Screen Shot 2014-10-04 at 12.51.39 PM

Screen shot from the video series

A series of new videos developed by David Crowley, local transportation consultant and the Residential and Civil Construction Alliance of Toronto shows very clearly how Toronto’s transit problems began–and how we can get ourselves out of this mess. The research, relying on data from the Transportation Tomorrow Survey, has been peer reviewed for accuracy and would make an excellent starting point for discussions in urban planning or geography classes, high school civics classes, among community groups seeking to understand the issues in this region, and for political representatives and public sector employees. Click on the links below to watch the videos–each is under four minutes in length.

Understand Transit History (How we Got Into This Mess) outlines how the transit process has become overly politicized, with politicians proposing solutions that aren’t logical, just to get short-term votes. On the other hand, systems like GO regional rail were planned to serve the greatest number of riders, long before traffic was choking our city, and has consistently expanded to accommodate new suburban growth. As a result, 2 in 5 downtown workers commutes in from the outer suburbs and over 75% of them take transit.

The Biggest Problem (Overcrowding on the Subway System) shows the rapid increase in commuters from York Region, almost half of whom use the TTC–the number of riders from York Region to downtown almost doubled from 1986-2006. York Region Go Train usage, on the other hand, is 25% lower than Peel, Halton or Durham Regions for the downtown commute.

Too Many Rapid Transit Proposals (But Few Solutions) have been designed to win short-term voter support, e.g. the Sheppard subway extension and proposed Scarborough subway. Neither addressed serious overcrowding issues on the existing system or inadequate bus service. All-day service on all the GO Train lines are not competitive financially, but increasing service on the lines running through York Region could help address overcrowding on the TTC and serve Scarborough. Integration of fares between GO and the TTC is also needed.

Take the Politics out of Transit Planning shows the economic strength of Toronto’s downtown as a direct result of the GO Train and TTC systems and outlines the problems that would occur if that was not the case. The main point here is that transportation planning decisions should be designed by transportation experts and approved by politicians–not the other way around.

Passengers line up for the bus at St. Catharines' Brock University

Passengers line up for the bus at St. Catharines’ Brock University

In this era of public spending scrutiny, transit construction cost overruns, pilot projects have become an ideal way for municipalities and regions around the world to experiment with a desirable planning alternative. In 2009, the City of Vancouver experimented with installing bike lanes on the Burrard Bridge, which became permanent a year later after one million cyclists had crossed the bridge. Toronto is currently experimenting with bike lanes on Richmond and Adelaide Streets.

Just over an hour south of Toronto in wine country, Niagara Region initiated an intermunicipal transit pilot project back in 2011, granting $3.7 million to the municipalities of Welland, St. Catharines and Niagara Falls to connect to each other with new buses. The Region also provided additional funding to the program annually. The pilot program has been successful–though it was due to end this fall, the Region has extended it until September 2015. Last week, Niagara’s public works committee approved guiding principles for intermunicipal transit developed in consultation with the Region’s 12 cities and towns, and agreed to remove the words “pilot project” from any reference to an intermunicipal transit system linking the cities. Regional councillors also approved route improvements of $1.34 million in 2015–pending approval of the 2015 budget to support a system linking Welland, St. Catharines, Niagara Falls, Grimsby, Lincoln and West Lincoln.

Regional councillors say the project would also be key in convincing the province to extend daily GO Rail service to Niagara. A survey of 4,700 Niagara residents showed that 48% would be willing to support intermunicipal transit with higher taxes. Support was highest in St. Catharines at 60%.

crosstownroutemapThe Province of Ontario will issue green bonds to help raise money for construction of the Eglington Crosstown LRT, making it apparently the first government in Canada to use such a funding tool to pay for infrastructure. Premier Kathleen Wynne mentioned green bonds as a possible funding mechanism in her spring campaign.

Green bonds were pioneered by the World Bank in 2008 and can be issued for a specific project, a combination of projects, or to contribute to a fund for interrelated green investments (e.g. water treatment facilities using green technologies). The Economist reported in July 2014 that over $3 billion in green bonds were sold in 2012, skyrocketing to almost $20 billion in the first half of 2014. Although this is still only a fraction of the bond market, The Economist noted that “compared with most streams of income for environmental purposes, it is huge” and that the green bond market “appeared out of nowhere”.

