Not so well according to a recent study [1]:

driverless_subway_performance

Thought the study seems to present numerous flaws, starting by a lack of common metric to measure the service regularity accross different systems, it tends to comfort some conlusion we have drawn previously in regard of the skytrain system reliability[1].

The study presents this interesting matrice showing the service reliability as a function of the frequency.

driverless_subway_performance_matrix

…and highlight the fact that a very high frequency system (The Paris subway line 14 has a frequency of one train every ~85s, while the Lille subway has a frequency of one train every ~60s.), requires a very reliable system, something Vancouver could apparently not be able to achieve with its current system [3].

Others metric of interest


[1] wavestone: 2017 World Best driverlss metro lines, 2017

[2] >Some questions on a skytrain meltdown, July 23, 2014

[3] We have already touched some words on the frequency issue, in our subway capacity post, and the great variance in dwelling time observed on the Vancouver network could negatively affect the network reliability.

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The pictures above could not all refers to the same snow fall day, but every snow day convey the same story: A transit meltdown when the city seems to not spare any energy to clear the bikeway network.

The biais has been noticed by several media outlet, and seems encouraged by some which could have some influence on the city hall culture:

albeit, some city staffs seem to want to make sure no tax dollars are spared toward the well being of cyclists:

It is  possible that local advocates misinterpret how the things are done in Copenhagen, where the bike lanes use to be along the city’s arterials:

copenhagen-bike-lane

The city of Vancouver explains it has 14  “priority” route: in fact, it has 14 route, period: one of them looks like:

snowplowroute6

Only ~50% of this route cover either a truck route or a frequent transit network route. and the crux of the underwhelming Vancouver snow response lies here: there is virtually no route priotization which leads to high inefficienies in the way snow removal equipment are deployed.

~200km of high priority route to clear in the city limits, covering the Frequent Transit Netwrok, major truck routes, main hospital accesses, and the municipal “Disaster response routes

the above map covers the frequent transit network, major truck route, hospital access, and the municipal “Disaster response” routes in the city limits: that represents ~200km of streets: 14 snow plowers can clear this entire network, one lane/direction, in ~1 hour (assuming a ~30km/h snow plow average speed): On friday, February 3rd, the total snow accumulation was ~12cm, falling at a rate of less than ~1cm/hr on average, and still the city let much more than 5cm of snow to accumulate on the main arterials such as Granville where the transit service was halted several time during the day…same on 41st and 49th avenue to speak only of few I have been made aware, not discounting the bus 20 was still not able to make south of 54th on February 8th. A similar transit meltdown occured on Monday 6th, total snow precipitation for the day: 7cm!

another problem could be due to the deployment procedure of the snow plowing equipments: plowing takes place if there is more than 5cm of snow accumulation. The 5cm trigger is the same as in Toronto, however the level of water content in snow tend to be 50% higher on the west coast, so that the same level of snow precipitation leads to significantly more slushy condition in Vancouver than in Toronto [1]…. Also, Toronto deploys snow plowing equipment as soon as 2cm of snow accumulates on its expressway networks.


[1] this is extrapolated from USA data. for more information on the relative level of water content in snow, see Martin Baxter: Snow to liquid ratio, climatology and forecast methodologies, 2005

Post updated on January 29th, 2017

Ill conceived, since according to Translink [1], The proposed Surrey L line (Guilford, Surrey central newton, titled LRT 4 in the transit study), was among the poorest options Translink has studied for Surrey. An option which will saddle translink with increased operation cost without matching revenue to sustain it, for generation to come [1]. and an option which provide a deeply negative return on investment:

Even  a multiple account  evaluation (taking account social benefit at large), The return on investment is simply not there!

Even a multiple account evaluation (taking account social benefit at large), The return on investment is simply not there! (figure from [1])

Ill conceived because the Surrey LRT approach is in essence local and ignore the regional demand.

