Stephen Rees's blog

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

Archive for August 9th, 2007

Back to the future: ‘The Coq’ is finished, tolling in B.C. isn’t

leave a comment »


Vaughn Palmer, Vancouver Sun

Published: Thursday, August 09, 2007


Every time I read Vaughan Palmer I learn something. I am not going to quote the article, nor give my opinion on his opinion. I just recommend that you click on the link and read it. I will bet you will learn something too.

Written by Stephen Rees

August 9, 2007 at 8:42 am

Ontario to offer perks for drivers of ‘green’ vehicles

with 3 comments

Alana Toulin, CanWest News Service

Published: Thursday, August 09, 2007


As early as next summer, Ontario motorists who drive hybrids or other low-emission vehicles will be entitled to an Eco-licence plate — and perhaps a slew of special privileges that go with it.The provincial government, which announced the program Wednesday, won’t yet specify the type of entitlements and rebates it will offer. First, the province will set up a panel of experts from the automobile industry, environmental movement and others to determine which automobiles will be eligible for the special plates. The panel will look at cars, light trucks and commercial vehicles.

Once that’s done, perks are expected to be identified, said Anne O’Hagan, a spokesman for Environment Minister Lauren Broten.

More “me too-ism” – others do it, so we should. And of course the automobile industry supports it. It enables them to keep their profit margins high on cleaner vehicles. If the government rushes in and starts offering incentives, they don’t have to.  And it wards off effective measures such as raising overall fuel efficiency standards, which would reduce emissions across the new vehicle fleet, not just the little bit that will benefit from these measures. For – understand – this pig needs a whole lot of lipstick. The track record of the industry in terms of reducing its environmental impact – especially the big three US makers (GM, Ford and Chrysler) – is shameful.

And governments have not done much better either. Even admitting that they are not very good at “picking winners”. The failed discounts in fuel tax given to propane which resulted in increased emissions, for example. Or the dismal failure of the methanol experiments. Or the essentially counterproductive effort currently to promote ethanol which has actually increased  energy use and ghg emissions.

Letting a single occupant Prius into the HOV lane is not going to make any difference. Not nearly as much as actually enforcing the existing HOV regulations or raising the occupancy requirement from 2+.  But, more importantly, if governments actually started investing in transit and really coming down hard on sprawl we could start seeing a difference. But as long as Southern Ontario continues on its current trend of denying the need to invest in transit, instead paying for highway construction and allowing lots of new subdivisions  into sensitive areas such as the Oak Ridges moraine and the Niagara Escarpment, all this blathering about green cars is for naught.

Written by Stephen Rees

August 9, 2007 at 8:39 am

Warming threatens crucial Fraser habitat, study says

leave a comment »


Larry Pynn, Vancouver Sun

Published: Thursday, August 09, 2007


The Fraser River delta could lose up to one-third of its tidal marshes — critical habitat for both juvenile salmon and waterfowl — during this century due to rising sea levels resulting from global warming, a study published in the journal Global and Planetary Change warns.

The study was carried out on Westham Island, which happens to be where I work, and have become generally much more interested in the local wildlife. For most of my life I have worked at the centre of major cities, and it has come as quite a revelation to see at first hand the cycle of life. The eagles, who have successfully raised their young. The snow geese who have returned on their way south. The long skeins of Canada geese, all honking to each other to keep their positions in formation as they practice for their migration. The swallows and bats that do me such a big favour by keeping the mosquitoes down, and the beaver who tries to plug up the bridge passage with debris and logs.

Snow Geese

The article is educational because it goes into some detail into the role of the inter tidal marshes. You need to understand that the Essex marshes, where I come from, have been regarded for most of my life (and long before that too) as a waste of space. They have been dug up for enclosed docks, or cement works (mud is an important component of cement) dumped on – much of London’s garbage is barged downriver to be spread on the marshes as part of a “land reclamation” that has been going on for years. At one time, the tidal flats out at Maplin Sands were going to be London’s third airport.

The mouth of the Fraser has fared a bit better than that – though just to the south we have comprehensively destroyed the ecosystem that used to flourish at what is now known as “Deltaport” – and even the mitigative measures there are due for development as part of the phase 2. And, by the way, dumping of Fraser River dredgings has already shifted to Roberts Bank.


Anyway, enough about me. I do have reasons to care about this area, even though I cannot claim to be a naturalist or a birder. Reifel Island is somewhere well worth visiting – if you are looking for a short outing before school starts again. That got preserved due to the enthusiasm of a few people who liked shooting ducks. Hopefully now more of us care about about surroundings and begin to understand that our economy is not separate from our environment – nor should it be a threat to it – it is, in fact, a subsidiary. We depend on the eel grass as much as the geese do – even if the linkages seem complex. This web is intricate but we are a critical part of it – we are interdependent. And our stewardship of this area is going to be a critical test of our ability to survive as a species. Earth will survive somehow. But right now it looks like it will only do so if it rids itself of the most destructive species.



Written by Stephen Rees

August 9, 2007 at 8:21 am

Posted in Environment