Patrick Johnstone is a city councillor for the City of New Westminster as well as a cyclist, writer, and engaged citizen. He’s going to be posting items on New Westminster’s Innovation Week, and has invited everyone to attend the events for the City’s eight day events for Innovation Week. You can also go to Patrick’s website here at https://patrickjohnstone.ca . Here’s Patrick’s first post:
Starting on February 23, New Westminster is running its second annual Innovation Week, an 8-day-long series of events celebrating how innovation in technology and organization can transform a City.
New Westminster is investing in becoming a smarter city through what it calls an Intelligent City Initiative. Innovation Week is a showcase for this model, and an opportunity to bring people from around the region together to dream about the cities of a rapidly-arriving internet-empowered information-dependent future.
The opening on Friday evening demonstrates how varied the topic of “innovation” can be. A free public reception in City Hall (511 Royal Ave) will include a digital media show by local students and artists where data from the City’s award-winning Open Data Portal is translated to digital signals that are in turn worked into video and musical performances. If that’s not enough, a local craft brewery will be there to release a Limited Edition brew formulated with the help of the Mayor of New Westminster – Jonathan Cote.
There are many events over the week that should be of interest to people across the region. The theme for 2018 is Transportation, so there will be forums and dialogues on topics like regional transportation and mobility pricing. But there are also discussions about digital inclusion, a livable Cities symposium, Public Art tours and a PechaKucha evening featuring regional transportation and planning thought leaders.
The interactive events of the week include classes for youth on coding and a Hack-a-Thon where teams of programmers will compete to use the City’s Open Data Portal to create apps to solve local government problems or gamify everyday municipal operations. A Business Expo will concentrate on the Tech economy, and a pitch event and forums will bring together Angel Investors and government funding agencies interested in helping new start-ups or established businesses. Through the week, you will be given reasons to dream, and information and resources to make that dream work.
A list of the several events is available on the Innovation Week website:
https://www.newwestcity.ca/innovation-week
Innovation Week
February 23 – March 3, 2018
Various Locations in New Westminster
Open to the public, most events free (but please register first to help organizers out!)

 

Read more »


The iconic Toronto “Honest Ed” site is being redeveloped by Westbank at Bloor and Bathurst in the Annex area. The City of Toronto has gone with a straight up tower form without the podium massing commonly used in Vancouver. The development will have 801 units in five thin towers, the highest tower being 29 storeys. And no, they did not keep the Honest Ed’s sign intact, it was demolished. Spacing Toronto had a draw for a few light bulbs from the sign, as well as part of the sign with the letter “O”.

The City of Toronto has also launched a film series called “Street Level” and in the first film “Senior Planner Graig Uens explains how the redevelopment plans for Mirvish Village evolved based on community feedback & the City’s own planning policies”.
It is a fascinating take on how Toronto sees itself, its policies (the bike lanes!) and its processes. Graig’s talk describes the public process to get to the 29 storey tower massing, and mentions some of the heritage facade retention. The short film has a feel like the City of Angels film where Nicholas Cage viewed Los Angeles from the roof tops.  Films on what city planners actually do are scarce~kudos to the City of Toronto for including their planner.
You can check it out here.

Read more »


Various media sources including the Vancouver Sun have reported on the City of Vancouver Engineering’s plan to reduce 80 to 90  city metered parking spaces in Yaletown’s five blocks around the rather funky Mainland and Hamilton Street retail area. The area to be impacted is the metered angle parking that serves the commercial businesses. One, a flower shop, needs the space for commercial deliveries that occur several times a day. The Yaletown Business Improvement Area’s executive director, Annette O’Shea calls this parking reduction “absolutely devastating”  and stated “There’s been no consultation whatsoever. The residents don’t know what’s going on, businesses don’t know what’s going on. We know we’re going to lose some parking. We totally accept that we’re going to lose some parking,” she said.But to have this slash-and-burn mentality of we’re going to lose all the parking, it’s totally unacceptable.”
The metered parking spaces to be chopped  are among the top cash cow performers in the City of Vancouver parking meter stable, which brings in $50 million dollars a year, or over $4 million dollars a month.
The rationale for the stripping of metered parking is “safety” according to the City of Vancouver Fire Department. Unlike the rest of  the downtown, these  Yaletown streets uniquely have a street on the front and back of each building instead of a skinny back lane. This  means that any fires can be accessed and fought from both sides of the building.
Street space been an ongoing issue for the last thirty years where the Fire Department has consistently asked the Engineering Department for less parking and even street widening for their vehicles in the West End.  Traffic circles were considered bad for fire trucks until computer programs proved that they could easily negotiate around them, or use their edges. Speed bumps were also considered bad for fire trucks, not because of elapsed emergency time, but because firemen hit their heads on the truck roofs with the bumps.
Price Tags Vancouver has already reported about the City of San Francisco obtaining eight new fire trucks that are ten inches shorter and can make a u-turn in  twenty-five feet. These trucks are being commissioned for the less wide and more curving street network in the downtown area. The new trucks also have cameras that give a 360 degree view around the engine for pedestrian and cyclist safety according to Vision Zero principles.
The City of Vancouver is holding a public meeting on February 22  at the Roundhouse Community Center between 2:00 and 8:00 p.m to discuss proposed changes.

