Stephen Rees's blog

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

Archive for March 19th, 2008

Ford tries out European sized taxi in New York

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There are three stories I found on this vehicle, but the one in Wired is the most informative. They both have the same theme – that America is going to need smaller more fuel efficient taxis. I imagine one of the reason that Ford can lay claim to the largest maker of North American taxis is that it is now the last maker of “full size” cars – the Crown Victoria favoured by police forces and cab drivers. But of course here we have been seeing much smaller, more fuel efficient vehicles used as taxis for some time. I think the most common now are either the Prius or other Toyoya models for those who could not wait for a Prius to be delivered (though the wait now is down to under three months).

But this being one of the Big Three they still do not seem able to move very fast. This is a vehicle that has been on the road in the UK for five years but it was shown as a “concept” that might be released next year some time.

It uses a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder engine linked to an automatic transmission, and Ford claims that it has 90 per cent lower tailpipe emissions than the average American taxi.

So it is not exactly leading edge technology then, is it. No wonder more agile players in the auto industry are now eating Ford’s lunch. Or does the New York Taxi and Limousine Commission have a “buy domestic” requirement?

Written by Stephen Rees

March 19, 2008 at 9:44 pm

Posted in taxi

CN Rail to spend $450M in Western Canada

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Although I saw this first in the Sun it is pretty much a rework of one of three similar announcements yesterday by CN – the others being aimed at Eastern Canada and the US.

So it is probably wrong to read too much into this development. But there is no mention of Vancouver – just Prince Rupert and its new container terminal a day’s sailing closer to China than us. Now that could just be that spending here is being kept quiet until the BC Rail case is finally disposed of, one way or another, since that was all about the Deltaport spur which is still in provincial hands. But I have also heard suggestions that CN intermodal trucks containers to its Thornton yard, and of course the port has been suggesting barging containers up the Fraser to new rail linked terminals which might allow CN and CP to sell off some very attractive waterfront real estate. This is all pure speculation on my part of course.

And an excuse to use another of my train pictures. This line to the Fraser Wharves terminal is slated for removal, as CN is going to build a shorter, no road crossings, bit of track along the south arm. There being no customers left along Vulcan Way and Shell Road.

CN 7309 Shell Road Richmond BC 2008_0316

And this link kills spam

Written by Stephen Rees

March 19, 2008 at 9:10 am

TransLink eyes real estate riches

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Vancouver Sun

This is a new power that previous transit providers here did not have. In fact, neither GVTA nor BC Transit were very much involved in the rail rapid transit projects. There was always a special agency created by the province, and their interest stopped at the “dripline of the station house”. About all the transit provider had the resources to do was put in a bus loop. And the bus loops of this region are some of the dreariest places on earth, as anyone who has missed the bus at Phibbs Exchange or Ladner can testify. Deliberately set apart from other development to limit the impact of those nasty noisy buses on sensitive ears, they are as far from desirable urban places as I can imagine.

The other thing that I think I have mentioned before was the completely misleading knowledge that the head of security brought back from a visit to Paris, where his fellow cops convinced him that allowing shops and cafés in the metro had just given the pickpockets an easier life. Which SkyTrain management took on board without any kind of critical analysis and is why there were so few facilties in the Expo line stations. Or any transit facility come to that.

I would hope that they get some good real estate people in who understand placemaking – which may not be the same thing as maximum revenue generation. Transit Oriented Development does need to happen, but it will not be like the MTR in Hong Kong. No-one is going to allow a high rise office building on the top of 29th Avenue Station. The BCTel “boot” was dropped down next to the anticipated Boundary Road station which never happened. The MTR had to acquire land in order to build its system. Ours is already in place – and as the piece points out, opportunities missed. About the only good example I can think of is Broadway and Commercial. And what is there now on the north side of Broadway is supposed to be just the start


Buying land now is not going to be cheap – and some developers are beginning to see opportunties. There was one developer who tried to do the right thing at Gateway Station in Surrey – but it has taken a long time for that area to take off commercially, for a wide variety of reasons. And more office towers were planned at Metrotown, but Burnaby decided to allow office parks, which killed that idea.

So it is fine for the new improved Translink to exercise its new powers, but talk to the local municipalities first and ensure they understand what is needed to support TOD. It is not something that a developer can do against the tide. And it will need partners with deep pockets and a very long term view of returns on capital employed. This is by no means a quick fix for an $18m revenue shortfall!

And there is also a thoughtful opinion piece by Pete McMartin which quotes both the conversation yesterday with the Sun editorial board and Jane Jacobs.

Written by Stephen Rees

March 19, 2008 at 8:03 am

Posted in land use, transit, Urban Planning

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