Stephen Rees's blog

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

Archive for April 21st, 2008

More email

with 4 comments

I am just going to pass this one along with no comment

Hi Stephen,

I’m a regular reader of your blog…. I thought you (and your blog readers) might be interested in some open houses this week on the Central Waterfront Hub Study –

The main objectives of the Central Waterfront Hub program are to:
Create a transportation hub which better integrates the many transit modes which converge in this area
Skytrain, Canada Line, West Coast Express, Seabus, Helijet and numerous bus lines.
Establish planning and urban design guidelines for the various development sites which exist in the area.
Introduce measures to enhance the public realm streets and open spaces – in this important location.

A draft concept plan for the area around Waterfront Station will be presented at the open house (and will be posted online shortly thereafter).   It’s exciting, visionary stuff.

There’s some info on the website:

Open Houses are:

Thursday, April 24th, 2008  3-7pm in Waterfront Station
Saturday, April 26, 2008  10am-2pm in the Central Library Concourse

Hope to see you there!

Lisa  Brideau
City of Vancouver Planning Dept.
Phone : 604.873.7527

Written by Stephen Rees

April 21, 2008 at 7:02 pm

BC’s New Enviro Moment

with 2 comments

Rafe Mair has a message of hope in today’s Tyee.

The environment is back in vogue and of course that has much to do with global warming and the fact that the public have finally woken up to the fact that bad things are happening. But it’s more than that. The demonstration last month of 1200 people at the Pitt Meadows Senior Secondary gym against the proposal to get power from the Pitt wasn’t just the same old lefties.

Nor was the one last fall in the East Delta Agricultural Hall protesting the South Fraser Perimeter Road and other proposed environmental rape.

The demonstrations a few weeks before against putting the Sea-to-Sky highway over the top of Eagleridge Bluffs had some regulars all right but a hell of a lot of protesters until then would rather have been caught in a house of ill-repute than at an environmental rally.

The revival of environmentalism has caught the Campbell government by surprise. They were used to the days when they — and other governments for that matter — could point to protesters and say “same old, same old” and get away with it. They saw nothing dangerous politically by telling falsehood after falsehood about Atlantic salmon fish farms. After all. who would believe all that nonsense about sea lice for God’s sake!

I hope he is right. It worries me that the NDP do not seem to on the same page. And that people have bought in to the idea that Gateway is going to mean more jobs. Which is almost certainly untrue, and a bit beside the point if the region cannot find enough people to fill the jobs it has open now. It is also true that the NDP is not getting anything like the money that Liberals are, that voter participation is declining and we have yet to elect a Green to the leg.

I think the BC Liberals are much shakier than they look. The problem that I see is the lack of a concerted push to turn them out next year. They seem to have weathered scandals far worse than those that wrecked the last NDP governments, and I do not think it is just because they have a friendlier media – though of course that doesn’t hurt either. But as usual the left is much happier fighting among themselves than turning up the pressure on an inept, big business controlled and complacent ruling party – which is mostly run by just one man.

And as an added bonus from reading this far here is Rick Mercer’s  Report with a message from the American oil industry

Written by Stephen Rees

April 21, 2008 at 5:05 pm

Posted in Environment, politics

Waste Not

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You know you are doing something right when you get three emails, within minutes of each other, suggesting things to blog about.

I am going to pass on the suggestion (sorry, Mr Holden) of the Walmart in town story – it is too close to the “even Walmart” comments at Smart Growth and the thing I did on big boxes on Cambie not so long ago. I am also not going to delve into energy corridors in Wyoming which sound dreadful but also dreadfully complicated.

I recently linked to an article in the Atlantic, so someone there suggested I take a peak at “A steamy solution to global warming” by Lisa Margonelli

Economists like to say that rational markets don’t “leave $100 bills on the ground,” but according to McKinsey’s figures, more than $50 billion floats into the air each year, unclaimed by American businesses. What’s more, the technologies required to save that money are, for the most part, not new or unproven or even particularly expensive. By and large, they’ve been around since the 19th century. The question is: Why aren’t we using them?

Because corporate America doesn’t have to think. It has George W and a hot line to some compliant congressmen and lots of really smart lawyers. As long as there no real reason to do so, why would they think outside the box? Much more comfortable to follow the herd, and buy a table at the next Republican fundraiser. The US government is spending trillions of dollars to ensure that Iraqi oil still flows their way, so why worry about energy efficiency?

Back in 1970 a senior plant manager at ICI told me – quite seriously “There is no money in pollution” – but he was paying my organisation lots of money every year to pull out of the river the guck that his plant was dumping in it further up stream. So that craft serving his plant had enough water under their keels to load efficiently. How do you argue with people like that?

