Stephen Rees's blog

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

Getting on the transit bandwagon by going carbon-neutral

with 3 comments

It is not often that I find something to cite from the Parksville Qualicum Beach News but today Tom Fletcher has these observations about travel here. {this turned up in other papers later}

a single-engine float plane is a more environmentally friendly way to get from Fantasy Island to Lotusland than a car, ferry, helicopter, commercial jet or twin-engine plane. Flying low not only gives a better view, it saves fuel. (Watching for orcas instead of exit signs: priceless.)

Which is nice to know. But my most recent trips to and from UVic were as much about baggage hauling as people moving. And in winter, float planes stop flying very early in the afternoon.

I am sure he is right about but there have been warnings that not all schemes are equal – or even honest.

Then he gets on SkyTrain – at Burrard Station

The thieves and drug dealers around the station look just as ghastly.

OK I will admit I do not often get a SkyTrain – but I have used that station and I am quite suprised at his characterisation of the people who hang around there. There might be the occasional bin diver looking for bottles – but this station seems to have a fairly frequent attendance by the transit cops. And I am not at all sure I can determine someone’s preferred modus operandi just by looking at them. I have never been offered drugs – anywhere. But the panhandlers seem to think I have a sign on my forehead that reads “Here’s a gullible mug”.

Back in Victoria, I drove out to the UVic campus to hear Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon defend the RapidBus option for Metro Victoria, seen as second-best by those with rail-envy.

Articulated buses with dedicated lanes will actually be faster than surface rail, and the level stations create a “rapid-transit feel,” he said. It also conditions people to transit, and allows urban density to build up to support rail.

Let’s not get into the argument about rapid bus vs rail. Let us deal instead with this “density build up” idea. It is twaddle. It does not happen. If you move into an area, and there is good transit easily available, you will probably use it if it goes where you want to go. If you live south of the Fraser where the entire transit system – apart from a short length of SkyTrain (and even that is not as good as it was) is lousy the probability of a convenient ride is very low. And a few rapid bus routes do not change that – especially if the high floor design means they cannot be taken off the special freeway lanes to get close to where people want to be. You just get the need to transfer to the existing bus system.

It is not “rail envy” that drives Rail for the Valley. It is frustration. The tracks are there. They belong to us – the people of BC. And they are not being used for much of their length except for an odd way freight. Passenger service could be started easily and cheaply very quickly by a determined government. Waiting for the new freeway lanes and the special one off buses to be built adds delay that is not necessary. Developers will start to build denser projects within walking distance of stations. The rail stations can appear in a year. The valley will have to wait until 2013 or later before anything happens with RapidBus.

The transit announcement was greenwash.

The Rapid Bus is just another way to justify a bigger freeway. In exactly the same way that the Gateway argument was used, it is also bogus.

If we do transit properly we do not need to widen the freeway or twin the bridge.

Written by Stephen Rees

January 29, 2008 at 12:14 pm

3 Responses

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  1. “And a few rapid bus routes do not change that – especially if the high floor design means they cannot be taken off the special freeway lanes to get close to where people want to be. You just get the need to transfer to the existing bus system.”

    Years ago we in the Fraser Valley used to have the Pacific Coach Line service, subsidized by BC Transit, with buses running to Mission, to Langley, to Abbotsford and Chilliwack. The only real problem in my mind was that one did not get a transfer to the local bus system. Express buses cannot go by people’s homes, or within walking distance of them, any more than fixed rail transit can. It’s stupid to try. Over the years, transit planners wanted to make the 160/190 buses go near the apartments and homes north of the Coquitlam mall. They added several minutes to the trip to downtown for no practical purpose whatsoever. ntrvw rl trnst sr f y wnt t knw wht’s ndd.

    Budd Campbell

    January 29, 2008 at 1:12 pm

  2. A single engine float plane efficient? Airships maybe but, whatever, it’s academic.

    I agree wholly with your comments. The interurban rail line option is such low-hanging political fruit that not grasping it would suggest the automotive industry lobby is running the province.

    The fact is, with rising energy costs it is not a matter of if but when rail lines all across North America are restored (or built from scratch). It is a lot cheaper to do now.


    January 29, 2008 at 4:36 pm

  3. Thought there was a thread on dissatisfaction with the Rpaid Bus for Victoria versus LRT. Anyways – came across this while poking around the BC Legislative Library website:

    September 1996 BC Transit LRT Implementation Strategy Report for Victoria LRT:

    Click to access vic_ssr647.pdf

    Ron C

    January 31, 2008 at 10:03 pm

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