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

Archive for December 23rd, 2007

Nanosolar Update

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Nanosolar Update – First Panels Now Shipping » Celsias

I blogged about this development when I first heard about it and thought I should keep you up to date.

UPDATE – Dec 30 more information now in The Guardian 


Written by Stephen Rees

December 23, 2007 at 3:41 pm

Posted in energy

Give the streets back to the people!

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This photo of Rambla de Canaletes in Barcelona, Spain is by Claire Pendrous and can be found on flickr. It is just what I need right now – on a cold dark, dank day of the Wister Solstice – the shortest day of the year. A bit of Catalonian sunshine – and a good lesson in how cities ought to be organized. Barcelona existed long before there were cars, and its streets are organised around human beings. Cars take second place. In North America most of our urban areas have been built as cars accelerated the process of urban sprawl. Most cities quickly dispensed with the streetcars and interurbans – and many people now recognize that was a mistake, and simply played into the hands of the automobile makers.

The wisdom of car free streets is now commonplace in Europe and has been picked up quickly in the rest of the world. The Chinese are now beginning to learn that having everyone own a car is not necessarily progress over everyone having a bicycle.

In most older cities there are places like Las Ramblas. London still has many streets that are turned into marketplaces every week – some every weekday, like “The Cut”(actually Lower Marsh but we never called it that) behind Waterloo Station where, one upon a time, I used to spend my lunchtimes listening to the spiel of the costers. This is what civilization looks like. You can find pedestrian streets and street markets in most cities of the world but not many in Canada or the US.

UPDATE – London had a car free day before Christmas

Written by Stephen Rees

December 23, 2007 at 3:03 pm

New TransLink under scrutiny

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Surrey Leader

Mostly Jeff Nagel is reporting Marvin Hunt’s concerns.

While the new board is one Hunt said will delight the business community, he said it doesn’t have enough people with transportation experience or environmental credentials – particularly as Victoria leans on TransLink to make a difference in the fight against climate change.

Actually that one is quite easy – spend money on transit and not roads. Unfortunately when the GVTA was created the province was busy downloading its roads – and some bridges in very poor condition – to the municipalities. And getting their hands on the gas tax to pay for road improvements was the main interest of the municipal politicians. This skewed the attention of the Board and the staff to road building, and left the operators like CMBC with much less direction. Honourable mention should go to the City of Vancouver: becuase its road network has been pretty well complete for a while, they were much more interested in getting Major Road funding shifted to issues like pedestrians and bicycles. The other cities’ engineers resisted.

SoCoBritCA will also have an in built pro-road bias. Firstly because they are business people which means that they will have much more knowledge around issues that the truckers and the Board of Trade will say merit attention. And secondly because they have always been too busy and too important to do anything like get on a bus or a bike to go to work. And they are certainly not going to defy Kevin Falcon. I doubt that any of them has ever thought of voting for anyone who does not represent the right wing, dominant view of the world and its economy. But that does not count as a conflict of interest.

Business sees all government as a way for them to make more money – either from government spending, or less business regulation. They certainly have no experience in the complexities of policy making – the kind of decision making that has to look far beyond the “bottom line”. The reason we have “authorities” and not companies doing this kind of work is that business decision making is, by comparison, very simple -how to make the most profit. Public policy is about how to satisfy the widest possible constituency while at the same time serving the best public interest in terms of sustainability or environmental stewardship or whatever the objectives are called.  And very often those issues conflict. At the same time the new Board will have to take some direction from a bunch of politicians who now have been relieved of all responsibility and just want something to get themselves re-elected. Like coverage in the local press.

Written by Stephen Rees

December 23, 2007 at 8:32 am