Stephen Rees's blog

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

Archive for July 2006

Bus drivers being assaulted almost every other day

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Bus drivers being assaulted almost every other day
Houlahan said he doesn’t expect to see cameras on buses for at least a year.

This story – or one very like it – appears regularly. On a day when the Sun can afford over half a page to Mrs Harper’s dresses, it must be a “slow news day”.

The figures on assaults are inflated by adding in verbal assaults – cameras would be of little help here. But if the physical assaults are a real problem, cameras should have been installed a long time ago, and should now be an urgent priority.

After a series of very serious assaults on its drivers, Bonny’s was the first taxi company in the region to install cameras. The other taxi companies spent a long time arguing about who should pay for the cameras, fearing that the company that did not spend the money would have some kind of commercial advantage. Nonsense, of course. Customers really appreciate feeling safer in the cab.

Translink could easily put in cameras: the Skytrain system is one of the most surveilled areas in the region, and no one has an expectation of privacy on public transport. Trouble is that system is useless as evidence in many cases as the video tape is rewound every hour. A modern system of electronic image storage is planned for some time in the future.

Cameras were put on school buses many years ago in many places, to help curb unruly passenger behaviour. The camera boxes were not necessarily loaded – a bit like UK’s “gatsos” (fixed location speed cameras) – but they still worked as a deterrent.

These days small surveillance cameras are readily available and very cheap. They could be on all the time – or activated by a strategically placed switch, under the driver’s heel for example. Not hard to do. Not expensive. Not when compared to the costs of paying drivers who must take sick leave. Or Translink’s WCB premiums.

Written by Stephen Rees

July 29, 2006 at 11:20 pm

Posted in Transportation

Richmond Review:”Translink cash troubles are no surprise”

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Richmond Review

When TransLink came into being, it also collected all the dead wood from B.C. Transit and public transport planning continues in its 1950s mode. There was no hint of modern transit practice in the great towers in Burnaby.” (Letters July 29)

Malcolm Johnston – the name I couldn’t recall. I cannot help thinking that this statement may be actionable. I suppose, since I had been with BCT for a couple of years that I was some of that “dead wood”.

I wonder what his qualifications are? Do you think he has a Masters degree from one of the better English universities? Much experience in other cities planning transportation of all kinds? Come to that who are the other members of this Light Rail Committee? Who elected him their spokesman?

The province built SkyTrain (both lines), and is building the Canada Line. Not Translink, not BC Transit. Special project offices were set up and transit planners kept busy doing other things. The Evergreen Line is not even started so how he can claim that it is like SkyTrain I do not know. It is certainly not planned to be grade separated, or driverless, or run by Linear Induction Motors. So why is it not LRT?

Written by Stephen Rees

July 29, 2006 at 11:20 pm

Posted in Transportation

CP 2816 and train Pitt Meadows BC: July 29, 2006

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CP 2816 and train Pitt Meadows BC 2006_0729, originally uploaded by Stephen Rees.

A special promoting Breakfast for Learning picking up speed as it leaves Coquitlam for Agassiz and beyond.

I was very impressed by the affable security provided by CP staff and CP police. Some of the rail fans were less impressive. Those parked by the road ready for the fast getaway to chase off down Highway 7 – a busy suburban street not a freeway – to beat it to the next photo op. Or the youth with the scanner tuned to CP dispatchers who made completely misleading announcements that could have lead to tragedy. And the strange people who have to stand in front of the loco to have their picture taken with it!

Written by Stephen Rees

July 29, 2006 at 7:21 pm

Guardian Unlimited | Special reports | Yaks threaten China’s ‘miracle’ train line

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Guardian Unlimited | Special reports | Yaks threaten China’s ‘miracle’ train line
Crossing the rugged Qinghai plateau and climbing to 5,072 metres (16,640ft) above sea level, the $4.2bn (£2.3bn) railway was hailed by president Hu Jintao as an engineering miracle for the world. But it was always likely to be harder to maintain than to build.

It was the price that caught my eye. Frankly, compared to the cost of the Canada line, it looks like a bargain to me – but then if you are the Chinese government you are probably not faced with the sort of cost structure this P3 is going to land us with for the duration of its contract.  And, we don’t have to worry about permafrost or Yaks. Though on Sea Island I hope they have a really good contingency plan for rising sea levels and liquefying soils.

“Harder to maintain than build” is probably true of every railway ever built.

Written by Stephen Rees

July 28, 2006 at 6:58 pm

Vancouver Celebration of Light 2006

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Vancouver Celebration of Light 2006, originally uploaded by nonstopdesign.

We can hear it but not see it. One time, we got an invitation to a rooftop at Granville and 16th – not ideal but close enough.

What we need is a friend with a condo overlooking English Bay, but this Flickr user’s contribution is a nice consolation. 400,000 people in a confined space and seemingly very little done to get the crowds home quickly afterwards discourages me from attending.

Written by Stephen Rees

July 28, 2006 at 5:17 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

The Observer | UK News | Anti-heroin project transforms towns

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The Observer | UK News | Anti-heroin project transforms towns
A remarkable drugs project has transformed one of the regions worst affected by heroin addiction

One of the most intractable problems in this region is that of drugs – especially in the downtown east side. The so called “four pillars” program does not seem to be very effective, and there are countless references every week – if not every day – to the impact of open drug dealing and property crime on downtown. Often the spin is that this will drive away tourism and damage our chances of maximising the return on the winter Olympics in 2010. As if damaging the local community and destroying the lives of many local people is not incentive enough. Well, not enough to do anything that might actually work, but would also offend US right wingers.

The solution that has worked in Worksop is treating addiction as a health issue, not a crime issue. Just like prohibition against alcohol – which did not work and had to be abandoned – the “just say no”, lock’em up, spend more on prisons, approach has also been a dismal failure.

Britain has just as rocky a public health system as we do – although private sector provision is more widespread, and the two track approach acknowledged and not officially denied as it is here.

Of course, just because it has been shown to work elsewhere is almost a guarantee that it won’t be adopted here any time soon. “Not invented here” or “we need a made in Canada solution” is one of the most frequently advanced excuses for inactivity. And just because it works on heroin does not address the problems of crystal meth, or crack or whatever.

I think we should give it try. Do you think that Stephen Harper or Gordon Campbell might agree? Probably not. But Sam Sullivan just might.

Written by Stephen Rees

July 23, 2006 at 3:37 pm

Posted in Urban Planning

Tories are starting to clear their clutter of inheritance

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Guardian Unlimited | Columnists |

Virgin’s east coast route, profitable under British Rail, runs on a subsidy of £400m a year, half what the whole of BR cost in 1989.

The only thing I found to nit pick. Virgin runs the West Coast mainline. The East Coast is run by GNER, a subsidiary of James Sherwood’s Sea Containers, and makes a significant profit.

Written by Stephen Rees

July 20, 2006 at 11:36 pm