Stephen Rees's blog

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

Archive for April 14th, 2008

New Bike Lane in the Right Place

with 14 comments

Inside Bike Lane - Vancouver BC

Photo by Rob Baxter

New bike lane in Vancouver on Carrall near Keefer and Guzhou Alley (Chinatown) showing the correct location for a change – inside the line of parked cars but also separated from the sidewalk. As prescribed by Jan Gehl. There’s a picture of the usual, wrong, type on flckr and a link from there to a useful video

Written by Stephen Rees

April 14, 2008 at 3:23 pm

Posted in bicycles

Tagged with

SPEC to Premier: Come Clean on Gateway

with 2 comments

Gateway Message

Photo by Rob Baxter

Activists use “reverse graffiti” etched in grime on freeway overpasses, transit hubs and pedestrian walks to pressure for change in priorities

April 14, 2008

Vancouver- Morning commuters were asked to call upon Premier Gordon Campbell to finally come clean on the Gateway Program and make transit expansion a priority over freeway expansion through the use of a guerrilla marketting technique called “reverse graffiti”.

“Gordon Campbell must come clean on Gateway and admit that it is a glaring inconsistency in our climate change era,” said David Fields. ” The end of cheap oil and an American recession further undermines the rationale for a massive road and bridge building mega project. Gordon Campbell can truly be a first mover on climate change by making transit expansion a priority over Gateway.”

Back in 2004, the provincial government decided to build the Gateway Program, a $7 billion mega-project that will expand and build new freeways, twin the Port Mann Bridge and enable a tripling of port capacity in Delta. Since then, Premier Gordon Campbell has changed his tune on climate change by legislating a 33% reduction in BC’s global warming emissions by 2020. To this end, a carbon tax and a $14 billion transit investment by 2030 have been introduced but these measures and others under consideration are still not enough to meet the target. Despite this, the Premier has so far failed to admit the inconsistencies posed by the Gateway Program when even a provincial government study has shown that emissions will increase. Metro Vancouver and Environment Canada have said that emissions could be even worse because of potential land-use impacts the provincial study ignored.

The standard model used in the government study did not ask the basic questions that people ask themselves: “Where will I live?” and “Where will I start my business?” If the model didn’t ask the same questions people do then clearly it isn’t good enough. There is not a single example of a freeway reducing traffic congestion or reducing sprawl- the opposite is apparent wherever you look. A local example is the Alex Fraser Bridge. A 2% increase in traffic was expected, based upon population projections. However, unanticipated development brought on by the new bridge has resulted in a traffic increase 41% above projections. Regional developers know full well the impacts of freeway building and released a report in 2006 called “The Gateway Effect” that anticipates “explosive growth” in the Fraser Valley. Given that 85% of the Highways Minister’s election funding has come from developers and road builders, it would appear that he is likewise aware but won’t admit it publicly.

“The Gateway Program is outdated and out of touch with modern realities. To move forward with freeway expansion in its current form is merely another kind of climate change denial. The evidence shows that Gateway is more spin than span and a re-think of our approach on transportation in the region is overdue,” Fields said.

Electric pressure washers and stencils were used to etch the slogans “Gordo, Come Clean on Gateway” and “Transit First” into the grime on sidewalks and freeway overpasses.


This release is accompanied by the document “Top Ten Myths of the Gateway Program”

For more information, please contact:

David Fields, Campaigner with SPEC, 604-722-4775

Written by Stephen Rees

April 14, 2008 at 8:20 am

Posted in Gateway

Tax will hurt, truckers say

with 6 comments


Well that is because it is supposed to change the way we do things. There has to be some incentive to change – and that needs both encouragement to do the right thing and a bigger reason to stop doing the wrong thing.

I have little sympathy for the truckers. Because they are putting our lives at risk, and they know that, and yet they want “help from government” to continue to do what they always have done. I have been trying to find a link to a story that was on Global tv last night, but so far with no luck. There was another one of those random crackdowns on trucks in West Vancouver over the weekend. As usual a very high percentage of trucks were found to be unroadworthy due to lack of basic maintenance. I think the figure was 50% of trucks being pulled off the road until they fixed basic things, like brakes.

Big Truck

Photo by Danny Brinkley

The trucking industry has been one of the least responsible of corporate citizens. In recent years the pressure has been put on the drivers, as companies have moved to make them contractors – “owner operators” – rather than employees. This shifts the burden of responsibility on to the shoulders of the driver, who now carries all of the risk, for very little reward. As diesel prices have risen, the rates for truckers have not increased, with inevitable results. I do not see that “throwing money” at this problem will solve it, it will merely perpetuate it.