 
 
 

Read more »

Gord Price: I’ve been predicting the rise of the “Transportation Service Provider” – a consolidator of every mode of movement imaginable, integrated with technology, and designed to provide consumers with a suite of services for which they pay, as with telecommunications, one provider with a lot of money.  Assuming a single provider or oligopoly can emerge.
So look to see some of the giants try to get even bigger and more diverse as fast as possible in order to dominate the market.  Here’s the latest example.

SAN FRANCISCO — It’s Uber, but for bicycles.

For the first time in Uber’s history, the company is offering rides on roads in the United States using something other than cars. Starting next week, it will let certain users in San Francisco reserve pedal-assist electric bicycles through its app. The idea is that people will see the bicycles as a cheaper and faster alternative — not a huge stretch of the imagination for anyone who has been stuck in Friday evening gridlock traffic in San Francisco.

Uber is not supplying its own bicycles. It is working with Jump Bikes, a bike-sharing service that secured a permit in January to put 250 motorized bicycles — making it easier to tackle San Francisco’s steep hills — in locations throughout the city.

The pilot program is the latest indication of Uber’s ambitions to move beyond its ride-hailing origins. It is also working on autonomous trucking services, while aggressively expanding into the food delivery market with Uber Eats.

Read more »


No one will argue with advocating for better walking facilities~wider sidewalks, brushed concrete with non-glare finishes, benches and amenities to make walking and wayfinding by foot  in Metro Vancouver safe, comfortable and convenient. The very same can be said about having separated bike lanes so that cyclists no matter what their age and ability can safely and conveniently cycle.  Studies have shown that people who walk or cycle to local shops and services go more often and spend more on a monthly basis than people who travel by cars. Biking instead of driving reduces air pollution, provides exercise and increases health. Being active is vital for personal and community health, connection and society. Biking does that. It’s the right thing to encourage.
So why is it that this is not universally recognized as something that all members of Vancouver City Council advocate? Why is the NPA, one of the parties on Vancouver Council voting against bike lane development, most notably on the Cambie Street bridge that has already seen a decrease in vehicular traffic since 2010 and an increase in people choosing to cycle? At most, car traffic will experience a ten second delay with the implementation of the recently approved trial bike lane.
Adrienne Tanner in the Globe and Mail observed that “It seems that almost everyone in the world except the NPA accepts that separated bike lanes are safer – and cities are rushing to build them. Manhattan is spending millions on more protected bike lanes (they already have 725 kilometres), and Portland has made them the default design for all new construction. Other Canadian cities, such as Calgary and Edmonton, are adding separated lanes. And Montreal’s new mayor has plans to more than double the number of protected lanes in her city.”
Jimmy Thompson in The Tyee makes it even clearer. Protected bike lanes reduce cyclist injuries and increase the volumes of people cycling. Women are more likely to commute by bike with protected bike lanes. Bike lanes mean fewer conflicts, and in Toronto driving times actually decreased by several minutes in the Bloor Street Bike Lane Study..
In the Vancouver NPA’s policy page from the summer of 2017 they maintain  the “support of properly planned bike lanes that do not negatively impact our city, its residents, or businesses. We believe bike lanes can be built with the safety of residents in mind, while also having a positive effect on traffic flow and mobility that does not negatively impact the movement of goods and services or sacrifice ease of access to local businesses.”  Why are they not supporting them?
Having separated bike lanes means that people who normally drive can try biking, and those that do not give up driving will have less congestion on the road. In a Canadian city with arguably one of the best year round climates for biking, the development of separated bike lanes should be championed, not discouraged. It’s time to get on the same page for  developing a city that is safe, comfortable and convenient for all active transportation users, many of whom will be looking at party policy for voting in the next municipal election.

photo credit: Jean @cyclewriteblog

Read more »


The Retail Council of Canada has released its   annual  report  on how Canada’s shopping malls are doing. Canada’s top malls continue to thrive, but “disruption and re-invention” has been key while “e-commerce” (the Amazoning of retail space) continues to grow. With Sears Canada declaring bankruptcy there’s going to be over 15 million square feet of space available in malls across Canada. That’s the size of fifteen Tsawwassen Mills mega malls.
The report notes that shopping centres are now featuring “food halls” and full-sized restaurants, and are creating “experiences” that are entertaining and enjoyable. Pop up retail is continuing in popularity, and some of the top mall developers are reviewing options to add housing and other institutions to their shopping mall locations.

