Displaying items by tag: Transportation and Urban Planning
Read this editorial by Stephen Quinn in The Globe and Mail on the various parties' responses to a questionnaire from Metro Vancouver about Translink and funding for public transit. (May 10, 2013)
While party leaders have been crisscrossing the province in the dying days of the provincial election campaign, trying to hold on to ridings they already have and trying to swing the ridings that might be swung, Metro Vancouver would like their attention – and yours. The pitch is this: Local Government Matters.
With much of the campaign focused on the economy and jobs, pipelines, natural gas extraction, skills training, back-dated memos, doughnut and pizza lunches, red lights, windmills and weather vanes, the organization that represents 24 municipalities and other agencies that make up the metro region (which contains about half of the province’s population) has sent a questionnaire to the four major parties asking for answers to some very specific questions on urban issues.
Here is where they stand on one issue close to my heart: public transit and moving people around the region.
On public transit, the first question is how the parties will provide local governments and transit authorities with long-term, predictable funding for transit infrastructure. Think light rail through Surrey or a subway line through the Broadway corridor to UBC. Or maybe a few more buses to the most service-starved areas south of the Fraser River.
The Liberals begin by saying that “transit funding is a challenge,” then toss the question back to TransLink, saying the mayors’ council needs to explain the regional priorities, the costs and how new projects will be paid for. They say the provincial government has been working with the mayors’ council to find a solution that taxpayers can agree with.
You may recall that in 2007, the Liberals overhauled the TransLink board because it was, in the words of then-transportation minister Kevin Falcon, “dysfunctional.” The board of elected officials was replaced with a group of “professionals” whose meetings are closed to the public. The mayors’ council has no real power under the new structure, beyond signing off on fare increases and property tax hikes.
On the specific question of TransLink governance, the Liberals agree with a consultant’s report that concluded “there’s more right than wrong with TransLink.”
The NDP says it would reform the TransLink board to once again include elected officials as decision-makers. It also says it would provide a portion of the carbon tax to fund enhanced transit service.
On the carbon tax, the Liberals replied: “There are no funds generated by the carbon tax that could be distributed to Metro Vancouver without raising taxes on individuals and families. Today’s B.C. Liberals are focused on controlling government spending and growing the economy so we can keep taxes as low as possible and get to a debt-free B.C. for our future generations.”
On the issue of tolls and road pricing, the Liberals say any new funding sources will need to be approved in a referendum, to be held at the same time as the next round of municipal elections. They recognize that there are many questions about the referendum.
I’ll say. For instance, what happens if voters in one municipality vote to fund transit and another municipality votes against it?
The NDP, meantime, “will be open to a discussion with a reformed TransLink board.” Good to know.
Read more: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/british-columbia/public-transit-in-metro-vancouver-where-bcs-parties-stand/article11874243/
Read this story from Jeff Nagel of the Surrey-North Delta Leader on Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts' concerns about a BC Liberal pledge for a referendum on transit spending in 2014. (April 15, 2013)
The BC Liberals' surprise pledge of a referendum in November 2014 on any new taxes or tolls for TransLink is getting mixed reaction from transportation watchers.
Canadian Taxpayers' Federation B.C. director Jordan Bateman said the election promise unveiled Monday would give local voters the power to block any new revenue tool for transit expansion they decide is unjustified.
"That will really change the tenor of the discussion around TransLink," Bateman said.
"From my point of view, that's great. Direct democracy is always the best democracy."
Metro Vancouver mayors have asked the province for new funding sources – a vehicle levy, a share of carbon tax, a small regional sales tax or some form of road pricing – to give TransLink the money for a massive transit expansion that would include rapid transit through Surrey to Langley and west on Vancouver's Broadway corridor to UBC.
But some Metro Vancouver mayors are critical of the promised referendum, saying it threatens to dumb down the important debate over the future expansion of transit and put the long-term future of the region at risk.
Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts warned it could divide the region, with voters in cities that already have SkyTrain lines refusing to vote for the higher taxes needed to build new lines in the remaining underserved parts of the region.
