Oak Bay’s Active Transportation Advisory Committee is blogging

Kind of late to this party, but they don’t seem to have much Google-juice (they are page 7 on my search for “Oak Bay Active Transportation”), so here it is: Oak Bay Active Transportation at Blogspot.

Their recent Complete Streets policy is a great start, here’s to many more successes for them.

What I read last week

I try and stay on top of new research which pours in. Usually I fail, but here are the papers I managed to get time to read last week:

Emergency Response and Street Design Initiative
Lead by the US Congress of New Urbanism(CNU), this report is a call to new urbanists and fire departments to talk more about traffic calming, especially street narrowing. Many emergency responders, including fire departments, oppose traffic calming because it is perceived to slow response time. Anecdotally, I know from speaking to residents along Hampshire Road that the Oak Bay Fire Department was instrumental in preventing traffic calming on that road, which is heavily trafficked, and has major speed issues. This report is part of CNU’s Emergency Response and Street Design Initiative. More information about the topic can be sen on the Strong Towns blog under “fire trucks“.
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Transit Bus Life Cycle Cost and Year 2007 Emissions Estimation Final Report
This report, although 4 years old, looks at life-cycle costs of various types of buses, including compressed natural gas (almost unknown amongst Canadian transit agencies, but popular in the US), various types of diesel, and diesel hybrids. The biggest problem with the report is that it doesn’t account for the massive spike in fuel costs in 2007, which changes life-cycle costs considerably. Still, an interesting read.
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(note: Although I downloaded the original report from Proterra, an electric bus manufacturer, the report is from the US Federal Transit Agency and the West Virginia University’s Center for Alternative Fuels, Engines & Emissions)

UVic Students’ Society Municipal Candidate Survey

Dear Candidate,

On behalf of the over 17,000 undergraduate students at the University of Victoria, we are sending you this survey comprised of questions that are hot-button municipal issues on our campus. We invite you to fill out this survey and return it to us by Sunday October 30th at the latest. We will disseminate the information provided to students and youth in Greater Victoria. Thank you for your participation and assistance engaging students with municipal issues! Feel free to attach your answers on a separate page. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us.

Dylan Sherlock

Director of Finance and Operations
University of Victoria Students’ Society

What will you do to increase affordable housing for students in your municipality?
To help provide more housing for students and seniors, I would legalize secondary suites and laneway houses. Also, I would work with other municipalities and seniors levels of government to get funding restored to help build new apartment buildings and student residences at UVIc and Camosun.

What are your priorities for public transit, and how do students fit into these priorities?
I want to see the Victoria Regional Rapid Transit project, LRT out to the West Shore, under construction within the next three years. I would work with BC Transit to speed buses up using stop reduction and signal prioritization on their busy routes, especially those into UVic. I would also work with UVic and the provincial government to get a new transit exchange built at UVic, as the current exchange is at capacity. Both of these will help students travel faster and easier to campus.

What are the solutions to congestion and lack of capacity in the public transportation system?
Part of the solution is moving the buses faster, through signal prioritzation, but there are other steps that can be taken. Those
include adding more buses on busy routes and building a new transit exchange at UVic. All of these require the provincial or federal
government to step up to the plate and provide some capital funding. However, if it comes as a request of the region as a whole, it is much more likely to succeed.

How do students fit into local community development measures?
Students are a vital part of a vibrant Oak Bay, and a vibrant Greater Victoria. We need to talk more with students when it comes to the new Oak Bay Official Community Plan and the Active Transportation Plan.

What will you do to improve the sustainability of the operations of the municipality?
Oak Bay has already been working on making our recreation centre more sustainable, but we need to extend that work into our other
municipally-owned buildings, such as the town hall. I would also continue to acquire, where possible, hybrid and electric vehicles for the municipal fleet.

What is your position on bicycling and pedestrian infrastructure?
I am strongly in favour of more bicycling and pedestrian infrastructure. I was a member of the Citizen’s Advisory Council for the CRD’s Pedestrian and Cycling Master Plan, plus I am a member of the Municipality of Oak Bay’s Community Initiatives Committee, which is tasking with improving active transportation in Oak Bay. We recently passed an Active Transportation Plan, and I  committed to getting much as possible of the Active Transportation Plan and the PCMP built in the next three years.

