Stephen Rees's blog

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

Archive for September 22nd, 2007

Gateway Consultation Process

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There are currently open houses being held around the region as part of the Environmental Assessment process. There has been some discussion on the lrc-general list as to whether it is worthwhile participating

…from my point of view (and I have a Ph. D. in Community & Regional Planning and have taught Planning, Development and Policy for three years at SFU’s Urban Studies Masters Program, currently teaching Urban Sustainable Development there), the public consultation process of the MoT has been nothing but a sham. There is a classic “ladder of citizen participation” designed by Sherry Arnstein to evaluate degrees of citizen participation in public processes that I and many instructors of planning use to illustrate democratic public process. On this ladder Kevin Falcon’s MoT’s Process falls on the bottom step of the ladder (which Arnstein calls manipulation and non-participation). In the ministry’s own words, “from letters, petitions or other submissions that only state a position for or against a given project cannot generally be considered”. Thus, we as citizens have no real participation in making a decision NOT to approve this Gateway Project, but merely to comment on improving or adding bike lanes or slightly shifting on or off ramps, etc. As I said, what a sham! However, I do think people should go to the open houses and tell them what a sham this process is, and what a shame for democracy. So, I am going to do that myself at the Vancouver Open House on Tuesday, 5-9 PM at the Italian Cultural Centre.

Mike Carr

I cannot say I agree with Mike that going to these affairs does any good. It is not about should the project go ahead as Falcon has said that it is a “done deal”. That deal excluded anyone who might have a legitimate interest in it except those who stood to profit from it. The Deltaport expansion is not part of the process either, even though that is said to be one of the drivers for both Port Mann 2 and the South Fraser Perimeter Road. In fact, it is clear now that part of the SFPR is to be funded by the PM2 tolls! Not only that but the Liberals out manoeuvred the opposition by tying the port expansion into the Tsawassen Treaty proposal. Now no-one could argue that the TFN need a treaty – after all the first stage of the port expansion destroyed their traditional way of life with no compensation. And we have not had much progress in the treaty process to date, so understandably Carol James did not want the NDP to oppose it. Even though the process has been highly suspect to say the least.

When the consultation process is so clearly flawed, we should not participate in it, because that lends the thing credibility that it does not deserve. I will not take part, but I will be part of the protests next weekend. And I hope you will be too. Because when they patronize and marginalize us – and set up bogus “astroturf” groups to appear to speak for the proposal and run ludicrously obvious biased “surveys” – we have no other course of action than to turn to protest. Which is, in human history, the only way that progressive change has ever been brought about. Resistance stopped the freeway through Chinatown and downtown. It will stop this one too.

Written by Stephen Rees

September 22, 2007 at 5:52 pm

Public happy with transport times

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BBC NEWS | UK | Northern Ireland |

Public confidence in Translink is at an all time high following the latest punctuality figures, according to the Consumer Council.

Well, you will not be as surprised to see this opening paragraph as I was, but then you know where it comes from. “Translink” is as name that has been widely adopted in public transport around the world. But when you consider how absolutely dreadful these services were a few years ago, the achievement is remarkable.

During “the troubles” buses were a favourite target. Indeed the “republicans” operated their own “paratransit” service using discarded London taxis, partly as a way of raising funds, and providing employment for their friends, but also controlling access to the areas they controlled.

The other thing noticeable is the independent research conducted by “The Consumer Council”. Would that we had such a body here. As far as I know the only thing approaching a service aimed at meeting consumer’s needs is the Better Business Bureau. We do not have anyone like the Trading Standards Officers common in other countries – usually employed by the local authorities. The laudable exception here are the Public Heatlh officials who protect us from raw shell fish. Of course, they are powerless to protect us from the practice of the regional municipality dumping raw sewage into the waters where the shell fish live, which causes the problem in the first place.

Frankly, I have great difficulty taking consumer research published by Translink here in the same spirit as that produced by an independent agency, even though I know that the market research officials at Translink and the companies they employ are at least ethical. (Which is more than one can say for “getmovingbc” who have produced one of the most mendacious survey reports I have ever seen purporting to show support for the Gateway program.)  Indeed, you would think that Translink themselves would understand this, and should welcome independent analysis of their performance. One of my personal heroines is Sheila Fraser, the Auditor General of Canada and one of the most fiercely independent and effective critics of government policies in the country.

Written by Stephen Rees

September 22, 2007 at 10:53 am

The Canadian Press: First Canada-wide survey ranking urban transportation puts B.C. cities on top

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The Canadian Press:

VANCOUVER – The first Canada-wide survey ranking green urban transportation policies puts two B.C. cities at the top of a list of 27 urban areas.

The GreenApple Canada study, backed by the Appleton Foundation, gives Victoria the best marks for environmentally friendly transportation but Foundation spokesman Barry Appleton says the city still receives a “B” because it has lots of room for improvement.

Vancouver ranked second, followed by Ottawa-Gatineau in third place with Winnipeg fourth and Toronto and Montreal tied for fifth.

Twenty-seventh spot went to St. John’s, N.L. because Appleton says the city announced acceptable green transportation policies but failed to follow through.

Appleton gave special nods to Hamilton for its leadership on anti-idling bylaws while Calgary is applauded for providing free transit in its downtown core.

The survey, which will become an annual event, considered everything from public transit infrastructure to air quality measures, anti-idling bylaws and even the total number of hybrid or alternative fuel vehicles in taxi or bus fleets.

And that’s it. The entire story. I tried to find the study but so far with no luck. What I cannot for the life of me understand is what they mean by “public transit infrastructure” – since the only fixed facilities in Victoria would be the place where buses are stored and maintained out by Gorge Road. There is no other fixed facility that I am aware of that BC Transit provides. And there are no “air quality measures” in Victoria either other than those which apply to BC as a whole. And “alternative fuel and hybrid vehicles in bus and taxi fleets” cannot be a large number either – unless they count 10% biodiesel as an alternative fuel, and even then I cannot recall if that is used in Victoria. There is certainly no natural gas for vehicles on the Island – apart from one compressor at the leg put in for Moe Sihota and not used, and an installation at the Sidney municipal yard, which at least stopped misuse of municipally provided vehicle fuel.

And how does Vancouver come second? I assume it covers the entire Metro area. Yes, we have a few Prius taxis and there is quite a bit of fixed infrastructure (does Canada Line under construction count?) but it’s coverage is nowhere near as comprehensive as the Montreal metro, or even the TTC’s combination of subways and surface light rail (and streetcars of course).

What worries me with surveys of this kind is the readiness with which this kind of nonsense gets picked up by local pols and pr puffs. They are complacent enough already. And complacency is one of the best ways I know to convince yourself that you don’t need to try harder. And if any region needs to try much, much harder in the field of “green urban transportation policies” it is Metro Vancouver, since our current fetish for expanding freeways, covering prime agricultural land for container storage and railyards, and filling the shallows of Roberts Bank with yet more fill cannot be seen in any sense as “green”.

I suggest that GreenApple (whoever they are) need to look at outcome not policies. Look at indicators that actually means something. Like percentage mode share for transit, walking and cycling – which is very good in downtown Vancouver and pretty poor most everywhere else. Or percentage of the registered vehicle fleet which is oversized SUVs, old full sized cars and trucks used solely for personal transportation. It takes a lot of hybrids to offset that kind of fuel consumption.

Written by Stephen Rees

September 22, 2007 at 9:37 am