Stephen Rees's blog

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

Archive for September 2007

Gore likes B.C.’s green moves

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This is deeply depressing. I suppose that for the same reason sharks don’t eat lawyers (professional courtesy) Al could not point out that our emperor has no clothes.

Al Gore says he’s impressed with the environmental initiatives being promised by B.C.’s government.

The former U.S. vice-president told a Vancouver audience Saturday night Premier Gordon Campbell is to be praised for his promise last week of legislation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and his pledge to adopt California’s tough tailpipe emission standards for vehicles.

I do not think anyone should praise politicians for promises. Especially this politician who broken so many: the man who wrote the Livable Region Strategy and now intends to see it dismantled: the man who promised not to sell BC Rail, so he just leased it for 999 years: the man who put a freeway cut through Eagleridge Bluffs: the man who made the promise to reduce emissions but forgot to tell his cabinet colleagues so an entire year will have passed before anything actually happens.

Al Gore was a politician but he also knows first hand what happens to politicians who become dependent on their handlers. Politics may be “the art of the possible” but Gordon Campbell has had plenty of opportunities to change direction. But as far as this region is concerned, he is committed to replacing what has set us apart from other North American cities with what will make us exactly like them. He is part of the massive right wing conspiracy to foist neo-liberal economics on the world – and especially what he persists in calling “the Best Place on Earth”. Which will shortly be seen by the world on their tv screens as the place that could have been, and once was, but is no more. The place where gridlock rules. The place where the salmon and the resident orcas will have gone. Where the Pacific flyway has been intercepted by container storage. Where a shabby deal with big business counts for more than an irreplaceable ecological gem.

I think the real environmentalists were not in the Bayshore. They were in the Unitarian church earlier that afternoon, and shivering in the rain outside the Bayshore later on. An extraordinary cross section of the community who all share one thing in common. A real concern for the place we live in and what the almighty dollar is doing to it.

I think it is really sad that David Suzuki and Al Gore did not point out to Premier Campbell that his actions speak far louder than his words. They could have done it politely. They could have used the the presence of the media to make a point, but they chose not to. If you were waiting for the opportune moment, gentlemen, that was it.

Written by Stephen Rees

September 30, 2007 at 4:45 pm

Blog Stats

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At the end of the month, I thought it would be a good idea to check out how we are doing. And I suppose that this demonstrates that whatever it is, I appear to be doing something right.

I am going to be busy this weekend – it looks like it may be an exciting time in Vancouver this Saturday! So before I forget, I want to thank you for reading my blog, and a very big thank you to those who post comments and provide feedback. This blog has definitely improved because of your contributions, and I am very grateful for your support. I hope that I will be able to meet some of you in person at the Unitarian Church (3:30 to 5:00 pm 949 West 49th Avenue at Oak Street, Vancouver) after the meeting.

Written by Stephen Rees

September 29, 2007 at 10:43 am

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Freeways now, transit some day – maybe:

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Earlier this week there had been speculation that the Premier would use his UBCM speech to make some significant commitment to transit. Well, sorry, but in terms of the $3 billion being spent on highway expansion, $50 m for buses (which is not new money but has been announced sveral times already – just not actually delivered) does not get anywhere near “significant” or even “balanced”. Tomorrow he has to sit down next to Al Gore and David Suzuki. That is about as near to being “green” as he is going to get. He will be at the same table, but he lives on a different planet.

LRC Press Release below

Good words from Premier, but blacktop politics trumps climate action
September 28, 2007

For Immediate Release

The Livable Region Coalition learned today that the Premier can talk the talk but is still allowing blacktop politics to trump climate change. In his speech at the UBCM, Premier Campbell announced some strong potential initiatives to tackle climate change but fell far short in addressing the largest source of emissions- transportation.

“The Premier has shown us today that he knows how to talk a good game on climate change but when it comes to the hard work he doesn’t yet have what it takes. The firmest commitment he made today was to move ahead with the most expensive freeway expansion in provincial history that will increase greenhouse gas emissions, yet we were only offered a vague promise of a transit plan, sometime,” said David Fields, campaigner with the Society Promoting Environmental Conservation. “Single-occupancy vehicles get the goods but the rest of us are left waiting for the bus.”

“The Premier promised to make BC a global leader in transit yet reaffirmed his plans to spend billions on freeway expansion – he is headed in entirely the wrong direction. World class transit systems have come about by giving existing road space over to transit and by making it the easiest option. In Metro Vancouver, the transportation system already heavily favours the car,” said Eric Doherty. “The first step to solving a problem is to stop spending money to make it worse. Hold off on car infrastructure and go with transit first.”

