- The province has decided to blog, this time about their upcoming changes to the Water Act, changes that are very controversial, to say the least. It will be interesting to see how their comments policy plays out as plans become more concrete. (The Tyee)
- While BC Transit’s budget increases, Translink holds the line in Vancouver, saving that region from major cuts. (CBC)
- Also in Vancouver news, the city has just been given over $30 million in spare change from the federal government for infrastructure projects. (CBC)
- The Supreme Court of Canada has loosened libel laws, meaning good things for free speech and investigative journalism. (The Globe and Mail)
- Much like the ALR here in BC, Toronto has a Greenbelt. However, all in not well in paradise, as farmers flee due to restrictive bylaws and problems with suburban neighbours. (The Globe and Mail)
- Volunteerism is a tricky problem, as it is hard to get people to give up precious time. I am not sold on the concept that “people are busier now”, but new micro-volunteering might help. (The Globe and Mail)
- Also in the vein of volunteerism, the Lions Club, the largest of the service clubs, has actually recorded an increase in numbers in the past year, bucking the trend that has gripped many of the service clubs in the past decade.
“Out of the monotony of unplanned suburbia…”, so starts White-picket Dreams, a clip from this Nov 21, 1954. Even back in 1954 they knew suburbia was a bad idea, if only unconsciously.
Mentioned in the story is the planned community of Don Mills, when in the early years of suburbia, promotion of walking was still seen as something to you needed to do, as well as Regent Park in Toronto, where the apartments mentioned in this story are being torn down and redeveloped.
Ironically, housing the aged is seen as a problem even then, despite Canada’s population being the youngest it has ever been, due to the post-war baby boom.
This clip, part of a series called So long city! Hello suburbs, is just one of a great number of videos from the CBC’s archives. It gives a facinating insight into places and times we can’t or don’t see.
As I have lamented in the past, few councillors are using this shiny information superhighway thingy to tell us, their constituents, about what goes on in city hall. Until recently, Cairine Green, District of North Saanich Councillor, remained the only one to harness this power.
As a Victoria City Councillor, I’ll use the blog to share ideas and profile work I am doing down at City Hall. I hope it will be of some value in providing some accountability to the citizens of Victoria and the many thousands of you who lent me their votes last year.
I am glad my list of blogging councillors has doubled in size. Let’s hope 2010 can double that list again.
The City of Toronto, or at least one of it’s councillors, Joe Mihevc, was publicly wondering in the Toronto Star about the need for a way to temporarily stop the demolition of historically important buildings after a developer from the melodiously named 1626829 Ontario Ltd all but demolished a heritage home in that city.
The property, 7 Austin Terrace, was designed by John Lyle, a fairly well known Canadian architect, for John Maclean, founder of a little magazine called The Business Man’s. Said magazine has changed names more recently and is now known as Macleans. Both Heritage Toronto and the Community History Project (PDF) have weighed in on the issue and apparently as late as Sept. it wasn’t even known what the owner was going to do.
Closer to home, the Oak Bay council recently used its authority to temporarily stop the demolition of a house for 90 days (PDF, page 6) after there was concern around council about the potential heritage value of the property. In the end, the demolition permit was granted after a report to council by the Heritage Comm. determined that the house had little historical value.
Demolitions aren’t exactly a new problem here in Oak Bay, with its large stock of historic homes. Excluding University Woods just north of Camosun, the last major building boom in the municipality was the 1960s. Demolitions are a particular bugaboo of Coun. Cassidy, although the whole council usually shares his opinions.
One of the problems both Oak Bay and Toronto face is the lack of a complete heritage register, listing buildings historical and heritage values, whether or not they are officially designated or not.
Also fairly unique to Oak Bay is the use of differentially priced demolition vs deconstruction permits, in an attempt to make them more attractive to developers and home owners, although the $50-$200 price difference (PDF, page 31) is more about making a statement than actual financial incentive. Interestingly, moving a building is the same price as demolishing it, even though the stated purpose of the deferential pricing is reduction of material going to the landfill and climate change.
Of course, heritage designation against a property owners wishes can get quite expensive, as the City of Victoria discovered last year with the Rogers’ Chocolates interior, although hopefully there will be some compromise there.
