Saturday, June 16, 2012

Could truck-exclusive lanes help transit?

I used to be against the idea of the Gateway Program altogether, but now that it's in construction, I can only offer suggestions to make its use as efficient as possible.

One of the main reasons for the Gateway Program is to help facilitate the movement of goods from the interior to the ports: specifically, to help trucks quickly get from the far end of the Valley to the coast, either at Metro Vancouver, North Vancouver, Tsawassen, or the Roberts Superport.

While trucks might see slightly better congestion management immediately, the sad fact of the matter is that in five years' time, the trucks are going to be battling the same level of congestion on major routes throughout the region, leading to the same delays in freight traffic and the same losses that have been worrying the BC Ministry of Transportation this whole time. Automobile Traffic fills most of the space it is given, unless careful mitigation of land use or travel restrictions is involved, or the city spends ridiculous amounts of money continually expanding the network. (Houston has been able to decrease congestion relative to other American cities while spending $1 billion per year for 15 years. That's 5 Gateway Programs, or 15 South Fraser Perimeter Roads over 15 years, or enough transit to put every city in Metro Van on Skytrain, [or build out an amazing regional rail system to Hope (via the interurban), run medium-speed trains to Whistler (75 minute travel time), and fund the rehabilitation of the passenger railway corridor to the US border to accommodate 300 km/h High Speed Rail to Seattle]. However, the $15 billion price tag doesn't nearly account for the environmental and social effects of the induced sprawl.)

From the above study:

"The problems people associate with roads - congestion, air pollution, and the like - are not the fault of  road investments per se. These problems stem mainly from the unborne externalities from the use of roads, new and old alike..."

So why not mitigate the new roads - North Fraser Perimeter Road, South Fraser Perimeter Road, and Highway 1 improvements - by effective tolling and/or truck-only lanes? The relative importance of a truck full of time-sensitive shipments is much higher than that of one average commuter (or three to four, if you want to define it by the size of a truck) - so why don't we let the trucks have priority? This would ensure long-term usability of the new roads specifically for the freight sector, which needs the Gateway Project the most.

The "plight" of car commuters, however, will only be eased with strict land development regulations along the corridor, a new strong regional transit network that provides a viable and useful alternative to the current automobile-exclusive infrastructure, and perhaps a tolling system which will allow the people who need to commute by car the most (highest willingness-to-pay) to have access to swift-moving, decongested roads? The two developments (tolling the highways and improving transit) need to happen at the same rate and at the same time. Tolls shouldn't be raised if transit is not improved at the exact same time. Funding scheme for Translink, anyone? Anyone?

The idea of separating trucks and cars has been supported in depth by these folks and these folks too.  Take a look.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Cute: Super Mario Skytrain Map

Dave Delisle from Dave's Geeky Ideas has this awesome Super Mario Bros. 3-esque rendition of the Skytrain System in Vancouver. Cute and a little nostalgic for anyone who grew up playing Nintendo.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

4th and King (Caltrain Railyards) Proposal

As part of an urban design studio at Stanford (URBANST171), I created an urban development plan for the Caltrain Railyards that currently sit South of downtown San Francisco. Future plans call for I-280 to be converted into a ground-level boulevard at 24th St. in Potrero Hill and Caltrain to be buried underground in the same tunnel as California High Speed Rail, leaving an enormous plot of land available for development. Caltrain hopes to move the 22nd st. station to the intersection of 16th st. and 7th, and bury the station at 4th and King underground, along with the possible High Speed Rail station too. HSR and Caltrain would then continue up to the Transbay Terminal just off of Market St.

As part of my proposal I concentrated on the transportation connectivity of the site to the rest of SF, something that has been lacking in recent years. 

Some more images from the proposal:

Here's the entire presentation, somewhat successfully imported into Prezi. Contact me if you'd like the original ppt, which is a bit more coordinated in terms of fonts and color schemes.

Many thanks to Danno Glanz of Calthorpe Associates, an amazing teacher and mentor.

Jarrett Walker in SF!

Last night I attended Jarrett Walker's enlightening presentation at the SPUR headquarters in San Francisco. (654 Mission St.) Themes he stressed were:

1. The core mission of transit as abundant access without personal vehicles over distances too far to walk - thinking of transit as a multiplier of walking. For this reason, he advocates for the placement of all transit stops (including bus stops) at least 1/4 mile or even 1/2 mile apart. Any inter-stop distance of less a 1/4 mile hampers the overall speed of transit while simultaneously competing with walking.

2. The five main qualities of transit service, which are:
A. Frequency
B. Span (operating hours)
C. Speed
D. Reliability
E. Capacity

Frequency and Capacity are largely technology-applicable. Frequency is very hard to describe to a motorist - there is no perfect analogy. Speed and Reliability are largely reliant on stop frequency, stop delays, and the amount of things getting in the way.

Frequency is the hardest thing to preserve - budget cuts will target frequency before all else.

3. "Listen to our tools" - deal with the choices presented by materials. The analogy is that one cannot grow a banana tree in Portland because the materials - the climate, the soil, the humidity, (the pollinators?) do not exist.

4. Moving from Symbolic or ultra-specialized transit (unsustainable and unefficient models that enforce a unimodal way of thinking about transportation) to transit that is designed for the majority of the population

5. Jarrett's regular themes: Be on the Way, the Potential of the Suburban Blvd. (in its transportation form, not in its zoning or architectural form)

An interesting question was brought up about Jarrett's thoughts on the 26-odd transit agencies, each with different fares and schedules, that make up the Bay Area. Jarrett said that he's ambivalent on merging systems. He doesn't mind that local communities take care of their own local systems, which makes administrative sense, but he did lean toward more integration on the regional level - he stated that Caltrain is "the perfect" opportunity to create a successful regional link but it's wasted because 1. Peninsula communities are too afraid of development and 2. frequencies are far too low and 3. Silicon Valley corporations don't take proximity to Caltrain into consideration when siting their campuses (e.g. Facebook. ugh.) One wonders how huge an impact Caltrain could make if it were funded to run 15-minute frequencies during the day (around the threshold for "frequent transit").

Overall, a great thought-provoking presentation and I'll post some of my own thoughts in a bit.