Missed opportunity because it will hinder the region to do the right thing to develop alternatives allowing the south Fraser area to become a less car dependent place before it is too late. At the root of this poor decision making is an original sin: A Vancouver centered optic where Surrey is seen as a fringe area in need to be connected to the Expo line; and a ideological bias from the Surrey City council making the streetcar the only answer whatever the question is. This optic ignore the development occurring in the Fraser valley, in Langley and beyond, more noticeably Abbotsford and Chilliwack, and the subsequent regional transportation demand; something we have touched in 2012:

Context and opportunities

A first draft of Regional transportation in the Valley

A draft Regional transportation demand in the Fraser Valley

The region becoming more vast than Metro-Vancouver, people travel longer distance, with more dispersed destinations, the challenge is then to provide an appealing transit alternative for people in the Valley and the south Fraser area: that means, fast comfortable, and as few as possible transfer toward meaningful destinations.

A LRT running not faster than a bus is not a compelling solution on which to build a regional transportation backbone, but a transportation mode such as the skytrain is not suitable for long distance travel; Also the skytrain technology, designed for very frequent service, become too expensive to maintain as soon as less frequent service is needed [9], so extending the skytrain forever is not a solution able to address the need beyond Langley.

The Interurban vision

It is time for the Vancouver region to explore new paradigms, and reconsider the regional train with an European eye. That is to not entertain solution such as the West Coast Express, but to consider light passenger trains able to achieve a commercial speed in excess of 70km/h (typically means max speed in excess of 140km/h)[13], with comfortable seating: the bombardier Talent, once used for the Ottawa’s O train, is a good starting point to entertain the discussion. below is the kind of rolling stock we have in mind:

Bomabrdier Talent 2, able to run at up to 160km/h and a Alstom Regiolis tram-train, able to run at 100km/h on mainline, and still able to run as a tram on the street (credit wikipedia)

Thought the Fraser valley has the former interurban line, the BCER, this line is not suitable for most of its length: it presents a too meandering horizontal alignment. It is also already heavily used by freight trains in some sections[3], while in other, the tracks need to be completely renewed in order to accommodate off the shelve European train set [17], so there is no clear value at constraining the option on the sole BCER corridor. Below is an example addressing the challenge, with a 70km long rail line (in blue) from Richmond Bridgeport to Abbotsford (connecting with the former BCER for potential extension to Chilliwack) using mainly BC Hydro corridor (and rail rail fo way in Richmond).Part of the line reflects also a vision once expressed by the White Rock Transportation and safety committee [12]

Interurban line, from Richmond Bridgeport to Abbotsford; using  BC Hydro corridors on most of its length

Interurban line, from Richmond Bridgeport to Abbotsford; using BC Hydro corridors on most of its length (the map highlight the BC hydro as well as existing rail corridors)

The advantage of this line is that

  • it provides a fairly straight line without too short curvatures [4] and an adequate vertical profile [5]
  • it requires virtually no private land acquisition
  • It is completely separated from freight trains; a Transport Canada requirement to allow train built on European standard to operate on the line

The expo line then needs to be extended 3km along King George to provide a seamless transfer with the regional train[6].

Fraser crossing in the vicinity of MacAdam creek, in Delta, where the alignment takes advantage of the bluff on the south side, to reduce the approach to a bridge which clearance should be at least as high as the Alex Fraser bridge – new Panamax ship class allows an air draft of up to 58m

To preserve the future, The regional line should be built for European style standard train EMU (such as the Bombardier talent-2). That supposes to build the line to UIC standards allowing speed in excess of 160km/h, ideally 200km/h: that means in particular:

  • double track platform width of ~13m
  • no level crossing

Estimated travel time (in mn) between key stations with an express train calling only at the below mentioned station [19]

Abbotsford Langley Surrey Queensborough Richmond
Abbotsford 15 24 31 42
Langley 15 9 16 27
Surrey 24 9 7 18
Queensborough 31 16 7 11
Richmond 42 27 18 11

cross section of the track platform for the Lyon-Marseille High speed line ( 350km/h max speed) - source (2); 500kv double circuit tubular tower able to to replace a lattice tower if the tower foot print is an issue - source (15)

Numbers suggest such a line could be built at cad$35M/km [7] putting the total cost of the regional line at $2.5Billions (remember that the Brunette interchange alone costs $0.5B). However, the line doesn’t need to be built in one shot, and can be phased, a first phase consisting of the 12km Langley-Surrey section, estimated then at ~$500M.

