Glenn Miller, Vice President, Education & Research at the Canadian Urban Institute (CUI), shares what cities need to do to improve urban mobility.
1. What are the best practices for improving the urban connectivity of cities?
One bright spot is the potential for using high speed gondolas as urban transit (also known as ropeway technology). We have been a supporter of taking a hard look at high speed gondolas for use in locations where topography might be an issue or where there isn’t enough present demand to justify a fixed rail solution. For many years, Roosevelt Island in Manhattan has been connected by cable although a much older technology, it is integrated into the system. There are a few other examples in North America but probably the best known is in Medilin, Colombia. The technology is fast, inexpensive and accessible to people in wheelchairs. It has the capacity of a well-run streetcar but at the moment is best suited to linear applications. The sustainable community under development at the top of Burnaby Mountain in BC (UniverCity) is looking to introduce high speed gondola to replace the bus routes that connect to the skytrain. This would cut the time from 17 minutes to six, and would allow dramatic savings in GHG emissions. UniverCity is a great story by the way.
2. What are the largest obstacles to these improvements?
The barriers are complex and it would take a novel to list them all. The key challenge is to have a policy process that respects the needs of the private sector and which is predicated on high expectations for a return on investment. We at the CUI are part of an initiative called Strategic Regional Research that is being funded by public sector and private sector partners to undertake evidence based research to further those goals. If you look at the reports of the Transit Panel (Anne Golden) that just reported, our colleague was a member of that (Iain Dobson) and the findings of the panel reflect our approach and thinking. Rather than develop a transit investment plan and then undertake another process to figure out how to pay for it, we advocate that each project proposed be developed with a business case that has clear expectations for timing and anticipated results. You can find our first report on this website (A Region in Transition).