Off For the Weekend

Hi All,

I will be off for the weekend, so I won’t be able to reply to posts or tweets. I will be back online Sunday night, hopefully around 9 or 10.

I am planning to write another post at that time. Current topics that have been suggested to analyze the logic behind are:

– Ok. People that bus today will LRT tomorrow, and people that drive today will drive tomorrow. No reduction in cars on the road (see here: http://www.walkablewaterloo.com/17/) But what about people that are moving to the region? What if they chose never to get a car?

– The LRT will help local tech companies attract talent to the area, which they need to compete. This will be hard to use logic to debate, but as someone that runs a local tech company I will do my best to try.

Which one should we start with? Any other topics that are more important to address? Please let me know!

See you all Sunday.

Ted

25 thoughts on “Off For the Weekend

  1. Alex

    People that bus today will LRT tomorrow, and people that drive today will drive tomorrow.

    I don’t buy this premise. People will do what is convenient. If the LRT works, people living next to it will use it and stop driving. By the same token a student using the iXpress today gets married next year and moves to its corner of suburbia and starts driving, since that is the only convenient choice.

    We could easily have upwards of 100K trips a day taking place on public transit instead of cars. Does this sound farfetched to you? Well presently we already have about 60K such trips a day on GRT transit.

    Reply
    1. Ted Post author

      Hi Alex. If you keep reading you will see I provide mathematical logic to back this up. Let me know if you have an issues with it, or if you have different logic that you would like us to consider.

      Reply
      1. Alex

        I also already addressed the flaws in your math elsewhere. But really the flaws go much further than that. The key question you need to ask is “Is there a city that has done better by not having an LRT/subway?”

        The answer to this question is very obviously no. Of course there are places which have bungled their LRT and so we might, but the true question is not “wither LRT?” but “which LRT/subway/PRT?”

        Reply
        1. Ted Post author

          Hey Alex,

          This is a great point. I am currently reading a book called Straphanger, which talks about transit systems all over the world. It shows how all these cities are an absolute mess, and the only way out is transit. Therefore, one day Waterloo will be a mess too, and so we might as well get ahead of that and build transit now.

          I get that.

          But I also think there is a better way. When we started Kik we saw that computing was shifting from the desktop era to the mobile era. Most desktop era companies were taking all the same rules, and trying to apply them to mobile. But it was the companies that threw all the rules out and started fresh that really took off, whether it be Snapchat or Kik or Instagram or Vine (http://www.distimo.com/leaderboards/google-play-store/united-states/top-overall/free)

          I think the same thing is happening to cities. That we are shifting from the car era to the post car era. Because the world is getting crowded, my generation can’t afford cars, and our economy can’t afford to maintain roads. As a result, cities around the world are scrambling to get through the transition, to shift from a city designed from the ground up for cars, to a city designed from the ground up for no cars.

          Just like with the shift from desktop to mobile, this is proving to be an incredibly difficult and expensive shift. But there is no choice but to buckle down and spend your way out of it. But Waterloo is different. We are a young city with an incredible brand. We don’t have 400 years of car focused growth that we have to adapt. Instead we have a clean open slate to build a city from the ground up for the new post car era. What an incredible opportunity.

          And here we are, at the cusp of a new era, saying let’s give in and just be like everyone else. When there is such an incredible opportunity in front of us, to throw out all the rules, and start again. To build something truly unique.

          Reply
          1. Alex

            But this is a false dichotomy, we can do all of these things and have an LRT too. To use your example from UWaterloo below, while the University did many novel things (like co-op) it did not do without regular students, regular professors and traditional libraries. It did all of those things and then some others.

            Your proposal of higher density makes sense, and one way to achieve it is by having LRT stops. We are already witnessing increased density around the Bauer Lofts, Victoria and King, and Cedar and King on the expectation of the LRT coming there.

            Second, this is a direction in which your lobbying might go a lot further. For better or worse (ok, mostly for better) the LRT is a fait accompli. Yet the mistaken zoning decisions for Northdale which is one of the most promising high density mixed usage areas keep on happening as we speak. Same for the unjustifiable restrictions on mixed usage on University between Lester St. and Hazel.

            We need neighbourhoods where you can walk for your groceries, to a restaurant, to a cafe, to a bar, to the gym, then an LRT stop near by for when you need to go farther, and then Zip cars for when you need to go to places not serviced by public transit. Now find me a place in the city (Waterloo, that is) where this is the allowed. The only examples are where people live on the boundary of a transition zone (Northdale right next to King, first ring of residential areas interfacing with Uptown).

            Reply
            1. Michael Druker

              “…and then Zip cars for when you need to go to places not serviced by public transit.”

              (I’ll just put in a plug for here for Community CarShare, as K-W already has 22 shared cars for just that purpose.)