How do you see recreation services for students in the municipalities improving?
We need to continue the region-wide recreation pass, as it has been a great success. We also need to keep offering student rates at our recreation centres. One place where students could play a key role is with inter-generational relationship building from UVic and Camosun to Monterey Centre, which caters primarily to the older population.

How will you increase student voter turnout in municipal elections? Are you willing to commit to campus poll stations by 2014?
To start, the municipal councillors need to be on campus more, both as candidates and as elected councillors, through teaching and other experiential learning programs. I strongly support campus polling stations in 2014 and would start work immediately to hopefully make that happen.

How will you better include youth in decision making process of the municipality?
We need to go out and do more community engagement, both using newer technologies, but also going into the places where people already are, which includes both UVic and Camosun campuses. Also, I would support getting more students engaged with the municipality as part of their studies with more experiential learning.

What is your position on open data initiatives?
I believe that  open data is very important, as it allows citizens to get more engaged in government, and gives them a better picture of how their world operates. However, open data must be done to allow the greatest possible reuse of the data, so must not place undue
restrictions on commercial activity or require onerous reporting.

What is your position on harm reduction services?
I strongly support harm reduction services, and given the recent Supreme Court ruling, would welcome safe consumption sites within
Greater Victoria. But we must remember all four pillars, and continue to fund outreach, detox, and housing for addicts wishing to move on with their lives.

What is your strategy for dealing with homelessness and the lack of subsidized housing? What is your position on outdoor camping?
I support dealing with the homelessness problem by dealing with the housing problem. More rental housing stock, available to all income levels, is the only way to truly end the housing crisis. I am torn with regards to outdoor camping in public parks in urban areas, because while I support the right to be housed, I am concerned about the long term ecological effects of camping if it spreads into sensitive ecosystems such as our Garry Oak Meadows.

How will you increase food security in the region?
We need to stop removing so much agricultural land from the Agricultural Land Reserve, and actually respect our urban containment
boundaries. True food security cannot happen without these steps. Within Oak Bay, I support finding more space for allotment gardens.

Oak Bay releases Active Transportation Plan

Oak Bay Council last night approved the Active Transportation Plan, a first for the municipality. Developed by Boulevard, based here in Greater Victoria, the plan covers walking and cycling, as well as touching on public transit.

I will have more to say about in the next day or so, but I wanted to post it here so other’s could read it. Please ignore the comments on the side of the page, they are my notes.

[download id=”10″ format=”1″] And sorry about the size, I wanted to upload at a high resolution so that the maps came through.

Urban suburbanites

Two interesting quotes from this excellent article about urban suburbanites in Metro Vancouver from the Globe and Mail.

The first pisses me off:

They want to know, if the Evergreen line comes here, what will I do about the problems that come with it, like crime. They are asking about homelessness and social housing,” says Conservative MP James Moore, first elected in Port Moody-Westwood-Coquitlam in 2000

Public transportation brings crime (and is crime-filled) in one of the biggest media-created piles of crap in recent memory. Observe recent efforts such as the “bus” streaker or the victims that happen to be shot while on/near/by the Sky Train. Of course a Conservative MP would spout the line again, but I really doubt the urban suburbanites described in the story actually describe this as their biggest concern with the Evergreen Line; most probably just want to know when it is going to get built.

More revealing is this quote from the pollster near the end:

“What I run into is people who are exhausted. They don’t get enough down time or sleep time. They’re driven to the suburbs in the first place because they think it’s more affordable and they don’t realize the time and driving it’s going to cost them,” says Mr. Lyle. “They have no time to watch The National or read a newspaper. So when they do hear about an issue, they’re angry. They become populists.”

This isn’t exactly news, but it is interesting to see it stated in this way. After all, all those urban hipsters with their smart phones riding the bus/rail are can read the news a lot better than some poor shmuck driving hours to and from work each day.

Anyway, read the whole story. From my perspective the change bodes well for our future. Less big-C conservatives and more NDP/Liberal/Green voters only means a better Canada.

