Stephen Rees's blog

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

Archive for June 18th, 2007

Translink overhaul in for a bumpy ride

with 2 comments

Richmond Review

Falcon again

Falcon said there’s no requirement for legislation to be passed to begin that work.

He said civic leaders opposed to the reforms are out of step with the public, which has lost confidence in TransLink.

“They are the lone defenders of the current structure,” he said. “I think they might want to contemplate on that.”

Yes, but people wanted more accountability, not less. They wanted to be able to control the local politicians who make the big money decisions, not hand it back to the province, that has done such a lousy job over the years, or their hand picked cronies from big business. They may not like the present structure very much but it is still measurably better than what is currently proposed. If reform is needed, it is to the way that Translink is funded. It has never had adequate resources under its own control. It has always had to go back cap in hand to Victoria. It is not the independent regional body it was supposed to be. The province still insists that it knows best when it comes to major rapid transit and highway decisions. Even though it is transparently obvious that the Canada Line and the Gateway are against the best interests of the region, and neither would have been chosen as high priorities region wide if it had come to some sort of local referendum. Translink is not even allowed to raise funds by a vehicle levy (which is actually in the GVTA Act, but the province refused the necessary regulations to implement,  after the region decided to go forward with it after intense local debate) or local road user charges on existing roads. It cannot, of course, raise the gas tax without the consent of the province, which keeps hungering for more and more property tax for transportation – arguably the most stupid ways to raise money for these services, if it wasn’t for the even dafter hydro levy.

I think people would be very interested in reform that saw regional government become efficient, effective and responsible. It may have to become bigger – but not yet, as the principle of expansion has to be based on consent of the participants. Local governments are not “creatures of the province” but the elected representatives of the people. Yes, we need thoroughgoing reform of regional and municipal government. They need more freedom, not less. They need their own sources of revenue. User pay for services – transport the same as water, sewers or waste disposal. Property tax is an anachronism. There are much better ways to raise revenue. Regional Government needs to become truly representative and responsible. And local referenda are a pretty good way to determine major capital spending projects too.

The guy we have no confidence in, Kevin, is you.

Written by Stephen Rees

June 18, 2007 at 2:50 pm

Cambie Street merchants should hang on, says minister

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Cambie Street Lunchtime

CBC News

Last Updated: Monday, June 18, 2007 | 8:36 AM PT

“I’m not saying that there’s no impact on these folks — there clearly is. But I guess our message would be … recognize that when this thing is done along the corridor in six months — I believe six months is what Canada Line and TransLink are talking about — that there will be some significant benefits.”

That is Kevin Falcon speaking.

Falcon, who is responsible for the Canada Line, also said it is not up to the province to help businesses in the area that are suffering due to the construction.

He added that if there were compensation, it should be from the City of Vancouver.

It wasn’t the City of Vancouver that promised a problem free construction zone because it was going to be in bored tube. It wasn’t the City of Vancouver that decided that it would ignore that undertaking in order to go for the low bid on the construction/operation P3 bid, which put cut and cover through north Cambie, but kept bored tube for downtown. It wasn’t the City of Vancouver that forced the Translink Board to change its mind over opposition to the Canada Line (which is not in the regional plan and has drained funds much needed for better bus service in the rest of the region and has held back the higher priority Evergreen Line) – and then decided that even though they (reluctantly) complied they would have to be “reorganized” into ineffectiveness.

And the truly appalling thing is that Kevin will almost certainly get away with this, and small business owners will continue to vote for parties on the right wing – like the “BC Liberals” (who aren’t). Kevin just looks at the lead they have in the polls and thinks he is fireproof.


Kevin clearly has no understanding of what it is like running a small business, when the cash flow has been reduced to an inadequate trickle for months on end already. The people who run business like “Tomato” are not foolish or improvident. They simply cannot survive that long without a positive cash flow. Tomato managed to get out and relocate. Many who hung on so far could not survive that long and have already gone. Dismissing their concerns in this fashion shows that Kevin knows where his support is coming from and thinks that he doesn’t need votes from these small business owners. Let alone recognise either moral or legal responsibility.

Cafe Gloucester

The decision to go for cut and cover construction was forced by the province against what had been agreed to after consultation. The province therefore bears responsibility for the current mess. Cambie will eventually recover. The nature of the street however, will have changed by then. The small businesses and the unique character of the neighborhood will have been lost. And there will be bland corporate nowhere. No Tomato, no Don Don noodles. But lots of Starbucks and Wendy’s no doubt. Kevin does not need small business support because he has big business support.

Cambie at 19th northbound

Written by Stephen Rees

June 18, 2007 at 1:43 pm

Europe lags in transfer of freight onto rail

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Europe lags in transfer of freight onto rail (eng, NZZ Online)

A very good example of how your point of view can differ depending on your location.  Zurich is roughly the same size as Vancouver, and has a similar type of population, and similar issues to those we have with mountains and international borders.

Their investment in electric railways stated very much earlier and was strategic. The Swiss had lots of hydro potential but depended on their neighbours for coal, or for routes through which to import oil or gas. In fact during  world war II they even developed an electric fired steam loco!

One of the Swiss electric-steam tank engines

From our perspective what the Swiss have achieved in forcing trucks to divert to rail is little short of astonishing. And the failure of the rest of Europe to keep up is hardly surprising, but has a lot to do with the silly attitudes left over from Thatcher and her refusal to allow state aid for Channel Tunnel. EU policies to these investments are frankly silly. Once you have sunk the costs in building these hugely expensive projects it only makes sense to utilize their capacity to the fullest. The rules about competition with other modes, and the desire to recoup investment currently produce an odd outcome.  Prices through the tunnels are so high that rail freight is discouraged in favour of less environmentally friendly modes. the Rail Freight Group published a neat summary of this in the May 2007 Modern Railways but I cannot find it on their web site (though a lot about this controversy is) and of course MR do not put any content on line.

Europe may lag Switzerland, but it is streets ahead of North America.

Written by Stephen Rees

June 18, 2007 at 1:09 pm

Car-free Commercial Drive appeals to street performers

with 3 comments

Vancouver Sun

A small piece but at least it did get noticed. Now what I would like to see is a car free day in Richmond. Maybe a start would be to open the night market actually on Number Three Road.

Nah. Not gonna happen.

Flickr says: We found 1,398 results for photos matching car free day.

Written by Stephen Rees

June 18, 2007 at 11:57 am

Posted in personal thoughts