Stephen Rees's blog

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

Archive for February 14th, 2008

Sustainability Dialogue: The Role of the Region – Economy & Transportation

with 6 comments

Hollyburn Country Club, West Vancouver February 14, 2008

The meeting was facilitated by Rafe Mair whose opening remarks included the following thoughts:Rafe Mair

  • what will be the impact of Gateway on region?
  • who really benefits from port expansion?
  • are we using public funds wisely?

He also raised the issue of its impact on land use and noted that the Environmental Assessment Act “kicks in after the decision has been made”. He said that he does not see how it can be made to balance with a sustainable region. And he also condemned the “total lack of public consultation”.

Each member of the panel had five minutes for opening remarks

Professor Anthony Perl was unabashed about promoting his new book.


He noted that oil prices are now sending a clearAnthony Perl signal about transportation. Since the dialogue process had started they had risen 63% and yesterday were at $93.33 per barrel. He noted that we now need to be concerned about oil depletion. Conventional oil (the “Beverley Hillbillies stuff”) has peaked: unconventional oil (tar sands and shale) would need to triple output by 2050 to replace the decline of conventional oil. He thought that we cannot expect growth in oil production beyond 2012. This will produce a doubling or tripling of energy prices. It also made sense to replace oil for transportation as we have much more pressing needs, for example pharmaceuticals. He thought will see both rationing and wars but also a greater use of electricity for transport, and more use of rail and water. In contrast to the current vogue for privatization he thought that the networks will need to be socially managed. In short “when you find yourself in a hole, the first thing to do is stop digging.”

Cheeying Ho started by talking about the Gateway too. It is a nationally significant project but it should not just be about goods. This region will also be a source of international services, the place where the flow of ideas and innovations starts and the flows of capital to make them happen. The Gateway of services, ideas and capital needs to be fostered, goes much beyond the number TEUs. We need to look at indicators like the percentage of the population with post graduate degrees . A Gateway must have adequate and affordable infrastructure, but that is not just roads and bridges: it includes things like universities and an industrial and agricultural land base.

cheeying2.jpgShe then went on to deal with affordable housing. The demand for affordability has lead people to seek housing where it is cheaper and that is at the edge of the built up area. We also continue to segregate uses rather than build the compact, complete communities the LRSP calls for. Transportation is now second only to shelter costs in the household budget. With better choices available to them they could spend less on transportation if they don’t need to own two or three cars per household.

To achieve this we need stronger regional planning and governance. It has been recently calculated that the efficiency gains in cars in recent years has been exceeded three times by the increases in distances travelled. The only way is to have stronger land use management. “LiveSmartBC” will need to include tax empowerment for municipalities to create more vibrant communities.

Larry Frank said that evidence is not used in decision making here. We seem to keep research separate from action. ForLarry Frank example, his research shows the clear link between obesity and car ownership which is a clear predictor of health outcomes. We also know that the air quality impacts will be the complete opposite of what is being predicted. We know that greenhouse gas emissions are tied to development, yet the EA of Highway 1 ignores development. We also now that only 40% of the ghg reduction we need will come from technology. It won’t solve the problem. We seem to have become adept at externalizing problems: the EA process treats all the big issues as externalities and does not include them in its Cost Benefit analysis. We need to do the opposite of what we are currently doing. For a start we need distance based insurance for cars, and transportation efficient land use. It is plain that we need to do things now, not some remote future. There is, he thought, the potential to link congestion pricing for roads to affordable housing: the revenue from time of day road pricing could pay for affordable housing near stations. He also thought that the Canada Line should be the centre of a “before and after” study to determine what effect it has on travel pattern

Anne Murray spoke about the role of the airport as an economic engine which she said has direct economic benefits for theAnne Murray region (although she did not attempt to quantify them). She noted that changes in the economy to services and information still requires face to face meetings which means more travel. In recent years there has been renewed growth of air travel and the airport has invested in the Canada Line. The airport is an important employer but we must also recognize the important social benefits of air travel, including keeping families in touch. Aviation worldwide account for only 3% of ghg emissions and within BC between 1 or 2%. The airlines have been very focused on fuel efficiency as it is a large part of the cost cost operations. The airport has seen “double digit growth” in bus passengers since the opening of the 98 Bline and expects a higher transit mode share when the Canada Line opens. The airport uses forecast scenarios that enable them to deal with uncertainty. They don’t plan for a specific date, but rather for when demand rises. They need a robust plan as an economic generator and provider of 26,000 jobs to maximize the benefits for the region.

