Stephen Rees's blog

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

Archive for April 27th, 2007

Transportation ideas for a healthy planet

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I have worked alongside Stu Ramsey for lo these many years, and I am pleased to say that he is not like any other engineer I have ever met. I am pleased to unconditionally recommend his new web site

His presentations are exceptional – and he has some very funny images in his gallery that I have no doubt I will be borrowing

Written by Stephen Rees

April 27, 2007 at 12:56 pm

Posted in Transportation

Tougher sewage rules for cruise ships

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Vancouver Sun

The federal government, which has declared itself “extremely sensitive” to the pollution risks posed by the fast-growing cruise ship industry, will bring into force next month regulations that could lead to jail sentences and fines of up to $1 million for violators that illegally dump raw sewage close to land.

It is coincidence, surely, that this front page story appears only one week after the Georgia Straight did a feature on dumping here?

Vancouver has wooed the Mercury away from Seattle this year, becoming the 1,900-passenger ship’s home port for the 2007 Alaska cruise season. On May 4, the Mercury will make its first visit of the year to Vancouver, passing under the Lions Gate Bridge, slipping through Burrard Inlet, and tying up at the pier under Canada Place’s fake sails.

The Celebrity Cruises, Inc. ship will return more than 20 times this season, and on November 2 it will be the last cruise ship to leave the port. Vancouver cruise boosters–including the Vancouver Sun, which called it a “major victory”–have greeted the Mercury moving in with unabashed enthusiasm. An estimated 65,000 extra passengers will visit the city because of the Mercury. The cruise sector generates more than 13,000 jobs annually, the Vancouver Port Authority estimates, and each ship brings $2 million to the region every time it ties up at dock.

What they fail to mention is that the Mercury got into a spot of trouble last year in Washington state for spewing sewage into Juan de Fuca Strait, between Washington’s Olympic Peninsula and southern Vancouver Island. During the investigation, the ship’s owners admitted fouling Canadian waters three times. The infractions cost Celebrity Cruises $100,000 in fines in Washington. In Canada, it paid nothing.

“The excuse was, ‘We’ll pay the fine in Washington but we won’t pay the fine in Canada because Canada doesn’t care,'” said Ross Klein, a social-work professor at Memorial University in St. John’s, Newfoundland, and a leading critic of the cruise industry. “Even if you’re brain-dead, it’s obvious if you’ve got to follow regulations in California, Washington, and Alaska, and you don’t in Canada, what are you going to do in Canada? That in itself speaks volumes.”

Of course, the feds could not possibly move that fast, but the good news is that they are moving at all. Of course it will be a very long time before the sewage produced by the 2 million people in this region gets treated properly. Right now most of it is just screened for solids then dumped into the Strait (off Iona Beach) or the Fraser (Annacis, Lulu Island – just upstream of Gilbert Beach and Garry Point, where swimming has to be banned due to high fecal coliform counts year round).

Locals here like to compare our water to London’s, which they say has “been through five people before you drink it” which displays woeful ignorance about the hydrological cycle in general and sewage treatment in particular. London’s treatment plants produce water that is of drinking quality purity – plus fluoride that has put an end to dental caries. And salmon have returned to the Thames.
The new rules mean

Discharges within three to 12 miles must be “broken down, diluted and disinfected prior to discharge,” according to Transport Canada.

It would be nice if those discharges much closer to our beaches of our own effluent could be treated to a similar standard.

Written by Stephen Rees

April 27, 2007 at 11:23 am

TransLink Restructuring – Amendments the GVTA Act

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Yesterday the BC government put out a Press Release about its plans to “make Translink more accountable”. It is pretty thin on detail, for that you have to go to the Backgrounder. That actually sets out the amendments. The important bit is

The board of directors will be appointed by the Mayors’ Council from a list of qualified individuals submitted by a screening panel. The screening panel will consist of five persons representing all key transportation sectors in the region, plus appropriate financial and business experience.

§ Each of the of the following will appoint one member to this board:

o Minister of Transportation;

o Mayors’ Council;

o Institute of Chartered Accountants of BC;

o Vancouver Board of Trade;

o Greater Vancouver Gateway Society.


What seems to me to be most significant is that the only interests represented are those of the minority. In terms of Translink spending, most of it is devoted to the transit system, yet there is no one here who represents transit users. Indeed I doubt if any of these people ever get on a bus. And why are Chartered Accountants thought to be the fount of wisdom? (A good accountant is the one who answers the question “What’s two plus two?” with the answer “What figure did you have in mind?”) Isn’t one of the critical issues in this region the development of transit to increase transportation choice? Gordon Campbell is now on record (thanks to recent broadcasts on PBS and the BBC) that he wants to see a change from business as usual, and he claims to have the boldest targets for greenhouse gas reductions in this province. Perhaps Kevin has not been listening very carefully to what his boss has been saying. Certainly we cannot expect the Greater Vancouver Gateway Society to deliver these greenhouse gas reductions, since they still believe that doubling the width of Highway 1 will somehow reduce emissions. And why does this self appointed group of special interests get a seat at the table? If they are qualified then why not BEST or SPEC? Or even BRU. Or why not COMPACT? These are people who can be expected to understand something about transit, since they not only use it but also represent views that increasing transit service should be central to Translink’s remit. They are also the least likely to buy, uncritically, into the views put forward by Translink staff.

I wonder if Ken Dobell will be too busy to take up one of these seats?

(This post has already appeared on the trans-action listserve)

Written by Stephen Rees

April 27, 2007 at 11:01 am

Ah yes, I remember…

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Ah yes, I remember…, originally uploaded by Billy Reed.

It never ceases to amaze me what people will photograph.

I saw an invitation to join the flickr group that collects pictures of bus stops. I was looking through their collection when I came across this. And I hope I am not the only person I know that will go “Ahh” at this picture

see also Wikipedia and Google maps

and the poem

I wondered if I had any of stops per se – the answer was no, but but there were some that had buses and stops, so now I have a new hare to chase.

Written by Stephen Rees

April 27, 2007 at 7:50 am

Posted in Transportation