The Ontario green bond program will be used to fund a range of sustainable projects across the province:

  • public transit
  • clean energy
  • energy efficiency and conservation
  • forestry, agriculture and land management
  • climate adaptation

 

The Eglington Crosstown, part of Metrolinx’ 25-year, $50 billion strategic plan The Big Move, is expected to be finished in 2020 at a total cost of $5.3 million. About $500 million is expected to be raised through green bonds.

This week, the Toronto Region Board of Trade and Ontario Chamber of Commerce urged government to raise taxes to support road and rail improvements to help address the region’s crippling traffic problems. The Greater Golden Horseshoe, the most populated region in the country with 8.7 million (2011) people, has struggled with traffic issues for many years and Toronto is now considered one of the most congested cities in North America. In 2013, the C.D. Howe Institute estimated that congestion costs the regional economy $11 million annually. Metrolinx, the regional transportation authority formed in 2006, has a regional plan in place called The Big Move that aims to develop a broader range of transportation choices, but has faced challenges raising funds to implement the plan. Kathleen Wynne’s majority Liberal government, elected June 21st, has promised to invest $29 million through the Moving Ontario Forward plan. But the fact that a group of prominent business people has endorsed higher taxes is indeed news.

In an article by Ian Merringer at the Globe and Mail, Carol Wilding, president and CEO of the Toronto Region Board of Trade said their 12,000 members have “asked them to be bold” in addressing congestion, which they consider their number one issue. Among their suggestions for managing traffic are highway tolls and a fuel tax that could be reinvested in things like transit infrastructure–last year, they recommended a parking space levy and increased regional sales and fuel taxes. The Ontario Chamber of Commerce, which has 60,000 members, noted that the government might now make faster decisions and “some politically unpopular decisions” to help relieve congestion.

Transportation demand management (TDM) measures can include tools such as fuel taxes reinvested to public transit, cycling trails and paths, programs to encourage non-motorized transportation, and many others. Cycling, for example, is becoming more popular in and cities throughout the region are implementing cycling trails to encourage commuters and those who make short trips to choose their bike instead. Toronto is currently implementing a network of separated cycling paths on many downtown streets, as part of a $300,000 pilot project.

Many transportation experts believe that building new infrastructure, such as public transit and cycling paths, is not enough to change transportation patterns–they must be combined with other TDM measures to make driving less convenient and affordable, such as higher parking fees or carbon taxes. However, these measures face major barriers in implementation in most of North America, where the vast majority of the population is fully entrenched in the car-oriented lifestyle–including urban forms that do not facilitate walking, cycling, or public transit use and popular perceptions of travelling without a car. Fear of injury is also much more of a consideration in North American cities; thanks to a collision involving local councillor and avid cyclist Mary-Margaret McMahon last week, a bill requiring all drivers to maintain a distance of one meter while passing cyclists may be reintroduced in the House of Commons. This step may be key in encouraging more people to cycle. In the Netherlands, as a comparison, the fact that drivers are much more liable for accidents between a motor vehicle and a non-motorized road user makes drivers much more cautious in general, and cyclists do not perceive cars as a threat at all.

A quick glance at the headlines surrounding the recent provincial election shows how politicized the transportation issue has become; for each candidate, their transportation plans were critical in public perception. Municipally, the ill-fated Transit City plan was a key issue in the election of Mayor Rob Ford in 2010 and lingering arguments over the Spadina LRT vs. subway continue to plague this fall’s mayoral candidates. As Chris Selley of the National Post writes, “Toronto is a city of cynical, gridlocked grumps,” where the prevailing argument seems to be that “nothing that we need will ever get built, and anything that does get built will be the wrong thing, and years late and millions or billions over budget.” Citing the recent discussion over the construction of the Union-Pearson Express train, scheduled to be completed in 2015 for the Pan Am Games, Selley points out that many of the arguments are unfounded. For example, the UP Express will be priced between $20-30 but the existing TTC and Airport Rocket bus will still be in place, allowing riders a cheaper option.

