Stephen Rees's blog

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

Archive for April 11th, 2008

When Cheap Housing Isn’t: How Transportation Changes the Equation

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Wall Street Journal Blog

Ballooning gasoline prices aren’t just changing how people drive—they may soon change where people live. With gas stuck above $3.00 a gallon, those cheaper houses in the suburbs can be a money-losing proposition in the end.

That’s one of the takeaways from the Housing and Transportation Affordability Index, a new web tool created by the Chicago-based Center for Neighborhood Technology together with The Brookings Institution. The map tool shows how much housing costs in neighborhoods in 52 U.S. metropolitan areas—and how much the total bill comes to when transportation costs are included.

This is one of those really obvious ideas that makes you wonder what took them so long. But then there is nothing like that here either – although the complaints from the typical driver from Langley about “having no other choice” have been going on for years.

So which one of our institutions would like to step up to the plate and produce a similar tool for us?

Written by Stephen Rees

April 11, 2008 at 7:52 pm

TransLink approves $150 million fleet expansion

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Translink Press Release

You are part of the solution

Photo by Jason Vanderhill

Good. No carping. No “too little, too late”. Just well done. The CBC had a very brief bit on its web site as there has been no evening news yet. (What is the matter with this place? It’s not like the Canucks are even in the play offs)

And this is expansion, not replacements

• 20 zero-emission, articulated electric trolleys, scheduled to be delivered by mid-2009 and to be used on Vancouver’s busy Fraser Street;

• 11 articulated diesel-electric buses to be used as spares in order to ensure service reliability, with delivery scheduled for December 2009. Articulated buses are 60 feet in length compared to the standard 40-foot vehicles used;

• 72 standard, 40-foot diesel-electric hybrids, which burn 20 per cent cleaner than the new ‘clean diesel’ or compressed natural gas buses. They will be delivered by May 2010 and will improve service in the South of Fraser area, provide additional capacity for Vancity U-Pass ridership, support increased SeaBus frequency and improve service in the metropolitan core; and

• 14 new SkyTrain cars for the Expo Line. These cars will be in service by February 2010.

New Trolleybus on Arbutus

Written by Stephen Rees

April 11, 2008 at 6:02 pm

Posted in transit

Tagged with ,

Airport passengers will pay extra SkyTrain fee

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I really do not think this is news. The idea of a premium fare to the airport was always there, as far as I recall. The only reason I posted this was to lambaste the CBC for their choice of headline and image. The discussion that follows this item on the CBC site is incredibly confused. And I think a lot of that has to do with the confusion in people’s minds – and the headline and image they chose (see right) really doesn’t help.

To be clear, the Canada Line trains (see below) are not SkyTrain. They are built by Rotem in Korea and use conventional electric motors not Linear Induction Motors. The cars are also wider and longer, and the two systems are not compatible. The elevated structures are similar as they use the same set of parts.

Canada Line Train

And also, just for the record, people who use the Canada Line between the terminal and other stations on the airport – for example the long term parking lots – will not pay a fare.

Written by Stephen Rees

April 11, 2008 at 12:45 pm

Posted in transit, Transportation

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SFU tuition-free education for seniors may be in jeopardy

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This is a purely personal and self interested appeal. I am 59 and I attend as many free SFU public lectures as I can manage. I have a very limited income, but I can manage that too. But I was utterly appalled to read

For more than 30 years, Simon Fraser University has been offering tuition-free full-credit courses to anyone over the age of 60.

The program — which attracts about 60 students per year — has been a source of pride for the school, and has been growing each year. Despite its popularity, however, the full-credit seniors’ program is in jeopardy.

SFU financial vice-president Pat Hibbitts told The Vancouver Sun that SFU’s board of governors is considering a proposal to cut the program to help make up for an unexpected $6.3-million shortfall for the 2008-09 fiscal year.

My late mother was the founder and Secretary of the Worker’s Education Association branch in Loughton, Essex. Literally up until her last breath at the age of 84 she was actively promoting adult education, and given the demography of where she lived ,that was mostly directed to people over 60. There is no argument that education never ceases – and keeping the brain active is the best strategy for holding on to your marbles. Despite many peer reviewed studies that demonstrate the value of educating old people her last twenty years were a continual battle with the authorities to keep her program going – and not for lack of customers!

I have a Bachelors and a Masters degree, and do not actually need academic credits for anything. My mother actually accumulated more than enough credits for more than one degree – but never wanted one. “I only read for pleasure” she said, in typical understatement. Her interests included English Literature, Archaeology, Classics, History – especially Economic and Social History, Anthropology and she “dabbled” in a wide range of other fields too – setting up new courses every year to meet demand and usually went to the classes – just because she could.

I have no idea at all what can be done about this situation, but one thing I think I can bet is that the BC Liberal Government in Victoria will not give a stuff about this – unless they are forced to. It is typical short term, compartmentalised thinking. The benefits of education go far beyond getting people into employment, but so far as I can recall that is about the only thing I have heard from this government. Quality of life means nothing to them since it does not appear anywhere on anyone’s balance sheet. And it has been apparent for years that shifting emphasis away from road building and car orientation would have major health benefits as more people walk and cycle. Exactly the same argument applies to adult education – it will reduce the escalating costs of caring for an ageing population . But that does not get reckoned into the “need” to cut university funding , in a province which has been running large surpluses for years and has no need to cut spending, other than a political preference for a dogma that regards all public spending other than law enforcement and prisons as “wasteful”.

Written by Stephen Rees

April 11, 2008 at 8:22 am

Posted in personal thoughts

Tagged with

Dire Warnings

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There are two op ed pieces in this morning’s Sun about the same issue from different angles.

Harvey Enchin looks at the impact of the Bush mandate for ethanol

Ethanol processing now consumes a third of the U.S. corn crop.To meet the Bush targets over the next decade, analysts assert, the entire crop will have to be converted into ethanol.

Rising food costs have already resulted in riots in Haiti the world’s poorest country

Babara Yaffe continues with her concern for the environment and for peak oil – which for reasons which baffle me some sub editor decided to put in quotation marks

The end of cheap oil is confronting society just as it’s grappling with climate change which will make adaptation more daunting. After all, if climate change weren’t a problem, we could turn to coal — not an option when greenhouse-gas cuts have been mandated by an international protocol.

And so, “the age of the 3,000-mile Caesar salad is coming to an end,” declares New York author James Kunstler in The End of Suburbia, Oil Depletion and the Collapse of the American Dream, a documentary film produced in 2004 and being shown tonight in Vancouver.

Transport is fuelled 95 per cent by oil. And it’s not just California lettuce that may not be viable. The North American way of life is on the chopping block. The film really strikes a chord when you contemplate that when it was produced gasoline sold for 89.9 cents/litre. The price has gone up nearly 30 per cent.

Kunstler observes that “America took all its postwar wealth and invested in a living arrangement that has no future.” Canada did the same. Per capita, we consume energy at more than twice the European rate despite similar lifestyles.

What is really encouraging for me reading a Sun columnist is her conclusion

our petroleum-fuelled existence with distant suburban neighbourhoods reached by multi-laned freeways with overpasses and arterials is going to change.

So on the same page we have an understanding that we are in deep trouble and ethanol (or, come to that, any alternative transportation fuel) is not going to be the solution. How long before the Sun’s editorial column finally decides it is time to lambaste (which seems to be my word the day) Gateway as the wrong way for this region’s future?

Written by Stephen Rees

April 11, 2008 at 7:58 am

Posted in Transportation