Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Indigenous Art at YVR

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We were out at the airport yesterday evening. A niece was on her way through, but had a couple of hours layover there while she changed planes. We arranged to meet her in the terminal for dinner.

This gave me a bit more time to look at the art which is installed at the entrance to the domestic arrivals area, in the basement. To find out more about these pieces go to the YVR webpage

The pictures below have all been posted on flickr and can be found there just by clicking on the image.

Thunderbird and Killer Whale by Richard Hunt 1999
Killer Whale and Thunderbird by Richard Hunt 1999
Human/Bear Masks by Dempsey Bob 1999
Human/Bear Masks by Dempsey Bob 1999
Back of "Thunderbird" by Richard Hunt
Human/Bear Masks  by Dempsey Bob
YVR Domestic Arrivals Area
Human/Bear Masks  by Dempsey Bob

Written by Stephen Rees

September 9, 2019 at 11:50 am

From hyperloops to hailing rides:

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This is just the start of Justin McElroy’s puff piece for the CBC on Railvolution.

I am not going to be dragged off topic by venting on hyperloop or ride hailing. What triggered me was the reference to the lack of affordable housing – as though the lack of it was somehow the fault of transportation planning or unique to Vancouver. Indeed I do not understand why mainstream journalists continue to play around with the issue without placing the blame squarely where it should go.

Canada used to do affordable housing quite well. Though the word “affordable” is rather more recent. Back then it was pretty much accepted in the advanced western countries that the housing market did not work at all well for people on limited incomes and no wealthy background to help out. Housing the poor was regarded as an obligation that had to be accepted by government to avoid the sort of problems described by Dickens and Victor Hugo. Slums were always a feature of industrial landscapes – and for much of the nineteenth century seemed to be regarded as an unfortunate necessity. Until some manufacturers with social consciences – or religious obligations – started building decent homes for their employees. The quakers who ran most of the confectionary companies stand out in my mind – Cadbury and Rowntree. In fact the Rowntree Trust is still in the same business in the UK now.

In Canada the federal government funded public housing – up until the Jean Chretien administration when Paul Martin became Finance Minister and began the change to neoliberal – monetarist policies that cut back public spending on the poor in favour of tax breaks for the rich. This was pretty much the same policy that Thatcher had adopted in the UK – she forced the sale of the best council housing to the tenants in the stated conviction that it would convert them to Conservative voters.

While I am not saying there were no housing issues prior to this point, what is indisputable is that provincial and local governments have had a hard time since federal support for housing was withdrawn. And it is also noticeable that other publicly supported tenures such as co-ops have also been having a hard time.

Of course Vancouver is not alone in “experiencing challenges around affordability”. It has been made worse by the previous BC Liberal government turning a blind eye to money laundering. Vancouver was already a favoured destination for wealthy immigrants – again due to the federal policies that promoted the business class.

“municipalities across the region have faced pressure to keep land around transit-oriented developments affordable for those that need transit most” is really one of the silliest ways of looking at the issue. Municipalities can determine zoning: that is about the extent of it. Arguably, places that continued to stick to single family zoning for much of their territory did a lot to price people out. But then the places that did see development weren’t exactly cheap either.

The region had a strategy to limit sprawl, but that was blown out of the water – once again the BC Liberals decided to invest in highway expansion which far exceeded anything that was spent on transit in the same period. The Olympics were designed not just to attract visitors to a sports festival but to blow a hole in the regional strategies of Greater Vancouver and Squamish-Lillooet and encourage housing development and car commuting along the expanded Sea to Sky Highway. Jack Poole was a developer first and foremost.

So the combination of Hayekian fiscal measures federally and reckless mismanagement provincially is more than enough to explain why decent housing close to jobs has become so hard to find here. What is less acceptable is that having a so called “progressive” governments at both levels in recent years has not seen anything like an adequate response to the need for effective housing policies. It is not as if there is a shortage of resources. When governments find it possible to buy an oil pipeline and building the boondoggle Site C, they have no credibility at all when they plead poverty as a defense of inadequate social policies – where housing ought to have a much higher priority. And during a climate emergency when investing in tar sands and fracking should be anathema.

Written by Stephen Rees

September 8, 2019 at 2:37 pm

Vancouver Mural Festival

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This afternoon we took a different kind of a walk. Instead of one of the beaches or the forest, this took in the industrial side of the city. Each year there is a mural festival in Vancouver where artists from here and around the world paint the sides of buildings.

There are several blog posts from 2017 this is the first of four.

Right now I am fighting with the flickr web site, which is where I usually put most of my pictures. I had hoped with their new independent status that they would become more reliable. Sadly, they are still far too often showing the “bad panda” excuse page. So I have uploaded this year’s pictures to the WP media library, in case flickr lets you down too.

You can find a map and other useful information on the Vancouver Mural Festival webpage

Garriya by Sonny Green: Australia
Pablo Zamudio
K C Hall : Raven Transformation
Homecoming by Kathy Ager
Eva Eskelinen
Sebastian Curi
William Liaou
Alex Joukov “Status Symbol”
“Cosmic Breeze” by Olivia de Liberto
Oneo

Sadly an artist coming here from Japan can get no respect from the local moronic “taggers” who have already defaced the mural (bottom right).

I posted a larger stitched panorama on flickr

Oneo panorama
Medianeras
SatOne
Charlie Edmiston
Pamela Pinard and Syd Danger

There are several more new murals on the other side of Main Street. I will try to get to them.

mural panorama
This mural is missing from the official map. It is adjacent to the Holden Courage memorial and is painted over previous murals on the same wall. (East 5th at Main, car park, nw corner)

Written by Stephen Rees

August 24, 2019 at 5:33 pm

Posted in Art

Tagged with

A Picture of Progress

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I have been following the Washington State Department of Transportation on Flickr for quite a while. They are a remarkably progressive organisation and their photographers have captured some amazing images. But this evening they excelled themselves.