For this short first section, a tram-train, able to reach 100km/h and to ride the Langley streets could be considered at first [8]. Since it could benefit of a totally segregated infrastructure (in trench) between Langley and Surrey, a 12 mn travel time could be easily reach. (A Translink study [1] suggests such travel time could attract up to 6,000 pphpd in 2041, what is the relevance zone for such a transportation mode)

Cost and benefit

The skytrain extension has been costed at $85M/km (2010)[1] in viaduct and $140/km (2010)underground [11] (all including stations), so that the total cost of the project in its first phase could be keep in the $1B envelope, and still include a BRT lines Surrey 88th-Whiterock, as well as some B line connecting Guilford not only to Surrey central but also to the interurban and Coquitlam.

The closest studied option by Translink was the option titled RRT 1A (skytrain extended to Langley and BRT on KGH and 104th)[1]: our proposed option in its first phase is slightly less appealing on the Langley Surrey section (doens’t go directly to Surrey center, and doesn’t eliminate the skytrain transfer). On the other hand, it still provides similar travel time, between the 2 cities (and Vancouver), and a tram-train option allow a finer coverage of Langley downtown. Subsequent extensions make our proposal of better value.

A Skytrain to Langley , means, the train could run well below capacity (or at very spare frequency, what is not without issues). an extension collecting both the traffic flow coming from the King George corridor, and Langley could make better use of the skytrain capacity

Our proposal makes also a better use of the skytrain capacity (the extension collect ridership from both the Langley Regional train and the KGH BRT). Our proposal offers a shorter BRT route on the KGH branch (due to the skytrain expansion here), and equal on the 104th branch: We can consider our proposal carries all the benefit of the RRT 1A option, at half of the price tag. In any case, it is a much better solution than the one currently imposed by the Mayors’council, which will not benefit to Langley and will be detrimental to White Rock by introducing an additional transfer with no travel time benefit, and which cost has already escalated to a whopping $100M/km


[1] Surrey Rapid transit Alternatives Analysis – Phase 2 Evaluation, Translink, 2012.

[2] V. Profillidis, Railway Management and Engineering: Fourth Edition, Routeledge 2016

[3] In addition to the operating constraint imposed by the freight trains, Transport canada requirement for passenger train mixing with freight train make such solution a non starter beside commuter train such as the West coast express)

[4] The curvature suggests speed limit of 160 to 200km/h speed between Langley and Surrey, 160km/h around the Nordel Mac Adam Creek section (thought requiring some expropriation), 120-140Km/h, in the approach south of Langley…that is assuming a typically a minimum curve of 1250m for 160km/h; some figure also roughly and intrinsically adopted for the californian HST [10]

[5] French high speed rail tracks have gradient of up to 35/100, and 40/1000 on the german Koln Rhein [2].

[6] In the proposed scheme, the track along King George Highway could be branched before the eponymous station. The later could be retired, and
a new one built.

[7] French high speed line, built on higher standard, are typically build at a cost of cad$35M/km or €22M/km (10% for land acquisition, 65% for civil engineering, and 25% for rail, power and signalling)[16]. However the Fraser crossing could require a specific estimate

[8] Such choice, should not hinder the capacity of the line to run faster train. If electric, the tram-train should then be dual voltage, the main line, equipped with standard 25kv AC60Hz, the street extension in 750V. Similarly the stations should be designed to allow a layered service with tram train calling at local stations, while faster train could call only at main stations.

[9] The skytrain vehicles (and consists) are designed to maximize the throughout of the line, so seating is minimized, and comfort of it is not a priority. The driverless technology allow very high frequency at marginal cost, but it imposes also high “minimal operation” cost, to both maintain and operate the line, making this technology not a prime choice in the current condition.

