Stephen Rees's blog

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

Archive for August 31st, 2006

YouTube – Steal This Bike

leave a comment »

Originally posted to the trans-action list serve

See also the related article in Willamette Week
My bike lock is one of those heavy U tube things – that can be easily opened with a Bic pen if you lose the key

Written by Stephen Rees

August 31, 2006 at 11:03 am

Posted in cycling

Guardian Unlimited Business | | Last year’s model: Airfix goes bust

leave a comment »

Guardian Unlimited Business | | Last year’s model: Airfix goes bust

This is really sad. So much of my youth was spent with the heady smell of plastic solvent in my nostrils as I slaved over an Airfix kit. I really liked the Messerschmidt 262 – it was the first jet fighter, but because it had no props you could actually play with it! Most Airfix model planes had to be left on their stands – though they always fell off when Mum dusted. They never stayed as built for long. Bits snapped off too easily. I was never allowed to suspend the planes on strings from the ceiling. When I built the Liberator, Liberatormy Dad sid.jpgactually opened up about his war time experience in the RAF. A rare event. When I asked him which colour scheme I should use, he told me the following story (I will use the first person for his voice is still clear in my memory)

The one’s I saw were white, with red crosses. They were used to ferry released allied POWs back home from the camps in Burma and Singapore. They refuelled at Shaiba, where I was based. If the Arabian Gulf is the arsehole of the world, Shaiba is half way up it. I was a radio mechanic, and had to go on board to check the radios and change the crystal used to tune the VHF channel. The planes had been built as long range bombers but were now converted to transport stretchers. All the passengers were quiet but very happy to be going home at long last. They had obviously suffered. Hunger was the least of it. They were all very thin.

One day soon after VJ day, one of these planes, loaded with blokes going home, and full of fuel, failed to clear the perimeter fence on take off. I was in my radio truck, and was first on the scene. There is not much you – as an individual – can do about a loaded Liberator which is on fire.

After he told me this story, I tried using paint stripper to take off the RAF camouflage and paint it white. I think it was just as well that the paint stripper destroyed the model. I realise now (as I did not then) he did not enjoy revisiting that memory.

Airfix also took over the molds for a few 00 gauge (4mm scale) model railway items when the original manufacturer went belly up. There was an oil tank car, a guard’s van, a 4 wheel diesel railbus, an 0-4-0ST and, best of all, a BR standard 2-10-0. The two piece axles did not stand up to actual use but they made nice static backgrounds to the working trains, and were much cheaper.

There is now hardly any full sized railway manufacturing in Britain – the country that produced the first steam engines. Trains come from Germany, or Spain. Locos from Canada. Now there are no more models with Made in England on them either.

Written by Stephen Rees

August 31, 2006 at 10:13 am

BC Hydro: 18,000 Grow-ops suspected

leave a comment »

BC Hydro: 18,000 Grow-ops suspected

My letter to the editor

Your front page exclusive has me worried. Am I a suspect? Our average daily consumption is over 93 kWh for most of the winter. That’s because we do not have natural gas, or oil. We use baseboard heaters. And, when we are feeling really festive, we use an open hearth log fire, which makes a mess, smells nice, looks pretty and sends nearly all the heat up the chimney. But my real worry is the same set of consumption records shows that in July this year our consumption actually increased. Last year it was less than 10kWh, this year over 60! It is the record itself which I distrust as in reality power consumption was probably the same. We will never know because BC Hydro admitted that they “estimated” my meter reading and it would even out over the months when they actually read the meter.

Latest update – the letter was published on Friday Sptember 1, without the illustration or the picture of the author.

Addendum: the silliness of the proposal to check out those with high meter readings ignores the widespread practice in grow ops of bypassing the meter. The obvious dangers of interfering with live wires is supposedly one of the main reasons for cracking down on grow ops.

Written by Stephen Rees

August 31, 2006 at 9:28 am

Posted in energy

Mainstream mom tries giving up car – Grist Magazine –

leave a comment »

Mainstream mom tries giving up car – Grist Magazine –

Quite a good article, and mirrors my experience.

We lived in Victoria for nearly three years. We lived on a bus route which was reliable, and got me to and from work every day. I had an annual government employee bus pass paid for by monthly payroll deductions. It was mainly a matter of convenience as it was not massively discounted. One weekend I tried taking my son downtown, using the same service. It was a very different matter using the bus on Saturday midday than weekday peak hours. We stood a long time at the stop. The scheduled bus did not run. It began to rain. My son (then around 5) became distinctly fretful.After half an hour we gave up, and went home. Since we lived on the bus route, I tried to keep an eye that day on scheduled time keeping. “Hopeless” is the kindest adjective.

One evening I had to attend an evening meeting, on Blanshard Street (which does not have a bus service) at some kind of community hall. Once again it was raining – this time very heavily indeed, with strong winds that wrecked my umbrella. After slogging to Douglas Street to an unsheltered stop and not seeing any buses at all, I walked home – over three miles. No bus passed me in that time.

Then we moved to Richmond. I had now had a new job with BC Transit, which came with a free transit pass. I could have had one for my wife – but she refused it. I tried, no really, I really tried. First commuting by bus and Skytrain from Bridgeport and No 5 to Gateway in Surrey. Two years later from Williams and Gilbert to Metrotown. The fastest time I ever managed on either route was 90 minutes each way. Often much longer. I tried all the possible route combinations. Always at least two transfers. I was often left standing at a bus stop, especially in the early days of the 98B line, but also more recently, thanks to overcrowding when I once again tried bus commuting to downtown Vancouver. The clearest  memory I have is of is the feeling of uncertainty. I am waiting at a bus stop for an indefinite period because I have no idea if the scheduled bus has run early, or is missing. Or will be full when it arrives. And even if I get a seat I shall be so cramped I cannot comfortably read a newspaper. And in winter there will be no interior lights on anyway.

Many of my colleagues at Translink car pooled. And at Metrotown there is an  incentive in cheaper parking for car poolers. One of my car pool buddies persuaded me to join him, just because he could then get a cheaper parking spot. He had no intention of ever using transit, so I did not even have to share the cost of the parking spot or gas. I had to work to his work schedule which was rather different to mine, so to give myself some flexibility I eventually started using a bicycle on nice days. I found I could get home from Metrotown faster on the bike than the bus – and I am no Lance Armstrong!

I formed a very strong conviction. Having been a dedicated (train) commuter in the UK and Toronto, I am convinced that quality of service is far more important than price for choice transit users (as opposed to “captives”). And quality of transit service in Greater Vancouver is vastly inferior to London, Nottingham or Toronto, or, come that, peak hours in Victoria.

My wife uses a car for work.  She is a nurse who visits patients in their homes, and her work covers a very wide geographical area. When the family minivan was paid off, I decided to keep it, as the capital cost had been recovered through her expenses over the life of the vehicle. It is as reliable as any ten year old Chrysler product can  be expected to be (a cell phone and BCAA membership are recommended accessories). She drives a leased small sedan (she calls it her “zoom-zoom”). The minivan has room for my bike, and, when she was still alive, the family lab. Who, of course, was never allowed on a bus here. (Dogs were always welcomed on the bus in UK, as long as they rode on the top deck).

Written by Stephen Rees

August 31, 2006 at 8:20 am

Posted in Transportation