Stephen Rees's blog

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

Archive for March 13th, 2008


with 6 comments

A test to determine how observant you are

The annoying lack of a control mechanism to stop it playing automatically has meant I have removed the embedded code. But please do click on the link above

Written by Stephen Rees

March 13, 2008 at 3:57 pm

Posted in Road safety

Make Eastside a proving ground for innovative transportation ideas

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Bruce Agnew The Seattle Times

An arresting and challenging opinion piece from the director of Discovery Institute’s Cascadia Center for Regional Development. I do not know enough about the area to comment on the viability of any of these ideas, but the approach is refreshing. And the issues of the Eastside seem to me to be the same as those of the South of the Fraser.

I especially liked

Then, let’s improve the bus experience. On the Eastside, crucial suburb-to-suburb transit remains a challenge even after the 2006 Metro measure added new express bus routes. Microsoft’s private Connector buses with their reservation system, Wi-Fi and that magical morning-commute invention, the cupholder, are the gold standard. Other Eastside companies could copy this approach, utilizing grants from the state’s Trip Reduction Performance Program and, eventually, carbon-tax credits.

which seems to me to hit all the right notes. I do not know if any of this is likely to happen but it is nice to know that there are some people capable of thinking like this about suburban transportation. It doesn’t always have to be more freeways!

Written by Stephen Rees

March 13, 2008 at 2:25 pm

More coverage on the trial of Ken Dobell

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There is a lot in today’s Sun ahead of the sentencing hearing today.

Vaughan Palmer turns his attention to the Premier: “It’s the control-freak-in-chief who has some explaining to do”.

Jeff Lee and Jonathan Fowlie cover the trial such as it was, and the reaction in the leg. “Dobell says he did not consider himself a lobbyist” and that of course in his mind is all that matters.

Dobell also said the cost of his transgression was significant: despite a life spent carefully avoiding political problems, he became embroiled in a political controversy that reached into the legislature.

And his lawyer thinks he should get an absolute discharge.

Erm, no. I don’t think so. The cost so far has been trivial.

The best thing is that at long last some light is being cast into some rather murky corners. This government has behaved with a cavalier attitude and has got away with stuff far worse than that which brought down the NDP. Fast Ferries, a deck and a pocket knife pale into insignificance compared to BC Rail, the convention centre and the disaster that will be the fate of the Gateway. Not to mention the way the evaluation process was skewed to promote the Canada Line ahead of any sensible plan, and the destruction of the livelihoods of the Cambie Street merchants. Broken promises and back room deals are the least of it.

But maybe we should let the Great Man have a go at explaining himself

UPDATE Friday March 14 – Dobell given absolute discharge for ‘trivial breach’

NDP MLA Norm Macdonald… said the government should sever its ties with Dobell, who he said wields “tremendous influence.”

“What the special prosecutor talked about is the obvious confusion that is caused in the public’s mind when you have somebody with so much influence actually based in the premier’s office and at the same time lobbying him for the City of Vancouver. Any reasonable person would say that is not the way things should work.”

The special prosecutor was talking about “influence peddling” which is a crime – but Dobell was not prosecuted for that – just told to write an essay.

Written by Stephen Rees

March 13, 2008 at 10:09 am

Posted in politics

Tagged with

Port Mann Press Release

with 10 comments

Immediate Release
March 13, 2008

Ministry of Transportation


VICTORIA – Today the Province introduced Bill 14, the Transportation
Investment (Port Mann Twinning) Amendment Act, to provide for the
establishment of a commercial, self-sustaining crown corporation to
deliver the Port Mann/Highway 1 Project, Transportation Minister Kevin
Falcon announced.

“This is good news and a major step towards completing a key element of
B.C.’s $3-billion Gateway Program,” said Falcon. “This legislation is
an opportunity for all members of the house to demonstrate support for
this important project, a project that will greatly benefit the Lower

The bill provides for the establishment of the Transportation
Investment Corporation – a crown corporation that will enter into an
agreement with a private sector partner to design, construct, finance
and operate the project.