[10] California High-Speed Train Project : Technical Memorandum, Alignment Design Standards for High-Speed Train Operation TM 2.1.2; California High-Speed Rail Authority, 2009

[11] UBC Line rapid transit study: Phase 2 Evaluation report Steer Davies Gleave, August 2012

[12] South Fraser Strategic area transit plan, Transportation and safety committee, City of White Rock, August 22, 2006

[13] This tends to be a typical requirement for new regional transit lines in european conurbation. As an example the new subway line planned in Paris area are targetted to have a commercial speed of 55 to 65km/h.

[14] It is interesting to notice that the LRT line in Surrey is costed higher than a french High speed line, the later arguably incurring more extended civil engineering work: it is possibly due to the fact that Surrey LRT construction cost include the relocation of the underground utilities, and the construction method must include important traffic mitigation.

[15] Proponent’s environmental Assessment: Tehachapi Renewable Transmission Project, Southern California Edison, 2009, Figure 3.2.4.

[16] La grande vitesse ferroviaire : un modèle porté au-delà de sa pertinence, Cour Des Comptes, Republique francaise, 2014

[17] the track renewal cost can be estimated at Cad$5M/km, including electrification, for a single track, and work progress can be as fast as 600m of track renewal/day, this from a similr work done to establish a tram-train in the vicinity of Nantes. This number is in line with the provided by a Leewood report[20] for the Rail for the Valley organization

[18] Camille Saïsset, Tram-train Nantes-Châteaubriant, une liaison efficace pour la réouverture de voies, Actu-Environnement, July 27, 2012.

[19] the numbers assume a average speed line of 140km/h, an average acceleration of 1m/s/s, and a dwelling time of 2.5mn. The 24 mn travel time between Surrey and ABbotsford, can be compared to the 44mn travel time given by [20] between Abbotsford and Surrey Newton using the BCER or the Google estimated 35mn road travel time between Abbotsford (Highway 1#11) and Surrey Central (with clear traffic)

[20] Lower Fraser Valley British Columbia, Chilliwack to Surrey Interurban, proposal fro rail for the Valley, David Cockle, Leewood Project, 2010.

the debate is framed like it: to be against a blacktop path  is to be against accessibility.

Accessibility for all activities or all abilities?

universal_access

It is no secret that the debate is mainly  geared by the Vancouver cycling community, and the main local organization, HUB, has made clear its vision; a cycling highway -where one can “bike from the Fraser River to False Creek in  30mn” (that makes an average speed of 20km/h+) [1]. From there,  the conversation regarding accessibility is mainly reduced to wheelchair accessibility concerns, while at the same time accessibility is understood as skate board and roller skate users inclusion.

However, if we understand accessibility as “universal access” for people with impairment of various nature, the conversation take another turn: A trail where a cyclist can  zip at 25km/h  becomes quickly unfriendly to people with a visual impairment [2]. The accessibility problem is multidimensional and can’t be reduced by how comfortable it is for the small wheels.

A cycling corridor or a  greenway Promenade/trail

Emphasis on cycling speed, as  Hub is advocating for, is in full contradiction with the concept of Promenade as inferred by a Greenway designation  [3].  We can consider 2 main family of promenades:

  • Scenic promenades; and
  • Experential promenades

The Vancouver Seawall is a great example of scenic promenade: the emphasis and the purpose of the promenade are the views it can offer. The west Richmond dykes falls also in this category. other trails could not offer too much of a view but  a more experiential aspect: the Stanley park  inner trails fall in this category, as well as the Richmond Shell road trail or the Lynn valley trails (including its suspended bridge).

