Stephen Rees's blog

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

Archive for October 9th, 2006

Housing and poverty

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Two pieces in today’s Vancouver Sun are worth reading. First the lead story on the loss of affordable rental housing. Secondly, Paul Willcox’s opinion piece “Is it really okay for little kids to go hungry because of our choices?”

When I went to the London School of Economics [1976-1978] I had to make a choice of which courses to take, and chose transport over housing for my economics option. But the economics of the housing market, and the callous political treatment of poverty in recent years, have been a growing concern. It is now not possible to rent a decent two bedroom flat for under $1500 in Vancouver. This is roughly what we are currently paying for the mortgage on our three bedroom house in Richmond, but then we managed by the skin of our teeth to scrape back into the housing market six years ago. If we had left it any longer, we would have been stuck. (We lost all our equity in the great crash of the house market in Toronto in 1990).

The point about poverty is that it awaits all of us, if we are not very lucky or very careful. We like to distance ourselves from the poor (who are always with us) in the hopes that it won’t rub off on us. And as Canadians we like to think that there is a social safety net. But it is clear that the net has been reduced to well below the point where it is effective. And children in BC are malnourished because of it. And the downtown eastside beckons for those who slip and fall. Mental illness being one of the commonest causes of poverty. In a society that likes to pretend it has a public health system. Where you have to pay even for the ambulance that picks you up from the street.

Your job is not secure. Your family could be split asunder (family fission now being the mode) in an instant. You probably have limited savings. You could be the victim of a random event. Ty Pennington is not going to come and rescue you, any more than the Lottery Corporation is.

The time for activism is now.

Written by Stephen Rees

October 9, 2006 at 12:44 pm

Posted in Economics, housing, poverty

“Nothing has been proven, based on tests, that any [fuel-saving device] will work”

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Federal agency installed bogus fuel-savers

Devices banned after energy-saving claims prove false

CanWest News Service
Published: Monday, October 09, 2006

OTTAWA — The Competition Bureau has ordered a company to stop selling a bogus fuel-saver that falsely promises to slash car energy consumption, after a federal agency spent thousands outfitting a fleet of vehicles with the device and boasted it was contributing to a federal plan to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.

The Econopro, sold for $750 each, was marketed as a gadget that when attached to a car generated fuel savings of at least 10 per cent, eliminated emissions and even improved engine performance.

But a lengthy investigation by the Competition Bureau, an independent law-enforcement agency, determined Econoco Inc., based in Prevost, Que., near Montreal, misrepresented its product and misled the public.

So in the last ten years, there has been no progress.
I will now list six ways that you can reduce the fuel consumption of your vehicle. These are all guaranteed to work.

  1. Drive no faster than the posted speed on every road you use. This also has the useful added benefit of reducing the severity of any collision in which you might get involved. You may also save money on avoided speeding tickets.
  2. Accelerate and brake gently. By looking ahead, you can keep driving at a steady speed, and thus avoid wasting energy in rapid acceleration and hard braking. Racing up to a red light is daft.
  3. Change your air filter regularly, using the manufacturer’s guidelines provided in the manual. Note that you may have to do this more often if you drive in dusty conditions. A plugged air filter means that fuel goes unburned down the exhaust pipe.
  4. If you drive a diesel vehicle, keep the fuel injectors clean and service them regularly. Black smoke (clag) is a sign that your engine is overdue for a service. It is also a known human carcinogen.
  5. Buy a tire pressure gauge. They cost a few bucks, but are much more reliable than the gauge on the gas station’s air pump. Check your tire pressure when you fill up. The correct pressures are printed on a label on the door pillar on the driver’s side. Under inflated tires absorb energy. A test using students in a shopping centre parking lot in Victoria in the early 1990s showed that hardly any vehicles had correct tire pressures. The $3 you spend will be recovered in a few tankfuls.
  6. For short trips, leave the car in the driveway and either walk or ride a bike. You will find that you enjoy both, and will start feeling better, as a result of the exercise. You will also have avoided all those parking lot hassles.

I would also like to suggest, for those of you who do not live in Greater Vancouver, that you might try transit for some trips. Here, while it will save gas, it will only add to your frustrations and anxieties and therefore cannot in good conscience be recommended.

Written by Stephen Rees

October 9, 2006 at 12:17 pm