Stephen Rees's blog

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

Archive for November 13th, 2007

An idea to reduce bus fares

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This came to my attention thanks to Transport 2000 Canada

On 5 November it was reported that users of certain buses in Scotland will be able to trade in used cooking oil for reduced fares. The oil will be recycled to power a fleet of eight buses with 100-percent biodiesel as a trial to reduce carbon emissions by Stagecoach, one of Britain’s largest transit bus, train, and intercity coach operators. Households on a 20 km bus route through Kilmarnock, with 15,500 passengers per week, will be given a container to collect used cooking oil and a local recycling plant will issue bus discount vouchers.

Written by Stephen Rees

November 13, 2007 at 7:48 pm

Windy Weather

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The big story here at the moment is the damage done by the wind storm yesterday. And how people in Lion’s Bay are prepared – after their experience last year. Because when the wind blows the power lines come down.

Now I know this makes me sound like a foreigner, but I can never understand why we have so many wires festooned on poles in our neighborhoods. In fact, only a couple of weeks ago, talking to an American engineer visiting here and looking at the Canada Line construction, he was amazed at the great ganglions of hydro wires in all of those downtown back alleys – sorry, “lanes”. He said it was a “third world” arrangement.

I have been told by people who work for BC Hydro that the cost of putting wires underground is not justifiable. The wires on poles are cheap to install and easy to repair. And certainly when you see the damage that a contractor can do to utilities with a misdirected excavator, reluctance to bury the wires is understandable. But how often do you have to replace the poles, and call out the emergency crews, before you start looking at life cycle cost as opposed to first time installation cost?

And, of course, the view. (See also the picture of Williams Road in the earlier piece on transit and density)


But my favourite story on the news tonight was one on the family in Mission who are off the grid altogether. They have solar voltaics on the roof, and a micro hydro in their back garden. And they are, and will be for some days, one of the few houses in their area who have power.


As an after thought – what about all those BC Hydro studies not so long ago that questioned the idea of wind turbines for coastal BC?

At least no-one here has yet suggested that putting up a wind generator should be an offence

But then I suspect this legislator has not seen one of these

Written by Stephen Rees

November 13, 2007 at 7:14 pm

Posted in energy, Urban Planning

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The Environmental Assessment Process

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The Livable Region Coalition held a press conference this morning about our views on the EA for Highway 1 expansion and the Port Mann twinning. You can probably catch up with what we said on CBC (Michael Mortensen got a minute or so of air time on the 6 o’clock news), CityTV or (maybe) the local press later- but to get a more complete picture go to the LRC web page.


(l to r) Michael Mortensen (land use) Me (transportation demand forecast) Pamela Zevit (biology) Eric Doherty (CBA GHG)

At about the same time the Gateway sent me its latest Community Update on the Pitt River Bridge and Mary Hill Interchange. It includes a project schedule which shows that construction started before they got final environmental approval. I suppose I should not be surprised. The EA process in BC is not actually much of a process at all. They do not really expect anyone to actually take it seriously.


Of course, as a responsible transportation and regional planner, I do have to take it seriously, and the LRC has done a fine job of reviewing the material that the province has presented to the EAO. But if this was say, a class assignment, at a community college perhaps, I would simply give it back and suggest that the deadline for submission be extended so that the submitters could actually produce something worth looking at. The bits that I read were bad enough, but pretty much what I expected. If you start out with a ludicrous assumption – that you can double the size of the freeway and have absolutely no effect on land use or the overall number of vehicle trips – then the results are pretty much pointless.

But to have the province state that the Ministry of Transport cannot do what the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency requires – provide a comparison with a realistic alternative i.e. transit – because it has “no control over transit” beggars belief. This is the same outfit after all that is replacing an elected board by an appointed one at Translink, will be funding Rapid Bus once the new project is opened (whooppee!) but has also decided to put in gates on SkyTrain and the Canada Line using yet another P3! Who do think they are kidding?

And for the natural environment they seem to have been equally slipshod: identifying land as available for mitigation which is already in use for mitigation of earlier expansion, ignoring identified species at risk, cherry picking from earlier comprehensive reports. Pamela Zevit called it “etch a sketch” planning: you simply shake the box, erase all that was done before and proceed as if nothing had happened.

It is, quite simply, Not Good Enough. You will have to do better Mr Falcon.

Written by Stephen Rees

November 13, 2007 at 3:12 pm