Stephen Rees's blog

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

Archive for April 17th, 2008

Another Falcon Bill

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Matt Burrows of the Straight has a very perceptive piece on Bill 14, the  “Transportation Investment (Port Mann Twinning) Amendment Act”

When you have a majority in the leg, and you do not give a stuff about what anybody else thinks or says, you can get away, it seems, with almost anything.

Written by Stephen Rees

April 17, 2008 at 11:15 am

Peak Oil Graphs

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This is to help bring out the point Meredith made in a recent comment

These are the graphs he refers to

Source: Energy Watch Group (note: this is a large pdf file)

Written by Stephen Rees

April 17, 2008 at 11:08 am

Posted in energy

Austrian Town Bans Ring Tones on Transit

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Cellular News

The Mayor of the Austrian city, Graz has issued a regulation which requires public transport users to switch their mobile phones to silent mode when traveling. Graz Mayor Siegfried Nagl, a member of the centre-right Austrian People’s Party told Austrian television that he is determined to make sure commuters can ride in peace if they wish.

The ban is toothless though – as there is no fine for infringements.

The ban was welcomed by Austria’s Green Party, but condemned by the Social Democrats. Local transport authorities had preferred social pressure to curb any problems. According to an opinion poll by the local newspaper, Kleine Zeitung, 68% of the Graz population welcomed the idea.

Nagl was elected Mayor of Graz in 2003.

The ban is not toothless – if 68% welcome the idea, and silence their own phones, that is a start. And social disapproval can work on the rest. Most law works through voluntary compliance. Like deciding which side of the road to drive on. Passing an anti idling bylaw works by raising awareness – not by the number of fines issued.

A good place to start would be to designate cell phone free areas – which is already done on some trains in some places. I suspect (though cannot prove) that a similar thought lies underneath the persistence of the bans on cell phone use on planes and hospitals.

Written by Stephen Rees

April 17, 2008 at 10:44 am

Posted in transit

Tagged with ,

Make Earth Day Your Public Transportation Day

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APTA Press Release

I must admit a strong temptation to just cut and paste the whole thing. But that is not a web log is it?

The White House and John McCain are the only ones out of step on this issue. Stopping the growth of emissions by 2025 – by voluntary measures alone – is pathetic as a target, woefully inadequate and probably will not be attained at present rates of progress. Emissions globally have to be cut – and cut drastically. It turns out that the model was wrong. The oceans are not absorbing CO2 as predicted. And Geoffrey Stern (the economist who produced an evaluation of the costs and benefits of tackling climate change eighteen months ago) admits now he was wrong. Climate change is happening faster than he thought then.

Of course the paid flacks of the oil and automobile industry accused him at the time of “scare mongering”. Either he was not scary enough or they were too successful in confounding the decision making process. But then the people who make the most money have already bought themselves patches of higher ground to retreat to as the sea level rises. Just like the hedge funds that did well out of the credit crisis. The strategy appears to be to try and manipulate the markets – because money is made of the change or “spread”. You can make money on the rising cost of  oil and gas as the shortage due to passing the peak gets worse – but deny in public that there is a peak at all – or if there is, it’s a long way off. You can make money by snapping up properties at fire sale prices due to mortgage defaults and repossessions. You can start buying shares in promising technologies – especially if you can persuade governments to give you a tax break or an outright grant. Shares in railroads are a good bet now – airlines not so much. And if the price of change looks a bit high right now, and you cannot raise the wind for some investment, a bit of greenwashing will persuade the customers to continue to come to you.

Written by Stephen Rees

April 17, 2008 at 9:37 am

A new video

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by Ryan Longoz, 2008 CMNS 482 Directed Study

Metro Vancouver has a long way to go before it can call itself a livable region. Why are we further committing ourselves to car orientation? Building roads just adds to the problem we’re trying to address, and just think of the transit service $3.9 billion could buy.

Driving, shopping, advertising, consumer culture, Hummers, sprawl, it’s all here. Our addiction to the status quo is quickly working against our needs for community, complete infrastructure, and efficient ways of getting around. What in the hell are we doing?

Thanks to everyone who lent their time and effort to help make this possible. Share this if you find it interesting, and feel free to embed.

Please comment! I appreciate your feedback.

…music by Caribou. Check them out:

Written by Stephen Rees

April 17, 2008 at 8:15 am

Saving the neighbourhood is more than a walk in the park

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Pete McMartin goes for a walk with Ned Jacobs around Ned’s neighbourhood. This is a preview of what will occur in eight Canadian cities May 3-4.

Jane’s Walks, a series of free neighbourhood walking tours


“No one can find what will work for our cities by looking at suburban garden cities, manipulation scale models, or inventing dream cities. You’ve got to get out and walk.” — Jane Jacobs, Downtown is For People.


The market says that Main Street – Riley Park is becoming more desirable, but the very process of “gentrification” changes the place. And people worry about this, because what makes a neighbour is not just assets. This is not about wise investing, it is about Living. And unlike the idea presented by the media in their glossy “Living” supplements, it more than conspicuous consumption. Yes stainless steel appliances and granite countertops look nice. But they are not necessary to life.

So what is “saving the neighbourhood” about, exactly? Ambiance, sociability, local services certainly. There is going to be some renovation and rehabilitation – it is both necessary and inevitable. It is part of home making. Keeping the envelope secure, upgrading to better conserve energy and water, painting , re reroofing, replacing windows. A house I once owned had one of those unenforceable covenants that it would have cedar shakes for the roof. But no-one in the neighbourhood paid the slightest notice as the original cedar shakes crumbled away, and the variety of the replacements changed the conformity of the orginal conception to a rather raffish collection. Variety seems to be important to to “add texture”

There is not much in this piece about what is needed. Perhaps that has to come out of the event itself

Here in Vancouver, the Walks are being sponsored and organized by the Think City Society, a citizen’s forum dedicated to discussing urban issues. Featured walks include tours of Strathcona, Kitsilano, the West End, Yaletown and the Downtown Eastside, and will look at various issues like public art, corner grocery stores, property law, labour history and bridges.

(Think City is also asking that anyone wishing to conduct a tour of their own neighbourhood to contact them. To take or organize a tour, all of which are free, go to or phone 604-908-6404.)

Written by Stephen Rees

April 17, 2008 at 7:49 am

Posted in Urban Planning