Stephen Rees's blog

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

Archive for March 26th, 2008

Fraser water highway a worry

leave a comment »

Jeff Nagel, BC Local News

I have expressed my doubts about the Port of Vancouver’s idea to use the river to ship containers up to Hope and then transfer them to trains. My concerns were mainly to do with the economic feasibilyt of the idea – after all I cut my teeth on this kind of project back in Britain in the 1970s.

It tuns out that this may not be the great environmental boon that the Port thinks it is either. Yes, water transport burns less diesel per tonne kilometre, but that is not the whole picture by any means.

Sea Imp VIII

The Outdoor Research Council of B.C. (ORCBC) has rated the Fraser the number two endangered river in B.C., saying it faces new threats from port expansion plans in addition to a variety of other pressures.

And actually if you read the list, short sea shipping is not the first or biggest issue either. It is just another nail in the coffin of the world’s greatest salmon river.

Written by Stephen Rees

March 26, 2008 at 3:54 pm

Farewell to the IT

with 4 comments


I first saw IT on Bowen Island in July of 2002. IT was an electric car – built on Annacis Island. A Low Speed Vehicle with limited range, not suitable for the freeway of course, but it would easily meet the needs of many urban commuters. I did not know the back story – which you can get from the Surrey Leader.

And thanks largely to bureaucratic bumbling it has now been shipped off shore and will be built in Pakistan. At least it has not been killed entirely, but really what is the matter with us? In the US simple ill will from GM will explain most things in the automotive business – and I suppose that could be true here too.

But we have needed electric cars for a while now. And enthusiasts can build them in their driveways. But somehow …

oh I don’t know … I give up

Written by Stephen Rees

March 26, 2008 at 3:36 pm

Pinecone Burke and Upper Pitt Valley saved!

with 4 comments

from the Wilderness Committee

Subject: Pinecone Burke and Upper Pitt Valley saved!

Today at noon live on Global TV, Barry Penner, the Minister of the Environment, announced that he will not support a transmission line going through Pinecone Burke Provincial Park. This decision effectively kills the private power project in the Upper Pitt.

This is a huge victory for the parks system, for the Upper Pitt River Valley, and for public power in British Columbia. He listened to the voices of the people of BC and made the right decision.

This decision would not have been made without your actions. All of you who wrote letters, sent emails and attended the public hearings made this happen. We’ve stopped a project that everyone called a “done deal.”

In the future, we’re going to have more battles and more victories, and we’re so happy to know that all of you will be there with us. But that’s for the later. Today is a day for all of us to celebrate. Great work everyone, and thanks!

If you’re in Vancouver, we’ll be celebrating at the Black Frog starting at 4 pm this afternoon. Come on out and have some fun!

UPDATE from CBC BC News March 27 

Written by Stephen Rees

March 26, 2008 at 12:33 pm

Posted in energy, Environment

Let’s Pave Streets Green

with 14 comments

Nieuwbouw Sterrenburg III Dordrecht 1975 De Jong van Olphen Bax

The Tyee

[Editor’s note: This is the second of Steal This Idea!, an occasional series focusing on practical green solutions.]

Oh yes, I will happily steal this idea. It is basically the Dutch concept of woonerven (see illustration above) with an extra side of vegetables

So how much space is there, and what could we do with it? Google Maps shows my block is 850 feet long and a little quality time with a tape measure finds the distance between sidewalks is 41 feet, so in just one block we have 34,850 square feet to play with.

First, let’s make it a one-way street, one lane wide, with a couple of pullouts. This maintains access for emergency vehicles, taxis and mini-buses for wheelchairs. We could also throw four spots for visitors into each block. At one end we can put a half-court for basketball, street hockey, skateboarding or rollerblading so once again shouts of “Car!” will mean the players get a short break. For the rest of the block, I propose gardens. We have enough space left for 150 very nice garden plots, each about 3 by 4 metres, plus walkways.

But what I really like is that Ruben Anderson has done his homework

Land in urban centres is at such a premium that each street parking spot in front of my building is worth $25,000. Add to that the fact that each car actually has three to four parking spots scattered around the city, just waiting for it (otherwise you wouldn’t be able to find a spot at the end of your trip and would be forced to drive back home, spinning like a hamster in a wheel). The total subsidy to drivers is at least $100,000. If drivers had to mortgage their street parking, they would be paying $600 per month. And to think I can’t find bike racks.

In Tokyo you cannot own a car if you do not also own an offstreet parking space. What we need is to find a way to force the people who do have off street spaces to actually use them instead of parking at the side of the road. Because as a community we can no longer afford to provide people with “free” parking at public expense. And the way to start is to adopt the Copenhagen plan – an annual reduction in road and parking space across the region on the principle of “boiling a frog”. Do it in small increments every year and be relentless. It will take 40 years but it will be worth it.

And meanwhile at the back we might let you have a parallel parking spot in the lane if you convert your garage to a coach house

Written by Stephen Rees

March 26, 2008 at 12:31 pm

Posted in Urban Planning

Tagged with

Deadly virus of the roads

with one comment


This may not come as news to those who are more widely travelled than I am. And I do remember very clearly the sense that I had of being very unsafe indeed in various third world countries whenever I got into a road vehicle of any kind. But the scale of the problem – and the appalling casualty rate was a shock to me

The world’s most dangerous roads are in Africa. Britain has a fatality rate of one death per 10,000 vehicles; in Ethiopia and Uganda it tops 190. Traffic deaths are climbing most rapidly in Asia and Latin America, where rising prosperity fuels car sales and investment in roads.

It is not just the scale of the pandemic that should concern us. It is the indifference. And recall not so long ago when I commented on the world’s cheapest car and what that will do to Indian cities?

There is no better place to get a view of the traffic pandemic than Delhi.

This is a car crash capital, with more than 2,000 deaths a year. In the city, people compete for space with cars, trucks, auto-rickshaws, hand-pulled carts and buses. Meanwhile, out on the expressway, drivers of 4x4s and trucks can speed past barefoot women carrying firewood. Because the highway slices through communities, children put their lives at risk trying to cross the road.

And, like the author of the piece says, it is not as if sorting this out is rocket science. But

traffic death and injury is viewed as the inevitable collateral damage that comes with economic growth.

Aid donors are part of the problem. Most have yet to grasp the fact that an ethical transport policy has to be part of poverty reduction strategies.

Well I suppose that lets us out. After all Canada has pretty well backed away from being the aid donor it once was – and often “donations” turn out to be promises that are simply not delivered. Not that that makes us any different to all the other rich nations of the world. Billions – no – trillions for wars. No problem. Aid for the world’s poorest, no sorry, can’t afford that.

Written by Stephen Rees

March 26, 2008 at 12:03 pm

Posted in Road safety

Giant Antarctic ice shelf breaks into the sea

with 3 comments


The collapse of this ice shelf has been predicted for some time. The problem is that the collapse is happening much faster than had been predicted. Our experience of the impact of climate change is inadequate to build accurate predictive models. And of course the constant barrage of unscientific, self interested, “skepticism” has not helped. But do not expect any apologies from those quarters. Whatever we do now will be too late to save the Wilkins ice shelf and the consequent rise in sea level. And the loss of a huge reflective surface. Like many of the effects of climate change they have inbuilt accelerators.

I wonder how long our politicians can continue to waffle on about the economic impact of GHG reduction in the face of events like this.

Written by Stephen Rees

March 26, 2008 at 11:40 am