Allen Domaas said he was interested in the complexity of the discussion, and the amount of change that is occurring here.Allen Domaas He pointed out that our prices of housing are not at “world levels” yet, which he feels means we will still be a favoured destination for people to move here. While some of our communities are changing there is a lot of resistance in general – for example in New Westminster the overriding concern is traffic congestion from being the centre of the region. “We need to commit ourselves to going forward” to make the most of opportunities for the future. “We need to empower a group with a common vision to make the links work”. He liked the idea of pulling residential developments into compact nodes and thought our industry could also be concentrated into similar compact nodes. The Port is aware of its responsibilities to the environment and has a truck licensing system which rewards cleaner exhausts. they are also tackling emissions from ships and have on of the first hybrid switching locomotives (the “Green Goat”). With 50,000 jobs the Port represent a significant piece of the economy as as primary industry (fishing , logging etc) jobs are declining will become more so. In terms of “keeping the economy whole” a $48,000 pa average wage is also significant and keeps wealth in the region. the major concern for the port’s future is its land base.


Eric Williamson a North Shore tour bus operator said that he runs his buses on waste vegetable oil they collect from restaurants. He noted that most people cannot change quickly enough, but they will if given the right incentives. For example he encourages his customers to get to the North Shore on SeaBus by an incentive on price levied: $150 at your hotel or $50 at the SeaBus terminal.

Anne Murray noted that YVR has a clean vehicle license for taxis that is lower

Allen Domaas thought that road pricing should be viable – a “toll for entire road system” – and that high gas prices will also have an effect

Larry Frank noted a role for location efficient mortgages

John Fair of the VACC noted that there had been very little emphasis on cycling. We need to recognize that the buses over crowded and we need more cycling infrastructure.

Larry Frank cited recent expansion of the cycling network as a good example and the way that other European cities have very much higher percentages of people cycling. We have integrated cycling into transit but we need a regional bike plan. Chee Ying did not like the idea that the region fund cycling: she said it should remain a city responsibility. She pointed out that cycling had doubled in Vancouver as a result of a program of quite simple ideas – often just a painted line.

John Fair responded that other municipalities have lagged, and often do not have matching funds to qualify for senior government schemes.

Jane Thornthwaite, a school trustee said that she was concerned about our food: we need to protect the ALR to ensure future sustainability. there is a disconnect in where and how we buy our food with the price of locally produced food exceeding imports from far way places.

Chee Ying responded that we can protect the if we build more densely on the land we have. there is capacity to absorb another million people without further loss of agricultural land.

Allen Domaas like the idea of eating within a 100km radius but wondered how we can do that if locals and municipalities object to to greenhouses. Is the ALR for food or green space?

John Huszar from the North Vancouver Chamber of Commerce suggested that the North &South Fraser Perimeter Roads be designated exclusive commercial routes “off the bat”.

While Allen Domaas supports that, Anthony Perl said that the “dirty little secret” of the Gateway is that we will have to disappoint someone as freight logistics and real estate development can’t both happen. Rafe Mair noted that development has always followed highways.

Judy Williams raised the issue of the expansion of the tank farm at the airport. 500m litres of jet fuel is delivered now by in barges and a barge off load on Sea Island is in the YVR plans.

Anne Murray replied that the jet fuel used to come from several Burnaby refineries but not only Chevron is operating. The pipeline is old and at capacity, but currently barges bringing jet fuel here off load in Burnaby and use the same pipe. Alan Domaas said this would need to be considered as part of the larger dialogue about land for port uses.

David Hawking from Bowen Island asked if we need to go for road pricing? Would we follow the example of London? How should it be done?


Larry Frank said the he was concerned about privatisation: no company would do anything other than maximise its own returns. We need a broad policy and we should look at what happened in Atlanta, where both road and rail were built but development followed the road. We should also include peak pricing and deal with equity issues, as present schemes seem designed just to price poor people off the highways. Anthony Pearl said that the record so far was that road pricing does not get people voted out: on the contrary, politicians who introduced it were re-elected. Some “lobbyists and bagmen” have skewed politicians view into fear.