“We’re still miles behind where other Canadian cities are with regard to transit investment” said Deming Smith, transportation demand management specialist and coalition member “In Toronto and Montreal nearly one quarter of all daily trips are taken on transit. In the Vancouver region that percentage slips to about 12 percent. “This is not because people in those other cities like transit more than we do,” said Deming Smith of the LRC, “but rather it reflects the fact that those other jurisdictions have invested more in transit than we have. Everyone recognizes that the demand for transit exists here. Yet the per capita supply is woefully inadequate, especially in comparisons to other cities.”

UBC transportation professor Dr. Lawrence Frank previously commented on the Gateway program and Campbell’s climate change policies: “There aren’t many nations in the world that will say their contribution to Kyoto is through expanding their highway system,” he said.

The Premier did re-announce a commitment to build the Evergreen Line but no dates or money were given. California tailpipe emissions standards and less carbon intensive fuels also formed a part of the Premiers speech on climate change as well as incentives for hybrid cars. Rounding out transportation initiatives was a re-announcement of $50 million for public transit to be shared around the province.

A Metro Vancouver study has already shown it is feasible to reduce GHG emissions by 45 per cent by 2020 with strategic investment in transit. The Livable Region Coalition have promoted a better transit solution for the Highway 1 corridor that includes increased capacity on SkyTrain and the implementation of a Surrey-Coquitlam Bullet that would cross the existing Port Mann Bridge using priority measures. In fact, an express bus service across the Port Mann Bridge was to be completed this year, according to the TransLink 3 year plan, but has been stopped by the aggressive push for the Gateway Program.

The transit first approach would have congestion and emissions reductions measures in place within 2 years whereas the Gateway Program would delay transit improvements for at least seven years.

Written by Stephen Rees

September 28, 2007 at 3:10 pm

The Day to Stop Gateway

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The Day to Stop Gatewayflatearth.jpg
Saturday, September 29th, 2007

3 Events: Non-stop Inspiration and Entertainment

Send a strong message to Premier Campbell that Gateway is the wrong way. Rail and buses not highways.

The Spirit of Sustainability
Connecting Spirituality and Ecology in the context of the Gateway Program

3:30 to 5:00 pm
The Unitarian Church
949 West 49th at Oak, Vancouver
(parking very limited: car pool, bus, or bike)

Entertainment by Erratica & Port Action Theatre Troupe
Speakers include Derek Corrigan, Gordon Price, Dr Bill Rees, Stephen Rees, Jim Houlahan and Donna Passmore.

The Ride to Stop Gateway
A mass ride from the The Spirit of Sustainability Rally to Hello Al, Goodbye Gateway Rally.

The Unitarian Church
949 West 49th at Fremlin (1 block east of Oak)
Meet by the bike parking

The ride will arrive at the Bayshore in plenty of time to catch the speakers and entertainment.

Hello Al, Goodbye Gateway Rally
Welcome Al Gore to Vancouver

5:00 – 7:30 pm
Cardero St. at Coal Harbour (East of the Westin Bayshore)

Entertainment by Timothy Wisdom, Raging Grannies, Ned Jacobs and the Port Action Theatre Troupe.
Speakers Adriane Carr, Suzanne Anton, David Cadman, Heather Deal, Joe Foy , Harold Steves, Michael Sather, Peter Julian, David Fields and Betty Krawczyk.

Demand Action on Climate Change and Have Fun Doing It

Bring your signs and banners.


And, by the way there are some excellent pieces in today’s Richmond News . News coverage includes Harold Steves on the event above and an opinion piece by Tracy Sherlock “Gateway to more traffic woes”.

Written by Stephen Rees

September 28, 2007 at 10:48 am

Posted in Gateway

Tagged with , ,

Public transport first

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China Daily September 28, 2007

The city fathers of Beijing seem to have come to an understanding that has escaped Kevn Falcon

That municipal government authorities are treating the policy as a long-term prospect rather than a matter of expediency indicates that they have finally identified where the real problem is – that the city’s increasingly congested traffic and pollution from car emissions have become pressing hazards.

Many Chinese cities have in recent years gone out of their way to widen their roads to encourage residents to drive their own cars. But the craze has yielded bitter fruit. Local governments are finding it hard to accept the increasingly congested traffic.

We hope that the trail Beijing has blazed in prioritizing public transport will set an example for the rest of the country.

