Vancouver’s clean, but for a rainforest, we’ve fewer trees than Chicago
By JEFF GREEN, The Province May 21, 2012
If you’re looking for some inner city shade, you may be better off finding it in Chicago.
A new report out of the controller’s office in San Francisco finds Vancouver is quick to clean up after itself, but its high maintenance streets aren’t as green as you might think.
Vancouver was the lone Canadian city in the Bay City report, which compared the streets of six cities similar to San Francisco in everything from pot holes to illegal dumping to graffiti cleanup times.
While Vancouver is quick to clean up its mess — be it graffiti or illegally dumped garbage — the report shows a small budget for preventive maintenance for its roads given its density, and less than half the foliage of the Windy City.
PLAGUED WITH POTHOLES
It’s a slow, smooth commute in Vancouver, if you’re comparing the ride to Chicago.
Vancouver’s number of 40,000 yearly pavement craters is second to the U.S. Midwest city’s 620,000. More importantly, Vancouver’s response time of two days is faster than average, and eclipses Oakland’s more than two-week waiting period.
“We’ve got (our crews) out doing the actual work, rather than trying to find it,” said Chris Dodd, superintendent of the maintenance department with the city.
Dodd says preventive maintenance is the key.
What Vancouver lacked in foliage, it more than made up for in maintenance.
With less than half of the street trees of Chicago, Vancouver topped the report’s list in the percentage of trees that are pruned every year.
Almost 75 per cent of the trees are maintained by some 55 civic employees, well above the 44 per cent average in the survey.
But Vancouver Parks Board Arborist Bill Stephen didn’t see the report as a fair comparison with U.S. cities such as Sacramento, San Jose and San Francisco.
“They grow palms and we grow big Douglass Firs ... The number of trees alone is not a good counter,” Stephen said.
As to the high maintenance habits of Vancouver’s foliage, Stephen said it comes down to what’s best for the city, adding the larger, broader trees need more attention, but are better for residents.
It should come as no surprise Vancouver leads the pack in accessible curbs.
Eighty per cent of curbs on city street corners have ramp access, well above the average (52 per cent) and a full 12 per cent ahead of the nearest city, San Jose.
Dodd said the push for accessibility really started five to six years ago.
“I think when Mayor (Sam) Sullivan was in there it had a bit of a push behind it,” Dodd said.
That work hasn’t slowed under Mayor Gregor Robertson, with Dodd saying the concentration is around SkyTrain stations, bus stops and other “high public volume sections.”
CLEAN IT UP TOMORROW
The city may be clean, but that doesn’t necessarily mean its residents are. With nearly 13,000 illegal dumping incidents — compared to approximately 8,000 in Chicago, a city nearly four and a half times its size — Vancouver is an above-average garbage dumper.
You wouldn’t realize it to look at it, especially with a response time of just one day compared to a week in Chicago and six days in Seattle.
According to the controller’s report, “Vancouver handles more illegal dumping incidents than average, responds more quickly, and spends the least compared to other cities.”
As long as you clean up after yourself, what’s the harm in a little mess?
The scooter crew of Goodbye Graffiti has a lot to do with Vancouver’s relatively spotless facade.
Graffiti is cleaned up faster for less money than any of the cities in the report.
“We’re out there every day,” said Goodbye Graffiti spokesperson Amy Moscrop. “Because we’re out there, it’s just so much cheaper.”
Their proactive response is made up of a crew of a dozen workers, five to six of which are on scooters cleaning up small messes, and calling in extra help for large tags.
The scooters eliminate the knee-jerk reaction of other cities, many of which Moscrop believes have to pull other workers off their regular duties to attend to graffiti.
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