Stephen Rees's blog

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

Archive for October 2006

BC Hydro’s Amazingly Bad Deal for Ratepayers ::

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BC Hydro’s Amazingly Bad Deal for Ratepayers ::

It’s an opinion piece, but one that I share. What I do not understand is why this gets almost no response. Are we all asleep? Or lulled into apathy by the mainstream media?

Written by Stephen Rees

October 30, 2006 at 2:36 pm

Posted in energy

We must pay now to avoid climate disaster, says Blair

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James Sturcke and agencies
Monday October 30, 2006
Guardian Unlimited

Just to save you clicking around, here is the full report. The contrast with Stephen Harper’s recent lacklustre “Clean Air” legislation could not be starker.

Britain is going to commit to a 60% reduction in GHG emissions  from 1990 levels by 2050. We are going to think about it – for a long time – and then do nothing because … well it might upset Harper’s support in Alberta, I suppose. I mean, that is  a much more significant consideration in his calculation, don’t you think, than trying to tackle a crisis.

Or maybe he thinks that it might be a bit pricey?

Sir Nicholas said the cost of acting now to stabilise atmospheric CO2 at acceptable levels would be around 1% of GDP.”This is the equivalent of paying 1% more for what we buy,” he said. “It is like a one-off increase by 1% in the price index. That is manageable. We can grow and be green.”

Also, the scientific and technological advances needed to tackle climate change could produce a boost to the British economy in terms of improved efficiency and the development of valuable new technology, he said.

“Economically speaking, mitigation is a very good deal,” said Sir Nicholas. “Business as usual, on the other hand, would eventually derail growth.”

Let us all hope that enough of the world’s leaders are more like Blair than Harper and Bush.

Written by Stephen Rees

October 30, 2006 at 2:20 pm

Who cares about the bus?

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Seven Oaks Magazine.

A link to this article was posted on the Livable Region Coalition’s list serve. I thought I would pass it along, but bear in mind this thought. The Bus Riders Union – the reference right after the end of this piece – does not exactly share the “non-sectarian voice” that this publication seeks to be. But it is fair enough that they be heard as most of the main stream media seem to ignore them most of the time, which of course simply pushes them to be even more obnoxious as a way to get some attention.

It is certainly true that transit systems are trying to win additional riders, and therefore do not seem to be especially responsive to people who are already committed to transit. It is simply sensible market segmentation. There is simply not much point trying to win over people who would not be caught dead on a bus, or who believe their time is far too valuable to waste. Similarly, if you are what is called “a captive rider” i.e. someone who has no choice but to use the bus, then you will, whether or not there is some additional incentive. So to make the best use of limited marketing dollars, attention goes to winning over those who can be persuaded to change modes. That is why mode share – or market share – is the important indicator not ridership. Similarly if the people who start to switch to the bus formerly walked or used their bikes, you have also not had a positive effect on the environment. Which is why I think proposals to put free transit service in downtown are brain dead.

But I also think that there is every reason to hang on to the riders you have got. It costs eight times as much to win a new rider as keep an existing one, and Greater Vancouver has one of the highest rates of “churn” of any system I am familiar with. A lot of people have tried to use transit and given up. Even so called “captive riders” can also find other ways to get around (walking, cycling and getting rides with other people) or finding other ways to meet their needs – shopping on line, or downloading videos rather than going to the multiplex to cite only two examples.

The decisions to invest in system expansions tend to be made by provincial politicians even in a region that is supposed to have its own regional authority. The GVTA has decided to depend on provincial and federal support to determine its priorities. And provincial and federal politicians like to have ribbon cutting opportunities. Just buying some more buses may make much better sense, but it is much less likely to capture their attention.

The analysis applied by the BRU is based on US experience – especially the way that LA decided to build a rapid transit line rather than more buses, which was interpreted as a blow to the existing transit users who were more likely to be poor and black. This analysis does not fit well to the Vancouver experience, which is more nuanced to our (very) peculiar local politics. The original GVTA Strategic Plan was based on the LRSP approach of “intermediate capacity” rapid transit (rapid bus or conventional light rail) which being cheaper than grade separated would go further – literally. By adopting the Canada Line as the first priority, the province stuck to its Vancouver centric, don’t get in the way of the car, approach. This means there is not enough for expanded bus service or light rail in the outer parts of the region. It is not a class or race issue here. Middle class, affluent Vancouver rejected the use of light rail on existing tracks and fought Richmond Rapid Bus into submission – so there was very little improvement in transit service for suburban commuters, but lower income residents of Marpole got a much better bus service into downtown. The Canada Line is simply the same policy only much more expensive, with distinctly negative impacts on existing bus users from south of the Fraser (including Richmond).

Meanwhile, Translink had also decided to introduce U-Pass even though it did not have enough bus capacity to serve either UBC or SFU adequately – let alone both at once. And did not make adequate provision to get enough new bus capacity into place before the demand from these universities exploded.

We need to better understand transportation needs in low density, “many to many” Origin/Destination pairs that is the pattern of demand common to most of the region – and come up with solutions that are less environmentally damaging than increased car use. Which may be conventional transit in some denser corridors – but is likely to be quite unconventional elsewhere.

Updated 30 October, based on a post to LRC general list

Written by Stephen Rees

October 29, 2006 at 8:06 pm

Northwest Passage ice-free researchers find

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Northwest Passage ice-free researchers find

This is the first time this has happened in October. This route cuts 7,000 kms from the Asia – Europe run. I would bet it also works for the eastern seaboard of North America, which raises the question, do we need a widened Panama Canal? Or expanded ports on the west coast to handle imported goods for the densest populated area of our continent (the US North East)?

