Stephen Rees's blog

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

Archive for April 10th, 2008

High Speed Rail Canada Citizens Advocacy Group and Website Forms

with 21 comments

TORONTO, ONTARIO–(Marketwire – April 10, 2008) –

ATTENTION: News Editors

A new national citizens group and website have been formed to promote the implementation of high speed rail in Canada. The group includes people with a wide scope of knowledge on passenger rail travel in Canada. The organization will focus on the potential Calgary-Edmonton and Ontario-Quebec high speed rail routes.

Founder of High Speed Rail Canada, Paul Langan states, “Its time for Canada to join the rest of the modern world and utilize high speed rail as a major transportation mode in Canada. High speed rail is good for the environment.”

The website includes the Latest News, Forum, Guestbook and sign up for free E-zine on high speed rail.

The web site address is

Written by Stephen Rees

April 10, 2008 at 5:05 pm

Posted in Railway

Kerrisdale Station

with 9 comments

This is a departure into Gordon Price territory. There is an interesting development at 41st and East Boulevard I went to look at today. It has been there since 2000 so I am sure others know more about this than I do (I did determine it won a Georgy Award in 2001).

Kerrisdale Station

It is next to the former CP Arbutus line, which once was an interurban and has been looked at now and again as a potential LRT route. With of course massive resistance from residents who now enjoy what is still recognisably a streetcar village with good local transit – trolleybuses on 41st and Arbutus, and express buses to UBC, and a few blocks from the B Line on Granville.

The name is a bit sad I think. Like that one down at Steveston, the building simply marks where a station once was. But the building is an unusual mixed use development.

5790 East Boulevard

It is a four storey apartment building that faces on to East Boulevard. The apartments have a typically over arching name. Does anybody take these seriously?

The Laureates

And this is not “affordable” housing. This, after all, Kerrisdale. But the ground floor is, mostly, a London Drugs store. The frontage of the store is on to West 42nd Street which is not part of the original retail frontages which are on West Boulevard and 41st. One sore point for me is that London Drugs is one of those retailers who does not think that window displays are important. That may be that they do not affect sales per square foot, but they do change the interest of the street. I have noticed in other mixed use developments where retail is on the ground with housing over, that it is not unusual for the stores to have windows that are left blank, with blinds down behind them.

There must have been considerable up zoning over whatever was there before. It is considerably denser than the development on the other side of 42nd, and includes retail and residential but allows both to function without getting in each others way. The store has underground parking (as do the residents in a separate gated area) offering two hours free off street in an area which has metered on street places. The parking garage has two elevators one into the store’s ground floor and and the other to all the floors of the apartment building.

London Drugs on W 42nd Ave
But what was a real surprise to me was that when I entered the apartment building, got off the elevator at the third floor and walked to the back there was a complete pedestrian street of town houses on top of the drugstore!

Townhouses on the Third Floor

The level of detail is good, although I was a bit surprised that there is a flight of stairs between the third floor and the “street”. A level access would have been much smarter I think – and at these prices (a 2 bedroom townhouse here is currently listed at $958,800) I would expect it. But that is perhaps a minor cavil. The fountain was a nice touch, if a bit primitive.

When you look around most of Vancouver’s streetcar villages, the retail is nearly always single storey. And obviously this was not a cheap development. More than one level of underground parking will see to that. Now if there had been LRT at the front door, could some of that parking have been relinquished? Especially if there were some co-op cars located there? London Drugs is of course both a downtown and suburban retailer, but does seem wiling to be a bit more adventurous in picking locations. In the centre of Richmond the store is at “Plaza level” (1 floor up) of Westminster at No 3 – next to mostly restaurants at that level. The BCAA and an optician got the largest ground floor spaces.

But what really strikes me is the lost opportunity. The tracks are still there, unused since the brewery at Burrard stopped taking grain by rail. There would be no need for special working relatiosnhips with frieght trains – the last one ran years ago. CP is still the owner, bit the City seems to think they can get the right of way for a greenway. Certainly CP is not happy at the loss of potential development revenues. And meanwhile the tracks rust. And the roads are busy.

Level Crossing

Written by Stephen Rees

April 10, 2008 at 3:42 pm

Posted in architecture, housing, Urban Planning

Tagged with

How canals are being recycled to transport London waste

with one comment

Contract Journal

It has been a while since I indulged myself with a story about Britain’s canals, but this one looked too good to ignore. A new system uses canal barges to shift construction waste, which, of course, means fewer tipper truck trips. (They call them “lorries”)

We do use our waterway for construction materials – cement and gravel are big business on the river. And so is hauling away crushed cars for scrap. I have long hoped for a shot of a Honda car carrier passing a scrap barge. And I am sad to say that lots of construction waste gets dumped as “fill” in Richmond, becuase it is usually on land which could have been upgraded for agriculture but is now beyond hope. As I heard Dave Barret say on the tv last night, when only 2% of your lands is arable, why wouldn’t you try to save it?

Written by Stephen Rees

April 10, 2008 at 8:50 am

It’s time to pay up

with 4 comments

Marc Jaccard

op ed in the Sun

A trenchant opinion piece that goes after the NDP – and Carl James in particular – over the carbon tax.

It is hard for an opposition politician to praise the government – especially when behind in the polls and an election os coming up. But Carol James

wrote in The Sun last week that the carbon tax is unfair and that she would exempt from the tax any person or industry complaining loudly enough, replacing the tax with ineffective subsidies. This saddens me. An honest politician would be telling British Columbians that a carbon tax is essential.

Perhaps it is expecting a bit much. The NDP has real problems with the environment, as it tends to get in the way of the special interests it tries to represent. For example, when we had a lumber industry, the NDP seemed more concerned to defend the jobs of unionised workers than the last stands of old growth rain forest. The Gateway – and the Port Mann Bridge – also has divided the NDP, since they need votes in places like North Surrey, where a lot of voters have accepted uncritically the idea that a wider freeway and a twinned bridge will help their commute. Or recognise that it is a short term fix, which can be repeated as needed indefinitely. After all, that is what we have always done before.

I have tried to talk to both the NDP and the Greens about the need to ally themselves in a common cause, but neither is interested. The Greens take the high ground – they are not running against a person or another party but for a new policy position. The NDP are less interested in policy but getting elected – though of course they do not say that in as many words – but do not see green policies as vote winners. The Labour Party in Britain was transformed in recent years, by the idea of “New Labour” which was to “take the middle ground”. Trouble was the middle ground turned out to have shifted a long way to the right, and some of Tony Blair’s actions seemed indistinguishable from Thatcherism.

We still seem to have accepted the idea that somehow the economy and the environment are a trade off. Voters do not understand – or wish to recognise – that the economy is a subsidiary of the environment. Or that “green” is about parks and wilderness not everyday life. And the NDP worries that if it shows too much leadership it will leave the voters behind them.

The inevitable outcome of this kind of process is that we do not change – or not nearly enough. And the inexorable and accelerating process of climate change is not going to forgive us for that.

Written by Stephen Rees

April 10, 2008 at 7:13 am