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

Archive for June 2nd, 2007

Our blind faith in oil growth could bring the economy crashing down

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Guardian Unlimited | Comment is free |

George Monbiot

I know that the readership of this blog and Gord Price’s overlaps – and I got to this piece of Monbiot’s via that route. So can I assume that you have already read this. if not, go, do so now. It is important.

There are plainly two governments of the United Kingdom, one determined to reduce our consumption of fossil fuel, the other determined to raise it.

Just like BC – only Gordon Campbell is not promising to retire (like Tony Blair) any time soon

see also

Written by Stephen Rees

June 2, 2007 at 1:09 pm

Doing the right things

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Doing the right things

A useful follow up to the piece on Surrey – and why it is changing direction. A very positive article by Frances Bula

She talks the way Vancouver politicians and planners have for years to developers: Hey, you know you can make money here. So build us something good.

But of course there has to be “balance” and you can always find somebody ready to bitch about traffic in any place on the face of the earth:

On the transportation front, there are consistent rumbles of dissatisfaction about Surrey’s abysmal traffic and transit mess, as road-building and bus service fail to keep up with a city growing by more than 7,000 people a year.

“Her platform was better balance between growth and quality of life, but I drive around Surrey every day and I don’t see any slowdown in growth and development,” says Wilkie. “They keep piling people in. Why aren’t the roads built before the housing is put in?”

Who’s Wilkie? “Sheena Wilkie, an executive member of the new left party, Surrey Civic Coalition, that formed for the last election”. So that is the Opposition then. And the charge is patently unfair, as transit is outside her jurisdiction and the development now being occupied for the first time was sanctioned by the previous administration of Doug McCallum.

And she drives.

People do justifiably complain about transit in Surrey. They tally up how much is collected from them in tax and how much they get back in transit service, and allege they are paying for the good service that Vancouver gets. And they have been talking about a B-Line on King George for at least the last ten years. But you cannot get a 40′ bus into a subdivision and get it out the other side. This is the area that should have seen the Community Shuttles proliferate. But the result of the transit strike was that Translink gave all these routes to the Coast Mountain Bus Company, who turned the shuttle into a smaller sized, regular bus service instead of the innovative, flexible and responsive service that had been so successful elsewhere. Like Bowen Island where it was run by a new company set up by one of their own bus drivers!

What Surrey needs is something that is cheaper than a taxi and faster than a bus. A one seat ride from origin to destination – or at least a feeder to high density, high frequency services. And, by the way, 15 minute headways are not high frequency and cannot be thought so here.

Given that money is being pumped into the Canada Line under Vancouver, rather than lots of Shuttles in Surrey – or light rail in Port Moody – I have some sympathy with the view that the ‘burbs are, once again, getting shafted. But you cannot blame Watts for that.

And, of course, under the now postponed re-organization of Translink none of the mayors will have anything like the voice they have now on these decisions.

Written by Stephen Rees

June 2, 2007 at 10:54 am

Abuse and incompetence in fight against global warming

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Climate change | Guardian Unlimited Environment

Up to 20% of carbon savings in doubt as monitoring firms criticised by UN body

A Guardian investigation has found evidence of serious irregularities at the heart of the process the world is relying on to control global warming.The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), which is supposed to offset greenhouse gases emitted in the developed world by selling carbon credits from elsewhere, has been contaminated by gross incompetence, rule-breaking and possible fraud by companies in the developing world, according to UN paperwork, an unpublished expert report and alarming feedback from projects on the ground.

Somehow the words “incompetence” and “fraud” seem to be indelibly associated with “UN”. I do not doubt the sincerity of the people who set up these schemes, or even the people who are delegated to run them. What I do wonder is the extent to which they are able to control the process. I have worked in bureaucracies most of my life – though not intimately at the international level. But I have seen enough to understand how the fear of losing one’s job is always used to control staff who may have a conscience, or who are potentially capable of whistle blowing.

And we have also seen how the appointed executives of major international agencies treat them as though they are personal fiefdoms, to reward their friends and punish their enemies. But when the future of the entire planet is at stake, isn’t there some limit to human cupidity?

I guess not.

Written by Stephen Rees

June 2, 2007 at 9:56 am

Liveability – and affordability

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Keefer has a good piece on his blog that puts these two issues side by side. Sure we are one of the world’s most livable cities but we are also one of the least affordable – as far as housing goes. Worth spending some time not just reading but following the links.

Written by Stephen Rees

June 2, 2007 at 7:37 am

Posted in housing, Urban Planning

Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives – Fair Fares

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Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives – Fair Fares

This is an interesting piece of research I had not read when I commented earlier on Translink’s recent increase. It is actually advocating fare decreases (to benefit those on low incomes) but the opening line grabbed me.

In Greater Vancouver, transit users currently pay 57 per cent of the cost of transit through transit fares, with the remainder paid through other sources, primarily property and fuel taxes.

(source: Calculated using figures from the TransLink 2005 Annual Report.)

Now this did surprise me. One of those figures that I carry in my head because I had to say it so much when I worked there was that fares cover half the cost. Now it could be that Stuart Murray added costs that I would not have. How you allocate overheads is quite critical. But let’s say for the sake of argument that the transit rider now covers more of the cost than they once did. Would that be reasonable?

I was surprised since the recent huge surge in ridership came from the UPass, which was supposed to be “revenue neutral” but took no account of greatly increased costs. I would have expected that taxpayers would be picking up a greater share of the cost. I suppose the only way I can find out is to do some digging of my own into old annual reports. Because certainly the impression one gets from the local media is that Translink is costing the taxpayer much more.

I  am somewhat dubious about the way fare elasticities are used in this study, especially for larger, longer term increases. Because most elasticity observations are “point” elasticities – simple before and after the increase comparisons. Fare decreases have different effects and effects change over time. Elasticities over a price range are not straight line and they are also not symmetrical, but there are usually very few data points to generate these lines and they often have to be interpolated.

Basically what I am saying is that if you are concerned about low incomes there are much better ways of getting more money into the right pockets than cutting transit fares.

Written by Stephen Rees

June 2, 2007 at 6:01 am