Anne Murray favoured the use of technology to that would allow airport users to have an advantage over commuters. “We pay for transit, so why should we not pay for roads?”

Barbara Pettit asked has there been research on cost of road transport’s externalities such as the provision of parking etc? And if that were taken into account wouldn’t free transit be justified?

Larry Frank said that in BC externalities are not accounted for and thus the CBAs that are useless

Anthony Pearl said that there is an extensive literature on environmental cost of roads but the problem is what is counted. For instance some have suggested that being stuck in traffic should be counted as a benefit not a cost as it provides rest and recovery time. It always depends on how you count things.

John Huszar from the North Vancouver Chamber of Commerce asked if the development industry would not be a replacement for the loss of primary industry. We should look at the economic benefits of absorbing population as building infrastructure was big business.

Anthony Pearl responded that it is important to build right infrastructure. Canadian cities in the 1970s didn’t make the wrong decisions [that US cities made]. We don’t want to be the last place to build a freeway.

Larry Frank pointed out that land use will organise around transportation which is why we must be careful about the kinds of transportation investments we make.

Chee Ying noted that we have a low supply of housing. We need to increase the supply and do it right to make it affordable.

Anne Murray thought that the jobs of the future will be services for export , consulting etc, and the “hotbed of up and coming technologies”.

Allen Domaas said we must build infrastructure to accommodate growth. But what do we want to pay for? He cited Riverport, the development of cinemas and other recreational facilities literally miles from other development. He pointed out that free transit would get paid for by property tax. One issue is that current federal funding is only only for capital projects not running costs.

Dominique Berbeeke from the District of North Vancouver asked why privatisation was seen as the answer for infrastructure provision.

Anthony Pearl called it “blame avoidance”: when the private Highway 407 in Ontario raised its tolls the government could point to the company as the responsible party.

Larry Frank said it was because governments do not have the money to build, so the go the private sector to get the capital [to avoid the need to increase either public sector debt or taxes]

Anne Murray said we need a pricing mechanism to get better utilization of what we have: for example a toll on the Arthur Laing bridge that allowed free access to the airport but charged commuters had been discussed with the City of Richmond. YVR owns the Arthur Laing.

Chee Ying said she supports innovative financial mechanisms to support smart growth. For example, HOT lane can be used to help pay for transit. [A HOT lane is free to high occupancy vehicles like buses and van pools but SOVs pay a toll]

Graeme Noble from BEST said these were all “top down ideas, what we need are bottom up actions.”

Anne Murray agreed that every organisation has to look at their options such as the green commuter financial incentives used at YVR which resulted in more car pooling

Allen Domaas thought we are more concerned about our neighbourhood than the broader region. “We need to see ourselves as a regional community.”

Larry Frank noted that the tax base changing and compared us to Minneapolis. [My notes are inadequate at this point and I cannot recall what this was about]

Another question from the floor suggested that we encourage people to take actions that would cost little – e.g. 24hr operations of for trucks.

Allen Domaas agreed that we can spread our use but we to isolate the freight hubs to reduce the impact of noise on residential neighbourhoods.

Larry Frank said some truckers want to expand the hours of operation but their customers don’t and Alan Domaas agreed saying that the port alone is not big enough. Anne Murray said the airport is a 24/7 operation now but they have to balance operations against the impact on the community of aircraft noise.

Lisa Turpin of Lions Bay said that over 200 residents there work from home. She suggested that there needs to be more incentives for a shorter work week in return for longer working days.

Anthony Pearl “the incentive is the oil price”

Larry Frank said that the province should provide start up funds for TDM associations. Anne Murray said the airport needs unsocial hours transit to help its shift workers.

A councillor from the District of North Vancouver said the Sea to Sky is now like Highway #1 in the way it has atracted development. We needed rapid transit but there was massive resistance from the local population, whom did not want to see the necessary development. How do you persuade people?

Anthony Pearl said he had considered moving to North Van but after the evening peak the SeaBus frequency goes to once every 30 minutes. We must expand what is working.

