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

Archive for February 2008

The global cooling fallacy

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The oft-cited ice age scare of the 1970s can’t be compared to the great volume of research that supports today’s understanding of climate change
Andrew Weaver, Ottawa Citizen
Published: Monday, February 18, 2008

Like many of you, I have heard it said that in the 1970s, scientists were saying the world was heading into a new ice age. This has always bothered me because in my 20 years as an active climate researcher, I have never come across a peer-reviewed scientific study that has actually made this claim. Fortunately, today we have the searchable database ISI Web of Science, containing information from more than 6,000 scientific journals, so getting to the bottom of this is an easy task.

It turns out that there is not a single peer-reviewed original scientific study that argued this to be the case.

This caught my eye today, because of something I read yesterday and decided to ignore. It was a vicious personal attack on David Suzuki published on the opinion page of the Vancouver Sun. It followed the unpleasant norm of “if you can’t win the argument, attack the man” pattern. And it repeated the canard that Andrew Weaver demolishes today in the Ottawa paper from the same stable.

While there was only one peer reviewed paper that raised the possibility of a new Ice Age (which was quickly debunked) it did catch on with the popular press. And was repeated, but without the balance of the caveat “it’s utter nonsense”.

In 1975 Wally Broecker, an eminent scholar from the Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory, wrote an important article in the journal Science, noting that: “… the natural climatic cooling which, since 1940, has more than compensated for the carbon dioxide effect, will soon bottom out. Once this happens, the exponential rise in the atmospheric carbon dioxide content will tend to become a significant factor and by early in the next century will have driven the mean planetary temperature beyond the limits experienced during the last 1,000 years.”

Broecker was right.

Andrew Weaver is a Canada research chair in climate modelling and analysis at the University of Victoria. He was a lead author on the IPCC 2nd, 3rd and 4th scientific assessments. He is chief editor of the Journal of Climate and his book Keeping our Cool: Canada in a Warming World, will be published by Penguin Canada later this year.

Now can someone explain to me why this article is not in the Sun?

Written by Stephen Rees

February 20, 2008 at 12:37 pm

It’s a lack of “joined up thinking”

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One of the images that often comes up in discussions of policy changes is the problem of turning a supertanker around once it is underway. The carbon tax is a bit like that.

The “joined up thinking” phrase was coined by the New Labour spin doctors working for Tony Blair – and all too often that administration showed it couldn’t do it either.

The BC Liberals are supposed to be heading off in a new direction. It is, they claim, no longer “business as usual”, but it takes a while for the message to get from the bridge to the engine room. BC has had a car rental tax for a while. The idea is that it is a lot easier to hit visitors than locals – and more visitors rent cars than locals do. Like hotel room taxes, they tend to be popular with voters – who generally don’ t have to pay them. People who rent cars tend to be business travellers on expenses – so they don’t really care how much they pay, it is just a cost of doing business, which is either recovered from customers, or written off against other taxes. (And if you doubt that, just look at what the big car rental companies charge for weekday rentals at airports compared to the weekend offers aimed at the leisure markets.)

The car rental tax was dreamt up before car co-ops appeared on the scene. Now this serves a very different market to the car rental companies. The idea is if you live somewhere where you do not need to own a car for everyday travel, you might join a group that allowed you to use a vehicle when transit or a bike is not going to meet your needs. A trip to IKEA, for example. In fact some downtown condos were allowed to cut back on the number of parking spaces they had to build (which reduced their costs of development) in return for buying car coop memberships for the new residents. People who do not own cars, but belong to car co-ops use cars much less. And use transit, walking and cycling much more than the car owning majority. So car co-ops are good for reducing ghg emissions.

But that idea has yet to penetrate the deeper recesses of the Ministry of Finance. The spinmeisters saw the value of not trying to collect back taxes, but could not seem to get their heads around the need to exempt car co-ops from future passenger vehicle rental tax — a fee of $1.50 every time a member takes a car. It is not like we are talking huge amounts in terms of lost government revenues. Its just the “optics” as usual.

