Talking about the Lack of Public Washrooms One More Time

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There are two things that walkers and users of TransLink services would appreciate~across the board free internet that is not just at certain stations or tied to having a plan with a certain provider, and having washrooms. Yes, there are no washrooms at SkyTrain station or at major bus loops despite the fact that there is a universal need for such facilities.

Others have already written about the fact that in Metro Vancouver you can use public transit, or you can use a washroom, but you can’t do both on the TransLink system. This lack of facilities drew the ire of the Raging Grannies when they took public transit into Vancouver for a protest. They were so annoyed at the fact that TransLink did not provide washrooms that they wrote a song about it, and  followed up with the Vancouver Seniors’ Advisory Committee who also asked TransLink to get washrooms.

TransLink has had lots of reasons for not providing something everyone needs to use. The renovated SkyTrain stations along the Expo line even have space that has been prepped with plumbing for washrooms. TransLink has “issues” such as maintenance security and sanitation. But as Price Tags Vancouver has discussed before~ if Edmonton, Toronto and Paris can provide washroom facilities at some stations, surely Vancouver can as well.  You can take a look at this older copy of The Buzzer that provides a chart of which transit systems have washrooms.

TransLink is now saying that they are going to consider washrooms at SkyTrain stations and perhaps at bus loops according to the Daily Hive. Right now washrooms are for staff only and the only available washrooms for the public are at the SeaBus terminal. TransLink’s spokesperson is still repeating the same mantra saying “Transit systems in North America that provide washrooms often struggle with safety and cleanliness concerns of customers and the high cost of maintenance for the transit agency.”  

In the 21st century we should be providing for the comfort and convenience of passengers and making public transit an effortless alternative to using an automobile. That includes providing for the basic necessities of people using the system, and that means providing washrooms  that are universally accessible for all system users. Quite simply, public transportation customers on the go need to go. And providing universal access to free internet would be helpful too.

 

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Quebec Figures Out the True Cost of Driving

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Via former City of Vancouver Councillor  and founder of Business in Vancouver magazine Peter Ladner is this CTV news article that researched an important question~what is the true cost of vehicle driving in a Canadian province?  The study undertaken by Trajectoire Quebec ” determined that even non-drivers spend an average of $1000 each year in costs related to the province’s roads.”

 

What was interesting is that while government spending on highways and roads has been increasing, it does not mean that the infrastructure is getting better or more multi-modal. The study found that public spending for roads from the Federal, Provincial and municipal governments had increased by 70 per cent in twenty years. In the Province of Quebec, that means that 43 billion dollars is paid each year for roads. Imagine~that amount is more than monetary inflation, and is much larger than any population increase in the province. The study found that the average family of four “contributes about $7,000 per year to government services related to automotive transport – everything from road repairs, to health care costs and policing – even if they don’t own a car.” 

 

And if you own a car, you are spending $13,000 more, meaning that Quebec households are spending over 20 per cent of their disposable income on transportation. That’s higher than the percentage spent on food or on education. Drivers are actually paying for using cars and car networks, and the study shows that public transit is less subsidized than private vehicles.

 

The report concludes that Quebec needs a sustainable mobility policy and that user-fees are needed to equitably pay for infrastructure used by private cars. Suburban developments also mean more sprawl and more reliance on the car, and the link needs to be made with politicians for “collective transportation” to move people. As the head of the Trajectoire Quebec organization noted  Copenhagen Denmark had a referendum successfully pass  to implement toll roads. “People having seen the way it was before, and the way it was after, and after there was a lot less congestion, so the people voted in favor of tolls.” 

 

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When Hanging Out on a Vancouver Street Was “Loitering”

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It was not that long ago that there were actual bylaws so that people did not just go and sit on a street. Walk Metro Vancouver’s friend in Zurich Daniel Sauter notes that a stay in a European park averages 20 minutes. In North America, an eight minute stay is considered long. And just hanging out on a street is almost a 21st century re-invention.

Time for a voyage back fifty years ago to another time and and another Mayor. Called “Tom Terrific” (and that was not always a  positive term) Mayor Tom Campbell is described in wikipedia as “brash, confrontational, and controversial. During his term, the City held a referendum which authorized the then-controversial development of an underground shopping mall and office towers, now known as Pacific Centre, Vancouver’s largest development… Campbell took an assertively pro-development stance, advocating a freeway that would cut through a large part of the downtown east side, the demolition of the historic Carnegie Centre, and the construction of a luxury hotel at the entrance of Stanley Park (the Bayshore Inn) and another at the north foot of Burrard in which it turned out the mayor had invested (it is now an apartment building and never became a hotel).”