The problem seems to be, as Selley points out,

“Torontonians need to decide what they want the city to be…Instead of bitching about the city they want to have, Torontonians need to make the best of what they have, here in reality. The more improvement people see, the more they might get a taste for it – and the more they might be willing to pay for it.”

He writes that even those who want better transit “cling to bizarre small-town sensibilities for dear life: grace periods on parking tickets, parking on major streets as of 9 a.m., buses that stop for every sprinting would-be passenger. They want an airport link that’s cheap, and that stops eight times along the way so it’s fair to everyone, but also lighting fast. They want a city that runs like clockwork without inconveniencing a single person along the way.” It sounds to me like Toronto is ready for some Dutch-style gaming and simulations to help people understand the trade-offs that need to take place in urban planning and decision-making on a strategic level. So to the folks at Deltametropolis, here’s your next international case study!

 

Despite this warning, I’m throwing all caution to the wind and going home to Toronto. As my contract at the University of Amsterdam comes to an end in a couple of months, I am happy to be returning to Toronto to continue my career in urban planning. I think that my experiences here will help me to work with local planners, non-profits, and citizen groups to develop planning solutions to the complex problems that the City of Toronto currently faces.

Amsterdam and The Netherlands has a lot of lessons to teach about planning: anyone who is interested should check out the Municipality of Amsterdam‘s comprehensive research on air quality, traffic safety, spatial planning, and all sorts of other issues. Likewise, the national portal for spatial planning, Ruimtelijkeplannen.nl, allows you to find the spatial, zoning, provincial, and other plans for your neighbourhood and shows you how the national policies on planning apply. The Kennisinstituut voor Mobiliteitsbeleid (Institute for Transport Policy Analysis) does a yearly study of transportation patterns in all Dutch cities. These are the kinds of research and accessibility to information that we need so badly in Canadian cities, where all too often research on housing, transportation, and other critical urban issues is scattered and/or not publicly accessible.

But all is not perfect in the Land of Windmills and Olympic Speed Skaters. My work in TOD has shown how municipalities can identify their strengths and weaknesses in terms of actors, governance, and policies and use policies from other cities to inspire their own programs. In the Dutch context, some cities and regions have been better at others at collaborating, establishing informal networks, improving actor relationships, and developing a vision for the future. Amsterdam, in particular, does not have great relationships between the municipalities and the regions–there are unclear roles for the development industry and the national government in achieving policy innovation and change in TOD. While other cities and regions innovate, Amsterdam remains hesitant, the actors in planning processes stalled by inter-municipal competition and professional silos. Transportation planners don’t talk to spatial planners, and the public aren’t involved in the development of large-scale visions or ideas for the future. The longstanding resistance to “outside” ideas from other cities and countries is only just starting to break down. Does this sound familiar?

During my two years here, it’s become clear that the City of Toronto faces serious planning challenges as well. Toronto is no stranger to odd, melodramatic, and ineffective leadership at City Hall, but I will say this–my Dutch co-workers only asked about Toronto, or Canada, when Rob Ford started making headlines. Toronto residents, and indeed, international spectators, have been puzzled as to the consequences of such actions for a municipal leader. While no one person can be responsible for the problems of Canada’s largest city, the Toronto story demands the question, “Where is this city headed?” Do the municipalities and regional governments within the region have complementary goals? Do transportation plans from one city conflict with another? Are the actors involved clear on their roles in supporting compact growth and development? Is there a grand vision, and if so does the public support it? If you answered “no” to more than 2 of these questions…well, you see where this is headed.

Every city, every region, has its challenges. However, the lesson of The Netherlands is that challenges can be overcome through steady, ongoing collaborative efforts. At UBC, planners were taught that through communication and dialogue, residents, business owners, governments, and non-profit organizations alike would help contribute to better plans and policies. The process, as planning theorist John Friedmann would say, is integral to the success of the plan. The City of Vancouver has had great success in involving its residents in the development of neighbourhood plans and visions for the future. Above all, they have achieved a level of understanding of planning issues in the general public that I have not yet seen in any other city. I think that Toronto is ready to approach its challenges this way: through dialogue, through collaboration, through the development of a shared vision that will help shape the public understanding of planning goals and the public good. This is what I’d like to bring home with me: those of you in Toronto, I’m looking forward to working with you in June!