If the focus of a trail is a  viewpoint, one would like then provide the easiest access to it, if the focus of a trail is experiential, then one would like provide the best compromise comfort/experience. That is the trail itself, and noticeably its surface shouldn’t distract of the experience, which sensorial aspect must not be neglected. A universal accessibility  trail exists in Stanley park, it is Beaver lake trail [6]:

beaverLake

Stanley park: Beaver lake trail entrance

Similar trails exist elsewhere in the region, Fitzsimmons trail in Whistler, the Panorama trail at the top of the Squamish SeatoSky Gondola or the Spirea nature trail in the Golden Ears park are among them. However some other trails, though not designed universally accessible  could in fact be much more wheelchair friendly that the Stanley park’s Beaver trail (which has not keep up with the up to date standards): it is at least the case of most of the Burnaby Central park trails:

The wide and flat enough trails of the Burnaby central park offer good rolling condition, and stay in good condition during raining periods as illustrated in this Google view.

The Stanley park trails accessibility could not be up to the current standards:
What about the state of the art?

In BC, the very recently opened Great West Life trail in Prince George is pretty much the state of art:

GWL_trail_PrinceGeorge

The Great West Life Trail of Prince George

A hard packed surface, soft enough for the knees of the elder, and still presenting good rolling capability, as well as other surface treatments, such has woodboards, provide a rich experience [4]. It features wheel-guard where required and slope not greater than 3%. Such a trail design is the result of a cooperation with the Spinal Cord Injury-BC society.

Trail head accessibility?

It is another aspect where the Burnaby central park is hard to beat: it is directly serviced by the Skytrain (Patterson station) as well as 2 frequent transit bus routes (19 and 49). Something Stanley park can’t compete with.

What about the bikes on an universally accessible trail?

The state of the art doesn’t seem to have found a compromise much better than this:

GWL-Trail-restriction

The all ability accessible GWL trail in Prince George is not allowed to bike

The banning of bike from Universal accessible trail, seems to be common [5] for reasons previously touched. Cycling is in theory also not allowed on the “universal accessiblity” trails of Stanley park , but the rule is not well respected.

A preliminary conclusion

Our region is surrounded by trails often offering first class experience, but when time comes to find an accessible trail, the region becomes  a laggard. When it is time to find an “universally accessible trail” reachable by public transit: pretty much nothing exists.

it is where the Arbutus corridor becomes a golden opportunity: it presents many characteristic required for  an “universally accessible trail”, first of them, being the gentle grade, second being the experiential aspect- including the sensorial aspect capitalizing on the meandering among community gardens. third it is easily reachable by many frequent transit routes, allowing to experience it in many different ways.

It is also clear that an  “universally accessible trail” vision capitalizing on the experiential aspect of a greenway is not compatible with the cycle track vision as exposed by Hub, and a compromise will need to be found.


[1] Arbutus Greenway Announced, Hub news, March 14, 2016

[2] Similarly, Accomodating visual impaired people is also the main challenge the designer of shared space has to address

[3] A reason why a cycle track on the Paris Petite Ceinture (a disused rail corridor) has been dismissed, as we have seen in a previous post

.

[4] It is also  good at maintaining the motor skills  and enhance  the mental health, a reason why such surfacing are often preferred.

[5] It is also  the case for the promenade built on the Paris Petite Ceinture, among others.

[6] The ravine trail is also presented as “universal accessible” by the Vancouver park board, thought it has some questionable access impediment.

This Vancouver rail corridor used to be double tracked, and saw passenger service from 1902 to 1954. The last commercial train has been seen in 2001. The asset has been considered very early for a North South rail transit line: A more direct alignment via Cambie, has been preferred for the Canada line circa 2006. That was closing a chapter…However the track was still there, and the hope of a local tram has always stay alive in some circles: the 2010 Olympic line demonstration was giving reason for hope…and CP rail was wanting to bank on its precious real estate. After a bit of bullying by CP rail, in order to get a fair price, the city agreed to purchase the corridor for $55M in March 2016, openinga ew chapter:

The Arbutus corridor was a defacto Greenway:

The Arbutus corridor circa 2014  (credit photo CityHallWatch)