I am not going to comment I am just going to post the picture and their text.

Before and After photo of the I-5 and SR 16 interchange
Before and After photo of the I-5 and SR 16 interchange

“It’s easy to forget what the I-5/SR 16 interchange looked like before efforts began to widen the interchange. We found two photos that really show the comparison. The historic Nalley Valley interchange first opened to traffic in 1971. At the time, the average daily traffic volumes for both directions of SR 16 were 40,000 vehicles. Fast forward to 2018, and that number has tripled.”

And because I did not know where this is, here is a map

I5 SR16 Intersection Tacoma

Written by Stephen Rees

August 15, 2019 at 7:04 pm

Posted in Transportation

What I have been reading

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A useful list from the Guardian “Ten common myths about bike lanes – and why they’re wrong” which uses mostly UK data. And it is about a month old, but I only saw it today. For local readers, the switch of the Downtown Vancouver Business Association from anti-bike lane to pro, simply based on the business data of the members should be proof enough. It was thought that the loss of parking would hurt retailers, but it turns out that the people who ride bikes have more disposable income than those who spend a lot on owning and using a car.

Also from the Guardian – from their Cities section – is a useful explanation of how people use public spaces, based on research in New York City by SWA Group – in a gallery with useful commentary on the left hand side.

You can read “Our Renewable Future” by Richard Henberg and David Fridley on line. It was published a couple of years ago and if you haven’t had a chance to look at it you should.

New Trains from Bombardier for London Overground

“SERVICES over London Overground’s Gospel Oak – Barking line are now exclusively operated by four-car class 710 Aventra EMUs after the legacy two-car DMUs were phased out. One month free travel will be offered between August 31 and October 1 as compensation for the late delivery of the new fleet.” from the International Railway Journal

This used to be mainly a freight line transferring trains from the docks at Tilbury to the rest of the country, in between which ran one of the few peripheral passenger services around London (as opposed to to and from the centre). In recent years these services have been greatly improved by taking them into the regional service provider rather than the national railway which had tended to neglect them. Even though I lived in East Ham for 18 years or so, there was never really much need for us to use this line, but as a train enthusiast I found reasons to, later on.

I quite like the way that people who were inconvenienced by the switch now get compensated. This is common in Europe – but almost unheard of here. Apparently Canada is going to make airlines do something similar. Of course no compensation is ever considered for those stuck by the Greyhound withdrawal – or the appalling unreliability of VIA rail.

Written by Stephen Rees

August 6, 2019 at 5:17 pm

He’s Baaack!

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OK so maybe I was a bit hasty about using that “last post” title.

I got a tweet from the CBC that I wanted to share – but by the time I had found what it lead to the tweet was way off somewhere, and hard to find for even a simple retweet. Then I thought about sending it by email to by chums at Transport Action BC – but the rigmarole gmail puts me through to do that – I have not found how to do email lists – makes it daunting. And if I hit “reply all” I can’t change the thread Title.

Facebook just makes a muck of the links and the pictures.

So the CBC reports that there is a new, large archive of historical BC photos at UBC. So of course the first thing I do is go have a peek and search for train and streetcar images. “Train” produces 20 images of which this is the first

B.C. Electric Railway Freight Train photographer unknown

The Uno Langmann Family Collection of British Columbia Photographs is currently being digitised but is both searchable and usable since the images have a Creative Commons license.

GOOD.

Written by Stephen Rees

July 28, 2019 at 10:14 am

The Last Post

I am going to add a link into the next paragraph, which will take you to an essay in Huffington Post. And then once that article opens up – if you decide to click that link, there is another link to “a long form essay “Facing Extinction“” if you prefer that. But the point of this first paragraph is to explain why I am posting this at all. I have been consciously backing off from the position I have been taking here for the last ten to fifteen years. At first it was more about “what do I do with myself in the absence of worthwhile employment?” Then it was about having solved the immediate issues of how I survive without a large salary every month (not that I ever thought I had a large salary) what do I do about the place I find myself. I long ago recognised that I would not be able to save the world. It turned out that it was immensely difficult to even make the small part of it that I occupied reasonably tolerable. It did not help either that some of the thoughts that had occurred to me actually got implemented. Not that I am about to claim credit for them – or anything. Other people think similar thoughts at the same time, is all. I just thought that I could keep on doing the same sort of policy analysis that I used to do for the government for the people who get governed. Until that seemed futile too. And boring and repetitive. I long ago stopped going on protests. I have stopped supporting political parties – and everyday, without fail, I get another confirmation that was a Good Choice.

So as I read this article, I kept finding myself in agreement. It is better than anything I could write – and there isn’t anything I feel the need to cavil about. And I have stopped myself from thinking that this is all too hard to face up to. It is not as if we have any choice at all. Except you – you who have stuck with me this far – you who still show up on the “like” list. You can stop reading this now. That’s ok. Don’t worry about it. You do not have to face extinction right now, if you don’t want to. But for those of you who are wondering why this post was an even an idea in the first place this is the link. I have checked it by sending it by email to someone else and confirmed that it works.

This is not a matter for comment or discussion. I am going to close comments for this post, and won’t be looking for any feedback. Please take the advice of the author of the article.

Good bye. And thanks for all the fish.

Written by Stephen Rees

July 22, 2019 at 7:26 pm