Followup from BC Transit’s UVic future plans

BC Transit has posted the followup to their open house at UVic regarding future transit options for the university. Their findings were interesting:

  • A bus loop close to the Student Union Building (SUB) and bookstore (and planned Village Centre) is preferred, “as students consider the SUB the centre of the campus”.
  • There was support to keep major bus routes off Ring Road because of delays experienced at pedestrian crosswalks – instead, shuttle service should be operated around the campus
  • Preferred bus routes to and from UVic and on campus: route options 1 and 7 received the most support; option 5 is the least desirable (check out page 5 and 6 of the presentation boards to see the route options.)
  • Longer walking distances on campus would be acceptable if they are offset by faster transit service, more express buses and a campus shuttle
  • Reliability of service and pass-ups off campus are more of an issue than the frequency of service or walking distances on campus
  • There is a strong support for staggering class start times as a way to alleviate pass-ups and other service issues
  • Personal security is a concern at the bus loop at night, and for people walking across campus at night to the bus loop or a bus stop

This list does include some fascinating contradictions and unanswered questions:

  1. People don’t mind walk across campus but are also worried about personal security while doing so. Huh?
  2. What exchange options did people prefer?
  3. Do people realize what a walk across campus would actually mean in terms of time?
  4. Where are people actually clustered during the day? UVic has class times and enrollment for the entire campus. I would love to see a map of that.
  5. What is this “Village Centre” that they mention? Does it have to do with the discussions about putting in a traffic circle at the corner of Finnerty and Sinclair?
  6. Is UVic even willing to discuss changing class times? This has some pretty serious knock-on effects on instructor and classroom scheduling.

BC Transit talks UVic options

Tis the season for new plans at BC Transit and UVic isn’t being left out. With the Victoria Regional Rapid Transit and 25-year Transit Future plans well in the works, some of the smaller parts of the system are getting attention, such as James Bay earlier this year.

BC Transit has more than a few challenges up at UVic, space being one of them. The reason why the 15X doesn’t stop in the exchange is lack of space and although the planners in 1994 did a good job with the then-new transit exchange, the truth is that they couldn’t anticipate something like the U-Pass driving ridership through the roof.

Although the need for space started the process and it isn’t clear from the boards (PDF), BC Transit is planning on more than just a potential new exchange or exchanges at some point down the road. In the near future they are looking not only to re-jig where buses stop, possibly taking over more space in the old exchange or in front of the old counselling building, but also a fundamental re-routing of buses.

Spurred by the recent budget crisis, there is also talk of a fundamental re-think of bus routes could affect nearly every rider today, changing major routes such as the 11, 6, or the new 10. This would be the first major change of routes within my lifetime if it does come to pass.

BC Transit is early in this process with UVic, so they are still looking for comments, wehich can be emailed to uvicplan@bctransit.com, taking the online survey, or one of likely several upcoming open houses in June and September of this year. More information can be found at the Get Involved page.

Random links o’ the morning

Help plan the future of UVic

Come help plan the future of UVic over the next two weeks at two different weeks. First up, on March 17th, is BC Transit’s open house on a new campus plan. It runs in the Michele Pujol room of the SUB between 11am-2pm and 4pm-6pm. See the poster (PDF) for the full details.

On the 21st UVic will be Oak Bay Council meeting for a presentation of the new UVic strategic plan, currently in the planning stages. This is part of a committee of the whole meeting so it will fairly informal as these things go. Join UVic and Oak Bay Council at 7:30pm in the council chambers of the municipal hall. See the ad for the full details.

Do we need a new chamber of commerce in Victoria?

Three years ago the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce was instrumental in killing one of the best transit projects this city has seen: the Douglas St. busway. They had this to say:

The Greater Victoria Chamber does not support the proposed plan for the bus rapid transit system on the Douglas Street corridor. While in support of bus rapid transit, the chamber is concerned that all the transportation modes included in this plan cannot be accommodated in the available space on Douglas Street. (from the GVCC’s policy page)

Worst of all, it was already paid for. After years of unfunded projects, they had to go and kill one of the few that was. Now, I fear they are going to do it again. The Victoria Regional Rapid Transit project is nearing completion and they have again selected Douglas St. as the corridor, as they should given it is the most logical route. Just like last time, the Douglas St. merchants are complaining

What the Chamber of Commerce should be doing is working on behalf of all their members, not just the blinkered ones on Douglas St. A new transitway will speed people into downtown, people who will spend money at chamber members. They are a business lobby group after all.

But all is not lost. The GVCC’s stubbornness isn’t unique; the US Chamber of Commerce is shedding members because of its opposition to climate change but an alternative has recently appeared: the US Green Chamber. An out-growth of the San Diego Green Chamber, this new group promises to be a forward-thinking business group, exactly what the US (and Canada, given our proximity) needs. Maybe what Victoria needs is something similar, something like the Values-Based Business Network — who are currently rethinking their mandate — but in a wider scope.