I expect they will let it sit a while, and then take the opportunity for another announcement, when they need to be seen to be doing the right thing. For now, there’s enough green glow from the budget.

Written by Stephen Rees

February 20, 2008 at 11:35 am

Road building mega project

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The Vancouver Sun print edition has the following statistics from a “departmental newsletter” on the Gateway

MoT employees on Gateway 150

Number of person years of construction employment 17,000

Value of construction over the next six to seven years $2.0 billion

New lane construction 280 km

Major new high level long span bridges 2

Tonnes of asphalt pavement 1.0 million

Tonnes of granular fill 6.0 million

Missing from the table

Millions of tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions released from construction activities

Expected volume of induced traffic by 2021

Increase in vehicle kilometres travelled over alternate transit scenario

Increase in greenhouse gas and common air contaminants due to additional traffic on the freeway (expressed in terms of SE2 equivalents – how many power stations in Sumas would have had to be built to produce the same impact on the Fraser Valley)

Acres of land lost to highway oriented development by 2021

Anticipated private sector gain from P3 program over conventional public sector financing

Number of SkyTrain cars that could be bought for $2bn:   460

Number of buses that could be bought for $2bn:   4,000

Written by Stephen Rees

February 20, 2008 at 10:01 am

Posted in Gateway

B.C. budget hikes fuel costs with new carbon tax

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CBC

Budget details now appearing (the post above appeared at 4:18 local)

carbon-based fuels — including gasoline, diesel, natural gas, propane, coal and home heating fuel — will be taxed at $10/tonne of greenhouse gases generated, starting July 1, 2008.

and then will rise by $5/tonne a year for the next four years

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At the pump that means 2.4c per litre, which will hardly make much difference as it bounces around by more than that every week. (One forecast has gas prices going up 10/l in the next two weeks!) It is said to be “revenue neutral”. While the tax reductions in personal income tax and corporate taxes do not kick in until 2009, in June the government will issue a $100 rebate to every adult and child in the province to offset the cost of the carbon tax.

The province [will] teach the rest of the country what it means to tackle global warming.

By widening a freeway! She is still spinning the line that it will reduce idling – which is untrue and was debunked two months ago by Environment Canada and Health Canada – never mind what the environmentalists have been saying for much longer.

You can also see the official version

UPDATE Wednesday February 20

From today’s Vancouver Sun

The $370 million announced [for increased transit spending] Tuesday represents less than eight per cent of that total. [The Province says it will spend $4.75bn out of $14bn needed for its transit plan. This includes the $2bn being spent now on the Canada Line]

It is also dwarfed by the nearly $1.9 billion the province is planning to spend over the next three years on new roads, bridges and other transportation infrastructure.

The Gateway Program alone, which includes plans to twin the Port Mann bridge, is scheduled to receive $438 million in funding over the next three years.

Taylor said the share of transportation funding that goes to transit versus roads will rise in coming years.

“That number will grow as the plans get developed, as consultations with municipalities get concluded and we can do actual construction,” she said.

Taylor also said that the Gateway Program will help promote the province’s transit plans – by allowing bus service across the Port Mann – as well as reducing idling by cars stuck in traffic.

“If you get traffic moving, that would help in terms of the usage of fuel and the carbon emissions,” said Taylor.

That is a very big “if”. The “traffic moving” effect will be at best short lived, and will be overcome by the increase in induced traffic and the effects of changes in future land development patterns. The responses to the EA produced by Environment Canada and Health Canada cite a number of sources which show the fallacy of Taylor’s assertion. I also think the data produced an on a regular basis by the Texas Transportation Institute (all from US experience, of course) is salutory.

And, of course, as we keep saying , you could do a bus service across the Port Mann now. Easy.

Written by Stephen Rees

February 19, 2008 at 4:51 pm

Who’s Been Densified, Who Hasn’t

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The Tyee

Eric Villagomez has been looking at the map of dwelling units per acre based on recent census data.