I started working on the iTOD project at the University of Amsterdam in July 2012. Our goal was to find out what cities around the world had done to overcome barriers to implementation of transit-oriented development. The Netherlands has had some national planning policy focusing on development around railway stations, but has yet to develop a consistent TOD approach at the regional level. Our study aimed to find out whether there were consistent actors, policies, or governance structures that had enabled other city-regions to successfully implement TOD, and whether those would work in The Netherlands.

This is the first study (of which we are aware) to conduct a systematic comparison of TOD cases. Most case studies in TOD have been single-case studies, and those that have compared cases did so in a simple way, e.g. using illustrative tables. For example, a number of studies have mentioned factors like the importance of key visionaries in promoting TOD in their city-region. However, these single-case studies have not been able to demonstrate if one factor was more important than the others in achieving successful implementation. Multiple-case studies in TOD (e.g. study of several cases with the same methodological approach by the same researchers) are also rare. Our findings are more generalizable than previous single-case studies because of the systematic approach that we took: meta-analysis, which included the use of meta-matrices and rough set analysis.

At the end of our first year, in July 2013, I presented our first set of findings at the Association of European Schools of Planning (AESOP)/Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning (ACSP) conference in Dublin. This article, which has been accepted for publication in Urban Policy and Research, outlines our approach to drawing critical success factors from a set of 11 case studies: Tokyo, Perth, Melbourne, Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, Naples, Copenhagen, Amsterdam-Utrecht, Arnhem-Nijmegen, and Rotterdam-The Hague. These critical success factors are the key elements of the cases that were instrumental in implementation of TOD, or acted as barriers to implementation. We were also able to isolate the factors that were most influential, and the combinations of factors that were used to achieve specific TOD goals, e.g. a high modal share for public transit, cycling, and walking. These details are outlined in our second article (currently under review). One surprising aspect of our study is which factors were less important than others in successful implementation (e.g. key visionaries and the use of site-specific tools in implementation).

In the past few months, we have been organizing workshops with Dutch planners who work in land use and transportation planning. Dutch planners seem to have reached a consensus that TOD is desirable in both the North and South Wings of the Randstad (that is, in Amsterdam-Utrecht and Rotterdam-Den Haag). However, they are still unsure of how TOD actually happens: who is the lead organization, how does the planning process happen, and what are the legal regulations or policies that would enable TOD to be implemented? A main barrier seems to be the lack of formal relationships between the various actors (e.g. municipalities, transportation departments, and the national government) and a lack of understanding on what the roles are: what can a municipality do to support TOD, and what can the national government do? How can they work together to achieve the goal of more sustainable regions, where one of the means to this goal might be TOD? There has been some progress in developing better informal relationships between the actors, particularly in the South Wing (e.g. StedenbaanPlus, the Randstad Rail project).

As we start to wrap up the project by July 2014, I would say that the understanding of TOD is still very limited to station areas and railway infrastructure. Planners in The Netherlands are not thinking about main streets as transportation corridors involving cycling, walking, and public transit infrastructure (by which I mean sidewalks, cycling paths, trams, and buses). This is very different from the approach in the US and Canada, which has shifted to the smaller neighbourhood scale because this is where the impact can be seen on modal choice. Dutch planners also do not seem to understand the desire to live near public transit infrastructure because the country is so dependent on cycling; the attitude seems to be, “Why should I live near a train station when I can just bike there in 10 minutes?”

