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

Archive for December 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

Gateway should have been “newsmaker of the year’

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I am going to publish here a piece that Dave Fields wrote for the Vancouver Courier. It will be on the LRC website soon, but I thought it worthwhile to bring to your attention

Hi All- So Homelessness took the Courier’s Newsmaker of the Year. Carmen and I both submitted Gateway of course, below is my full submission from the web edition. I will add to it for a year end piece for the blog.

Happy Solstice!


If Vancouver is to be a flagship city for sustainability then we must
look at projects like Gateway through a carbon lens to evaluate them in
terms of our carbon budget, not just as P3’s. Priority should be given
to projects that meet or exceed green targets as well as meeting other
project goals, like moving people and goods for instance.
The premier has yet to reconcile Gateway with his legislated green
targets. It’s a kind of denial really. A double vision in conflict.
Choosing instead to hype the transit portion of the Evil Twin, which
will not reduce car traffic at all, according to Gateway Program
figures. A lot of marketed faith is being invested into the California
emissions standards but the numbers just don’t bear that out, according
to the Pembina Institute’s Mind the Gap report. A transit first approach
to transportation in our region will help correct the balance of our
network which sees single-occupancy vehicle rates as high as 90 per cent.
The premier should give thought to reconciling Gateway with his green
commitments over his Hawaiian holidays because it is through Gateway and
the Green Budget primarily that his new green cred will be tested.
Vancouver city council stands firmly against freeway expansion and is
now challenged to make good on transportation policy through the
so-called Eco-Density initiative. We must come to understand, however,
that what is bad for the region is also bad for Vancouver.
2007 has been a breakthrough year for the campaign for better transit,
not freeways. We have seen closer analysis of the greenhouse gas
emissions impacts from Gateway and SPEC, City of Burnaby and Metro
Vancouver all agree that the car centred project will increase road
source emissions by four per cent above a business-as-usual scenario. No
analysis has been done of the emissions from land use because the
province won’t recognize the fact that freeways cause sprawl. A
province-wide poll of 500 people found that 73 per cent support
prioritizing transit over building freeways to tackle climate change.
There must be similar results regionally because the NDP came out in
support of a transit first approach at the UBCM in September.
It is a heated topic everywhere, it seems like it is always being
discussed on talk radio and has even split newsrooms, evidenced by Pete
McMartin’s three articles in the Sun this fall. Letters fill local
papers and it has gained national attention as well. For what it is
worth, I have over 430 articles, letters and editorials collected over
the year.
New groups are sprouting up over the region and in Vancouver calling for
better transit like more rapid bus and rail instead of car heavy road
building. The Livable Region Coalition is becoming a source of news on
regional livability and green issues, its new blog, started less than a
year ago, is now getting over 35,000 hits a month. A Langley
businessman, Jim Leuba, teamed up with SPEC this year to run a $50 000
advertising campaign calling for transit first; through dozens of
outreach efforts over the year, thousands of people have gotten to know
the issue and the transit option.
Climate change and transportation are the two hottest issues in
Vancouver and they both come together in the Gateway Program-the
twinning of the Port Mann Bridge and freeway expansion. Green targets
have been legislated but not reconciled with the freeway building
megaproject and the port expansion. In no other project is so much at
stake. The debate between transit first and road building has been
taking place everywhere, even dividing newsrooms, while the popular
movement continues to grow. Vancouver faces pressure from the province
as it addresses future sustainability planning, putting Eco-Density and
freeway expansion at odds. This issue is red hot, look for things to
come to a boil in 2008 as the premier’s new green cred is put to the test.
-David Fields, SPEC

Written by Stephen Rees

December 22, 2007 at 12:29 pm

Posted in Gateway

“The worst travel day of the year”

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That is what they were calling it on CBC tv news tonight. Mostly about not taking wrapped presents though security at the airport – but there were also references to the roads and ferries. Well, I went over to Victoria on the 9 am and came back on the 1pm – no reservations. I had an easy trip both ways and neither ferry was anything like full.

