Stephen Rees's blog

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

Archive for March 28th, 2008

A moment of transformation

with 9 comments

I am going to ask you to sit and watch 20 minutes of video. I have just done that. I am amazed. Electric cars have always been “just around the corner”. But it now appears that things are going to change – because of a man who understands “the social contract” between car drivers and automakers. He has worked out what it would take to wean Israel off oil – and says that he can do the same for the US – for the cost of one year of imported crude.

Now what am I, a transit advocate, doing promoting electric cars? I do not believe that it will ever be possible to convert most of the trips in this region to transit trips. I think we can do much better than 11% – which is where we have been stuck for the last ten years – but in order to do that we would need the sort of transformation that Shai Agassi talks about for cars. We do not have anyone trying to do that here. I would love to think that we could have, but I am not going to wait for that moment. IF we can have electric cars and clean power generation, then we will have to deal with the traffic congestion. We cannot wait for the gas prices and taxes to rise enough to do that for us. For as we have seen, it has had very little effect up to now – at least in BC. And as long as transit is in the cold dead hands of the bureaucrats appointed by Victoria, do not expect things to change much.

So I am prepared to see lots of electric cars – and remarkably quickly – because this one man has 1) made it unnecessary to buy the battery and 2) I get a free car if I sign up for a long term contract – just like a cell phone. We will still need a lot more transit. We will still have a congestion problem. But air quality and ghg emissions will have been removed from the equation. That will present the transit system with an even bigger challenge. How can you be better than a zero emission vehicle that is as good as my (EV) car? And I think we can do that. Just the way we could do it now, if we were doing the right things.

(And thank you Erika for sending me this link)

It will at least buy us some time, as adapting the suburbs and the transit system to fit together better will take longer than Mr Agassi says it will take to perform the switch from IC to EV.

Written by Stephen Rees

March 28, 2008 at 6:25 pm

The Translink process

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The link takes you to a video clip from today’s noon news. There was a public meeting this morning on the property tax increase – did anybody lnow about that? – that was poorly attended, but those who did get there were not happy. And then the Chair of the SoCoBriTCA Board says ” we have options” but won’t say what they are. And this afternoon’s meeting is in private.

It is not the amount that is the issue. It is the open contempt for public oversight. It seems to me we have become a third rate banana republic.

This (below) is from Saturday’s Vancouver Sun

Lower Mainland homeowners were saved most but not all of the pain of TransLink’s 2008 property tax levy.

Residential property owners will face an increase of only $5 per $500,000 of assessed value.

And they will not foot the bill this year to replace the $18-million parking-site tax.

The TransLink board Friday decided — for this year only — to collect only $9 million and to collect it from businesses, not residential property owners.

To nit pick a bit – the change applies to Metro Vancouver (formerly – and still legally known as the GVRD)  “The Lower Mainland” is a much bigger area (though not precisely defined by legislation)  and that is not (yet) subject to the whims of the unelected SoCoBriTCA Board.

Written by Stephen Rees

March 28, 2008 at 12:42 pm

Posted in politics, transit

Extreme makeover Granville Mall

with 10 comments

Vancouver Sun

The list of Vancouver’s $50m of road projects includes $11m for the Mall. What I would have liked to see accompany the story would be pictures. I suppose the print edition might have them but the site in general is pretty mean when it comes to images – except for ads of course.

Translink 2709 on Granville 2002_0614

The Granville Mall “before” construction started (June 2002)

The city will also spend $5 million on a greenway along Carrall St. connecting the seawall in False Creek, Chinatown, Gastown and the Downtown Eastside. Work on the wider sidewalks and treed landscapes between Keefer and Pender has already been completed, with the next phase to cut through the Downtown Eastside along Carrall between Pender and Water Street.

The work on Cambie will include the addition of treed boulevards in the Cambie Village area centred around 16th Ave. and bike lanes south of 29th Ave. to Kent Ave., then on to a private lane suspended under the SkyTrain guideway all the way to Richmond. There will be no net loss of green space to the Cambie corridor due to SkyTrain construction once the work is completed, city staff said at a press conference Thursday.

Which is all as it should be. But there is no mention of how much the left turn bays at 49th and Knight will cost. It is the most dangerous intersection in the City and ICBC are going to help pay for it. But why do we need to widen the road to accommodate “bays”? Why not a simple advanced green for left turners in each cycle? Might it be something to do with the fact that would have the effect of reducing throughput, i.e. slowing the traffic a bit compared to widening? And what about all the left turns that can be done midblock even at peak periods – and the very high speeds seen as people race from light to light, weaving across all three lanes?

Written by Stephen Rees

March 28, 2008 at 9:57 am

Posted in Traffic

Tagged with

Bike, transit use rising along with gas prices

with 2 comments

Vancouver Sun

This is a repeated national survey by Angus Reid. What I think is really interesting is the way that BC differs from the rest of the country.

But, possibly because of the rain, fewer of us in B.C. are willing to park the car and walk more.

This seems to me to be supposition on the part of Gordon Hamilton. There are a number of more plausible explanations but it seems that either Angus Reid did not probe further, or the Sun could not be bothered to publish more information.

Where we live determines how we get about. Downtown Vancouver is not like the rest of the City let alone the rest of the region or the province. That means most people live in places where walking is not encouraged. There are no direct walks and no destinations within easy reach. There are no sidewalks in most suburbs. Bike facilities are often sparse and poorly designed . And transit sucks. Sure ridership has increased, but mode share hasn’t. Most people still do not see transit as a viable alternative.

But the survey also reveals that British Columbians are more likely to do nothing about the bigger bite gas is taking out of their income than most Canadians, an interesting twist to the results that [Angus Reid director of global studies Mario]  Canseco said reflects our obsession with personal choices.

“That was surprising — more than a third of B.C. residents don’t want to do anything or don’t feel that they should,” he said.

Now since he is talking about his poll, I suppose that reflects the way the question was asked. But in the suburbs of Vancouver and out in the Valley, the transit mode share drops off like a stone, mainly due to the paucity of service. And the complete absence of service between suburbs – and most trips these days are suburb to suburb. Which is a market that the transit system ignored for a long time and is only now getting to grips with.

I would like to see the same survey conducted in the main conurbations – Montreal, Toronto and here. And more pointed questions asked about perceptions of the options available. I have a sneaking suspicion that we are not keeping up. I have never been to Price George so I have no idea what they feel about their transit system. But I bet the market share there is pretty low.

Written by Stephen Rees

March 28, 2008 at 9:41 am