Like many disused railway corridors, a greenway was a logical option for a corridor presenting some natural qualities. However where usually the authorities capitalize on the specificity of such assets, the city of Vancouver has decided to destroy it: A destruction in 2 steps [3]:

Destroying the memory of the place

The Arbutus corridor circa 2009 (credit photo Stephen Waddell)

It has been vague promises of reusing the corridor for a rail transit by the City, but this quickly vansihed, and instead to see a  preservation of what make this corridor apart and a reminder of its potential alternative uses, it quickly appeared that the city had negociated the removal of  all things related to the railway. That is certainly one of the safest mean to kill any prospect of reactivation of this  corridor as a future rail transit corridor (1), it is also a a first blunt to the soul of the place.

Destroying the feel of the place

Many disused urban railway corridors exhale a specific  atmosphere found nowhere else in a city, which people growth to appreciate and like it. It was also the case  for the Arbutus corridor, something Patrick Condon has worded as “People have gotten quite used to the Arbutus Corridor as kind of a romantic landscape — the kind of unkempt quality of it. it’s level of decay has become something that people kind of like…” [4], what reflects pretty much the position of the current Paris city council, especially as expressed   by Christophe Najdovski, the councilor in charge of transportation and public space of Paris, who want to preserve “the mystery and magic” of  the Petite ceinture, a disused railway in Paris [6].

Beyond Paris, many other cities capitalize on the experiental side of their assets, that is the case for the Shell road trail in Richmond as stated by the city website:


“The Shell Road Trail is long interior trail that runs north/south along the Shell Road corridor from Alderbridge Way to Williams Road. This interior trail has a distinctly rural feel to it with tall trees and shrubs lining both sides of it, making it a unique trail experience in an urban City Centre.”

The Richmond Shell road trail, and the Colombes “voie verte” (greenway) illustrated below:

The Vancouver official development plan for Arbutus was also not far of this vision, since it was designating it as a greenways, including without limitation [2]:

 

  • (i) pedestrian paths, including without limitation urban walks, environmental demonstration
    trails, heritage walks and nature trails; and
  • (ii) cyclist paths.

 

 

The challenge for the designer of such  places is to preserve their specificities and feels, while making them accessible to people of all ages and abilities… In the name of the later, Vancouver has simply destroyed the former:

A 4 meter wide bike path under construction? – credit photo [5]

Under public outrage, the city has potentially recognized the insentivity of its position and halted work…temporarily…

Does other solutions were possible?

Yes and it is not even too late to apply them, but what is almost sure is that the corridor has already lost its cachet: whatever final design will be – and it could be a nice one – it is poised to be more bland and artificial since it will be build of a blank state. The soul of the place is lost and, and it is not something designers are armed to restore. The end result is that the whole city will be poorer in diveristy of experience

The main issue now is the treatment of the surface path: it is the object of another post


[1] It is one of the reason why Paris took the complete opposite step for the Petite Ceinture, as we have seen in a previous post

[2] Arbutus Corridor Official Development Plan (Adopted by By-law No. 8249, July 25, 2000), city of Vancouver

[3] The destruction of the greenway is documented on the Stephen Rees blog, here and there

[4] Arbutus’ asphalt greenway not paved with good intentions, critics say, Matt Robinson, VancouverSUn, August 3 2016, Vancouver

[5] City paves way for Arbutus Greenway, Naoibh O’Connor, Vancourier, August 2, 2016, Vancouver

[6] Petite ceinture : faire le tour de Paris à vélo et autres fantasmes, rue89, September 25th, 2013

 


The Paris petite ceinture is a railway ringing Paris, built between 1852 and 1869. It was once well used, before falling in state of abandonment. The last commercial train  has been seen in the early 1990, since then questions on how the corridor should be re-use have recurringly arised

2001: The return of the Parisian tramway.

The early 1990, mark the renaissance of the tramway in Europe, and especially in France (5), and quickly enough , many advocates promote the idea of reusing the petite Ceinture to the benefit of such a transportation mode in Paris.