The worst issues for me were the young women talking at the tops of their voices and all sounding exactly the same

“And so I’m like, ‘really” and he’s like ‘whatever’ and it was sooo …”

And then sitting outside the cafe trying to eat a brioche with my coffee and being assaulted by the noise from the Arcade shoot ’em up games.

But to brighten my day were lots of little kids, at least one of whom is now convinced he met Santa Claus on the ferry!

Written by Stephen Rees

December 21, 2007 at 7:38 pm

Posted in Transportation

Container port in Mission?

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This item is from Ron Coreau. He originally submitted it as a comment to “Free Ride” but I think it deserves its own space. Thanks Ron!

I thought I would pass this along because I think this news article is symbolic of planning in the Lower Mainland and really points to the need for a mechanism that supports regional planning. The Fraser Ports plan was discovered by a community group trying to monitor the Genstar plan to build a community for 40,000 people in the Silverdale region of Mission.


New information causes concern
By Carol Aun – Mission City Record – December 20, 2007

Council would not have forwarded an application to remove property in Silverdale from the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) last month if it had the information it has now.
Councillors debated removing the properties located at 30302 and 30313 Cooper Ave. from the ALR at the Nov. 19 meeting, and voted 4-3 to forward the application to the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC), reasoning that the land floods every year during the spring freshet, and some say can’t be farmed.
“At the time, council was not made aware the federal authority might purchase the land and put a container port there, if it was out of the ALR,” said Councillor Jenny Stevens. “If we had that information, it would’ve affected our conversation.”
At the last council meeting Monday night, councillors received information from the Neighbourhood Plan Advisory Committee that Fraser Ports has made an offer on the property, subject to it being removed from the ALR.
Establishing a container port here would decrease truck traffic in Metro Vancouver, but would increase truck traffic in Mission.
“All the truck traffic would be on this side of the river,” said Stevens.
Since a procedure bylaw prevents council from reconsidering the motion for six months, council will send a letter to the ALC outlining its concern.
Council is also asking staff to prepare a report detailing the implications of municipal land purchased by a federal authority.
Stevens says she’s concerned municipal laws will be overruled, and she also requested a meeting with MP Randy Kamp to discuss the issue.
The Silverdale Neighbourhood Plan Advisory Committee discussed removing the subject land from the ALR at its last meeting Nov. 29, and opposed to the move.
According to the minutes of the meeting, having a container port in Silverdale would be “devastating for this project commercially, and for the land.”
The southwest urban reserve area residential development is under a lot of scrutiny, and the scrutiny should apply to the entire area as well in order to plan an “excellent community,” states the report.

Written by Stephen Rees

December 21, 2007 at 3:46 pm

Posted in port expansion

Tagged with , , ,

Free Ride?

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Translink P3355 Braid Stn New Westminster 2007 1220

If you produce a free paper to give away to transit riders, it is probably a good idea to have a big front page splash of a story that has “a member of the premier’s influential climate-action team ‘advocating for free public transit'”

Problem is that it is not much of a story. Naomi Devine is a student at UVic – and thinks that UPass should be available to everybody. There is no analysis of this idea, just Maurine Karagianis “having concerns”.

I think it would be worthwhile to look at how much Translink depends on fares – just look at their recent proposals to hike fares next year and every other year thereafter. And how short of cash for more transit they claim to be – despite sitting on a pile of it. And, of course, Kevin’s plan to deny any fuel tax increase that is not matched by fare increases and property tax increases.

That means if you give up fares you need to replace them with some other source of revenue. And while the feds and the province also are sitting on budget surpluses that does not mean they are even willing to consider a steady commitment to pay for transit operating costs.

But also we need to look at what else you could do to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Certainly getting more people to use transit is probably going to be a better solution than many others – as APTA has found. But free fares don’t get many people out of cars. Better transit service, on the other hand, does. And if you took the view that we should get a big cash infusion for transit from senior governments, I think that at long last providing adequate transit service across the region would get you more new riders than eliminating fares – which would also cut your ability to run better services.

Hopefully this is the sort of analysis that will be done by, or for, the “climate action team”.

Written by Stephen Rees

December 20, 2007 at 4:09 pm

Posted in transit

Tagged with ,