              Reply
            2. Ted Post author

              Hey Alex,

              This post actually really helped me, as one question is “why can’t we just do both?”

              As I have thought more about the LRT (largely due to this community – thank you) if I were to summarize the argument for the LRT it would be this:

              The day the LRT finishes, cars will still be faster, so everyone will continue to drive. But as Waterloo gets bigger, driving will get slower, whereas the LRT will continue to take the same amount of time. Therefore, one day the LRT will truly become faster, so we should put the LRT in now to get ahead of this.

              Is that fair?

              If so, this actually makes sense to me, but is also depressing. It says we are facing an unsolvable problem: one day our roads will be just as congested as Toronto, so lets build the LRT now and wait for our crappy congested future to arrive. But is there no other solution that “let’s us have our cars, and drive them too?” (a fun play on cake/eat – I would actually prefer to live in a place where I dont have to drive)

              I think there is actually a solution that could concentrate development around a single node. Somewhere where we could have a true walkable city, 365 days a year. Where it wouldn’t be buses or trains or cars, but simply walking. And best of all, I think it could all be done with private money. So the more I think about it, the more I’m thinking maybe we could just proceed with the LRT – I don’t think we need it, I actually think that a better solution could make it obsolete, but how much could it hurt?

              I know $818mm is the project cost. Does anyone have numbers for the risk assessment if a) the project goes over budget and b) if ridership doesn’t meet demand? Because if the region is cutting down iXpress schedules, when there is real demand, just to save a few bucks, then can we really afford this?

              Reply
              1. Alex

                The day the LRT finishes, cars will still be faster, so everyone will continue to drive.

                A problem with this discussion is that North Americans have generally only been exposed to really bad public transit, while at the same time having ready access to a heavily subsidized car infrastructure. So on the one hand we have routes with buses that go by once every hour and make a stop every block while on the other we have mandated parking spots next to every business (this is presently the law in Waterloo). So guess what, people tend to prefer driving.

                However, place fast efficient affordable public transit and contrary to what you say people do stop driving. Are you aware that GRT ridership has gone up by a factor of 2.3x since the iXpress was introduced?

                Reply
              2. Alex

                Just a note to add that I’m all for density but not mandated density.

                We have to create the dynamic public spaces where people choose said density, a la Bauer lofts and 144 Park. This starts with better zoning laws that allow housing on top of commercial usage, like the Bauer lofts which you’ll agree was a great success. This remains a challenge in Waterloo today outside a selected set of “corridors” where this is allowed, and indeed 144 Park is currently slated to have no commercial space in a significant portion of its street frontage.

                Reply
  2. Andrew

    I’ve read your blog, where you ask others to provide “numbers” to dispute yours, however, you seem unwilling to acknowledge that your base assumption “(a)nyone who drives would continue to drive, and not use LRT” may not be valid. Unless you’re willing to debate that fundamental (and flawed, in my opinion) assumption, your “analysis” will always be biased against LRT.

    As a former Waterloo resident, and current Toronto resident (I came here for work), I’m perplexed by your repeated references to King and Spadina. It’s great that you can afford to rent a place in King West to play in Toronto on weekends, good for you. But if you were here during the week, you’d see that even in this “extremely walk-able” neighbourhood, the 504 King Streetcar is PACKED at rush hour, even leaving people waiting at stops. So, I don’t fully follow your “logic” that higher density would render the utilization of an LRT system unnecessary.

    Now, if you back away from these, I guess two, fundamental assumptions you’ve made, most of your arguments against LRT hold no weight.

    Reply
    1. Ted Post author

      Hi Andrew. I am certainly willing to debate “(a)nyone who drives would continue to drive, and not use LRT”. As stated above, I laid out my math for how I came to this conclusion, and have invited anyone to find flaws or present their own. So far, no one has. I challenge you to be the first.

      On King St, this is my point. That even transit has limitations when people live and work at different nodes, something the LRT will encourage. Fortunately, we have a young city where we could CHOOSE to concentrate development at a single node from day one, unlike historic cities that are already burdened with having to try to tie all these existing dense nodes together.

      Reply
      1. Michael Druker

        Fortunately, we have a young city where we could CHOOSE to concentrate development at a single node from day one,…

        No, we can’t choose to do that. Unless you’re proposing to buy everything up yourself and develop it according to your master plan (demand be damned)?

        …unlike historic cities that are already burdened with having to try to tie all these existing dense nodes together.

        I hate to break it to you, but we’re exactly the same as all these other places. More so, even, because in Waterloo Region not only do we have a bunch of existing nodes, they happen to fall pretty much in a line rather than be centred around any one obvious point.

        Reply
        1. Ted Post author

          Have you ever been to New York? Or San Francisco? Or even Toronto? Waterloo doesn’t have a bunch of dense nodes. It simply has a main street.

          Reply
          1. Michael Druker

            “Waterloo doesn’t have a bunch of dense nodes.”

