Stephen Rees's blog

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

Archive for January 16th, 2008

Why am I NOT surprised?

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No more media at Translink regular board meetings Jan, 16 2008 – 11:30 AM

VANCOUVER/CKNW(AM980) – The new chair of the Translink board of directors says media will not be allowed into regular board meetings. Dale Parker says the most effective process for developing strategic plans is without the public or media present. Parker also says it is standard practice for crown corporations to carry out board meetings in private. “It’s a matter of what can be the most effective process for developing strategic plans and then within it considering the major decisions that have to be made.” However, Parker does say the public will be invited to address the board roughly four times a year. Parker is a former president of the Workers Compensation Board.

Written by Stephen Rees

January 16, 2008 at 1:20 pm

Posted in Transportation

TransLink CEO to step down

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That’s a surprise. Although the Sun says

In the official press release, Pat Jacobsen did not give specific reasons for why she was leaving

the timing cannot be coincidental. Not only do we have on the same day the announcement of the new Chair (Dale Parker, who is also vice chair of the Vancouver police board) of the “professional board” but it comes only two days after the Premier announced what would be happening in transit here for the next 20 years.

I am going to refrain from any comment on her performance as CEO. And I will also say that I am not at all interested in applying for her old job. And I just hope she enjoys her time “after Translink” as much as I am.

UPDATE January 17 : After yesterday’s short piece there is a bit more today with reactions – mostly of surprise and regret

Written by Stephen Rees

January 16, 2008 at 11:59 am

Posted in Transportation

Today’s press on the Transit “plan”

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The Globe and Mail reports that Campbell did not ask the PM for any money for the plan. And Falcon admits that current federal programs are not big enough to encompass provincial ambitions – but says they will get on with the designs now and hope that some future federal government likes them enough to cough up some more

Les Lyne of the Times Colonist finds a sense of deja vu and looks up the old plans. This was pretty much announced by Mike Harcourt and Glen Clark as “People Moving People” (1995)

Just add three zeroes to all Harcourt’s cost estimates and you could read it pretty much as Campbell did on Monday.

The Canadian Press concentrates on the P3 angle – but all that it has in reality is a slagging match between the NDP and the Liberals. The opportunity to look at the somewhat chequered track record of P3s in Britain and Australia – where they have been in use for much longer – is missed. Which is a shame because it might have provided some balance to Falcon’s frothing.

I begin to see more parallels with all those spam emails I get than a real plan. It does show that Campbell has been stung by criticisms of the Gateway and its incompatibility with his greenhouse gas reduction strategy. But it also shows not stung enough to come up with any new ideas – or indeed to go back and rethink the objectives of Gateway. Clearly, if you look at Campbell’s rhetoric on Monday, the Gateway cannot be said to serve any of these objectives and doing both seems counter productive. If he was really serious about the environment, he would not be determined to widen the freeway, twin the Port Mann Bridge, and build the North and South Fraser Perimeter Roads. And do all of those first before turning his attention to transit expansion. Taken together, those projects will more than offset the claimed benefits of the transit announcements. But most importantly, there is very little here for the South of the Fraser – and that is where the next big spate of growth will occur. And there is not nearly enough to stop the sort of car oriented, low-density development that characterizes that area now and is likely to continue to dominate it in the future. But then the province has no locus in land use planning. But that does not stop it from ordering the municipalities to fall in line with the desires of the developers and raise their property taxes at the same time.

But by far the best is the very thoughtful piece produced by Vaughan Palmer for today’s Sun

What will the transit plan do to reduce emissions in 2020 — meaning to reduce them below the status quo that would prevail without the transit plan?

Answer: 650,000 tonnes, which is, er, 1.6 per cent of 40 million.

One can readily understand why the Liberals didn’t put that puny little number in the press release.

But it’s the key to gauging the impact of the transit plan on the climate change plan.

For it turns out that the transit plan will take the province less than two per cent of the way toward the government’s overall target for greenhouse gas reduction.

And that for the expenditure of $14 billion or about $20,000 per tonne of emissions saved.

I have been the subject of quite a nasty attack this week by another columnist on a different paper who I said needed to check his facts before forming his opinions. I do not know if he reads this blog any more, but if he does I commend Mr Palmer to him as a model that he would do well to emulate.

The same paper’s municipal affairs correspondent, Miro Cernetig, admits he drove to the announcement and paid $22 to park (!) And he gives some good reasons why he does not expect the transit “promises” (I cannot in good conscience use the word plan, even in inverted commas) to change driving habits much. I, of course, did not get invited. But as it happens I was all over the transit system on Monday – and I used my day pass (bargain at $9 – and for those people who bitch about a $10 three zone commute the day pass is an easy and flexible option) and got great value. Including the rides to and from downtown Vancouver at peak period. A single seat (i.e. no transfers as well as no standing) and almost on time performance both ways. I will not penalise Translink for the delay on Oak Street to my #488 since it was caused by some thoughtless cops, performing their duty in the morning peak hour and not having the sense to get the vehicles (theirs and the one they stopped) out of the bloody way!

And there is also a very good op ed piece in the same paper by Mark Jaccard

At our research institute, after years of surveys on vehicle owner attitudes in comparison to transit, we no longer call it a car. We use its acronym, PMSE&SICD — Personal Mobility, Status Enhancing and Sexual Insecurity Compensatory Device. Why should society try to stop someone from sitting immobile in traffic in their zero-emission vehicle, chatting on the phone, with on-board espresso machine and back massage driver’s seat, as long as they don’t block those of us who rarely use a car but are therefore willing to pay a toll to keep moving?

Written by Stephen Rees

January 16, 2008 at 11:02 am