There is effectively a market for this. The parallel transit lines (bus PC on the adjacent Boulevards, called Boulevard des Marechaux, as well as the circular subway line 6. A 1995 study suggests that the line could attract 17,000 passenger per hour for this line once transformed as a surface subway (equivalent to the S-bahn) running at 30km/h…In the meantime an alternative option under study (1) is to upgrade the adjacent bus route into a tramway line with a much lower average speed, 20km/h, and per consequent a lower expected ridership 7,700 to 9,100 passenger per hour, but the later option also provides better connection with the existing subway network, as well as better local service.

The 1995-2006 city council under the right wing mayor JEan Tiberi was leaning toward this latest option, which had the advantage to not introduce new nuisance in a corridor which has became almost a natural reserve , but preferred to delay any hard decisions…so that the reintroduction of the Parisian tramway will be a contentious point of the 2001 municipal election.

The challenger and then long time councilor Betrand Delanoë, and its team had a very clear and  articulated position on the tramway, as expressed by its then Transport commissioner, Denis Baupin (Green party):
“ it marks a symbolic stop to a politic favoring the car, […], beside it, its main asset is the requalification of the urban space (5)(2)

Delanoë is elected in 2001 and the work on the tramway will commence almost immediatly, to get inaugurated in 2006:

tramway_t3

Delanoë will be reelected for a second mayoral mandate in 2007, but the question of the use of the petite ceinture has been left open: if not a tram, what use?

2012: The cycling highway idea

Delanoë, is then not seeking a third mandate, and endorse his first Adjoint, Anne Hidalgo. Hidalgo main contender is Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet (nicknamed NKM) coming from the conservative party. The time when the introduction of a bike infrastructure  in the city was contentious is already a distant memory in 2012, and the cursor has moved on what kind of cycling infrastructure is the best? NKM proposes to reuse the Petite ceinture platform to implement a supercyle highway ringing Paris.

The idea will be quickly shut down by her main opposants: (3)

It has a geometry disadvantage of not being at grade (either tunnel or viaduct), and offering very few connections with the existing street network, but the main arguments against it are philosophical in nature:

  •  It creates usage conflict: a cycling highway with bike riding at 20-25km/h is judged not compatible with other use such as purposeless wandering or flanerie
  • It goes against the specify of the place, which exhale an unique unkempt atmosphere, slow speed local has grown to appreciate: “timeless”, “uniquely silent”, “mysterious and magic” are common thematic associated with the Petite Ceinture.
  • At the end, if one wants to really make the choice of active transportation, this needs to be done at the expense of other transportation mode.

Anne Hidalgo has been elected, and staged progress on the petite ceinture are occurring with the above in mind but with an important constraint: The transportation corridor (still property of the SNCF), need to keep its conversion potential to its former glory, whether the need arises in the future. A design reflecting this constraint supposes to provide a constant reminder to the user of the space of its original usage and potential future one:

It is what is achieved below, with a space accessible to people of all age and ability (4):


(1)it was in fact 2 competitive studies, the Petite ceinture option promoted by the french national railway network (SNCF), owner of the infrastructure, and the Boulevard des Marechaux option, promoted by the Parisian transit operator, RATP.

(2) Face aux lobbies, le tram trace sa voie. Petite ceinture ou Maréchaux, Paris retrouvera le tramway au XXIe siècle, Liberation, April 17th, 1996

(3) Petite ceinture : faire le tour de Paris à vélo et autres fantasmes, rue89, September 25th, 2013

(4) credit for all below pictures to Architecture Urbanisme FR

(5) See our post Transit as part of the urban fabric, October 23, 2012.

Below, some comments shared with the Vancouver city planners on the Joyce -Collingwood precinct review:

Heritage houses

An 100 year old house on Spencer street

An 100 year old house on Spencer street

There is a couple of 100 years old houses presenting some interesting heritage features in the neighborhood subject to rezoning: some strategy to preserve them should be in place so that the rezoning is not obliterating the history of the neighborhood.