We also know that the diesel exhaust is a human carcinogen. And that people who live along major truck routes are exposed to much higher levels of diesel particulates. While there has been loud and sustained pressure on transit operators to reduce emissions, I have seen very little activity from the private sector truck industry. Of course not. They work down to a price not up to a standard. And our children have elevated levels of asthma as a result. In my opinion this is not a good trade off.

The carbon tax does not have a big effect yet – it does have one special impact on BC however. Other jurisdictions do not have it – yet. And there is a penalty for being first. If the government is wise, it will start to encourage measures to reduce diesel use by truckers. There is a lot that can be done, just by upgrading the trucks and their maintenance standards. In fact cleaning fuel injectors is the easiest way to stop unburned fuel going up the exhaust stack. That plume of black smoke you see is just money being wasted. The sort of people who cannot be bothered to look at their brakes regularly, are not likely to do something technical and time consuming like engine maintenance. Port officials have been pointing out for a long time the number of empty trips that truckers are forced to make because terminal operators expect them to drop off a container, but not pick up a full one in the same trip. This is not rocket science!

The story talks about biofuels too, but I think there is a lot more that can be done to reduce truck fuel consumption rather than look for alternative fuels. Engine efficiency in European diesels has been much improved because of regulations by the EU: North America listens too much to truck makers and operators who have fought similar legislation here. Trucks in Europe all carry recording equipment, to ensure that truckers stick to the rules – about drivers hours, speeding and a number of other issues. Originally designed to level the competitive playing field, the consequences have been far reaching. Road safety being one major beneficiary. And we share the roads with these things.

I hope that for once Paul Landry does not have the ear of the provincial government. His activities through the Gateway Council have pushed the trucking agenda at our expense, and much of that turns out to have been a misrepresentation. The Gateway program is very bad for this region for a number of reasons, not least of which is the misperception that we “need” to invest in more infrastructure for truck movement, and not look at ways to make our transportation system more efficient and effective. And one of those things is looking at other ways of moving freight that are more energy efficient. Or reducing the amount of truck movement (and idling) by better scheduling. Do you think that those long slow moving line ups of trucks along Deltaport Way shut down their engines while they are waiting?

UPDATE  April 16

VANCOUVER SUN – Drivers caught behind the wheels of poorly maintained or neglected commercial trucks are facing fines of $100 to $1,300 in a two-day inspection blitz by Vancouver police, city and port officials and the Greater Vancouver transit authority.

Drivers are being ticketed for defective brakes, steering, structural defects, bald tires, and broken lights.

At Terminal Avenue and Carolina Street on Tuesday, the group inspected 54 trucks, pulling 24 out of service. It also suspended one driver who was impaired by drugs and issued more than $15,000 in fines.

A slightly better rate than the one reported in the original story, but still disgraceful. And this is not unusual or a recent phenomenon. The trucking industry must clean up its act, and that means taking responsibility for truck maintenance and replacement. The reliance on owner operators is very much against the public interest -a s well as the poor suckers who were persuaded to invest in their own trucks. Essentially, truckers, like taxi drivers, are forced to buy their jobs. This is, quite simply, wrong.

Written by Stephen Rees

April 14, 2008 at 6:27 am

Sandpipers’ feeding habits could spell trouble for port expansion

with 2 comments

Spotted Sandpiper

Spotted Sandpiper photo by Mike Baird


We are located on the Pacific flyway. The coast is the path of migration for large numbers of shore birds. The littoral is the place where the birds feed.

An international team has discovered why half the world’s western sandpipers touch down on a specific tidal flat just south of Vancouver every spring. The secret is in the mud, more specifically in the snot-like “biofilm” coating the mud.

The tiny shorebirds, weighing about 30 grams each, suck a remarkable 20 tonnes of the sticky slime off the mud every day as huge flocks swoop down to refuel during the spring migration, the scientists estimate.

And apparently they did not know that. This is a discovery that should stop development at Roberts Bank. There is just one problem that I see – it is already underway

port expansion Roberts Bank BC 2008_0412

This is a picture I took at Roberts Bank on Saturday. One to two million sandpipers arrive here in April and May and snort up the biofilm that is on top of the mud bank. Here.

Ports are a federal jurisdiction. I trust we will see a stop work order issued immediately. Anything less would be a crime, in my opinion.

Actually, this would be good news for all of us – not just the sandpipers. It would restore my faith in the Canadian Environmental Assessment process which so far does not seem to have served us well

Written by Stephen Rees

April 14, 2008 at 5:32 am