So it has not worked in US cities (see yesterday’s post) and now we know it is not working in Beijing either. So what on earth makes the BC Minister of Highways think it is going to work here?

Written by Stephen Rees

September 28, 2007 at 10:42 am

Transit uses most effective at reducing ghg emissions

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  • Home weatherizing and adjusting the thermostat for heating and cooling saves 2,847 pounds of carbon per year. Transit use saves almost twice the carbon.
  • Replacing five incandescent bulbs to lower wattage compact fluorescent lamps saves 445 pounds of CO2 per year. Transit use saves more than ten times the CO2.
  • Replacing an older refrigerator freezer with a high efficient one saves 335 pounds of CO2 per year. Taking public transportation saves more than fourteen times the carbon.

These figures come from an APTA Press Release today: APTA is pushing for transit to take centre stage in a (much needed) US climate strategy.

It is timely given what is happening here at present to have this kind of information. It is also instructive when advocates for other strategies – such as technological changes and alternative fuels – seem to have grabbed all the limelight up to now. For those of use who keep up with these things, none of this is news, but it is important to keep on banging away at it, otherwise the proponents of hydrogen cars and helium dirigibles and groundsource heat pumps driven by run of the river hydro are going to continue to hog the limelight.

Buses are not groundbreaking technology. Bus lanes are going to be controversial because people like Linda Meinhardt will always make a song and dance about delivery trucks. But in terms of the very pressing needs we currently face – and have been facing for most of my adult life in one form or another – buses are still one of the cheapest and most effective ways of proving better transit for more people. This will enable them to give up their second cars and save 30% of their household’s carbon emissions, as well as improve their own health, and that of their community and their own wallet. (How many wins is that?) And yes, electric trams and trains too, but that is going to take a bit longer and we could use the buses now!

And we cannot afford to wait much longer to get started on this strategy. The sea level will be rising faster as there is less polar ice and less glaciation. The process is already accelerating and the Chinese show no signs at all of wanting to cut the growth of their carbon footprint. Richmond, Delta and Pitt Meadows could be fond memories soon. I mean, I am sorry as hell about those low lying islands all around the globe that are going too – but, let’s face it, their fate has been clear for some time and that did not seem to move anyone in power here very much. Same as the penguins and polar bears. Good pictures, sure. But not much effect on SUV sales, on the whole.

And haven’t we all done those three things at the top of the page already, to try and stop our hydro bills from going up even faster than they are?

Written by Stephen Rees

September 27, 2007 at 3:43 pm

Can more road space reduce more congestion growth?

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That is the way that the Texas Transportation Institute puts the question in its latest report comparing congestion across US cities.

You can read the way they answer the question in this excerpt but I am going to copy the whole of the conclusion

The analysis shows that changes in roadway supply have an effect on the change in delay. Additional roadways reduce the rate of increase in the amount of time it takes travelers to make congested period trips. In general, as the lane-mile “deficit” gets smaller, meaning that urban areas come closer to matching capacity growth and travel growth, the travel time increase is smaller. It appears that the growth in facilities has to be at a rate slightly greater than travel growth in order to maintain constant travel times, if additional roads are the only solution used to address mobility concerns. It is clear that adding roadway at about the same rate as traffic grows will slow the growth of congestion.

It is equally clear, however, that only five of the 85 intensively studied urban areas were able to accomplish that rate. There must be a broader set of solutions applied to the problem, as well as more of each solution than has been implemented in the past, if more areas are to move into the “maintaining conditions or making progress on mobility” category.

Analyses that only examine comparisons such as travel growth vs. delay change or roadway growth vs. delay change are missing the point. The only comparison relevant to the question of road, traffic volume and congestion growth is the relationship between all three factors. Comparisons of only two of these elements will provide misleading answers.

And you thought I was long winded! They are being careful, and they only talk about “slowing the rate of growth” – as though congestion getting worse is inevitable. Moreover it only deals with the transportation aspects of the problem and as we all know (or should do) transportation and land use are two sides of the same coin – and just studying one of them as though it has no effect on the other is pretty bloody silly. BUT it does put the lie to what Kevin Falcon has been saying. No one has managed to cure congestion by building roads. The only thing that a few cities have managed to do by building roads frantically is to keep up with the growth of congestion – so it doesn’t get any better but it gets worse more slowly.

There is also a logical fallacy here. All the TTI has done is look at what has been done in a lot of US cities. It does not actually tell you very much about what can be done, other than point to the failure of road building on its own as a solution. It also does not look at any other indicators of liveability other than traffic congestion – and I would venture to suggest that we need to be more concerned about a lot of other things – like the quality of life or the environment or the effectiveness of other spending programs that could have used the money that otherwise gets wasted on ineffective highway expansions.