            I didn’t say the nodes were dense.

            “Have you ever been to New York? Or San Francisco? Or even Toronto?”

            Maybe you should come out and say what you are trying to imply with that remark. At any rate, yes, I’ve been to all of those cities.

            Reply
            1. Ted Post author

              If the nodes aren’t dense, then why are we trying to connect them together? All the previous analysis has shown, which nobody has yet to show an alternative to, that the only way to get actually cars off the road is to allow them to walk. So we should be trying to get one dense node first.

              Also, on the cities comment I apologize. I did not mean it as a personal attack, I was merely trying to illustrate a point: we are looking at all these huge cities and saying look at them, they need transit, and so will we. But we aren’t them. We don’t have their problems, and they don’t have our opportunities. And we should take advantage of that,

              Reply
              1. Michael Druker

                “If the nodes aren’t dense, then why are we trying to connect them together?”

                They may not be “dense” by the standards of large cities, but they’re the important destinations and trip generators here. It’s where people go, where people live, where parking is not as cheap, where traffic is highest, and where buses get used. It’s also where the province has mandated intensification, meaning all of the aforementioned factors will increase.

                “we are looking at all these huge cities and saying look at them, they need transit, and so will we. But we aren’t them.”

                The arguments have never been that we will need transit because other cities will. Other cities show how cities and transit work. Meanwhile local development, local intensification, and local transit use is what shows that transit infrastructure is needed here in Waterloo Region. The original iXpress 200 bus route demonstrated the demand for a rapid-style service along the Region’s central corridor far better than any simplistic looks at busways, tramways, and subways in other cities.

                Reply
      2. Andrew

        Hi Ted,

        I don’t really like to replicate work, so here’s the general ridership forecast that were mathematically proven using a robust model developed by one engineering firm, updated by a second, and peer reviewed by academics at U of W and U of T. The paragraph answer is this:

        “Daily passenger boardings on opening day are expected to be around 27,000. This is expected to increase to about 56,000 by the year 2031. Ridership forecasts were developed by the consultant teams of TSi and Halcrow Consulting using a ridership forecasting model as part of the Environmental Assessment. The model was peer reviewed by Dr. Eric Miller of the University of Toronto and Dr. Jeff Casello of the University of Waterloo and was deemed to be a sound forecasting tool. Details of the modelling process can be found in the Rapid Transit Environmental Assessment Phase 2 Summary Report.”

        Check out the Phase 2 Summary Report, starting on page 52:

        http://rapidtransit.regionofwaterloo.ca/en/projectinformation/resources/rapid_transit_ea_phase_2_summary_report_-_final_draft.pdf

        I think you can agree that this is a much more robust model than the simplistic, “top-down” model that you assumed the region used, and perhaps this model would be a good basis for you to attempt to refute.

        Reply
        1. Ted Post author

          Hey Andrew,

          I did read this, but thanks for posting so I could re-read it again.

          I couldn’t find any modelling on travel time by car. Just iXpress vs BRT vs LRT. But perhaps I just missed it?

          Reply
          1. Andrew

            I think you missed it. It’s implicit in the assumptions that the ridership is based on either driving or taking transit.

            The assumptions being the operating cost of the vehicle, parking, etc, and a perceived value of time at $10.30 an hour.

            So, let’s use the model and your assumptions.

            Ted’s trip by car, living at the Bauer Lofts and working at King and Weber. Google Maps says that trip, by car, takes at shortest 8 minutes.
            So, we have $0.122/km (operating cost) * 3.1km + $3.50 (parking, will increase to $7.50 by 2031) + (8/60) (time) * $10.30 = $5.25

            But, you don’t pay for parking, so fine, we’ll go with $1.75 for now, but by 2031, the total “trip cost” will be $9.25.

            Ted’s trip by LRT. Arguably wouldn’t happen…the route doesn’t make sense for you specifically, but with LRT there will still be bus routes, so you’d take the number 7 bus (and I’ll just run the numbers for this illustration). Walk to the bus stop, I’ll count as zero time, since it’s likely on par with getting to your car in the underground lot, and getting your car out onto the street. Wait for 10 minutes (seems conservative to me), get on the bus which travels at 20km/hr (this is my assumption. The slowest speed I found in the report was for iXpress in mixed traffic at 24km/hr, knock some speed off for stopping at all stops). Then we’ll say it’s a one minute walk from the bus stop at King and Weber to your office (again, my assumption).

            Therefore, the cost is $1.50 (transit fare) + time (10/60 for waiting + 3.1km / 20km/hr + 1/60) * $10.30 = $12.14

            So, in summary:
            Ted Driving (2014) “Trip Cost” = $1.75
            Ted Driving (2031) “Trip Cost” = $9.25
            Ted Bus “Trip Cost” = $12.14

            Therefore, in all cases, Ted drives to work.

