Stephen Rees's blog

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

Archive for July 4th, 2007

Shorter news items

leave a comment »

There’s a bunch of stuff today on my Google alerts. I don’t really have time to get into any of them in detail. So here are some clips that you might like to follow up. And I would welcome feedback – is this something you would like to see here as a feature – or do you prefer the longer commentary stuff?

The LA Times has a “Bottleneck Blog” dealing with local transportation issues. It is not exactly transit friendly as this piece on Transit Oriented Development demonstrates – it is worth scrolling down to read the comments.

Mind you if the transit system in LA is as bad as SEPTA is said to be I am not surprised. For those who think I am hard on Translink try this:

Its riders could well be effective political lobbyists. Many, I suspect, have been thoroughly alienated by a transit system that punishes them routinely with small indignities.

In short, SEPTA is run for those who have no other choice, and thus it treats too many of its riders with contempt. Those who do have other choices, of course, too often choose not to take SEPTA. So at a moment when SEPTA needs all the friends it can get, it is discovering that it hasn’t worked very hard to make them.

Some Wisconsin kids came up with this neat idea to save all those hassles at the airport. Beats Air Canada anyday!

Serious progress appears to be made in Ottawa. The sharing of rail lines between LRT and mainline trains is common in places like Germany has been slower to take off here, but experience with the OTrain otrain-approaching-bayview-2006_0608.jpg seems to be boosting Transport Canada’s confidence.

Transport Canada, which oversees rail operations from coast to coast, doesn’t see a problem with track sharing, said Mike Coghlan, the department’s director of engineering at its rail safety branch, as long as safety rules are followed and some differences are ironed out.

“There may be some issue with running light rail equipment with heavy equipment,” he said.

Meanwhile, in California more details are being uncovered of the Bush administration’s attempts to undermine that State’s efforts to tackle the world’s major environmental problem – global warming.

Rep. Henry Waxman, the Los Angeles Democrat who chairs the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, said he will seek more data from Transportation officials on its contacts with the White House and other federal agencies.

“This initial set of documents reveals that the Bush administration was working hand in glove with the auto industry against state efforts to fight global warming,” Waxman said. He added that federal resources should not be used against a state initiative.

Paul Light, a New York University professor who has written extensively on the executive branch and government ethics, said the Transportation Department’s lobbying effort was “unusual and unnecessary, given that most members and governors know these issues already.”

“I think it’s a gross misuse of taxpayer money,” Light said. “It may not be a violation of anti-lobbying provisions in the law, but it’s a violation of anti-stupidity provisions.”

I expect that we will hear more about this.

Written by Stephen Rees

July 4, 2007 at 4:51 pm

Posted in Transportation

This blog renews a friendship

with one comment

I had a delightful lunch today with someone I have not seen for over four years, and frankly, did not expect to hear from again. I am sorry if this seems immodest but I was delighted to hear that someone in another city far away reads this blog to find out what is going on here – and to catch up with what I am doing – and finally figures out a way to call me.

We also caught up on developments at the place where we used to work together, and I must say that things there have been changing in ways I did not expect. I will refrain, however, from predicting what might happen next. For one thing, I have had to take my crystal ball back to Canadian Tire for repair. Again.

It is possible to work out from the information you can find on here how to email me. It is not spelled out clearly simply because of the dreadful little software programs that trawl the web looking for email addresses to send spam too. Look at the top right under the words “about and contact information” – or click on about and there you will find a slightly less cryptic explanation. I also have another blog. Since no-one has ever posted a comment to that and I think the hit counter is broken I do not think anyone reads it. It is not about the relationship between transport and urban areas. My idea was that I would take the “off topic” posts from here and put them there. But I understand that for some readers these irrelevant posts are part of the attraction. So I am not going to mess with what limited success I have had so far – certainly not to send you to a blog that apparently no reads but me.


And from there, on a clear day, you can see into Washington state. The curious effect that this image captures of the tip of Mount Baker seemingly floating above the ground is actually the result of transport pollution. Ground level ozone (confusingly known here as “smog”) is created by the action of sunlight on the combination of nitrous oxides (NOx) and hydrocarbons (HC). Since it has suddenly turned nice here, the effect is more pronounced today. No photoshop trickery here I promise you. Since much of the industry in the region has moved away, most of the NOx comes from vehicle tailpipes. HC is mainly the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) which these days are more likely from natural sources like pine trees or cranberry beds (hence the famous quote from President Reagan that trees cause air pollution). Since we abandoned carburettors for fuel injection, put vapour capture into gas pumps and now check gas caps regularly, VOCs from cars are much less than they were once.

I think it is worth remembering that while greenhouse gases are the major concern now, air pollution is by no means solved.

Written by Stephen Rees

July 4, 2007 at 3:57 pm