And finally, a major barrier to TOD implementation in the Netherlands is the lack of public participation in planning processes. Compared to the US and Canada, where public participation techniques are taught at planning school, Dutch planners themselves noted that they are not trained in these techniques beyond simple consultation on a final plan (as Dutch planning law requires). In a number of the successful TOD cases, planners conducted long-term, widespread public consultation on the future of the region, including sustainability, transportation, housing, and the built form. This level of consultation (which was not based on specific projects, but a general dialogue) eventually led to a much broader understanding of planning issues, which created more public acceptance of higher densities and public transportation infrastructure. Planning in the Netherlands is still very top-down, which is very different from the US and Canada. On the other hand, public acceptance of higher densities and mixed-use planning seems to be high; the Dutch population, even in smaller cities, is quite used to this reality given the history of reclaimed land in this country. Considering the history and cultural context in the Netherlands, which includes dialogue and consensus-building on complex issues such as water management, there seems to be a lot of potential to integrate more public participation in planning processes which may help develop a consistent vision or strategic planning goal for integrated land use-transportation planning in Dutch city-regions.

2013-09-19 14.07.02I’m live blogging today from an international seminar organized by GO-SPOOR, a community of research and practice that brings together the main payers in TOD in The Netherlands. GO-SPOOR is the overarching framework within which my postdoc project, iTOD (implementing TOD), is located. Today’s program includes presentations by researchers on the North Wing (Amsterdam-Utrecht) part of the project, the South Wing (Rotterdam-Den Haag) part, as well as discussions led by international experts:

But what makes this seminar different is that we’ll be travelling to different cities to see their TOD approaches: starting in Arnhem, then off to Den Haag tomorrow and Zaandam on Saturday.

Karst Geurs (University of Twente) introduced the South Wing iTOD project by discussing StedenbaanPlus, a major agreement between regional and local authorities (municipalities, transportation planners, regional governments) to improve the accessibility through development around transit. The idea is to generate development around stations to generate more passengers on the rail network. StedenbaanPlus is unique in The Netherlands because it takes a regional approach to TOD–other projects in the country have been very focused on the areas immediately around railway station, and development was in a sporadic pattern. The project will add about 750,000 square meters of office space and from 25000 residential units, as well as increasing the quality and frequency of train service (these figures reflect major reductions due to the economic crisis and persistent oversupply of office space). One major problem in The Netherlands is that areas designated for new housing are often in suburban areas outside the reach of transit (the VINEX locations I’ve written about in earlier posts). Another area of uncertainty is that Netherlands Rail has not yet agreed to the increased rail frequencies. At this point rail ridership has increased while bus ridership has decreased. Karst’s postdocs Lissy la Paix Puello, Christa Hubers, and Martijn Droes gave more in-depth presentations on the economic effects of TOD. Christa is trying to determine whether two-person households who live near TOD actually use transit, and we had a lively discussion about the low rate of public transit by the Dutch (9% compared to the European average of 17%) and whether the built environment in newer residential developments is desirable.

Luca Bertolini (University of Amsterdam, my supervisor) gave an overview of the North Wing iTOD project, highlighting the fact that while TOD isn’t new in The Netherlands, Amsterdam doesn’t take a regional approach to the integration of land use and transportation. Erwin van der Krabben (Radboud University Nijmegen) gave the Arnhem-Nijmegen context. The project examines “smart governance” and finance strategies in TOD, including urban land readjustment which he discussed in more detail. The postdocs on the North Wing iTOD project (me, Dorina Pojani, and Sander Lenferink) presented our work to date on the project, mine on transferrable lessons from a meta-analysis of case studies in 11 cities, Dorina focusing on policy transfer between countries/cities and government officials and Sander discussing whether value capture tools in TOD can be transferred to The Netherlands. Dorina has done extensive interviews with Amsterdam and international TOD planners to ask them how they learned from other cases and what types of policy transfer happens. Sander has found that Tax Increment Financing, for example, is legally and financially possible in The Netherlands, but the application involves political choice (e.g. at the expense of other services); the consequences of these strategies are still unknown in this country. Ary Samsura also presented on applying gaming approaches to land and property development; this is part of the work on value capture. Sander, Dorina, and I recently presented our work at the ACSP/AESOP conference in Dublin.

We’re looking forward to seeing the real-world examples in the next couple of days!

Members of our transport planning group at the Liège railway station: Roel ter Brugge, Jake Wiersma, Florian Langstraat, Andrew Switzer, Ori Rubin, Lucas Harms, Luca Bertolini, Xue Hou, and Guowen Dai.

