Stephen Rees's blog

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

Archive for November 23rd, 2006

Union demands more buses

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Georgia Straight

I am pleased to able to endorse the union’s sentiments. The trouble is that new buses cost a lot of money and take newly two years from the date of the order to the date of delivery. And they need operators. I understand that CMBC is not only short of operators, but is having trouble recruiting more. And these additional buses are needed right now.

Buying second hand buses from the States (where transit systems get new ones every twelve years) might work, if you are picky about where you buy them from (smaller systems like Everett look after them better than big ones like Seattle – or rather keep up the maintenance as they near the end of their service life). You might be able to rent a few from other systems – though I suspect that most Canadian cities see transit ridership increase in the winter as cycling and walking is less attractive in cold weather. Dave Stumpo (former President of CMBC) once bought back a load of scrapped trolleybuses, thinking they could be put back into service. They weren’t.

How about hiring some coaches? I imagine that the private sector has quite a few standing around underutilised from the tourist season. Very high floors and narrow entrances on most of them, so they are not exactly suitable for inner city service, but they might free up some city buses by using them on longer, suburban routes. Of course, the union might have something to say about that too. And no fareboxes on them of course.

Could BC Transit help? Does transit use decline in Victoria off season? Probably not, but maybe transfer some in from other places?

Are we scrapping buses being taken out of service as the replacements arrive? Can some of the better examples be cannibalised to keep some in service a bit longer? Can we step up deliveries of community shuttles to get bigger buses off low ridership routes?

I have the feeling that both CMBC and Translink would dismiss all these ideas out of hand. But something must be done, and soon. And I have little faith in either organisation suddenly becoming creative. Except in coming up with excuses about why nothing will be done any time soon.

Written by Stephen Rees

November 23, 2006 at 12:03 pm

Posted in Transportation

Underwater real estate | Vancouver

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Underwater real estate | Vancouver

Oh dear, oh dear.

Not what one wants to read after a week of heavy rain. Maybe I have to move.

I have little to add, except that I doubt the LRSP will get a new iteration. Like the article says, it is too contentious. Richmond should not have been developed the way it has been, and should not be growing this way now. It is too late to stop it, we cannot turn back the clock and we need to make sure that the population here is safe. And that will cost a lot and they (we) will have to pay for it.

Written by Stephen Rees

November 23, 2006 at 11:37 am

Posted in Urban Planning

Bombardier wins Vancouver SkyTrain contract

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Bombardier wins Vancouver SkyTrain contract

Is this news? No one else can build SkyTrain cars. They are Bombardier’s proprietary technology. I suppose at a stretch you could put someone else’s car bodies on Bombardier’s running gear, but that is not likely cost effective. There is no competition for building SkyTrain cars, so why pretend there is?

Written by Stephen Rees

November 23, 2006 at 11:12 am

Posted in Light Rail

Authorities propose increasing use of Vancouver International’s northern runway

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Vancouver Sun

NavCanada officials said Wednesday they are examining a number of proposals involving increased takeoffs from the north runway at Vancouver International Airport as part of plans for improving efficiency there.

The proposals involve allowing between 20 and 45 per cent of departures to use the runway, those headed for northerly and westerly destinations. That would include jet and propeller aircraft headed for Europe, Alaska, Hawaii, and the Orient, as well as Canadian cities such as Prince George and Edmonton.

The north runway, which is closer to houses than the main south runway, is currently restricted to use between the hours of 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. except during emergencies or maintenance of other runways, or by the quietest of the modern aircraft. The vast majority of its use is for landings

“It is a two-runway airport,” added NavCanada service analyst Rob Bishop “At some point we must use both runways to full capacity.”

I used to live under the flight path of the north runway. Over five years ago but even then it was awful. And we lived off No 5 Road. At the airport end of Bridgeport it was much worse. And sure newer planes are quieter, but you would be surprised how long old planes keep going – and the hours that the older planes used for air freight keep. And if you ask why I would choose to live in such a place, you only have to look at the cost of housing and the shortage of available to places to rent, especially if you own a dog. BC still has not established the right of tenants to own animals (something Ontario did years ago). So putting up with aircraft noise was the price we had to pay to keep a member of our family.

Perhaps we need to utilise some of the data we have readily to hand to calculate what the benefit of more flights costs society at large. I find it hard to believe that the needs of a realtively small number of air travellers outweigh those of the population of north Richmond and south Vancouver.

Written by Stephen Rees

November 23, 2006 at 10:25 am

Offshore drilling may be several years away: premier

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Offshore drilling may be several years away: premier

I have a better idea. Why don’t we leave it where it is for now? Whatever the risks and costs of extracting it shortly might be, you can be sure that the payback is going to be very much higher in future. Because the price of oil and gas, while it will continue to wobble around, will inevitably be much higher in the longer term. And while we may (in sh’alla) find alternative fuels, as chemical feedstock for a huge variety of products oil and gas are going to be in increasingly short supply even as demand rockets. By then we will be (probably) in dire need of the resource. At the moment we seem to be managing – not well, but getting by. And we can do much better through conservation and better planning at a much lower cost per unit of energy saved than current energy production costs. We know how to insulate homes better – both retrofit and new build. We know how to utilise our new engine technologies to get better gas mileage – it is currently being wasted in performance we can’t use legally and bigger vehicles that spend most of their time more than half empty. We could easily develop ways to make shutting down ship’s engines and diesel locomotives economic: they are currently left running on idle, or to generate “hotel power” which would be easy to tap from the existing electricity supply. We could even burn used chip fat in our diesel engines instead of exporting it as “yellow grease” – unfit for human consumption here we seem to have no qualms about selling it to third world countries for this use.

No Gordon. We don’t need it yet. We probably will, but that can wait until we have sorted out how to do it without wrecking what is left of our increasingly fragile marine environment.

And by then we may also have figured out how to get the gas out of the deep sea hydrates. They are still there too.

Written by Stephen Rees

November 23, 2006 at 9:48 am