Mayor Tom Campbell was mayor from 1967 to 1972 and was not too happy with the “hippie” movement of the time. Dan McLeod of the Georgia Straight newspaper was beaten by City Police, and the Mayor stopped the 1970 Festival Express rock’n’roll tour from coming to Vancouver, saying he would shut down the festival with police intervention. He was also Mayor during the August 1971 Gastown Riot which resulted in 79 people being arrested, and 38 being charged with different offences. Stan Douglas’s art piece “The Gastown Riot” located in the Woodwards Building Atrium commemorates this event.

 

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In 1968 Mayor Tom Campbell spoke to a CBC reporter at the Court House Steps, now the Vancouver Art Gallery about hippies, loitering, and why they were a scourge to society. At the end of the interview, one of the “hippies” quotes Shakespeare back to the reporter.

It is an interesting look back at what was considered heinous and unacceptable behaviour. And a reminder~these hippies are Vancouver’s senior citizens today.

 

Traffic Calming in the Suburbs of London England

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An interesting way to change the nature of traffic is written in this article by The Standard. Imagine  Walthamstow England (in East London)  which introduced partial road closures along twelve main roads. Traffic which was over 20,000 vehicles per day was cut by 50 per cent. The aim of the project was to reduce short cutting through the neighbourhoods, making roads safer for pedestrians and cyclists.
This project was part of  past Mayor of London Boris Johnson’s plan to bring cycling culture to  the suburbs, with 30 million pounds available to run these types of projects in Waltham, Kingston and Enfield. And surprise! “Traffic evaporation” occurred, where fewer trips were taken by car and less rat running happened in neighbourhoods.

Collisions were also reduced with none being reported after the partial closures, compared with 15 in a three-year period.  The project was backed by local residents but had some pushback from some businesses that feared it would reduce their commercial trade. The “full results — including an expected large increase in the number of people cycling and walking — will be released by the council early next year.” 

And the take away? As Simon Munk of the London Cycling Campaign observed ““It’s very clear that this is a replicable approach and other areas can do it. There is not some kind of ‘magic dust’ that means only Walthamstow can do it…It doesn’t cause chaos, despite what some people say. It’s capable of making our town centres and city centres, and communities where people live and work, work much better.”

 

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When Autonomous Vehicles Kill Pedestrians

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With a death of a pedestrian the seemingly relentless march forward of autonomous vehicles has taken a pause as reported by the New York Times.  From a legislative standpoint autonomous vehicles (AVs) are operating in a piece meal legal environment, and the state of Arizona was an early adopter, inviting these vehicles  to be tested on the state’s road network in a “regulation free zone.  “Then on Sunday night, an autonomous car operated by Uber — and with an emergency backup driver behind the wheel — struck and killed a woman on a street in Tempe, Ariz. It was believed to be the first pedestrian death associated with self-driving technology. The company quickly suspended testing in Tempe as well as in Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Toronto. The accident was a reminder that self-driving technology is still in the experimental stage, and governments are still trying to figure out how to regulate it.”

 

The Uber car, a Volvo XC90 sport utility vehicle outfitted with the company’s sensing system, was in autonomous mode with a human safety driver at the wheel but carrying no passengers when it struck Elaine Herzberg, a 49-year-old woman, on Sunday around 10 p.m. Sgt. Ronald Elcock, a Tempe police spokesman, said during a news conference that a preliminary investigation showed that the vehicle was moving around 40 miles per hour when it struck Ms. Herzberg, who was walking with her bicycle on the street. He said it did not appear as though the car had slowed down before impact and that the Uber safety driver had shown no signs of impairment. The weather was clear and dry.
There has been early discussion on the computer based “ethics” of the autonomous vehicle, and the fact that the vehicle was being designed to save its occupants first. Autonomous vehicles have been hailed as way to stem the annual deaths of over 37,000 (2016 figures) people on the road by safer, logical control. But the technology is only a decade old, and “now starting to experience the unpredictable situations that drivers can face.”

 

This tragic incident makes clear that autonomous vehicle technology has a long way to go before it is truly safe for the passengers, pedestrians, and drivers who share America’s roads,” said Senator Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut. While autonomous vehicle testing has temporarily halted with this death, investigators  are examining what led to this vehicle’s failure to recognize the pedestrian. Vehicle developers have expressed challenges in teaching the systems to adjust for unpredictable human behaviour. As a professor at Arizona State University expressed “We’ve imagined an event like this as a huge inflection point for the technology and the companies advocating for it,” he said. “They’re going to have to do a lot to prove that the technology is safe.”