 Of the top thirty malls in Canada, eight of them have sales of over $1,000 a square foot with Toronto’s Yorkdale Shopping Centre ranked first with the highest annual sales per square foot. Eleven of the top 30 malls are in the Greater Toronto Area, and seven are in the Greater Vancouver area “making it the top region per capita for the most productive malls in the country.”  Newcomer Tsawwassen Mills owned by Ivanhoe Cambridge is not included in this stable, as Ivanhoe Cambridge is not releasing statistics on the mall’s performance. Oakridge, Pacific Centre, Metropolis, Richmond,Guilford, Park Royal and Coquitlam shopping centres are in the top thirty for sales by square foot.
What is interesting is that most of these high achieving locations are not suburban malls, but are in urban locations close by density and good transit accessibility to shops and services. Four of the busiest malls nationally are in urban cores-Toronto Eaton’s Centre, Vancouver’s Pacific Centre, the Rideau Centre and the CORE shopping centre in Calgary.  As the report notes “In the United States, none of the country’s top 10 malls are downtown. This can be attributed to factors including stronger urban cores in Canada as well as a combination of history, culture, downtown population concentration and mix, investment priorities, and transit access when compared to most cities south of the border.” 
While Oakridge makes the most of B.C. malls at $1,579.00 per square foot, the lowest performing  B.C. mall in the top thirty, Coquitlam reaps $879.00 per square foot. Compare that with the early indicators from Tsawwassen Mills which used to be available on the Ivanhoe Cambridge site, showing a meagre $279.00 per square foot on retail space. 
You can take a look at the report available here on pedestrian traffic to shopping malls and other details. The Metro Vancouver region continues to have the highest average total sales productivity in Canada with $1,051 per square foot. It will be interesting to see how Tsawwassen Mills built on the most arable floodplain farmland in Canada, away from density and good transit will stack up next to Vancouver’s high performance more urban malls once the developer releases the sales per square foot statistics.
Without any official stats on Tsawwassen Mills Price Tags Vancouver is sharing a  youtube video by Ivanhoe Cambridge. The video features a bunch of similar looking men, no women, no diversity as talking heads describing the developer’s philosophy and how this 1.2 million square foot mall was designed and built. It’s worth noting that in this video the talking heads state that the mall will be the centre of the community which “will build around it”. Here’s hoping they will share  Tsawwassen Mills’ retail statistics soon. https://youtu.be/T12IGP5u2GA Read more »


The Van Bikes. ca blog is a lovely collection of stories about cycling advocacy and people that have supported advocacy, some for decades.  Written by Colin Stein, you can take a look at the website at  http://www.VanBikes.ca
The website has followed up on some pretty interesting advocates. Recently, Ken Ohrn, the  co-editor of Price Tags Vancouver was featured with his story about living in Vancouver and  becoming  a cycling advocate. It’s a testament about will, being determined, giving back, and achievement. It’s so fun we’ve included the entire interview below.
 Ken Ohrn
A veteran of the Air Force, an engineer, and a former aerospace sector executive, Ken’s side hustle had typically been physical fitness. Not local politics. Life’s too short. So he didn’t really know what he was getting into when, in his sixth decade and no longer interested in knee-punishing, charley-horse-inducing long distance runs, he pulled his old bike out of the basement and dusted it off.
It started out innocuous enough.
I discovered that a bike is a wonderful way to maintain fitness. You can get into cardio to as great or as little extent as you want.If you’re just going to go to the grocery store for a litre of milk, it’s leisurely and easy. If you want to do a long ride, you can push it, you can go up hills and so on. So you can peg your cardio wherever you want. A downtown resident today, at that time he lived nine kilometres outside the core — about 30 minutes, an ideal distance for breaking a sweat and getting the heart rate up.”
So one day he decided to go for it.
“I was thinking about going to the library downtown, and I thought, what the hell I’ll take my bike. It turned out to be easy, and fast — just as fast as taking my car, parking it, walking to the library, and so on. But I was really anxious about it. I didn’t really know all the unspoken and all the unwritten rules, and even the written rules about how to ride in a busy city. There were parts of it that were just horrifying — riding on Homer, narrow parked cars…it was just awful. But I made it. Give up? Not exactly. That’s what I like about engineers, they keep thinking about ways to get around the problem. Whereas I would have taken that as a signal that I didn’t belong there. I might have gone back to my artsy hovel and written slam poetry about the experience, or baked an angry-looking banana bread. “
But to generalize as broadly as I possibly can, most engineers (or fine, ALL engineers) are problem solvers. So Ken did what any good problem-solver does.
I thought, somebody knows more about this than me. There’s always somebody who knows more. And I started looking around and, lo and behold, I found the Vancouver Area Cycling Coalition, who had a course. So I signed up. And I nearly walked out in the first half hour. Because I thought what the instructor was saying was crazy and dangerous.
“You belong on the road. If you’re coming to an intersection and you need to make a turn, take the lane. Get in there, position yourself in the lane, signal, make your turn.”
I thought that’s nuts. That’s totally crazy. Even if you’re comfortable cycling on the road, you may also be familiar with the style of cycling he was used to. It’s a style that now, upon reflection, was a terribly strange thing for someone to get used to.”
If you’re an urban planner, you live for this kind of stuff (or you’re responsible for it, you smack your forehead).