Probably worth clicking on the image to see it full size.

No real suprise – downtown densified, so did Kits and the east side. But the bits where the rich live – and where the NPA draws much of its money from – remain single family, ground oriented. (I doubt the servants’ quarters get counted as separate households.)

Think “ecoDensity” ® will make a difference?

Written by Stephen Rees

February 18, 2008 at 1:49 pm

Posted in Urban Planning

Tagged with

Congestion charge celebrates fifth anniversary with record numbers on public transport

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Wimbeldon Guardian

Today is the fifth anniversary of the London Congestion Charge.

According to Transport for London the level of traffic within the zone is down 21 per cent since the introduction of the charge and the level of congestion is down eight per cent.

In addition public transport use has boomed since 2003, with record numbers of more than one billion passengers a year are using the tube, a 45 per cent increase in the use of buses and 43 per cent increase in cycling within the zone.

Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, said: “The congestion charge and the biggest investment programme since the second world war has enabled London to become the first major city in the world to achieve a shift away from the private car to public transport.

“The charge is also reducing pollution and I am building on this by altering the charge to penalise the big vehicles which contribute most to climate change and exempting the cleanest cars.

“Nationally and internationally cities are following London’s example and considering introducing a similar charge.

“The congestion charge has made London a world leader in doing something about traffic congestion and pollution rather than just talking about it.

“Before the charge was introduced around 334,000 vehicles entered the original charging zone each day.

Some 70,000 fewer vehicles now enter the same area on a daily basis and London’s buses carried 1.9 billion passengers in 2006/07, an increase of 45 per cent from 1999/2000.

London’s Transport Commissioner, Peter Hendy, said: “Without the Congestion Charge, London would have ground to a halt. It has also helped transform London’s bus network into one of the best in the world.

“Congestion Charging paved the way for further groundbreaking initiatives in London’s transport and environment programme. Earlier this month, the whole of Greater London was designated a clean air Low Emission Zone, the largest of its type anywhere in the world.”

Written by Stephen Rees

February 17, 2008 at 3:29 pm

Posted in Transportation

“Squeezed in” subway ad angers passengers

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Reuters “Oddly Enough”

The “wet dog smell” one will come along a bit later

The only thing wrong with the way Reuters reproted this was the picture – which is very obviously not a Beijing subway train

This is

Written by Stephen Rees

February 16, 2008 at 10:05 am

Posted in Transportation

How to reduce road space

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Yesterday I wrote

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

and really I do not think he got a very good answer. He may not have heard my unrecorded comments (since I did not have a microphone) that said Copenhagen where city government, along with Jan Gehl‘s Centre for Public Space research, is constantly measuring and analyzing street usage”.

In fact there have been all kinds of experience in reducing road space allocated to vehicles in a concerted attempt to regain some of the qualities that places had before we all thought we needed a ton or more of steel and an internal combustion engine to go anaywhere. Obviously, cities which have their roots before the twentieth century have a skeleton which still more or less represents a walkable city. And in many places, we are now rediscovering how to make cities walkable again.

In my experience the first time I heard about this sort of thing was when English towns started to follow the experience of Norwich and create “pedestrian precincts” to try and make traditional town centres competitive with the growth of edge of town retailers. The North American Shopping Mall – an enclosed space surrounded by parking, providing climate controlled traffic free shopping – has pretty much taken over the role of the traditional urban retail street. Not entirely, of course, and in some places the two do co-exist. But they do demonstrate that there is a skill and expertise in planning multi-activity spaces which many cities had neglected or left to voluntary bodies.