 

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Fire Departments Don’t Need All that Space Around Hydrants After All

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While proposed by the Fire Chief in Surrey as a way to give more parking back to communities, Chief Garis’ willingness to review the sacrosanct five meters of parking  clearance required curbside beside fire hydrants opens up the potential for all kinds of new street use. Working for a municipality the requirements for fire hydrant clearances are never questioned, and even in the computer age where every hydrant is tracked and marked on line, even landscaping is ordinanced and suppressed around fire hydrants. Chief Garis questioned the five metre clearances  with Surrey’s City Engineer and while he found that most North American by-laws limit parking to five or three metres away from a hydrant, the requirement could be reduced to half of that.As noted in the Vancouver Courier The National Fire Protection Association in the United States recommends a minimum buffer of five feet, or about 1.5 metres.”

 

A study showed that parked cars only impeded hydrant access if the setback was two metres or less, and noted that “with the advancement of GPS mapping and related technologies, along with local drivers’ awareness of hydrant locations, visibility is less of an issue in compact urban settings. The space doesn’t need to be large enough for a fire engine to park either, since they rarely pull right up to the curb, and instead block traffic lanes.”

 

While the Fire Chief saw this as a way to give back space to parking for cars, is this not another opportunity to create more parkettes and widen facilities for pedestrians and cyclists? If there are thousands of fire hydrants in each Metro Vancouver municipality could this not be a way to improve the public realm for active transportation users with benches and other amenities? While the Minister of Transportation is prepared to consider the changes to clearances, the proposal will be going to the Union of B.C. Municipalities for consideration. This might also be an opportune time to explore how else this newly acquired space on almost every block of a municipality can potentially  be repurposed to the benefit of  pedestrian and cyclists.

 

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The Day that Sweden Switched~”Dagen H”

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Walk Metro Vancouver knows that change is hard. But if you are an entire country and you can educate, plan, and change roads to get folks to drive on the other side, can we not make the same case for a great education, speed, and road design model to make walking safer and more convenient?

On September 3, 1967, a nation-wide change occurred in Sweden that you may not have heard about, one that informs how road congestion charges and the Vision Zero philosophy were developed in that country.
On that day fifty years ago, every Swedish driver and cyclist changed from driving on the left side of the road to the right side. As the BBC reports, “the day was officially known as Högertrafikomläggningen (right-hand traffic diversion) or simply Dagen H (H-Day). Its mission was to put Sweden on the same path as the rest of its continental European neighbours, most of which had long followed the global trend to drive cars on the right.”

Using planned logistics and an education campaign,  every city and town had to repaint road markings, replan the locations of bus stops and lights, and reconfigure intersections, bikeways and one direction streets. Cities such as Stockholm, Malmö and Helsingborg used the “right side drive” campaign to increase buses by retiring tram lines, and started the conversation about traffic safety.
Signage had to be changed across Sweden, with the military assisting with that task. To facilitate the signage switch, all traffic except for emergency and essential services was banned. (From 1950 to 1966, fatal road crashes had increased over 100 per cent, to 1,313 in 1966.)
Remarkably, the change to driving on the right side of the road went pretty smoothly.
While “H-Day” was on a Sunday, only minor accidents occurred on the first Monday going back to work, and there were no fatalities.

As the changes caused Swedes to drive a bit more cautiously, traffic deaths decreased by nearly 18 per cent, and injuries were reduced by 11 per cent. “Investment in the planning and logistics” was credited for making the difference, as well as communication initiatives designed to educate the public and get them to comprehend the change.

Billboards, and even milk cartons, carried information on the change. “There was even a theme tune to accompany the switch, reaching number five on the Swedish hit parade.” 
Thirty years later, in 1997, Sweden commenced an international project to work towards Vision Zero, accepting no fatalities on their public roads. The statistics are fascinating — Sweden has one of the lowest road death statistics, with “270 people dying in 2016, compared to 1,313 in 1966, the year before Dagen H.”  

By prioritizing walking, cycling and transit, Sweden is already operating self-driving transit buses in Stockholm and planning for the impact of autonomous vehicles. They are also forecasting a future where few people in Sweden will need to drive at all, with an abundance of active transportation and transit alternatives.
An intensive public process and the exchange of ideas and information is seen as key to this transition to driverless options, increased use of transit, and technological change.
YouTube provides this Universal Newsreel coverage of the 1967 switch to the right side of the road.

 

Free Webinar on the Business Case for Walkability~August 2!

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Thank you to Simon Fraser University’s City Program for offering this webinar hosted by Darren Davis free of charge.

From the Next-Generation Transportation Webinar Series:

“What gets measured gets managed”, conventional wisdom dictates. In the case of quantifying the benefits of walking, this has often been a reactive and piecemeal process, if done at all.

Join us August 3rd for a deep dive into the business case for walking as Auckland Council’s Darren Davis demonstrates how the city was able to reduce barriers to walkability by choosing the right KPIs.