Written by Stephen Rees

October 27, 2006 at 1:55 pm

Posted in Transportation

Road will see part of cranberry land lost

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Road will see part of cranberry land lost

A longish piece today in the Sun on the South Fraser Perimeter Road. Once again a tunnel through a sensitive area is rejected (just like Sea to Sky) and despite what I would have thought serious environmental impacts, they all can “mitigated” so that’s all right then. I do not have much faith in our present EA process, which seems to approve nearly anything the government proposes. The only thing I recall being stopped recently was that power station in Sumas!

What is the general feeling on this project? Are we as against this as the Highway 1 widening? No, it isn’t a freeway, but its impact is going to be pretty big on the ALR and some sensitive areas. And, of course, it will generate lots more trips.

I frankly doubt that expansion of the container port will generate lots of truck trips. The idea of port expansion is to capture more of the North American market. Our ports have pretty well got the local market sown up, haven’t they? Do many containers get here by truck from Los Angeles or Seattle? Nearly all of the long distance container trade from the ports moves by train. I think the lack of capacity on the single track BC Rail line from Deltaport will be the most important restrictive factor on expansion.

The competition certainly spends a lot on rail access

Written by Stephen Rees

October 26, 2006 at 10:11 am

Chrysler losses reflect declining fortunes of US car industry

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Chrysler losses reflect declining fortunes of US car industry | | Guardian Unlimited Business

Not just Chrysler but Ford too (scroll down the Guardian article for their terrible quarterly results)

Now if these were public sector corporations, the right wing would be howling for closure – just like they do against Amtrak or PBS, never mind that these agencies provide a public service that the private sector wouldn’t, but people appreciate. At least Chrysler appears to have seen the light and is going to switch to more fuel efficient vehicles. Ford, which produced the innovative and highly successful Taurus in response to earlier fuel price hikes, has scrapped that model line and is concentrating on ever larger pickups and SUVs. Henry Ford II coined the phrase “mini cars mini profits” – but ever bigger vehicles (you cannot call them cars) seem to be producing massive losses. If I owned any shares in Ford, I would sell them

Written by Stephen Rees

October 25, 2006 at 3:22 pm

Gas-guzzler drivers face up to £450 parking fee

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Gas-guzzler drivers face up to £450 parking fee | Travel and transport | Environment Unlimited

City of Vancouver please copy (I don’t know if other municipalities have resident permits for on street parking – I have only seen the signs “reserved for residents” there)

Written by Stephen Rees

October 25, 2006 at 3:09 pm

Clean Air Act an illusion: Suzuki

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Clean Air Act an illusion: Suzuki

No surprises here. This should not be a partisan issue. It beggars belief that this is a matter for debate at all. The effects of climate change are visible all around us, fossil fuels are limited in supply and will not be adequate to accommodate present rates of growth in demand, yet people like Stephen Harper seem to believe that business as usual is a viable option. Maybe once the great drought hits Alberta he will take notice

Written by Stephen Rees

October 24, 2006 at 6:54 pm

Posted in Environment

Age the biggest hiring barrier, survey finds

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Age the biggest hiring barrier, survey finds
Britain has just introduced stiff legislation dealing with this issue. It is going to be a long haul to get this concern dealt with seriously here. For one thing, it is almost impossible to prove. In the job application scenario, for example, the vast majority of resumes go into the trash, so how do you establish that age discrimination is at play? One job adviser seriously suggested leaving out dates on job applications. That gets you dropped automatically, I would have thought, on the grounds that the applicant must have something to hide. “Over qualified” is the most common excuse, which is code for “we can get someone younger and cheaper”. Even once you become willing to take much less than you are worth, you don’t usually get much further than a polite telephone call – if you are lucky. Even places which bitch and complain amongst themselves about the difficulty of getting good staff have a hard time accepting that someone over 55 can actually be a useful employee. And most job adverts say that only the successful will get a reply and ask for no phone calls. So there is no way that they are going to discuss with the unsuccessful why they were not considered.

The odd thing is that many employers will use fear of being sued as the reason. But the law is only open to those that can afford it. There is no point at all having an open and shut case. The employer has more resources than the plaintiff and can keep a case going with a wide range of tactics to exhaust the resources of their opponents. And legal aid has been effectively shut off for civil suits, the human rights commission being a shadow of its former self.

For many people in this province “full employment” rings hollow. They want a permanent full time position with benefits. They are forced by market conditions to take part time, low paid, no benefit positions and often work at multiple jobs just to make ends meet. Not to mention those who become “contractors” or “consultants” – paid by the task and not well at that in most cases, with absolutely zero job security. And often they are skilled and qualified people, kept in these positions by restrictive practices in the self regulated professions and unionised environments.

Written by Stephen Rees

October 24, 2006 at 9:28 am

Posted in Age discrimination

The Enronization of BC Hydro

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Welcome to the Vancouver Courier – On Line – Opinion

Essential reading – BC Hydro demonstrates what a successful state enterprise looks like. So first it must be split up, then hobbled, then the competition be given the only right to expand. The BC Liberals (who are Liberal in name only) have already sold off BC Rail – while elected on a promise not to. Now the system which gave us the cheapest power on the continent is going the same way. But it’s Good for Business!

Written by Stephen Rees

October 24, 2006 at 8:13 am