“I was cycling as a kind of enhanced pedestrian.
If I came to an intersection and I needed to make a left turn, I would stop, get off my bike, cross in the crosswalk, wait for the light, cross — unless there was absolutely no traffic.”
Problem-solver that he was, Ken took the information the VACC instructor gave him, compared it to the evidence, and came to a conclusion.

Read more »



A unanimous pick by the Price Tags editors for the most Potentially Polarizing Planning Work~The Amazon solicitation from cities right across North America for  its first location outside of Seattle. Why? Amazon says it will invest 5 billion dollars (those would be American dollars) in the construction of its second headquarters. Of course over 238 proposals  came from cities putting in a bid to Amazon to become the second headquarters. Amazon has had those bids since the middle of October and plans to make the grand announcement in 2018.
And here is where it is polarizing. Of course Vancouver put in a bid, as reported by Price Tags Vancouver here. But there is a good side and a bad side to this. While 50,000 Amazon staff workers would be located here, they will all need a place to live. And while Amazon will bring in new money and salaries, will those tens of thousands of high paying jobs also raise the salaries of local Vancouverites not working with Amazon? Or will those high paying jobs in Amazon make the Vancouver market more unaffordable?
 
Amazon did have some basic requirements, asking for a city with a one million person population, an international airport  and a place that was “stable and business-friendly”.  Oh of course, one more thing~Amazon also said “Incentives offered by the state/province and local communities to offset initial capital outlay and ongoing operational costs will be significant factors in the decision-making process.”  
Price Tags Vancouver’s Gordie 2017  for most potentially polarizing planning work.

Read more »


Tom Durning of the Daily Durning sends this article from the Washington Post which quotes our very own City of Vancouver Planner, Gil Kelley.  The article is about the millennial age group, the eldest now in their mid thirties. This population cohort stayed in cities, lived in apartments, eschewed vehicle ownership in favour of walking, cycling, car share and transit, and led the way to how we look at cities today, as urban fabrics of connectivity based upon walkable proximity to work, shops and services. It is no surprise that city planners and thinkers want to keep this population of people in cities instead of suburbs as they begin having families and buying houses.
As many are now priced out of buying single family housing in cities, the “missing middle” form of density is coming back into vogue.  ” Urban planners, developers and architects are reviving the kinds of homes that might be more familiar to millennials’ great-grandparents: duplexes, triplexes, bungalows, rowhouses with multiple units, and small buildings with four to six apartments or condos. It’s the kind of housing that fell out of fashion after World War II, when young families and others fled cities for the houses, driveways and ample yards of the burgeoning suburbs… It hits the middle in scale — larger than a typical detached single-family home but smaller than a mid- or high-rise — and typically serves people with middle-class incomes.”
The City of Vancouver is now looking at new housing forms in duplexes and townhouses, which will provide more of the ‘missing middle” of housing density. “I think it’s very significant that we’re understanding people want to live in the core of urban areas again,” Kelley said. “We’re reversing a 60- to 70-year trend of people moving out to suburbs . . . This is not just a fad for a decade. This is a multi-decade shift.”
There is evidence that millennials do not want to “drive until you qualify” for home ownership, and in the United States this population outnumbers the baby boom generation in population. In the words of Gil Kelley ““It’s a huge wave. They’re demanding a place in the cities and housing that’s affordable to them.”
This ten minute video with University of British Columbia’s  Patrick Condon and Scot Hein filmed in early 2017 discusses the “missing middle” housing form, and how it would fit into the Vancouver context.

 

Read more »