Stephen Rees's blog

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

Archive for August 25th, 2007

Business interests dominate new TransLink panel

with one comment

Richmond Review

No surprises there then.

The panel consists of:

•Graham Clarke, chosen by the province. He is chair of the Vancouver International Airport Authority, governor of the Vancouver Board of Trade and owner of the Clarke Group of Companies.

•Former NDP premier Mike Harcourt, nominated by TransLink directors and Metro Vancouver mayors.

•Hugh Lindsay, chosen by the BC Institute of Chartered Accountants, is president of FMG Financial Mentors Group Inc.

•Dave Park, nominated by the Vancouver Board of Trade and that organization’s chief economist.

•Bob Wilds, nominated by the Greater Vancouver Gateway Council. He is the council’s managing director and is on the board of the Business Council of B.C. and a member of the Vancouver Board of Trade.

The five panelists are to propose 15 qualified candidates, from which a group of area mayors will select nine directors who will form the new TransLink board in January.

[Burnaby Mayor Derek] Corrigan, who has boycotted the process, said he’s “astounded” [former NDP Premier Mike] Harcourt agreed to serve on the screening panel but noted the ex-premier has recently served on the airport and port authority boards.

“He’s rubbed shoulders with those guys for some time,” he said.

Worse he showed in his remarks at the launch of his new book that he has swallowed their justification for new port capacity uncritically. Like many Board members he has come to rely on the advice on the staff of the organization, rather than bringing a fresh outside view to the table, which I think people like him are expected to do. After all while the staff have deep but narrow expertise, he has the broader, if more shallow, view.

Moreover why do the Gateway Council get a seat at the table at all? They are simply a self appointed group of special interests set up to lobby for policies that favour their industry. It’s a bit like inviting the Canadian Petroleum Producers Association to sit on a Board concerned with making recommendations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions!

There is no-one there to represent transit users – who provide most of the revenue from their fares and property taxes.  And I doubt you will see any of these upper middle class, white, older males on a B-Line the morning after Labour Day.

(Note: I am also a white, older male, and I will also not be on a bus that morning, so I definitely feel I should be excluded from consideration for the new Board. Thank you.)

Written by Stephen Rees

August 25, 2007 at 10:48 am

Port Mann twinning myths

with 4 comments

This is over at the LRC web site – but the link to the Burnaby News Leader letters page does not work and the letter itself is no longer there. But then very few letters are there, and the way the Black Press portal is set up seems to defy its use as an archive. But perhaps that is deliberate – so I make no apology for duplicating it – not because I endorse it but I think views like this need to be widely disseminated

Port Mann twinning myths

At the core of our transportation system is the Trans-Canada Highway which spans this great nation of ours.

In B.C. the Port Mann Bridge and Highway 1 connects Vancouver, Burnaby, New Westminster and Coquitlam with Surrey, Langley and the rest of Canada.

The curved Port Mann Bridge cost five times more per lineal foot (30.5 cm) than a straight bridge, which I learnt as an engineering student in 1979.

“On June 12, 1964 The Port Mann Bridge opened. Its construction was unique in North America, and at the time it was the most expensive piece of highway in Canada,” according to

Since no other authority in North America can afford to build a curved bridge, why would B.C. twin the curved Port Mann Bridge if B.C. knew that the cost was going to be at least five times more than a straight bridge?

If you were an investor, say in a company that was going to bid on the contract that would make you many times richer wouldn’t you want to build it?

In 1964, investors got B.C. taxpayers to make them many times richer by building the curved Port Mann Bridge. Engineers got the opportunity and higher pay to design and build a curved bridge which no other province or country could afford.

When you design for profit of the wealthy, taxpayer money is easy to find, even if the project is obviously not going to solve any traffic or environmental problems.

Why would B.C. twin the Port Mann Bridge when B.C. won’t pay for seismic upgrading?

“In 1994, Buckland & Taylor Ltd., in conjunction with Geomatrix Inc. of San Francisco and MacLeod Geotechnical of North Vancouver, performed a seismic evaluation and prepared recommendations for the bridge retrofit. This work included:

  • Liquefaction and ground movement assessment;
  • Dynamic testing of the main span and south approach span;
  • Dynamic analysis for multiple earthquake time histories;
  • Push-over analysis for typical concrete bents;
  • Preparation of retrofit recommendations.