The legislation ensures maximum accountability and transparency by
ensuring oversight of the project by an independent board of directors
of up to seven people, appointed by the Minister of Transportation.

The project, which will be paid for by tolls, will reduce congestion,
manage traffic demand over time, and allow for buses to travel over the
Fraser River for the first time in over two decades.

The Port Mann/Highway 1 Project includes widening the highway,
construction of a new Port Mann Bridge, upgrading interchanges and
improving access and safety from McGill Street in Vancouver to 216th
Street in Langley, a distance of approximately 37 km. Construction is
expected to be complete in 2013.



Tamara Little
Communications Director
Ministry of Transportation
250 387-7787
250 889-1825

For more information on government services or to subscribe to the
Province’s news feeds using RSS, visit the Province’s website at

I printed the whole thing becuase I cannot at present link to a web site that has it.

This press release is simply a repetition of statements known to be false. It will not reduce congestion – except in the limited sense of minor relief for a short period of time. The impact of freeway widening always results in more traffic. In the long run congestion will be much worse. There is no example of any freeway widening that has had the effect of reducing congestion. While the bridge will be tolled the freeway won’t be. So do not expect any limitation on induced traffic through that. And the land use changes are already happening as the friends of Kevin Falcon have been cashing in fast on the development possibilities he has been actively promoting.

Buses could use the existing bridge now, and would be if Kevin Falcon had not intervened to stop them.

By any measure, the province has failed to provide adequate answers to questions raised by its “Environmental Assessment”. It has been disabused of the notion that anyone can accept the studies done as both Health Canada and Environment Canada have pointed out their shortcomings.

It is also completely contrary to the Livable Region Strategic Plan which is still the legally required growth strategy and also the Province’s own recently adopted greenhouse gas reduction strategy.

There is no “accountability and transparency” in the present process. So why would anyone expect this proposal to change that?

This project will not benefit  the Lower Mainland. Quite the contrary, it will lock it into car dependency for the foreseeable future and encourage more suburban sprawl. It will benefit a number of short sighted commercial activities, and some developers and speculators will make fortunes. The health of the people of this region will suffer. The long term sustainability of the region will have suffered a major, possibly irreversible, set back. The environment has once again been screwed. But the coffers of the BC Liberal Party and the re-elect Kevin campaign will no doubt overflow with the gratitude of the car dealers, real estate agents and road builders.


Written by Stephen Rees

March 13, 2008 at 9:52 am

We need biofuel standards

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The Avaaz web site has a campaign on at present that I encourage you to at least look at if not sign on to. is an independent, not-for-profit global campaigning organization that works to ensure that the views and values of the world’s people inform global decision-making. (Avaaz means “voice” in many languages.) Avaaz receives no money from governments or corporations, and is staffed by a global team based in London, Rio de Janeiro, New York, Paris, Washington DC, and Geneva.

Some biofuels are much better than others. Right now a “market based” approach – which means big subsidies for American farmers – is distorting priorities. The food supply and, contrary to expectations, the environment are carrying the cost. As usual “throwing money” at a problem does not produce an optimum solution.

Written by Stephen Rees

March 13, 2008 at 8:29 am

Congestion tax cuts traffic jams: May

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Yes we need road pricing. But of course we would not use the London model – we would have to develop something suitable for our region. Distance based vehicle insurance is also a good idea. The Province article shows how easy it is for people to get confused.

There will be a very big issue – privacy. A charge which varies by time of day and location tracks people.

I  advocate user pay for all transportation modes. That is the only way that we will start to see sensible decision making by everyone. Especially when the charging system internalises all those costs that society currently bears, and are treated as “externalities”. Those costs include air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, noise, collisions, destruction of the natural environment, and so on. Drivers like to point to the amount they pay in gas tax, and say that it is not equalled by what governments spend on building roads – as if those things ought to be the same. But very few road users are willing to acknowledge the costs their trip making imposes on the rest of society – and the cost of congestion is trifling compared to the total social cost of automobility.

Written by Stephen Rees

March 13, 2008 at 8:22 am