Stephen Rees's blog

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

Archive for November 10th, 2006

High-tech ‘street sweeper’ sorts licence plates

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High-tech ‘street sweeper’ sorts licence plates

I think this is a very good idea indeed. It just shows how far we have come in effective enforcement. To give some background, I worked on traffic enforcement issues in the UK back in the eighties. Then we had determined that 80% of the offences are committed by 20% of the offenders – in fact this 80/20 rule crops up in nearly every statistical study of any kind of human behaviour. In the case of traffic (parking, speeding, driving without a licence, insurance or road tax) it was determined that there was a hard core of what the Americans call “scofflaws”. That led to the development of the Denver Boot, and we tried a similar approach in London. Or would have had not the Secretary of State for the Environment at the time, Sir Nicholas Ridley, worried about the potential blow back from the civil liberties groups. So wheel clamps were used for just overstaying a parking meter, which was very effective but had a much wider impact than intended.

The original aim had been to identify vehicles that were known – a cut off was proposed at ten unpaid parking tickets (a common practice in the US at the time). But there were other things we were looking at. For example, one trial of a “stop and look” approach on tax discs (the equivalent of the licence plate sticker used in BC) pretty well brought South London to a standstill one morning. We had picked a length of the Old Kent Road for the trial, but had to abandon the exercise as the police we had with us were quickly overwhelmed. The out of date tax disc was a good indication (we discovered) that the driver had no licence or insurance, or the car had failed its MoT (road worthiness) test or the driver was wanted in connection with other inquiries. Similarly, we found that the same vehicles were parked at broken meters (which gave them a day’s free parking). Just keeping a list of the licence plate numbers adjacent to the broken meter showed the same cars – many of which were operated by Fleet Street’s finest. Or one enterprising plumber who made fifty pence piece shaped lumps of lead that he plugged the meter with so he could work at adjacent premises.

S o I was less than impressed with the way that the CBC radio had this story this morning (it’s not on their web site at present) which had a civil liberties advocate to give that false sense of “balance” to the story, worrying about the Big Brother implications. What needed to be said was that the are people out there who are driving every day, who have been banned from driving. The police even note that these people get back into their cars to drive away from the courthouse where they have just been handed a ban. Car thieves are now being effectively deterred by bait cars. Maybe if the SkyTrain surveillance tapes did not have to be rewound every hour, pickpockets at stations might be caught more often.

And while they may not do much to deter drunks

Naylor said Britain’s roughly 200,000 public CCTV cameras are effective in deterring certain types of crime — such as sophisticated theft rings.

“They deter professional criminals who are very surveillance conscious,” he said.

Exactly. Which is why I think some more effective surveillance is a good idea.

Indeed, it might even be tried inside prisons to restore some sense of order there too.

Written by Stephen Rees

November 10, 2006 at 10:19 am

Posted in Traffic, Transportation

YVR eyes creating runway across habitat

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YVR eyes creating runway across habitat

Although the airport said it expects broad public support, one environmental group calls it ‘madness’

But nowhere in the article does anyone challenge the assumption that the airport will need to be expanded. There are some other trends that could have been factored into the planning for the future of the airport. Firstly, air travel produces prodigious amounts of greenhouse gas – not to mention common air contaminants. Countries such as Britain are looking at ways of reducing the amount of air transportation or at least offsetting the carbon impact. The French have been doing something much more effective for some time. By introducing high speed trains they have reduced internal air travel within the country, and working with their neighbours are also reducing the air travel share in important corridors . There have even been suggestions of taxes on exotic and out of season fruit and vegetables flown in to northern markets to try and reduce demand for air freight.

We don’t seem to take the idea of high speed rail seriously. The Vancouver – Seattle corridor would make sense for rapid passenger travel, but the only train runs once a day and is designed to bring US visitors here, not the other way round.

The other news story this week was about the revival of the idea of the flying wing to build planes that are much quieter and more fuel efficient. That would change the comparison of the competing proposals. Another runway south of the existing south runway would be close to Terra Nova, where residents are already against the idea of expansion. This area currently is impacted by old technology aviation – the small float planes which are, for their size, incredibly noisy and since they are also slow and low flying more disturbing than the larger planes taking off a short distance beyond them.

But our current approach seems to be based on further liberalization of the agreements with other Pacific rim countries – otherwise (horrors) the airlines might decamp to Seattle! Never let the idea that protecting our environment or the sanity of those who live near an airport get in the way of making a buck.

UPDATE November 19 2006

The Georgia Straight reports that peak oil is not considered in YVR’s forecasts

Written by Stephen Rees

November 10, 2006 at 9:40 am

Denial as Projections Place BC Cities Under Water :: thetyee.ca

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Denial as Projections Place BC Cities Under Water :: thetyee.ca

As a resident of Richmond (where you cannot buy flood insurance) it is distressing to note that not only is Richmond unwilling to do more than “consider” raising the dyke, but that the provincial compensation is unlikely to be adequate to cover my loss on what is quite a modest home by the standards of the area. Richmond Council’s priorities at the moment appear to be the new speed skating oval, the hopeless mess of the P3 swimming pool and the proposal to buy an imitation tall ship. I only located here in the first place because I could actually afford to buy a house – something that was not possible in either Burnaby or Vancouver which are mostly perched atop higher ground.

But what is even more disturbing is the level of discussion underneath the article!

Written by Stephen Rees

November 10, 2006 at 9:11 am