Stephen Rees's blog

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

Archive for September 3rd, 2007


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The Vancouver Sun has just started a new series. As with that Tyee series on free fares, I think I will let the series run for a bit before I comment. Though it is off to a good start with words of wisdom from Gordon Price.

Just one minor quibble about what Gord says about generated traffic. If you build a new bit of infrastructure on a congested network, the number of trips increases straight away. You don’t have to see any land use change. Congestion means that there are frustrated trip makers who are not making trips because of the time it would take. Speed up that journey by adding a road (or a rail line, or a bus lane) and those trips start being made. Conventional four step transportation models do not reflect this widely observed behaviour – they work on a “fixed trip matrix”.

Written by Stephen Rees

September 3, 2007 at 3:48 pm

Posted in Transportation

High speed train tunnel in the Netherlands

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The “Green Heart Tunnel” was the subject of its first trial runs on September 1st, to test evauation procedures. One of the volunteer evacuees has posted a picture from that event and I have his permission to reproduce his image here. It illustrates the difference between the way things are done in Europe and here.

Green Hart Tunnel

When the Dutch talk about the Heartland they really mean it. One thing I heard more than once while outside Greater Vancouver last week was the widespread cynicism of people in places like Lillooet who are waiting for their roads to be fixed, while the wasteful and largely unnecessary effort on the Sea to Sky eats up all the available budget. The Liberals blether about “the heartland” does not go down well there.

The Green Heart is the highly productive agricultural area between Rotterdam and Amsterdam or to use their words “typical peaty grasslands”. Holland is much like Delta. The Rhine is their Fraser. We have learned most of our dyking techniques from the Dutch, not to mention how to make money from greenhouses.

The only reason that the tunnel was built at all was to protect those lands. They take their equivalent of the ALR or The Green Zone seriously there. Their environmental credentials are not in doubt. Compare our government’s approach to infrastructure. For the BC Liberals it must be more roads and they cannot possibly go in tunnel, no matter how sensitive the landscape – whether it is Eagleridge Bluffs or Annieville.

When building a rail tunnel the Dutch designed a purpose built TBM to cut a tunnel that is then divided into two with a wall – to make it safer and more efficient to operate. The high speed trains push a lot of air in front of them despite their streamlined shape, and two trains passing in the centre of the tunnel would create quite a “thump”. When we build a slow speed transit line, the tiny TBM is only used downtown, to cut costs, and two bored tubes are needed. On Cambie a cut and cover tunnel is being built with the tracks one on top of the other – which does not do very much to improve access but makes it cheaper.

When the Dutch want to deal with growing congestion, they build electric high speed rail. Rotterdam is one of the largest and most successful ports in Europe, and is served by a highly efficient inland waterway system – the Rhine being the backbone of the network. Electric trains also carry the freight. In most European countries, trucks are restricted: in Germany trucks have to pay tolls to use the freeways. Switzerland will not let them use the roads to cross the country but insists that through trucks be put on piggy back trains, for the trip through the mountains. We boast about opening a new freeway bridge and blasting another open cut through the rockies.

I do not think that the Dutch or the Swiss or the Germans are better or richer than us. They just have different priorities. I think it would be possible to argue that they are more civilised – in the sense that they have a much better sense of civic responsibility. We seem to be stuck with a Wild West mentality. The country is so vast and so full of resources we cannot believe that we can exhaust them – despite plenty of evidence to the contrary. So we tip our garbage into open pits, flush our toilets into the sea, and drive around on highways in SUVs. And we think we can go on like that indefinitely.

I don’t think so, Tim.

Written by Stephen Rees

September 3, 2007 at 1:02 pm

A new Moscow metro station

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The Moscow Metro has always been known for the grandeur of its architecture. (“Nothing is too good for the workers” said Stalin). I am pleased to note that the tradition continues, despite the end of communism – or perhaps Stalinism is now reborn under Putin. Anyway there are some impressive pictures at the Architecture Portal. I doubt somehow that the underground stations on the Canada Line will meet these standards.

It’s hoped the opening of a new metro station in the heart of old Moscow will help relieve passenger congestion in the city centre. Trubnaya, on the light green line, was opened by Mayor Yury Luzhkov, who said there were plans for another thirty metro stations in Moscow.


Written by Stephen Rees

September 3, 2007 at 12:34 pm

Posted in transit