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In Grenoble, France, the major shopping street was used as the route for their light rail system, and closed to all other motorised traffic. Of course when it was first mooted, the merchants were bitterly opposed, but that changed very quickly as takings rose as customers showed they appreciated a traffic free environment. In many cases, there was no net loss of road space as city councillors were persuaded to open up new, diversionary routes, often by traffic engineers convinced that vehicles had to be accommodated. But events conspired against them, as it was frequently demonstrated that when a road was lost to a network due to unforeseen circumstances – a bridge collapse perhaps, or a security alert – that congestion did not get worse, in fact it often improved as vehicle traffic declined. There are so many examples that MVA published a “study of studies” for Transport for London which listed the closures then known. (Cairns, Sally, Carmen Hass-Klau and Phil Goodwin, 1998, Traffic Impact of Highway Capacity Reductions: Assessment of the Evidence, Landor Publishing: London. See also Phil Goodwin’s inaugural lecture .)

This gives rise to my often repeated mantra “traffic expands and contracts to fill the space available”. European cities which had experimented with metro and pre-metro soon stopped since the street space freed up by the removal of streetcars filled up with car traffic. This led to more constructive thinking, and many cities adopted the strategy of deterring through traffic from their centres. Cars were allowed in, but had to return the way they came. Trams, bikes and pedestrians could still cross the city centre but not cars or trucks, which had to go round the long way. This actually is the reason the London’s congestion charge works. A few people short cutting across the central area contributed far more to the congestion than those needing to be in the centre, so the charge simply encourages them to take the (free) ring roads. Which are actually quicker.

London has also started to remove traffic from a few key streets. One of the first was one between King St and Henrietta St in Covent Garden which is now a performance space based on the portico of a church and a couple of pubs in what used to be the Flower Market where Liza Dolittle sold posies. Another very succesful project was the removal of traffic on one side of Trafalgar Square in front of the National Gallery.

At the same time much road space in London has been paved red and designated for buses only: and the buses have cameras in the their noses to ensure that miscreants get traffic fines.

More determined efforts of road space reallocation have been increasingly adopted all over the world. This has gone hand in hand with such ideas as Car Free cities – our own small start of a car free Commercial Drive once a year is very small beer indeed in this league.

The main thing to notice about all this is the way that thinking changes when you substitute the word “people” for “vehicles”. And in cities it is not the speed or even the distance travelled that should be measured but the time that individuals occupy the space. Cars want to zip through the city and get somewhere else. People want to spend time in the city for all kinds of reasons – all of them superior to the driver’s need for speed. By catering to cars we have lost urbanity. And by listening to pressure groups that represent car drivers, Vancouver has lost some of the progress it had made. And actually traffic calming is built in to our suburbs right now. Arterials may barrel through, but lesser roads don’t. They are circuitous and dead end, to deter through traffic. And they operate at slow speeds since there are no curbs or sidewalks – which means when people do walk they walk at will, and as they are your neighbours you had better pay attention. So cars slow down, the kids are (fairly) safe and the neighbourhoods resist traffic engineers who want to “upgrade the street to urban standards.” The City of Vancouver achieved something very similar in the West End with a few well placed barriers and the odd one way street. Bikes and peds excepted, of course.

We tend to think in terms of moving capacity – and of course transit can move many more people than a lane of cars. Which is why the Cambie Street situation is so unnecessary. But central places are where cities show why they have persisted for so long. The problem has been that accommodating cars has got in the way of the face to face and chance encounters that make for commercial success, cultural exchange and serendipity.

We will have to retrofit our suburbs, as cars become steadily less affordable – and desirable. At present getting a straight route through a subdivision for pedestrians and cyclists meets with suspicion, and fear. Eventually the real security of eyes on the street will win out, I hope. We also have arterials that have been reduced from four lanes to two lanes, two bike lanes and one bi-directional turn lane. The traffic capacity is actually the same but the speed is much closer to the posted speed, and is therefore much safer. Before too long I am confident that we will see more roundabouts than traffic lights, more pedestrian crossings – many of them raised and between sidewalk bulges – and much wider sidewalks with room for cafes or fountains or chess tables. Urbanity.

And it all starts with getting in the way of the cars.

Written by Stephen Rees

February 15, 2008 at 2:42 pm

Posted in Traffic, Urban Planning

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

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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.

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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.

Q&A

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