Next-Generation Transportation Webinar Series
The Business Case for Walking – Counting Walking to Make Walking Count in Auckland City Centre
Friday, August 3, 2018, 2–3:30 p.m. (PDT)
Free webinar, but reservations are required. Reserve on Eventbrite by clicking on this link.

It is generally taken for granted that we can measure current motor vehicle travel and predict (read, guestimate) future motor vehicle travel through computerized transport models, while the measurement of walking is often piecemeal and reactive. There are few serious attempts to systematically estimate future walking. In addition, things that we value—such as the quality of the public realm, places to sit and linger, and design for pedestrian safety and space—are rarely given a quantified value and hence, ironically, are often value-engineered out when budgets are tight.

Auckland Council’s Business Case for Walking addressed these deficiencies by valuing the benefits of public realm improvements and increased space for pedestrians with the economic cost of delay to pedestrians and increased productivity, through reducing and eliminating barriers to improving walkability.

Learn more about this award-winning and groundbreaking work from Darren Davis, Transport & Land Use Integration Programme Manager at Auckland Council and lead instructor for the Next Generation Transportation Certificate program at Simon Fraser University.

The Number One Reason People Don’t Walk or Bike to Work??? It may surprise you!

 

The New York Times takes on the top reason cited by Americans for not biking or walking to work, from a recent survey on active commuting.
That issue? Time.
But, as the Times suggests, the 97 per cent of Americans who don’t use active transportation for commuting may want to rethink their reasoning.


As the Times reports, “a new study published in a journal called Transportmetrica A: Transport Science shows that people often overestimate the time required to commute actively, a miscalculation especially common when someone has secured a parking permit near the office.”
The study of 500 university faculty, staff and students found that estimates of commuting time on foot or by bike were generally poor, with 90 per cent of respondents overestimating the length of their journey to work by over ten minutes when compared to Google maps.

The few assessments close to Google’s were almost always made by riders or walkers. Parking availability and distances affected the estimates. Those with parking permits, a fiercely sought-after campus amenity, tended to overestimate active-commuting times significantly; the closer someone lived to the workplace, the better the guesses. Confidence had an outsize effect, too. The people surveyed, especially women, who had little bicycling experience or who did not feel physically fit thought that active commuting would require considerably more time than the Google calculations.”
Other commuting concerns such as bicycle lockers and accessibility to showers and places to change clothes were not discussed in this study, but time itself appears to be “less of a barrier to active community than many might anticipate” according to Melissa Bopp, a Kinesiology professor who was also the study’s senior author.

“I’d urge anyone who is considering biking or walking to work to do a test run,” she says, perhaps on a weekend (although the traffic patterns will be different from those during the week). Ask colleagues for route suggestions. “Google is good at finding bike paths, but it emphasizes brevity and directness over scenery for walkers.”

 

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Electric Scooters Inundate San Francisco!

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If you have been in San Francisco  California in the last few weeks  you have probably seen them-electric scooters are everywhere. And as discussed by a reporter for the New York Times section California Today  in San Francisco “Shared electric scooters are available to reserve and rent by app for as little as $1 a ride. They are billed as a way to “help make transportation better and more environmentally friendly” by one start-up, Bird, which has netted $100 million in venture capital funding.”


The scooters run by three companies appeared after Saint Patrick’s Day  and are leased by unlocking them with a mobile cellphone application. It costs one dollar to unlock the scooter, and fifteen cents a minute to use it. Reporter Mike Issac found that the dockless nature of the scooter means they are parked just about anywhere.  San Francisco was blanketed with scooters in advance of any legislation existing under the city’s transportation code. The city attorney has acted quickly to bring in regulation, but not for the reasons you would think-the City is worried about the stand-up ride share scooters being a “trip hazard”. “The scooters, capable of speeds up to 15 mph, appeared suddenly, and since their arrival, they’ve drawn praise from early users and a flood of complaints from people who don’t like one of the slender two-wheelers’ biggest features: They can be parked anywhere.” 

The scooters have achieved quick action from the City as sidewalks have become “dumping grounds” and the City is ” “examining all of our legal options to protect the more than 1 million people who use San Francisco’s sidewalks every day.” They are piled up when parked, often blocking sidewalks and bikelanes, and are hazards for people with disabilities. Places like Austin Texas and Santa Monica impound scooters left on sidewalks.  San Francisco wants to regulate the scooter sharecompanies and have them obtain operating permits.
Under State law you cannot ride a scooter on a sidewalk, you must wear a helmet and you must be over 18, rules that the local San Francisco police can enforce. But locations for parking the scooter at the start and end of each trip needs to be worked out. As one local stated about the use of sidewalks “We don’t want people using motorized devices on the one safe place to walk.”

 

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Creating Walkable Accessible Places for Everyone