Larry Frank suggested that visualisation would help: create a design that is palatable by using techniques such as those used by Patrick Condon: after all this creates value in land and these people are the land owners.

Allen Domaas noted a generational difference: young people are making different choices to their parents, but they are not voting.

Chee Ying said that a recent West Vancouver forum on change attended by 175 people supported density because they want more choice both for older people to stay in their communities and to allow young people the chance to own a home.

Trish Panz from the Western Residents Association pointed out that the Sea to Sky highway P3 over the 25 year life of the project will cost 300% more than a conventional project. “There is a toll but it is hidden” She wanted to know how to engage province in discussion of these issues.

Larry Frank said that the Ministries of Health and Environment had to become involved since they bore the brunt of the costs, but so far they have not interfered with the Ministry of Transportation.[That is called Cabinet Responsibility]

Ken Bassett of the District of North Vancouver asked if there were studies of communities that have reduced road space

Anthony Pearl said there weren’t, at which point I intervened. Copenhagen has reduced space devoted to cars by 2% a year for many years – and this will no doubt be covered when Jan Gehl comes to the Gateway Theatre at the end of the month. Professor Pearl said smartly, that was parking not roads – and we should pay people to park and charge them to drive. If nothing else this reduced my respect for his academic prowess since it is obvious to me that every motorised vehicle trip has to start and end in a parking spot. I have long been involved in developing parking strategies to manage traffic – as has every transportation engineer of my acquaintance. I think too that replacing parking on street with wider sidewalks, treed boulevards and bike lanes also helps, but I know that here people think parked cars protect pedestrians from traffic. Larry Frank also noted that some places replace general traffic lanes with HOV lanes. [In general here HOV lanes have been a way to expand highways].

When the meeting wound up I found myself surrounded. This was probably due to my use of my alloted slot for a question to go over our recent press releases and the lack of response from the press. Hopefully this will stay in the broadcast when it happens. The whole thing was also caught on videotape which should be on the Metro Vancouver web site in due course.

Written by Stephen Rees

February 14, 2008 at 9:08 pm

Correction: Eagleridge Bluffs

with 5 comments

I have learned that I jumped to a false conclusion about the reasons for the choice of a cut rather than a tunnel. I have been told by impeccable sources that the owners of British Properties actually wanted a tunnel. Indeed they were willing to pay for a tunnel and to bring over an expert from Europe to see it done properly. They were not, as I supposed, so much concerned about access as the quality of the surrounding area. They would have preferred their property to have a view over the unspoiled bluffs rather than an open cut. They were apparently shown the door when they attempted to discuss this issue with Kevin Falcon. West Vancouver Municipality also offered to give MoT the municipal lands needed  for the entrance of the tunnel to reduce the cost even further.

Which leaves open the question of why a more expensive, slower and more dangerous route through a cut was chosen over an environmentally preferable, cheaper and faster tunnel.

I will now go back through the archives and remove this slur on a responsible land owner.

Written by Stephen Rees

February 14, 2008 at 4:03 pm

Posted in Transportation

Protesters arrested at Bear Mountain

leave a comment »

Three still in jail from morning raid

from Zoe Blunt

Here is the bad news: Everyone in the tree sit camp was arrested today. Three people, including two tree sitters, are being held with charges pending. They may be released tomorrow. Everyone else was released without charge. The massive attack by police had as many as 70 RCMP officers, dozens of them with assault rifles drawn and pointed at the campers, surrounding the camp before dawn.

The area is sealed off by police tape and RCMP patrols. Heavy equipment was moved in and the destruction has begun. From Leigh Road, we could see trees falling to a feller buncher – a giant tree cutting machine.

We also saw welding equipment being moved in behind police lines. It’s possible that one of the first acts of destruction today was welding shut the entrance of the Langford Lake Cave.

Here is the good news: It is not over yet. This act has outraged the community and people will not give up resisting this hideous development. We have arranged for top-notch legal representation for our defendants: Luke Woodyard, Ingmar Lee, and Noah Ross. They are heroes.

Come to the meeting tonight at Camas, 6 pm,2590 Quadra St at Kings. Thank you!

See also the news report in the Times Colonist

Written by Stephen Rees

February 14, 2008 at 8:47 am

Posted in Transportation