While many transit organizations are in the middle of financial meltdowns, including the MTA in New York, BC Transit is set to buck the trend and expand bus service here in region (PDF) for the second time in less than six months. This fall brought (PDF) the new 12 and 13 routes out of UVic, some changes in service and more hours, while this January will bring two new routes, late night buses and the balance of the just over 40k more service hours.
The first of the new routes is the cross town 10 route, running from the Jubilee Hospital to Esquimalt Dockyard along Bay St. and Esquimalt Road. This hasn’t been without controversy, as residents along Bay St. expressed concernd about the narrowness of Bay St. and “buses backing up traffic”.
Joining the 10 is a new express route from Downtown to UVic. Route 15, nee the Dogwood Line, will shave 3 minutes off the current fastest route to UVic, the 14, with limited stops along the way. One of the challenges of running new buses to UVic is the lack of space in the current exchange, built in 1995, well before UVic’s student population hit nearly 20k, of which nearly 30% of which use the bus. To this end, the old bus exchange will soon become a new bus exchange, although it currently isn’t clear if the 15 will be using that space.
Also coming are late night buses (PDF), an oft-requested service for those of us who actually like to spend time downtown after the sun goes down. This service won’t be cheap, costing BC Transit about $7 for each of the nearly 17,000 estimated riders during the 3 month trial period. Earlier cost estimates (PDF) put each bus at ~$400/hr to run, vs between $60 and $93 usually. This is mostly due to the extra shifts needed in operating and maintaining the fleet. Amongst the future options for payment include a U-pass cost increase, given the expected ridership is mostly students.
Lastly and on the subject of fares, BCTransit has been looking for input on their fare increase plan, set to be implemented in April 2010. Currently they plan on removing the discount cash fare, addition of an off-peak pass and increasing nearly every other pass, ticket and fare. Full details in their press release (PDF). The date for feedback closed on the 15th of Dec and the transit commission will be voting on the plan on January 12th, 2010.
All in all, this is good news for transit riders, although maybe one of these days we might even get some rail transit here in the region, although I suspect it will be a long time before it comes to UVic.
Don’t believe everything you read. Despite a recent National Post story, taking transit is good for the environment. The story, which uses statistics in the damn lies mode, is very narrowly focused on the relative fuel efficiency of buses vs cars. It ignores the political realties of transit planning, something Jared at Human Transit does quite well. The story also gives voice to all the usual suspects with regards to anti-transit advocates, namely Randall O’Toole and Wendell Cox show up to spout their usual talking points.
One major mistake in the article is the failure to properly describe the link between transportation and land use. Walkable density begets transit use, sprawl begets automobile use. Both are self-reinforcing loops, something Todd Litman of the Victoria Transportation Policy Institute has effectively shown in a recent study (PDF).
The article mentions the Stockholm congestion pricing scheme, which was reimplemented after passing a public referendum in September 2006. A recent study, entitled Lessons from the Stockholm congestion charging trial, published in the Transport Policy journal, showed that nearly 25% of the work trips into the congestion zone switched to the “environmentally unfriendly” public transit. Given the only other change in work trips was departure time change, it is reasonable to assume that without public transit, the congestion charge would have had nearly zero effect on work trips, neatly defeating one of its purposes.
But beyond all that is the unavoidable fact that people in cars, no matter how efficient, will take up more road space than somebody in a bus. So even if buses are less efficient than the best cars, we are going to need more roads. Roads require a whole host of resources and are estimated to emit about 17 MtCO2e per 1000 sq feet (PDF). MtCO2e stands for Million tonnes of C02 equivalent. Lets see the anti-transit promoters talk away that inconvenient statistic.
Councillor Nils Jensen, a major sponsor of active transportation projects in Oak Bay, has decided to ask council to create a bicycle advisory committee for the municipality at this upcoming council meeting on Dec. 14th. Much like the City of Victoria’s Cycling Advisory Committee, the goal would be to help council with both policy and engineering direction for bicycling in the muncipality.
If passed, Oak Bay would join fellow municipalities Victoria, Saanich (combined bicycle and pedestrian), North Saanich & Colwood. Both View Royal and Esquimalt had cycling advisory committees as late as 2000, but I can find no record of them since then. The Highlands has a Trails Advisory Comm. (PDF), but no specific cycling one.
The meeting will be held at the Municipal Hall (2167 Oak Bay Avenue) at 7:30pm. It is important to show council how important many people support such a motion.