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

Archive for November 1st, 2007

A conversation about transportation

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I just got back from a public meeting held in Vancouver by the NDP MLA’s (Jenny Kwan, David Chudnovsky and Gregor Robertson) to talk about transportation for the lower mainland. It certainly seem to be crunch time: the Bill to take over Translink is now on the floor of the leg, Translink itself is trying to rush through a 40 year plan in a couple of months (no-one from Translink could get to the meeting, unfortunately) and the Port Mann twinning/Highway 1 expansion period for comments on the Environmental assessment ends in mid November.

Translink’s new long range plan

It may be significant that the pamphlet Translink has put out on its plan has a freighter anchored off Stanley Park on its cover. The regional authority (the same one that if you give the wrong answer to one of its consultation questions gives you a potted lecture on the benefits of Gateway) certainly seems to think that moving freight from the port is the top question. Of course, the argument that we need more roads to allow for port expansion is patently false, but let’s leave that aside for a moment. Why is the process so rushed? Is it because by the time the new Board gets in place there won’t be a need to consult any more?

I hope Ned Jacobs will permit me to reproduce an email he distributed to the Livable Region list


Here it is, the shocking truth re. Bill 43, The Greater Vancouver Transportation Authority Amendment Act. Opposition MLAs explain how the government secretly changed the Bill # from 36 to 43 in order to prevent FOI requests re. public submissions to the GVTA governance review panel (believed to be overwhelmingly opposed to the restructuring of TransLink) from being released. The government will not make those submissions until after the Bill is passed into law, even though the Minister of Transportation has promised time after time since last spring to do so “as soon as possible.” This Hansard link shows the perceptive and detailed research and analysis performed by opposition MLAs, and reveals Kevin Falcon for the bully, liar and tyrant he is—and the incredible hypocrisy displayed by the Premier. Kudos to MLAs Chudnovsky and Karagianis!


David Chudnovsky did bring up some thing that I think is well worth repeating. Asked by a member of the audience what was the point of going through a consultation process with a government that is not listening, he pointed to the recent “conversation on health” . That was supposed to conclude that what we needed was “more choice” and hence much more private sector involvement – but it has not worked out that way, because so many people said very clearly that they wanted a better public system. And, moreover, it has given George Abbott (the long time Health Minister) the courage to stand up to the Premier as discussed in today’s Sun. So Chudnovsky’s view is that this government can be made to listen – if we use all the avenues open to us.

So if the “reform” of GVTA, the Gateway proposals or the 40 Year Plan worry you, now is the time to send an email to your MLA. You can get the address here

Written by Stephen Rees

November 1, 2007 at 9:33 pm

Waterways for freight

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This opinion piece from the BBC takes me back.

In 1970 I started work – and my first employer was the British Waterways Board. The only thing that has changed in the message is that back then we had not heard of greenhouse has emissions or carbon footprints. The idea of transferring freight to water was very popular – with motorists. They all, without exception, hated lorries – especially the new big 32 tonne monsters (actually quite small by modern North American standards) – partly because of their size was intimidating but mostly because they were slow and on many of Britain’s narrow, windy roads, hard to overtake.


The major issue though was that Britain’s canals were, on the whole, also narrow and windy. Developed in the 18th century, and not much upgraded after the opening of the railways, they tended to follow the contour lines and locks were usually only 7 feet wide. They were also very attractive scenically and increasingly popular for recreation. So any proposal to upgrade a canal to a size that would allow economic freight movement always fell foul of the waterway users. And the environmentalists. Because, of course, a new depot would generate lots of lorry movements.

There were two traffics that were won to water – domestic refuse, because it was used to landfill the Thames marshes, and sea dredged aggregates (sand and gravel) because land won sources were mostly exhausted within range of development. In both cases I suspect that current environmental standards would find both practices unacceptable. I do know that on the Fraser, one gravel pit next to the river is not allowed to use barges to move its output due to the objections of its neighbours who live in desirable waterside residences – so the gravel goes by road.

The current press here is for what is being termed “short sea shipping” – basically moving stuff inland from the port by barge, rather than the current practice of having four round trips by truck for every container. The only uncertainty I can see over that is where the containers will be moved to. The former Fraser Port lost something like 75% of its container traffic so there is no lack of capacity at Surrey Fraser Docks – which are at least rail connected. There are peole who think freight can go further up river, and while they may be right I cannot see the “gravel reach” being dredged any time – since that is fish habitat, and that is going to be seen as a priority.

Written by Stephen Rees

November 1, 2007 at 9:14 pm

Posted in freight transport

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