"There are going to be people who don't want to have any expansion in the region whatsoever and that leaves the communities that are growing that have had no investment in rapid transit at a disadvantage," Watts said.
"Surrey has paid for significant amounts of infrastructure north of the Fraser," she said. "Now that we're looking to expand south of the Fraser, where 70 per cent of the region's growth is coming, we just really need to stop playing politics and get the job done."
Watts said the debate over funding for TransLink has dragged on for years and waiting until November 2014 would keep the region at a standstill until then.
"Not to be able to do anything for another two years for us in Surrey is simply unacceptable," said Watts, who questioned why there isn't a referendum on Liberal plans for changes to income tax levels or the sale of Crown land.
Watts also said the Liberal platform wrongly calls rapid transit for Surrey a "new" proposal, noting it was promised in the Provincial Transit Plan more than five years ago by then-premier Gordon Campbell.
Mayors' council chair Richard Walton doesn't reject the idea of a referendum but said he's concerned 2014 may be too soon to have an informed public debate on a complex issue like road pricing, which could see motorists charged to drive on major routes.
That public discussion would need to address not just what residents would pay in extra charges, but what they would get for the investment and the downside if it was rejected.
"Saying no is easy," Walton said. "But people don't necessarily understand the repercussions of saying no."
Both he and Watts said the referendum idea came without any warning despite months of meetings with Transportation Minister Mary Polak.
The timing of the vote for November 2014 is to coincide with the next civic elections, saving money.
SFU City Program director Gordon Price said a referendum could be a disaster for the region, blocking transit upgrades needed for the livability of the growing region.
"It's an excruciatingly bad idea," he said, pointing to transportation funding referenda in U.S. states, where he said good policy is often sacrificed to craft an initiative that might pass.
"It just invites everything to be framed as part of a cynical political exercise that's put through the grinder of ideology, partisanship and parochialism. It becomes what will sell. Not what's right or how do we make the tradeoffs that need to be made."
Read more: http://www.surreyleader.com/news/203121751.html
Read this opinion piece on the website for Rail for the Valley, a group advocating for the resurrection of the old light rail Interurban Line from Surrey to Chilliwack, in response to a recent story by transportation planning consultant Eric Doherty in The Vancouver Observer, republished here last week. (April 8, 2013)
If there is any doubt that the bus lobby misrepresents the truth, the following will dispel it immediately.
The Vancouver Observer ran an item by Eric Doherty entitled, Humble trolley bus reborn as climate superhero, which the truth is so distorted that it leaves the reader with the impression that modern LRT is all but obsolete. What is even more distressing, Doherty is advising the NDP on regional transit issues.
Zwei takes great exception with the following excerpt:
The comparison to light rail vehicles is important when considering what routes are busy enough to justify the capital cost of building light rail. There is an overlap in the size of modern trams (streetcars and light rail vehicles) and modern buses. Smaller trams have capacities of around 150 people, whereas the largest buses carry up to 200. There is a large potential labour saving in utilizing much larger rail vehicles carrying over 500 people on very busy routes. But on less busy routes there is now little or no labour cost saving to going to rail vehicles. Frequency of service is one of the most important factors in attracting transit riders, so running large light rail vehicles infrequently is not much of an option.
The modern tram has capacities of 200 to 350 people, the smaller trams mentioned are either heritage vehicles or operate on routes that demand a smaller vehicle. Today, the tram is made of modular construction and a smaller tram can economically ‘grow’ with ridership demands on a transit route, by adding a new module, something that is impossible for buses to do.
The three sectioned articulated buses mentioned in the piece are illegal to operate on Canadian streets unless they operate on a dedicated rights-of-ways or busways, which dramatically increase the cost of construction and operation.
The author makes an impression that trams can’t operate at close frequencies (which they can and more efficiently when headways are less than 60 seconds) and his larger bus compared to small tram is just dishonest.
But I will leave it with a German transit expert, Wolfgang Keller, to put things in a proper perceptive:
Quote; “In Europe, many transit agencies no longer differentiate between Bus Rapid Transit and Light Rail lines”
What?! BRT isn’t an issue in Germany, Austria, or Switzerland. What is common, however, is that buses use reserved streetcar lanes as bus-lanes.