Written by Stephen Rees

September 27, 2007 at 2:41 pm


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The following is the text of a Press Release from the NDP. It marks a very significant departure for NDP policy and is the first such party statement to reject the government’s current plans for transport in this region (but the rumour mill suggests that might change when Gordo gets to the same podium tomorrow!) Later in a media scrum Ms. James confirmed the NDP opposes the twinning of the Port Mann Bridge and expansion of Highway 1 by saying the project is ” the wrong plan, the wrong bridge” and “we need transit first”.

VANCOUVER – In her annual address to the Union of B.C. Municipalities, New Democrat Leader Carole James today called on the Campbell government to stop stalling on solutions for gridlock and immediately invest in transit.

“Gordon Campbell wants to wait until a new bridge is finished seven or eight years from now before doing anything about traffic congestion. Commuters are sick and tired of sitting in traffic jams, and they need immediate action. That means a serious investment in transit,” said James.

James called on Campbell to immediately fund and begin work on the Evergreen Line and start planning a new transit line up the Fraser Valley to serve B.C.’s fastest growing communities, noting that half of British Columbians live in the Greater Vancouver Regional District on both sides of the Fraser River.

“If we really want address the traffic congestion that drives commuters crazy, and if we want to do so while reducing the greenhouse gases that are ruining our planet, then transit has to be our first priority,” said James.

“We need to be looking to the future for solutions, not the past. The B.C. Liberals want to spend billions of infrastructure dollars on yesterday’s solution to tomorrow’s problem.”

James noted that public transportation has suffered under the Campbell Liberals.

“Gordon Campbell has the wrong priorities. At a time when we should be investing in public transit, a lack of provincial government investment is making it increasingly difficult for communities like Surrey to provide basic transit service. Meanwhile, fares are soaring, making transit even less affordable for working families,” said James.

James called for the purchase of additional buses and SkyTrain cars, and the establishment of more transit routes.

“The Campbell government can’t even get around to building the Evergreen line on the north side of the Fraser, and they have no plans for Rapid Transit or light rail for the Valley,” said James.

Written by Stephen Rees

September 27, 2007 at 1:52 pm

Biofuel: Is it a greenhouse gas, gas, gas?

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| Gristmill: The environmental news blog | Grist

In think I have said this before, but I will repeat it anyway. It all depends where the biofuel comes from.  You can make biodiesel from spent frying oil – or even rendered animal tallow. Since these are waste products, utilising them should not increase greenhouse gas emissions, except to the extent that processing and transporting these fuels uses energy too. The net effect ought to be beneficial. If you grow crops without resorting to artificial fertilizers (nitrogen) or if you use crop waste, then you may also reduce ghg. But it has been known for a long time that the US ethanol boondoggle was just a way for presidential candidates to get votes from constituencies that happen to be important in the early rounds of the primaries (see “The West Wing” passim). And it is no surprise either that rape seed (we call it canola) biodiesel is another Euro sop to the farm lobby. The wine lake should make some good ethanol though.

I have been around the alt.fuels business for long enough to recognize that nearly every one that has been brought to market to date has had some or many drawbacks. There is a reason that petrol retains its market share and it is not just the cabal of big oil.

Written by Stephen Rees

September 26, 2007 at 3:06 pm

Valley Joins Transport Study

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The Progress

September 25, 2007

Earlier this year, B.C. Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon drew fire from Fraser Valley mayors after he proposed an expansion of TransLink “from Pemberton to Hope.”

But they are going to co-operate on a study at a technical level.

If I lived in either of these two towns, I would also be very wary of people like Falcon. I cannot think of anything worse than a continuous belt of development that linked these two places. It seems to me that would be entirely the worst outcome – but one that building the Sea to Sky and Highway #1 expansions are intended to achieve.

I visited both Pemberton and Hope recently and I was charmed by both places. They are quite separate and very distinctive, and not at all part of Vancouver. Nor should they be. Neither should they become residential dormitory towns for Whistler and Surrey respectively. Which is what is going to happen if people like Falcon (a developer) get their way.

We can do much better than this. I only hope that in among the technical people on this study there are those who have a background in disciplines other than civil engineering and computer science. People who understand there is a lot more to place making than zoning regulations and ITE guidelines.

Written by Stephen Rees

September 26, 2007 at 11:25 am