Stephen Rees's blog

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

Between Hope and Politics

with 3 comments

Richmond Art Gallery until February 28

a new body of work by senior BC photographer Jim Breukelman. Many large scale prints are shown from a vast photo essay documenting the construction of the aborted fast ferries built in British Columbia for the BC Ferry Corporation. The detail, sense of space and compositional integrity of these pictures evoke the formal abstraction of modern painting and architectural design. This epic visual meditation on a mega-project, with its attendant expectations, achievements, pitfalls and controversy, speaks to global concerns (alongside the work of artists like Edward Butynsky or Andreas Gursky) while retaining a poignantly local perspective.

The selection shown has none of the people involved, for most did not want to be photographed. They are very high quality images, and many of the parts of the vessels shown are extraordinarily beautiful. Shining new aluminium in extravagant shapes.

My involvement with this project was glancing at best. Some at BC Gas (as it then was) thought they should run on CNG or maybe LNG. But I could not find anyone at BC Ferries, or Catamarans International or whatever they called it, who would even talk about the project. It only became apparent afterwards why. Many people must have realised that there was no case made for this spending: no transportation study, no demand forecast, no CBA, no business case. Just a bright idea in the mind of Glen Clark and a bunch of professionals who could not stand up to him. Bullying being his, and his henchmen’s, favoured method of ensuring progress. Not arguments or analysis, threats.

Fast ferries and working ferry SeaBus

My picture of the fastcats as they are now

It would be nice to think that the disaster of the fast ferries taught us something. That sometimes it is worth listening to the expensive hired help and actually let them do some real work, instead of preferring the spin doctors and pr flacks. Curiously the same “we can do anything” mindset seems to be a permanent fixture in Victoria. Exactly the same contempt for rigorous analysis and an open process that allow it to be subject to criticism, infected the Millennium Line, the Canada Line and now seems to be going full steam on the Evergreen Line and the PMH1 projects. (Not to mention the convention centre which is even worse than the fast cats in cost overruns and no real need established).

I would not make a special trip to Richmond for this show – it is very small. But it is a useful reminder – and the word you need to bear in mind is “hubris”.

Written by Stephen Rees

February 4, 2008 at 4:29 pm

Posted in Economics, ferries, Transportation

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3 Responses

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  1. Stephen, did you see that Jan Gehl will be lecturing in Richmond?


    February 5, 2008 at 9:38 am

  2. Is that the meeting I saw on the poster at the library – I think it is on Feb 28th? I thought I was going to be in Victoria then but that has now chnged. I tried to check this on line with no success so far

    Stephen Rees

    February 5, 2008 at 10:31 am

  3. Yes, that’s the one. You can RSVP at 604 247 8320 or sgreening (at)


    February 5, 2008 at 12:57 pm

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