There is one BRT network I know of in the Netherlands and a few lines in France. I have no clue of the UK though.
A regular contributor to “Stadtverkehr” (Harry Hondius) has somewhat advocated BRT recently, based on the excessive cost per km (up to 60 mio EUR iirc) of some new networks in France. But that excessive cost was not really rail-related, since the municipal authorities charged a lot of “urban refurbishment” works on the streetcar budget.
The TVR/GLT was a total disaster and it’s no longer marketed by Bombardier, just like all previous attempt at guided buses (Translohr is a streetcar, legally, it’s bidirectional and can run in MU, besides units over 24m). Caen has decided to replace it with actual streetcars. Nancy has decided to refurbish the TVR trolleybuses for something like 750,000 EUR (!) per piece to allow them to live for another 10-15 years, since they have never been really “fit for service”. There were not only numerous derailments, but also safety issues with the electric isolation of the traction equipment (Bombardiers had never built trolleybuses before and the electric equipment of trolleybuses is pretty special for safety reasons).
Read more: http://www.railforthevalley.com/latest-news/zweisystem/the-bus-lobby-uses-the-skytrain-lobbys-tacticts/
Read this story by sustainable transportation expert Eric Doherty in the Vancouver Observer on bringing back older public transit tools to help society transition away from fossil fuels. (Apr. 3, 2013)
If someone asked you about what technologies have the greatest potential to reduce the carbon pollution that is destabilizing our climate and turning our oceans acid, what would pop into your head first? Many people would mention wind turbines, solar photovoltaic panels, electric cars, and perhaps even bicycles lanes or light rail. But there is a potential climate superhero quietly patrolling the streets of Vancouver, Burnaby and about 300 other cities, the seldom-noticed electric trolley bus.
Part of what makes the trolley bus such a potential game changer is that it not a new and unproven invention; like the bicycle and electric streetcar the basic design has been refined gradually for over a century. The first trolley buses in regular service were very basic, like the electric streetcars that came into regular service about a decade earlier. Trolley buses have gradually been refined to be highly sophisticated forms of transportation with a solid track record, the largest carry up to 200 people in buses with three sections.
The trolley bus is not new, and neither are innovative ways of making them work better. In the late 1970s Zurich, Switzerland started creating a network of exclusive transit lanes and signal priority for both streetcars and trolley buses. At that time transit signal priority (traffic signals designed so that transit vehicles don’t have to stop at traffic lights) had to be invented from scratch. Now multiple manufacturers provide well proven transit priority systems. Every year the Zurich transit authority gets closer to its goal of never having transit passengers delayed by automobile traffic. And Zurich now has the highest transit ridership in Europe, without a subway or elevated rapid transit.
In 1995 the city of Quito, Ecuador started using trolley buses in a slightly different way than Zurich – by building a trolley bus rapid transit line with enclosed transit stations. Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) is a simple concept – you give buses a dramatic makeover that makes the rider experience much like rapid transit on rails but with a much lower capital cost. The main elements are dedicated lanes with enforcement to keep cars out, signal priority so buses seldom have to stop at traffic lights, and all-door boarding to reduce the time spent at stops.
Many BRT systems now use digital video cameras on the front of buses to photograph and ticket vehicles that intrude into bus lanes, a powerful incentive for drivers to stay out of the way. In Europe, manytransit agencies no longer differentiate between Bus Rapid Transit and Light Rail lines. Bus Rapid transit is typically a bit faster than light rail, and has about the same maximum capacity.
Read more: http://www.vancouverobserver.com/politics/commentary/humble-trolley-bus-reborn-climate-superhero
Read this op-ed from the Georgia Straight by sustainable transportation consultant Eric Doherty, presenting a cost-effective, alternative transportation vision for the Lower Mainland. (March 21, 2013)
Recently there has been a flurry of news stories about rapid-transit projects in Metro Vancouver, many with misleading headlines like “SkyTrain to Langley top rapid transit option for Surrey: TransLink”. Mayor Dianne Watts wants light-rail rapid transit in Surrey, and Vision Vancouver councillor Geoff Meggs has been badmouthing anything in Vancouver but a $3-billion subway along Broadway to UBC. But TransLink’s just-released studies reveal a wide variety of good rapid-transit options, all with both positive features and limitations.
