent of adults between the ages of 30 and 24 were still at home.)
You can find the full report here.
Ironically, these numbers come out at a time when opposition is building to cut EcoDensity off at its knees.  Letters are being written, flyers distributed, petitions circulated and protests organized, all with the same intent: to ensure that as little new housing as possible will be built in the existing neighbourhoods of Vancouver. 
So long as the critics don’t have to take on the issue of housing supply raised by these numbers, they can probably get away without having to address the complex issues of affordability and alternatives for a new generation.

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