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

Archive for October 13th, 2007

Gateway project promises have hefty environmental price

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Pete McMartin, Vancouver Sun

Published: Saturday, October 13, 2007


A very good piece indeed. And nice to see Stu Ransey getting some credit for his work at Burnaby.


I am tempted to write “If Pete McMartin gets it, why can’t Gordon Campbell” but I suspect that Campbell does, and is pushing ahead anyway, since he knows where his party’s campaign funds come from.


How else do you explain this jewel about generated traffic

The Gateway Program argues that there is insufficient evidence, or that this development would have occurred even without the bridge, or that the development is the responsibility of municipal governments.

Well now, let’s put this to rest shall we

Firstly, when you double the size of the freeway, you double its capacity to handle traffic. Indeed, that is why you claim you need to build it. The assumption that this new traffic has simply shifted from other routes – and that no other traffic aries to take its place is the problem. As for insufficient evidence – how much do you need? Or do you refuse to accept that a longitudinal study by the Texas Transportation Institute of all major US metroplitan areas over the last few years has no value? That the literally hundreds of studies of major highway construction have come to the same depressing conclusion that I have heard Gordon Campbell and Kevin Falcon repeat “You cannot build your way out of congestion”.

After the freeway is widened the network is bigger. The system, as a whole can now accomodate more trips than it could before the project was completed. Therefore there can now be more travel than there was before. And in every case there always is. Disingenuously, the province syas that tolls on the newly doubled bridge will limit this travel growth – neglecting to comment on the traffic growth on the rest of the widened freeway unaffected by tolls because it is only travelling a few miles and is not crossing the Port Mann.

Since the system is bigger after construction the assumption that the total number of trips stays the same is daft! Those trips that arise after the new freeway lanes open could not have been made before, as there was no capacity on the system to accommodate them. That is what  “congested network” means.

The model, by the way, only predicts am peak hour travel – and absent any expansion the only way the number of trips per day can increase is through peak spreading which we have seen for many years

Secondly, the proposal to expand the freeway has already influenced land use decisions. And I am  not talking about the speculation in land that has already occurred along the route of the proposed South Fraser Perimeter Road of peole looking to cash in on “fair market evaluations” from the MoTH.  Much of the land along Highway 1 in the valley is already in MoTH ownership – or was until they started flogging it off to pay for intersection upgrades. No waht I am talking about is the speed with which the development inustry has adjusted its developmenbnt program to atke advantage of the new accessibility they expect the freeway to provide. Now by any measure, that change in land use is caused by the project. Yet the model ignores it. As far as the figures produced for the EA are concerned nothing happens at all – yet we can already see it!

The Gateway is not about “the importation of cheaply manufactured brand-name running shoes”. That is merely a ruse to make the project appear to be respectable. As though it was part of a well thought out economic strategy – which it clearly isn’t. It is about producing much more urban growth of the post war pattern seen across North America and known as “sprawl”.

The greatest fallacy of the EA process is the comparison to the “do nothing scenario” – because we know that will not happen. If the freeway is not widened, other transportation projects will be able to proceed. The way that the BC budget is put together, there really is room for only one major project at one time. So we had in sequence, the Island Highway, the fast ferries, the Millennium Line … need I go on? The alternative to Gateway is expansion of transit – which is something the region has wanted for a generation or more, and something which every government pretends to commit to but does very little about.

The EA should be looking at the next best alternative – what economists call “opportunity cost”. And the lost opportunity to build a transportation system that would reduce car dependence, finally provide a transportation choice south of the Fraser and encourage a livable region is worth far more than any supposed economic benefit of the Gateway – which, as far as I know – has not been quantified.

Because just having port facilities does not guarantee that they will be used – unlike putting in new freeway lanes or transit services in congested urban areas. In fact the world has many container cranes that sit idle for most of the time, in ports where there is little need for them.  Indeed, it is hard to see that there is any real need for BC to have more port facilities. This idea of the Gateway is that we can, and should, take more of our neighbour’s traffic. What I cannot for the life of me understand is why anyone would accept that idea as being better for us – the residents of this region – than building a decent transit system.


Written by Stephen Rees

October 13, 2007 at 6:34 pm

Posted in Gateway

TransLink prefers tolls to raise money for transit expansion

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Richmond Review

As so it should – well congestion charges actually, the distinction is important. Although at this stage of the game it really has no impact on anything at all and for once I find myself agreeing with Marvin Hunt, who is caustic about the new “professional board” expected to take over next year. This is now really a lame duck Board, and no doubt there will be a few more futile gestures on their way out. Just don’t expect anyone on the other side of the Strait to notice.

And raising money is only half the issue. As long as the road appears to be “free” to drivers they will queue up to use it. The only way we are going to see a significant mode shift is when the price differential at the point of use bears some relation to reality.

Written by Stephen Rees

October 13, 2007 at 5:43 pm

Posted in transit

Lulu Island plant to be Olympic showcase for sewage biogas power

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Richmond Review

For goodness sake we don’t need any more Olympic showcases! Do you seriously think anyone coming here for the speedskating is going to want to look at the Lulu Island Sewage Plant?

We should be doing this anyway – should have done it years ago. When I worked for the GLC twenty years ago all the sewage works were fitted with biogas digesters – and we sold power to the grid from the garbage incinerators too. We (The BC Enegry Aware Committee) made a big song and dance a few years ago now about gas capture in the Delta landfill mainly to shame Delta Corporation into giving it third reading! They could hardly turn it down after accepting an award for environmental awareness now could they?

Flaring biogas should be an offence.

I hope that this process will mean that Metro Vancouver stops dumping virtually untreated human waste into the Fraser at long last. Again, thirty years ago treated, dried solids could be bought from GLC sewage works for fertiliser for back gardens!

Written by Stephen Rees

October 13, 2007 at 5:37 pm

Posted in sewage

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