No “preferred alternative” has yet been selected.
The big question is how any of this will be paid for. The provincial government under Christy Clark has prioritized roadway expansion over transit, and the result has been cuts to transit service across the region. The cuts are deepest at the edges of the transit system, in Surrey and Delta, but they extend even to bus routes in Vancouver and off-peak SkyTrain service.
An obvious solution, for at least part of the cost, is reallocating the money from urban road-expansion projects. The controversial Massey Tunnel project is expected to cost billions and is designed to facilitate industrial and residential development on land taken out of the Agricultural Land Reserve. Besides dooming Delta’s agricultural land, this project would direct development onto a floodplain increasingly vulnerable to flooding due to sea-level rise. At the same time, it would increase the carbon emissions driving global warming. Three billion dollars is enough to build light rail along Broadway to UBC and bus rapid transit in Surrey, with about a billion left over for bike paths, bus lanes, transit signal priority, and the like throughout the region.
Many U.S. groups, including the Sierra Club, have adopted the slogan “Fix it first” to campaign for an end to wasteful spending on new and wider roads. Get OnBoard B.C. is a coalition of groups supporting increased funding for transit in Metro Vancouver that has taken up a similar idea and advocates reallocating funds from road expansion to transit, among other transit funding options.
The Climate Justice Project report Transportation Transformation, which I coauthored, suggests that between $1 billion and $1.5 billion per year could be reallocated from roadway expansion to transit, cycling, passenger rail, and other low-carbon-emission transportation across B.C.
This is in addition to the vehicle levies, carbon tax, gas taxes, tolls, and other revenue sources TransLink could access with provincial-government approval. Seen in this light, maybe we can even afford bathrooms at SkyTrain stations and bus loops, and improve HandyDART service for people with disabilities and the elderly, in addition to new rapid-transit lines and more buses.
Even capital-intensive SkyTrain lines are within reach for the busiest corridors, if the political will is found to set aside road-building projects and put transit first. But most of Metro Vancouver is far away from the busiest transit routes, so less expensive forms of rapid transit need to be considered for these areas. One of the most interesting options being examined by TransLink is bus rapid transit (BRT). A $900-million BRT option is on TransLink’s shortlist for Surrey and Langley; it is forecast to attract around the same number of riders as a light-rail system costing more than twice as much.
TransLink’s early studies cast doubt on the ability of BRT to meet long-term ridership demand while maintaining speed and reliability. However, the transportation authority’s analysis of BRT is based on diesel buses with a capacity of only 100 people, whereas double articulated buses that hold up to 200 in both diesel hybrid and electric trolley versions are now available. Electric trolley buses accelerate more quickly than diesel buses and attract more riders since they are quieter and pollute less. TransLink’s studies and real-world experience show that BRT can be effective even on very busy routes. The next stage of TransLink studies should provide more information on what can be done with BRT using modern high-capacity trolley buses.
Under pressure from concerned citizens, TransLink has already set the stage for creating a world-class transit system. In May 2011, the authority announced the cancellation of the North Fraser Perimeter Road project through New Westminster. More recently, TransLink has pulled back its proposal to build a six-lane replacement for the Pattullo Bridge at a cost of around $1 billion and is instead considering upgrading the existing bridge for around $200 million. These two moves alone free up more than enough money for a $900-million bus rapid-transit network in Surrey.
Read more: http://www.straight.com/news/364516/eric-doherty-spend-transit-not-roads
Read this extensive story from the Georgia Straight on the growing threat to farmland and wildlife habitat from massive port, rail and road expansion - under development and planned - in Delta. (Jan. 17, 2012)
From the crest of this obscure bridge over Deltaport Way, the enormity of what’s about to happen here seems impossible to exaggerate. To Harold Steves, 76, one of the founders of the province’s 1973 Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) system, calamity looms. “That’s gone. That’s gone. That’s gone,” he tells me, gesturing first at a colour-coded map, then at the real South Delta farmland around us.