“In 2001, the Company completed the design and preparation of tender documents. Due to budget restraints, the construction of the retrofit has been put on hold by the Owner, according to “

You get what you vote for? For a real solution look at the Sydney Harbour Bridge in Australia built in 1926 (nine years before the Pattullo Bridge) with 12-16 lanes, and designed to last 1,000 years. The Sydney Bridge reached nearly 90 per cent of maximum capacity in the late 1980s due to good planning for transportation and the environment.

In B.C. we’re still doing it wrong. Three billion dollars to twin the Port Mann Bridge is equal to building 32.7 fast ferries, based on a cost of $275 million for three ferries.

Think the Pattullo Bridge is safe? Drive under the Surrey side supports and look up at the two feet of steel shims propping the bridge up.

What’s happening to B.C.?

G. Pettipas
New Westminster

Just to nitpick a bit, the bridge main span itself is not curved – it is the approaches that curve. And the province’s neglect of seismic upgrading of major bridges is widespread and not just confined to this one. The bridges handed over to Translink (Knight Street, Patullo and Westham Island) were all badly in need of retrofitting after years of neglect. And as we saw in Montreal and Minnesota this is not an attitude unique to BC.

Secondly, I am not sure the Sydney Harbour Bridge is evidence of “good planning for transportation and the environment”. As the author himself points out the capacity was not adequate for the design life, and the suburbs of Sydney sprawl over huge distances. Note too he counts the traffic lanes and not the electric train tracks. Australian cities tend to have much better rapid transit systems than equivalent Canadian cities (see Newmann and Kenworthy).

Thirdly, are not the “steel shims” on the Patullo evidence that something has at least now been done to “prop the bridge up” – by Translink, who could ill afford it, unlike the province which could but didn’t, preferring to give its friends tax breaks and pay off the debt.

Written by Stephen Rees

August 25, 2007 at 10:32 am

Posted in Transportation

A survey on the Evergreen Line

with 2 comments

Mike Clay is a Port Moody Councillor who has a web site, on which he has been running a survey of opinions on the Evergreen Line. One of my readers wrote to me and asked me to draw it to your attention, and hoped it would provoke some discussion.

I will kick things off by noting that the response rate is very low – 104 total. Of those, only 35 say they come from Port Moody and another 30 from the rest of the TriCities. The other thing that needs to be said is that this is a self selected sample: people who knew about the web page and its survey and could be bothered to go there and complete it. So in no sense can it be said to be representative of the opinions of those in the area. And it is quite easy, if you put your mind to it, to work out ways in which one individual could answer more than once.

I have commented here before on the Evergreen Line and the group which has been pushing for SkyTrain rather than light rail. So the link will take you there and I won’t cover the same ground again. And I have also noted that Port Moody is a bit of an anomaly in the suburbs as it has got transit oriented development – and could get more – but so far has only a B-Line and the last stop inbound on the West Coast Express.

What is also instructive is the extent of the comments that were posted at the open ended questions in each section – which again shows that those who did respond have a much higher level of commitment than the “average punter” type interviews – usually people who are not skilled enough to avoid market researchers who phone them at suppertime.

The real problem for the TriCities was that the provincial government decided to proceed with the Canada Line – and I have also written about how that decision was rammed through. At that time the completion of the LRSP “T Line” – essentially Lougheed Mall to Coquitlam Centre at one end and VCC to the west (and no one now agrees how far west it would have gone) at the other – was supposed to be the first priority. After all the original idea of developing the North East Sector was that it would be transit oriented, but there has never been and still is not adequate transit service in that area. So the traffic congestion through the area was entirely predictable. Especially around the interchanges at the north end of the Port Mann Bridge.

It now makes it very hard for me to answer the question put me earlier in the week by a journalist on my priority list for LRT in the region in future. We should have built both the Evergreen Line and the Broadway Line extension from VCC by now. But equally with the province determined to expand Highway #1, something to directly link North Surrey to Coquitlam is also essential, as well as rail for the Valley. Now if the sort of money being spent on Gateway were devoted instead to electric trains/trams, especially on existing tracks, we could actually build quite a lot of this. But asked to prioritize between them and I am afraid I had to duck. But I did make it clear that electric trains in general are to be preferred over highways.

Written by Stephen Rees

August 25, 2007 at 10:03 am