Stephen Rees's blog

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

Archive for April 9th, 2008

More from Toronto

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The wraps finally came off the renovation of Museum subway station at a grand opening today. Amidst the coming and going of subway trains and riders, a large group of press and luminaries, penned in by watchful officials, gathered. Mayor David Miller praised the project as “a shining example of what our public spaces can be.” While there has certainly been criticism of the project and its funding, it’s hard to not find the finished columns quite irresistible and fun.

The five different columns represent First Nations, Ancient Egypt, Mexico’s Toltec Culture, Chinese, and Ancient Greek styles.

Do not expect anything like this on the Canada Line

Written by Stephen Rees

April 9, 2008 at 4:07 pm

Posted in transit

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Hovercraft transit firm makes bid to revive Toronto-Rochester ferry

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Globe and Mail

This is one of those stories that has a familiar ring. I know I have heard of a similar idea before. And sure enough there at the bottom of the story is

In 2004, a privately owned venture using a catamaran made in Australia was shut down after less than three months, and the vessel was then sold for $32-million (U.S.) to the City of Rochester, which closed the service in early 2006 after losing $10-million in 10 months.

I do not know why they think a Hovercraft will do better than a catamaran. I have used the very craft they speak of when they were in use between Dover and Calais – and while it was fast it was not a fun experience. You were required to keep to your seat, just like in a plane. None of that wandering around you can do on ferries. You could see nothing out of the windows because of the wall of spray thrown up by the air cushion. Sure it was quicker than the ferry, but so what. It required just as much queueing, and you could not enjoy the ride.

It is also appalling that the City of Rochester got stuck for $32 m for a useless catamaran. The Washington Group picked up three for around two thirds of that.

Fast ferries and working ferry SeaBus

Two of three “fast cats” tied up in North Vancouver while another “slow cat” keeps on plugging away

I wonder what Rochester did with theirs?

Written by Stephen Rees

April 9, 2008 at 3:16 pm

Posted in Transportation

Canada needs to stay deregulation course for grain transportation, CN’s Ruest says

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Progressive Railroading

Every so often I see something I have been saying for some time picked up eslewhere. I am not arrogant enough to think my blog is that widely read, but rather some ideas are so obvious that they do not get restated enough. In this case it is CN Senior Vice President of Marketing Jean-Jacques Ruest shared Monday at the Canada Grain Council’s annual meeting in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Ruest believes grain capacity and efficiency would stand to gain from seven-day-a-week operations at Pacific gateway ports, full utilization of all ports, and a better balance between bulk vessel and container vessel shipments, and inland and waterfront container loading.

Gosh that sounds familiar. I am not going to check back through my port posts, but I do know I have been saying this for some time.

Grain cars with pigeons Vancouver BC 2006_1010

Written by Stephen Rees

April 9, 2008 at 2:56 pm

Posted in Transportation

IMF says US crisis is ‘largest financial shock since Great Depression’

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The Guardian

Initially I was just going to add that link to the list in a response of mine to a rather silly comment. But then it occurred to me that this story is a lot more important and should not be buried. Because as far as I can determine the Vancouver media seem to think this does not apply to us. The business press does, of course, FP G&M – and the Toronto Star carry it.

America’s mortgage crisis has spiralled into “the largest financial shock since the Great Depression” and there is now a one-in-four chance of a full-blown global recession over the next 12 months, the International Monetary Fund warned today.

The US is already sliding into what the IMF predicts will be a “mild recession” but there is mounting pessimism about the ability of the rest of the world to escape unscathed, the IMF said in its twice-yearly World Economic Outlook. Britain is particularly vulnerable, it warned, as it slashed its growth targets for both the US and the UK.

The report made it clear that there will be no early resolution to the global financial crisis.

“The financial shock that erupted in August 2007, as the US sub-prime mortgage market was derailed by the reversal of the housing boom, has spread quickly and unpredictably to inflict extensive damage on markets and institutions at the heart of the financial system,” it said.

Because our local housing market does seem to be immune. While “B.C. urban housing starts dropped to 29,800 last month, part of a nationwide cooling that saw residential construction slipping to 254,700 units from 255,600 in February. Still, that strong February helped Metro Vancouver’s home builders start 2008 with the strongest first quarter since 1990, preliminary figures from CMHC show.” (Sun) And house resale in Richmond at least seems to be blatting along at full bore with properties being snapped up quickly – and sometimes above asking price.

I have the impression that we are like Wiley Coyote: we have run right off the lip of the canyon, but we have not yet looked down, and the cartoon impetus is keeping us going.

empty spine cars New Westminster BC 20080219

Empty (blue) centre spine cars at New Westminster
Photo by Stephen Rees

We have already seen the demand slide for our softwood lumber, and many mills have closed, or are on short time. The rail yards are full of idle freight cars – the “centre spine” cars used for packaged lumber and other forest products the most obvious. Forecasts for government revenue have been trimmed – even though our oil and gas is still much in demand, and the price of metallurgical coal looks set to rise.

But thanks to NAFTA our economy is intimately liked to that of the US. More so I think than that of the UK – which seems to have wobbled a lot sooner than us, and their overheated property market has also been vulnerable for quite a while.

When it does hit, it is not going to be a minor inconvenience. We like the fact that our dollar is now at par with theirs, and we are not yet seeing a great deal of that getting passed through to consumer prices. But the US dollar is in decline against nearly every other currency – and even the Sun notices that – but in a tiny, humorous bit of filler

You know things are bad when Europeans feel sorry for American tourists. Take Harry’s Bar in Venice, a drinking hole once frequented by the likes of Ernest Hemingway, Truman Capote and Charlie Chaplin. It’s offering a 20-per-cent discount on food “in an effort to make the American victims of subprime loans happier,”

When the US dollar is no longer the world’s preferred trading currency and reserve denominator, this is not a trivial issue. And certainly not for a region that is being told to accept port, highway and airport expansions based on forecasts of a booming US market.

Written by Stephen Rees

April 9, 2008 at 8:25 am

Posted in Economics