On this stormy late-October day, nothing is gone. Yet. Turbaned men harvest pumpkins on a nearby farm. Thousands of migratory snow geese occupy plowed and puddled fields. But the pumpkins and the fields and the geese are about to disappear as work begins on one of the largest construction projects in Canadian history.
And to the southeast, the ALR lands in that direction will also disappear if the Tsawwassen First Nation’s (TFN) deal with Ivanhoé Cambridge Inc. and Vancouver’s Property Development Group comes to fruition. For over there, the second-largest shopping complex in Canada is about to be built. Exceeded in size only by West Edmonton Mall, the TFN’s gargantuan, Coast Salish–themed Tsawwassen Mills/Tsawwassen Commons megamall will feature hundreds of stores and hectares of parking space. Goodbye, farmland; hello, Toys “R” Us.
But that is, to Steves’s mind, the least of it. For directly below and to the west of Delta’s 41B Street overpass is the real story: the proposed $10-billion Terminal 2 expansion at the Roberts Bank Superport, which now consists of two terminals, the Westshore coal facility and the Deltaport container operation.
With little opportunity to increase industrial capacity along the prohibitively expensive Burrard Inlet waterfront, Port Metro Vancouver—which is the name of both Canada’s largest and busiest port and a federally established corporation—is set to quadruple its container import-export capacity at Deltaport in the coming years. After all, China beckons. Politicians genuflect before the god of perpetual economic growth. Unions see jobs. Developers see real-estate possibilities. Tsawwassen Natives see dollar signs. Profits—despite sanctimonious statements otherwise—trump environmental policy. Farms are expendable; ditto snow geese.
In fact, for the prime agricultural land below the bridge where Steves stands, a 135-hectare industrial park is slated. Below, too, will be six to eight new sets of train tracks to serve the enlarged port. And the mysterious series of bridges now under construction over Highway 99 and Highway 17 just south of the Massey Tunnel is part of the new 40-kilometre-long South Fraser Perimeter truck route, built specifically to service the new terminal.
All told, more than 400 hectares of Class 1 agricultural land in Delta will be lost to port expansion. Another 100 hectares will succumb to residential units slated to be built on TFN land adjacent to the megamall. “That’s the best soil in Canada,” says Steves, incensed by the shortsightedness of corporate capitalism. “You’re looking at the Richmondization of Delta.”
Steves says that when he protested in 2011 to Robin Silvester, president of Port Metro Vancouver, that Terminal 2 would harm the province’s agricultural future, Silvester told him: “You don’t have to worry about food security for B.C. Give us the land in Delta and we’ll use it to import food.”
Here, then, is the crux of the impending conflict, both for Delta and for the planet. Two contradictory views of the future are about to collide. Worldwide, deltas of great rivers like the Nile, the Mekong, the Fraser—in all, the source of much of Earth’s food—are under assault as inexpensive agricultural land succumbs to industrialization, suburban sprawl, and relentlessly rising ocean levels.
What happens in Delta will, for better or worse, provide a preview of how the 21st century will unfold. Will it be increasingly globalized, processed-food production and distribution or more locally grown food? Will it be sprawl, malls, and highways or urban densification, neighbourhood shopping, and public transit? Will it be estuaries for port and industrial development or estuaries for agriculture, migratory birds, and fish habitat?
Read more: http://www.straight.com/news/343311/delta-expansion-projects-threaten-farms-and-wildlife
Read this story from Metro News on the opening of the new Port Mann Bridge, which is drawing criticism from a leading sustainable transportation experts for driving climate change-causing car-based transportation instead of more sustainable, modern alternatives. (Nov. 30, 2012)
Its historical significance and sheer wow factor is unquestioned.
But everything else about the new Port Mann Bridge is fair game for sustainable transportation advocates.
Gordon Price – Simon Fraser University director of the City Program and board member of the International Centre for Sustainable Cities – says the government missed a golden opportunity to promote smart regional growth when the 10-lane, $3.3-billion megabridge between Coquitlam and Surrey officially opens Saturday.