            Now, break the city up into small zones, determine total trips out of each zone and into each zone, plug that data into the above model, and determine how many people have a lower “Trip Cost” for LRT, and would therefore take LRT instead of a car, increasing ridership.

            So you see, your initial assumption that people will take the fastest option is factored into the ridership projections, and in fact is a SIGNIFICANT factor in the decision model.

            Now, for fun, let’s assume that the KIK office moves to the R&T park, and assume it will be a 5 minute walk from the R&T Park station to KIK’s new fancy digs.

            Again, starting at your place, we have $1.50 (transit fare) + (time waiting (10/60) + time walking (5/60) + time travelling (3.07km/26km/hr))*$10.30 = $5.28
            By car, from your place to the “new” office is, best case, is 4.2km, and 9 mins (Google Maps).
            Therefore, under this new scenario
            Ted’s Trip by Car (2014): $2.06
            Ted’s Trip by Car (2031): $9.55
            Ted’s Trip by LRT: $5.28

            So, under this scenario, as soon as you have to pay for parking, you’ll start taking LRT!

            What this says to me is that EVEN IF someone lives at one node for various reasons, and works at another, LRT is still the “better” option.

            Reply
            1. Ted Post author

              Hey Andrew,

              This is a fantastic analysis, thank you. From the above, it appears that parking cost is the key factor. If you have been to R&T park, you will see that one of the big draws is all the free parking. If my parking stays free, how much longer would my drive have to take before I took the LRT?

              On the analysis, you are exactly correct – we need to split up the community into zones, and then measure and then aggregate all the routes people will take to see what % will switch from driving today to LRT.

              That said, using simpler logic, initially the LRT will at best be marginally faster than busing, in which case why would anyone switch from driving on day 1? I have asked many of the people behind the LRT project the same question, and all eventually admit that they won’t – the LRT only becomes viable when driving gets slower and parking gets more expensive, 5, 10, or even 20 years from now.

              But that I suppose that is my fundamental problem with the LRT. It says lets spend the money now, so that one day, 5, 10, or 20 years from now, driving will become so slow and parking so expensive that THANK GOODNESS we put in that LRT. To me, this is a depressing solution. That we are going to spend all this money and then sit back and wait for this congested and miserable future to appear.

              The only way to get people out of their cars TODAY is to make it so that they can walk from home to work and everywhere else they need to go. If you had $800mm to spend, could you create a private development that accomplished this? What would it look like?

              Reply
    2. Michael Druker

      The King & Spadina references are quite weird to me as well. Ted, do you really think the walkability and density of King & Spadina is unrelated to the huge amount of transit infrastructure there?

      The fact is you will be hard pressed to find any first-world city that has very dense, walkable districts in the absence of serious transit infrastructure.

      Reply
      1. Ted Post author

        See my answer to Alex above, but also consider the below.

        When the University of Waterloo was building their school, and they were starting WAY behind everyone else, what did they do? Did they just sit there and look at what everyone else had done, and say let’s do that? No, they did two things completely unique. They said all our profs will own their own IP, and they said every student will complete 6 co-ops before the graduate. The rest is history.

        Our city is built on being different. Just because every other city needs to add transit (which I fully agree, they do) doesn’t mean we can’t come up with a solution unique to us. Because imagine where our city would be if UW hadn’t.

        Reply
        1. Michael Druker

          “No, they did two things completely unique. They said all our profs will own their own IP, and they said every student will complete 6 co-ops before the graduate. The rest is history. … Our city is built on being different.”

          Oh, I see rhetoric is fair game then.

          For your edification, the University of Waterloo did not pioneer or invent co-operative education. The University of Cincinnati did that a half-century before the University of Waterloo was even founded.

          I don’t think creator-owned IP was a Waterloo invention, either, nor did it come about as a top-down policy. At the point it became relevant, I doubt it would’ve been considered a crucial part of the university’s policies.

          So let’s rephrase – the things that made the University of Waterloo successful include building on good ideas proven elsewhere and making decisions based on the facts on the ground. That’s a perfect fit for the way Waterloo Region is using well-proven LRT technology to guide development to an extent few North American cities of similar size have done.

          Reply
          1. Ted Post author

            Hey Mike,

            Why do you think this is rhetoric? I was just stating two facts.

            To clarify thought, no, Waterloo did not invent co-op, just like we will not invent buildings. But they sure did do the best job of it, and so could we: http://cacm.acm.org/magazines/2013/1/158766-what-college-could-be-like/fulltext

            On IP, a quote from the link you posted: From the start, it was the Waterloo way to try out new ways of doing things. Some seemed risky: such as letting researchers own their inventions at a time when, typically, university-generated IP belonged to the institution.

            Putting in a glorified bus when typically other cities do the same doesn’t sound like the Waterloo way to me.

            Reply

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