Last week, our transport planning research group at the University of Amsterdam visited the Municipality of Maastricht (population 122,000), capital of the southernmost Dutch province, Limburgh. The city is built on both sides of the Maas river, has a rich history as a Roman settlement and early industrial city, and is strategically positioned near the Belgian and German borders. One of our PhD students, Jake Wiersma, has been working on the strategic vision for Maastricht in his position as a planner at the Municipality, and invited us to participate in a workshop.

As Maastricht’s traditional industries of mining, ceramics and pottery have declined, the city has regenerated several brownfield sites, including the Céramique potteries site near the town centre where several new housing blocks, a new Aldo Rossi-designed museum and new library have been built. The Entre Deux and Mosae Forum shopping centres, the area around the main railway station, and the walkway along the river are other recent developments.

Housing blocks on the former Céramique potteries site takes on a very different form from traditional Dutch housing

As Maastricht tries to curb its persistent traffic problems, it has converted roads to pedestrian-only routes and squares. This one used to bring cars right to the central Market Square.

However, the region is one of two in the Netherlands whose population will shrink in the coming decades (the other being the eastern part of the province of Groningen). It is also one of the more car-dominant cities in the Netherlands, partly because its elevation is not nearly as flat as cities like Amsterdam in the north. Persistent congestion problems on the A2 motorway have led to a two-level tunnel through the city, currently under construction. Maastricht is still trying to discourage parking in its inner city and improving other options, such as walking and park and ride options. Besides trying to decrease driving in the city centre, one of the planning problems is how to maintain accessibility for residents of the rural towns and villages.

Another issue is regional planning–Maastricht is perhaps the most international city in the Netherlands, with students and workers commuting daily from nearby German and Belgian cities. German is widely spoken, and French names and words persist in the Limburgh dialect (and, as you can see, in the names of sites and neighbourhoods). Companies such as BASF, Vodaphone and Mercedez-Benz have extensive bases in the city. However, until recently there has been no attempt to try and plan for the region as a whole. Like many regions in the Netherlands, there is a long-standing debate on the question of which scale is the most appropriate for planning things like transportation infrastructure or employment growth. How far does the “region” actually extend–as far as Aachen (31km east) across the German border, or across the Belgian border to Liège (25km south) and Hasselt (25km west)? Should the region’s boundaries remain within the Netherlands, perhaps including Eindhoven (70km north)? The city is currently trying to determine which of these neighbouring municipalities to include as planning partners in its strategic vision process: in our workshop, we broke into three groups trying to tackle the international, regional and local scales.

Liège-Guillemins, a mere half hour by train from Maastricht, is one of three Belgian cities on the high-speed rail route, and is linked to Brussels, Paris, Aachen, Cologne, and Frankfurt. Here you can see the contrast of the Santiago Calatrava-designed station, which opened in 2009, with the old city behind it.

Maastricht planners at the municipal and provincial levels must now put their shoulders to the wheel: it will likely be years before a regional vision coalesces, if Amsterdam-Utrecht and Rotterdam-Den Haag are any indication. Amsterdam and Utrecht, two cities that share commuters and population growth but are in two different provinces, have struggled to plan anything at the regional level. Rotterdam and Den Haag have making slow but steady progress in this direction with the RandstadRail and Stedenbaan projects. Maastricht must make extensive use of the polder model to engage all its possible stakeholders in this strategic vision process.

In an article in today’s Vancouver Sun (“Seven mayors weigh in–The case for funding public transit”, October 4, 2011), seven regional mayors weighed in on the importance of public transit infrastructure to the Metro Vancouver region: Dianne Watts (Surrey), Peter Fassbender (Langley), Richard Walton (District of North Vancouver), Gregor Robertson (Vancouver), Pamela Goldsmith-Jones (West Vancouver), Greg Moore (Port Coquitlam), and Richard Stewart (Coquitlam). This Friday, the Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation, made up of 22 elected officials from around the region, votes on TransLink’s Moving Forward Supplemental Plan. The proposal includes a 2 cent-per-litre gas tax that will require provincial approval, a new joint long-term funding proposal approved by the Mayor’s Council and the province, and a temporary property tax increase that will cost about $23 per household for 2013-2014. Transit improvements include the Evergreen Line construction, improvements to existing SkyTrain stations, and service improvements in Langley and Surrey. If the plan passes, Minister of Transportation Blair Lekstrom has said that he will introduce legislation this fall enabling the gas tax by April 2012.