The towers

Rezoning proposal as seen from Tyne#Kingsway

Rezoning proposal as seen from Tyne#Kingsway

The height in meter make more sense than the height in storey, since the building form is what matters (In this context  the tower floor plate size are important, but the lack of FSR limit for the tower site is a non issue).

The planner are aligning the tower geodesic height on the one of the nearby telus building (similar strategy occured for the construction of the Wall centre at Central Park)…an altrnative view could have been to set up some view cone, more namely from the Richmond dyke:

The telus and Wall centre tower are well visible from the Richmond ALR (near dyke on the Fraser North arm):  having those tower kept below the tree line, could have enforced the rural nature of this area

The telus and Wall centre tower are well visible from the Richmond ALR (near dyke on the Fraser North arm): having those tower kept below the tree line, could have preserved the rural nature of this location

The townhouses

The open house posters suggested 2 rows of townhouses: This eventually needs to be clarified, especially in term of set back (and parking). If in the long term that can transform the alleys into “real street”: it seems to be good, and that should be the intend. Unfortunately,  this doesn’t seem the case.

Naroiw stree in Groningen (a natural evolution of laneway) - credit photo pricetags

Narrow street in Groningen (a natural evolution of laneway) – credit photo pricetags

Vanness street (West of Joyce)

The plan call for 6 storeys all along Vanness Street. The current “redeveloped” building are at 4 storey max, but in fact 3 1/2 Storey along Vanness due to the topography. This could also need to be clarified for the new construction.

The plan seem to provide generous margins for the buildings. Ideally, the skytrain guideway should have provided a refrence for the building height.

The BC parkway (and skytrain viaduct) has carved the land here, so that the tree line keeps horizontal instead to follow the slope: , while construction follow the slope of the hill around, This specificity is not a big deal as long as the constructions are lower than the tree line. It becomes an issue otherwise: the Skytrain guideway is at level 3 of a building at Rupert, but as at level one of a building at Spencer: This is making a mid- rise building looking much taller at Spencer than at Rupert.

One could also consider that the rezoning for properties West of Spencer, should be considered in the wider context of the desired street-scape for Rupert

Wellington (East of Joyce)
At the difference of Vanness, the topography works for a more aggressive densification than proposed:

The properties at the SE corner of Payne#Wellington are proposed for 4 storeys, but 6 storeys building could work better (would not be much higher that the westward building along Wellington proposed at 6 storeys, as illustrated below


Visual impact of a 6 storey building aon the SE corner of Payne and Wellington: view from Wellington looking East, then West

McHardy street
Provisions should be made to ensure that buildings offer engaging facade on it:
That will help this street to reconnect the north and south side of the neighbourhood.
It is a street without sidewalk (but very poor pavement act as a traffic calming measure, and so the street doesn’t work that bad):  Installing sidewalk is not necessarily the best solution.  Treating this street as a shared space could eventually provide a better outcome:

A shared street concept could be a preferrable design for Mac Hardy.

A shared street concept could be a preferrable design for Mac Hardy.

Joyce street

All the rezoning should be conditional to the closure of the lanes immediatly  north of the Skytrain guideway. A bike/Pedestrian “passageway” or “commercial gallery” should be opened, to connect Yardley Avenue to Joyce street on the West.

JoycePrecinctOption3-Joyce-Looking-south

Joyce street looking South from Wellington (shadow ~5pm on June 21st)

Joyce street can be an interesting street, if the street wall provide some rhyme. However the idea to have tree planted in the middle of it  is not compatible with it:

  • It prevent the light to penetrate the street
  • It hinder the perspective
  • And the street right of way is not that wide (80ft): space dedicated to pedestrians movement should be maximized, median divider and left-turn lane should be removed.

trees on the side are welcome, but the cultivars need to be chosen to provide mature tree tall enough (such as London plane) to match the scale of the street wall: In short, the whole Joyce street-scape needs to be reviewed, and due to the significance of this street as a gateway for the neighborood: this could need to be part of a specify consultatio