Stephen Rees's blog

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

Archive for April 15th, 2008


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Today we hit the all time record and broke through 1,000 views in a day

Best Day Ever: 1,016 — Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Thank you one and all

Written by Stephen Rees

April 15, 2008 at 6:47 pm

This actually isn’t satire

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John Bird and John Fortune have been doing these dialogues for years on tv and radio in Britain. They follow a very strict formula. They quote accurately from published sources and only speak the truth. None of what you hear is in any way an exaggeration for effect. As with all good performances, they actually tone it down from what you would hear if you spoke to a real merchant banker.

Written by Stephen Rees

April 15, 2008 at 11:40 am

Posted in Economics

Tagged with ,

Mess may be in the making

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(The sub-editors at the Province are even worse than the Sun!)

Faced with the damning reports on what it will do to Burns Bog the province is having second thoughts about the South Fraser Perimeter Road. Not abandoning it as completely unnecessary, of course. Or rerouting it via the Holger Nass proposal of following the railway tracks.

The lamebrains at the MoT have now decided to reroute the SFPR over prime agricultural land. Which as far as dealing with opposition to the road is concerned is jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire.

[MoT is] faced with significant criticism from Environment Canada, which earlier this year said in a report that even remedial work contemplated by the B.C. government won’t protect Burns Bog, which is often described as “the lungs of the Lower Mainland” for its ability to offset climate change.

However, a B.C. Ministry of Transportation spokeswoman would only confirm yesterday that some SFPR re-alignment is under consideration. She declined to give details.

The Delta Farmers Institute is also appealing to John Cummings, the Conservative MP for Delta Richmond East, and through him to five federal cabinet ministers, including Environment Minister John Baird and International Trade/Gateway Minister David Emerson.

The Gateway program depends on demand for cross Pacific trade to grow. It is currently declining. It depends on Vancouver taking a greater share of US destined traffic. US demand is falling, the US dollar is falling, and new routes through the North West Passage and an enlarged Panama Canal are opening up. Prince Rupert offers both a shorter sail from the Asian rim ports and a more direct route to the midwest over an easier pass. The port expansion threatens a unique habitat and migratory bird feeding ground. The SFPR threatens Burns Bog and communities in North Delta and North Surrey. The Port Mann twinning and the Highway #1 expansion is based on a fictional demand forecast that bears no relation to North American urban experience with freeway widening, and has been criticised by Health Canada and Environment Canada. Global climate change is accelerating, and our fossil fuel consumption continues to rise, threatening the very area that the road and the port would occupy with a rising sea level.

I think they have enough problems without taking on the farmers too. Any sane administration by now would have admitted its assumptions have been shown to be wrong, and backed away from the project.

“When circumstances change, I change my mind. What do you do?”

Burns Bog

Photo by Squeaky Marmot

Written by Stephen Rees

April 15, 2008 at 8:59 am

Three downtown streets identified as hot spots

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Downtown Ambassadors

Photo by Mordechai Dangerfield on flickr


The three streets in the city’s downtown business improvement area were identified recently as crime hot spots in city assessments to determine the need for expansion of the Downtown Ambassadors Program.

Vancouver city hall is recommending that council adopt a one-year $237,000 contract with the Downtown Business Improvement Association to extend the program.

The three streets are Granville, Georgia and Robson. They are “hot spots” because of people identified as “druggies, panhandlers and rough sleepers”. In fact the same people fit all three “categories”. And the Ambassadors do nothing more than move them along to another street somewhere else. They do nothing to solve the problem.

This is the same approach that failed with street prostitution.

And it is promoted by the same mindset that sees the needle exchange and the safe injection site as causes of more “problems”. And is not going to work this time any more than it has worked in the past.

Of course the customers of downtown businesses do not like seeing reminders of how useless our social policies are. The failures are societal, not just of the individuals who find they can only cope with adversity though self medication.

The problem has been growing steadily. The Tyee recently showed how inadequate even an apparently simple count of those affected was recently. And the response has been – from all levels of government – totally inadequate. But shows no sign of change. $237,000 might provide a few beds for a few nights. Or some dry socks. But the City and the BIA would rather chivvy people than help them.

Written by Stephen Rees

April 15, 2008 at 7:00 am

Posted in criminality, poverty

Tagged with

Uncontrollable traffic puts booming São Paolo on ‘verge of collapse’

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Reuters in the Sun

Instead of investing in public transportation, successive city governments sought to ease the growing traffic with grandiose but largely ineffective overpasses and tunnels. The result is a congestion-plagued city where the very rich commute by helicopter while average Brazilians spend hours a day in their cars

Sometimes I wonder what goes on in the Sun’s editor’s office. The local “action” on Gateway is ignored – of course – but they decide to print a big piece on a Brazilian city far larger than ours, that made the same mistake we are about to make. They have lots of buses and not much metro. And they have spent a lot on roads. And the result is inevitable. The story concentrates on road rage and the cost of congestion, but it is obvious that São Paolo has done the wrong thing whereas Curitiba did the right one.

Cars and cities do not work together very well. Cities that have worked to reduce car dependency have done better than those that have tried to accommodate more cars. Because you can never build enough roads in cities to satisfy the desires of those who wish to drive everywhere. Build more roads and they drive more often and further. It is a spiral that only leads to despair.

It is not that anyone thinks that car drivers should be punished. Or that planners want to indulge a passion for social engineering. It is simply that experience shows – over and over again – that this is a problem that cannot be solved by road building. When you are in a hole, the first thing to do is stop digging. There are now many examples of vibrant, successful cities that have reduced driving. Their economies did not suffer but grew. Their air quality improved, and so did the health of their populations. People who walk more, and spend more time outside in urban places, enjoy a better social interaction with their fellow citizens. Have you ever heard of two pedestrians shooting each other over being “cut off”? Yes subways get crowded – but people on the whole seem to be able to deal better with each other when they are not each encased in their own steel and glass box on wheels. People get along when they are not bemused by promises of the freedom of the open road, the illusion of social distinction endowed by an expensive automobile and the reality of being stuck on traffic – with a guy on a bicycle passing them on the right! (Apparently, such an “offence” should carry the death penalty in the mind of some.)

Liberdade, Sao Paolo

Photo by T Chu

Written by Stephen Rees

April 15, 2008 at 6:32 am

Posted in Transportation