Stephen Rees's blog

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

Archive for February 1st, 2008

Evergreen Line

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The announcement was made today – the page that link takes you to also has the business case and the route map. Essentially it is back to the original Millennium Line extension idea – a SkyTrain type system. While the North West route seems to be better

This spring, TransLink and the Ministry of Transportation will make a final decision on routing in order to keep on track for a targeted 2014 completion

More than one person I have spoken to has speculated on a route that serves the province’s redevelopment site at Riverview. It is curious that the province comes to a completely different conclusion to the study by Translink (some time ago now), which was one of the most professional and thorough I had seen done in my years in BC. I suspect that the conclusion was picked first and the argument developed to support it. That is, after all, the way it is usually done here.

And of course it has to be a P3.

Vaughan Palmer, as usual, gets it right.


Written by Stephen Rees

February 1, 2008 at 5:16 pm

Posted in transit

Comparisons are odious

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But I am going to do it anyway. Modern Railways arrived this morning – it is so nice to get the February edition in February. Anyway as usual it has all sorts of interesting stuff (none of it on line of course) but some tables in a talk given to the Railway Study Association by Jeremy Long, CEO of MTR Corp (Europe) caught my eye.

So I fired up my spreadsheet and added the Greater Vancouver data. Every so often on this blog there are comparisons between what we do here and what happens in London and Hong Kong. And as I do not have my own copy of Newman and Kenworthy, I thought this might be useful to give those discussions some sense of scale


As you will see, Mr Long has a figure for the number of “daily journeys within the city” which does not seem to feature in the GVRD key statistics. For mode share here I used the 1999 Travel Survey, but I doubt it is much different in terms of percentages. “Walk” means “walk all the way” not walk to access other modes. I had to use “vehicles” for private cars here, so it is a bit high, but so many trucks are used here for personal transportation that it is close enough for our purposes.

One other little gem is that with 49% of the 53m journeys, most of the fares in HK are paid by Octopus card – a smart card introduced in 1993 accepted by all the transit operators and 27,000 retail outlets in the city.

Written by Stephen Rees

February 1, 2008 at 2:50 pm

Posted in Transportation

Tagged with

On no you don’t

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Public should pay for big oil’s pollution solution, report says

OTTAWA – The Harper and Stelmach governments have quietly released a report that calls for a $2-billion investment from taxpayers to help the oil and gas industry bury its greenhouse gas pollution underground.

The report, conducted by a committee set up by the governments of Alberta and Canada, recommends the industry immediately get the public funding, along with clear regulations on how much they are required to reduce their emissions and special credits for setting up carbon capture and storage technology to eliminate greenhouse gas pollution from their facilities.

“Federal and provincial governments should allocate $2 billion in new public funding to leverage the billions of dollars of industry investment in the first CCS projects,” reads the report, Canada’s Fossil Energy Future: The Way Forward on Carbon Capture and Storage. “This funding should be distributed expeditiously through a competitive request for proposals process so that these phase-one projects are operational by 2015.”

There are times when I think I should read the news with a blood pressure cuff on. This one would have scored some kind of record. I expect this from the oil industry, and even the Conference Board of Canada. But I thought the whole argument about the need for less government interference with the private sector was that they were so much more efficient when left alone. That governments were incapable of making “good” decisions, and simply wasted hard earned tax payers’ money on hare brained schemes. The oil men of course have never seen a government subsidy they didn’t like and they get plenty of them, so you can take a lot of what is said about “free enterprise” as simply canting self interest.

But the nerve of this blows me away. Possibly because I saw this article this week in the Guardian, and gave it a pass because it is about a “British” company and the Canadian angle here is a bit thin. But, of course, Shell is in reality a multinational – and it is using its vast profits to play financial games like buying back its own shares (which improves the rate of return for those shares given as part of executive remuneration, and reduces the power of shareholders in corporate governance) and securing larger positions in the ownership of subsidiaries – like Shell Canada, which has a massive investment in the oil sands.

One thing injecting CO2 into the ground can do is actually increase oil production. It is used in conventional oil fields when the initial recovery rate starts to fall. Often a lot of oil has been left in old oil fields as there was not the technology then to get it out, and drilling a new well was cheaper than trying to boost production from an old well. Rising oil prices and better technologies have extended the life of many formerly marginal wells. So exactly why do they need a subsidy? Isn’t injecting CO2 just part of the cost of business – and thus written off against tax anyway?

And just in case you need to be reminded “Annual earnings of $27.6bn (£13.9bn)” – the “billion” in UK means million million not the thousand million used in North America. That is a huge amount of money.

And, of course, paying for the pollution always falls on you as either a taxpayer or a consumer. The reason that Shell and the other oil companies are making these kinds of profits is not because they are good business people making smart decisions and wise investments. They happen to be sitting on a resource which is in growing demand and whose costs – at least from existing sources – are not rising nearly as fast as prices. And that is as much to do with market manipulation by OPEC as any of the other reasons given by analysts. CO2 will be injected anyway, and you will pay for it. The question to be determined is how. You can chose not to buy petroleum products – that is easier to write than do but using transit or a bicycle is a start. But you cannot chose not to pay your taxes. That means you do have to voice your opinions and let your MP know that you are not willing to subsidise big oil.

I think there are many better things that government can do to reduce ghg emissions. I also happen to think there many more important demands for public spending than propping up already highly profitable industries: building better communities with affordable housing, better transit and a lower carbon footprint is just top of my mind but I am sure you can come up with others. MRI machines, for instance.

Written by Stephen Rees

February 1, 2008 at 10:44 am

He shoots, he scores!

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More own trumpet blowing. This morning I got the number #3 spot on the Morning Brew at Beyond Robson (thanks Shawn for the BOOSH) and my letter to the editor of the Strait got published – with another letter saying something along the same lines from Blair Petrie, a member of the East Vancouver Port Lands Working Group .

If you write a letter to Falcon himself, I doubt very much he actually reads it. I have noticed that the letters sent in reply seem to be boilerplate. I feel sorry for the civil servants who get lumbered with this chore. But I bet he reads his press clippings!

Written by Stephen Rees

February 1, 2008 at 9:16 am

Posted in shameless self promotion

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