The mayors cite increased traffic levels and the 19.6 percent jump in transit ridership from June 2010 to July 2011 (due to transportation mode shifts during the Olympics) as proof that the region is overdue for transit improvements. 2011-2012 is shaping up to be another record year. They also reflect on the vision of previous leaders, who in 1980 struggled with the concept of rapid transit lines but eventually decided in favour of them. Clearly, they see themselves in sync with the region’s early strides towards sustainability.

“We have had the debate. Now we must move from words to deeds. The decision we make on Friday will forge the path Greater Vancouver so badly needs. Passing the 2012 Supplemental Plan is the right decision for Metro Vancouver’s transportation system, economy, and future livability.” –Dianne Watts, Peter Fassbender, Richard Walton, Gregor Robertson, Pamela Goldsmith-Jones, Greg Moore, and Richard Stewart

However, the municipalities of Burnaby, Richmond, the City of North Vancouver, Delta, and Langley Township have said they will probably vote against the plan. This is surprising considering TransLink’s extensive public consultation during the creation of Moving Forward showed that 80% of those consulted agreed with the proposed improvements and 75% said the Evergreen Line was important in reaching the goals outlined in Transport 2040, the regional transportation strategy. It’s also surprising considering Burnaby and Richmond have both been big winners in terms of transit infrastructure: the three existing LRT lines have paid off for them. With municipal elections a mere five weeks away (November 16th), the stakes are high; yet the stakes for the region have never been higher.

Update: The Mayors’ Council voted to support the Moving Forward Plan with 70% support from its 22 members.

Keynote speakers UBC PhD student Ren Thomas and landscape architect Cornelia Oberlander spoke at SCARP's 60th anniversary gala (Image source: Vancouver Courier February 9, 2011)

On February 3rd, SCARP held its 60th Anniversary Gala at the Four Seasons Hotel in Vancouver. Over 300 people turned out for the event, including alumni from the first graduating class in 1953. The event was suggested by celebrated regional planner Ken Cameron, a SCARP alumnus, and it was a real success. Our MC for the evening was Vancouver planner Mark Holland, and he was well-suited to this task, with his deep voice and great sense of humour. Special guest for the evening was Cornelia Oberlander, Canada’s most famous landscape architect. Cornelia’s husband, the late Peter Oberlander, was the first director of SCARP and instrumental in the 1976 UN Habitat Conference. This year the entire Oberlander family joined us in celebrating a scholarship fund started in Peter’s honour. Other speakers included the Honorable Stephen Owen, SCARP Director Penny Gurstein, and Nick Sully from SHAPE Architecture, who will be working on SCARP’s new home, the Integrated Planning and Design Facility.

The second part of the evening featured reflections on SCARP’s past, present and future: Larry Beasley (former City of Vancouver planning co-director) addressed SCARP’s amazing past, I was pleased to speak for a few minutes on SCARP’s present, and Dr. Maged Senbel eloquently spoke of the future.

Alumnus Mark Holland and department head Penny Gurstein welcomed SCARPIES to UBC's School of Community and Regional Planning's 60th anniversary (Image Source: Vancouver Courier, February 9, 2011)

What stellar alumni we have…the heads of virtually every planning firm in Vancouver, many of the municipal and regional planners in BC, local developers, UN researchers, and the first PhD in planning granted to a Canadian woman (Ann McAfee, Larry’s co-director of planning at the City of Vancouver). Wow. Having been at SCARP for six years, it was also great to see many recent graduates who are now working at TransLink, BC Housing, HB Lanarc, and many other public, private, and non-profit bodies.

Fred Lee, sneaky photographer that he is, snapped these shots of us at the Gala. I’m sure there are more hovering around; a waiter at my favourite restaurant tipped me off to these in the Vancouver Courier (note: the captions are theirs, not mine).