Instead the project promotes urban sprawl, car use and champions outdated, 20th century “motordome” thinking, flying in the face of emerging trends indicating decreased car use and more demand for public transportation.
“The most frustrating thing is that [the Port Mann] doesn’t do what they said it was going to do: reduce congestion,” said Price. “The claim is disingenuous when you pass on the opportunity to include rapid transit within the budget. When that happens, expanding the capacity for cars [without an alternative] increases the demand. If people can travel farther in the same amount of time from cheaper land, they will.”
The original Port Mann, which cost $25 million in 1964, opened the region up to expansion south of the Fraser River.
That growth strained the road network, creating a situation today where the old five-lane Port Mann Bridge is congested in both directions 13 hours of the day.
Price doesn’t dispute that a replacement was required and doesn’t doubt commuters will give the bridge plenty of use despite its tolls.
But he calls the final design overkill and unnecessary.
“Why do we need the world’s widest bridge when all the planners said eight lanes would do?” he said. “I doubt you’ll ever need all 10 lanes. It’s today’s Granville Street Bridge, which never reached its designed capacity and never will.”
Robin Lindsey, a transportation expert at the University of British Columbia Sauder School of Business, believes the effectiveness of the Port Mann won’t be known until 2014.
“People need time to adjust and experiment with their routes and decide for themselves about tolls,” he said. “I think it will cope fairly well. Best-case scenario, the peak times drop by as much as an hour and the effect of high capacity works. What happens in 50 years, I haven’t the foggiest idea.”
Forecasting done last year by Steer Davies Gleave, for Port Mann operator Transportation Investment Corporation, showed that traffic volumes on the existing Port Man have steadily decreased from 2005 to 2010, by approximately 8,000 vehicles in that period.
A Frontier Group report on driving behaviour in the U.S. shows the average annual number of vehicle-miles travelled by people between the ages of 16 and 34 have dropped 23 per cent from 2001 and 2009.
While the recession is a factor in both cases, the Frontier Group states high gas prices, licensing laws, improved alternative transportation (public transportation, primarily) and changing attitudes about driving and the environment represent the start of a generational shift.
Meanwhile, increasingly aggressive urban planning on a municipal level emphasizing livable communities, public transit and non-vehicle infrastructure is dramatically changing driving behaviour.
The City of Vancouver, for example, has reduced traffic volumes in the downtown core to 1960s levels.
Price feels governments have been slow to react because leaders grew up in driving cultures and new statistics showing a shift away from that mentality are so dramatic “it’s easy to be skeptical”.
Read more: http://metronews.ca/news/vancouver/459706/new-port-mann-a-link-to-the-past/
The Jumbo Ski Resort planned for the Purcell Mountains has been approved by the provincial government, which has put in place legislation for the area to become a municipality. The setting up of a municipality is so the government will have someone to work with as the various permits are dealt with (which is Liberalese for “approved”)...Even the government's own scientists have warned, "The proposed Jumbo Glacier Resort has the potential for substantial and direct cumulative impacts to the Central Purcell Grizzly Bear population."
Port Metro Vancouver (PMV) is moving forward with plans to extensively dredge the environmentally-sensitive estuary of the Fraser River to build another man-made island for a new terminal with 3 container berths. The island will be 284 acres plus an intermodal yard and a widened causeway with road and rail expansions. The Project will impact 519 acres of internationally-significant fish and wildlife habitat at Roberts Bank. There is no economic or environmental justification for PMV to proceed with these plans.
Much of the recent media attention on the Highway of Tears has focused on how amazing technology allowed police to solve a crime decades after it was committed and years after the murderer died. However, very little attention has been paid to a forward-looking resolution by Smithers' Mayor Taylor Bachrach which passed nearly unanimously at the Union of BC Municipalities convention in September. The Highway of Tears Safety Resolution calls for the provincial government to finally implement the recommendation of the 2006 Highway of Tears Symposium Recommendations Report for improved bus service between northern communities.