I recently pointed out that we do not in general spend a lot on community energy systems here. Although the City of North Van did and the former Mayor of Vancouver owns a steam distribution business in downtown Vancouver. Because we put what little industry we have left way out in the boonies there are not many ways to connect industry waste heat to places that need heating. But I can think of a few. For instance the cement plants in Richmond and Delta (LaFarge and Tilbury) produce loads of waste heat and they are not so far away from greenhouse country. The last refinery here – Chevron in Burnaby – could send heat to SFU. And then there is the thermal generating station near Ioco. It burns gas to heat water to raise steam to turn the turbines and then dumps warm water into the inlet. And the idea of using more efficient combined cycle gas turbines has been rejected there more than once. Gas turbines also have the advantage of being able (like hydro dams) to meet peak loads very quickly indeed. No, I don’t know why they preferred steam. The reason I mention this location is that it is under review for some major redevelopment by that very smart chap who did SFUniverCity – and I bet he could work a community energy system into his development

Chevron Refinery Burnaby

Photo by Richard Eriksson

Even post industrial Vancouver can get into the heat recycling business. It just requires a change in mind set. For instance what was once BC Hydro could think about selling energy – not just generating electricity. But of course, here it would have to find a P3 partner to skim off the profits first

Written by Stephen Rees

April 21, 2008 at 2:23 pm

Regional Growth – connecting transit and density

with one comment

and ensuring room for industry – key issues in regional development
This dialogue series will explore the linkages between transportation and density, as well as the need for mechanisms, such as a designation for industrial lands in Metro Vancouver.

I won’t be going to the Morris J Wosk Centre for Dialogue on May 1 at 11:30am even though it is usually a nice free lunch. There’s a limit to how much of this stuff I can take.

The panel is:

Ann McAfee
retired Director of Planning, City of Vancouver and Principal, City Choices Consulting

Sheri Plewes
Vice President, Planning and Capital Management, TransLink

Bill Tucker
Director, National Association of Industrial & Office Properties

Bob Wilds
Managing Director, Greater Vancouver Gateway Council

This does not seem to me to represent even a pretence at “balance”. It is the elite telling us what is good for us. The audience, being mostly business people, will lap it up. There may be a few greenies, and even fewer genuinely interested ordinary citizens. But the “discussion ” is you ask a brief question and all four on the panel will be allowed to pontificate at length, usually just restating what we have already heard.

Metro has teamed up with the Board of Trade to run these things, so it is not as if they are actually trying very hard to hear anything but business interests.

They do not even give poor old Rafe Mair a credit any more. And he is about the only person on the platform who will cast doubt upon the Gateway, or any of the rest of the “even more business as usual” message.

Lois Jackson writes

While Metro Vancouver has earned its reputation as one of the most livable places in the world, now, as we shift our focus to the longer term sustainability of our region, some of the challenges we face and opportunities available to us are crying out for attention.

New and innovative approaches to regional issues and attention to the growing impacts and opportunities of globalization are fundamental if we are to sustain those things that make our region special. Therefore, your opinions and participation at these sessions are vitally welcome and important.

And if you think she really means that you can register by sending an email to RegionalDialogueWoskCentre (at) – just make sure to take out the spaces and replace the at with the right sign

Written by Stephen Rees

April 21, 2008 at 1:10 pm

Upcoming Event

Streetcars and Interurbans Shape a Community: TOONIE TALK
7:00 pm – 8:30 pm FRIDAY, MAY 9

Learn how Dunbar developed from remote bush to a desirable streetcar suburb. Henry Ewert will present a slide show on how the West Side of Vancouver (formerly the Municipality of Point Grey) developed with the introduction of electric interurbans and streetcars.
Meeting place: Dunbar Community Centre, Room 202.

Written by Stephen Rees

April 21, 2008 at 12:19 pm

Posted in transit, Urban Planning

In Web World of 24/7 Stress, Writers Blog Till They Drop

with 3 comments

New York Times

Two weeks ago in North Lauderdale, Fla., funeral services were held for Russell Shaw, a prolific blogger on technology subjects who died at 60 of a heart attack. In December, another tech blogger, Marc Orchant, died at 50 of a massive coronary. A third, Om Malik, 41, survived a heart attack in December.

Apparently some bloggers are “paid by the piece”. For the record, I am not paid. Period. Not for this blog or the one on Blogspot or the pieces on Vancouver Metblog.

I have recently been paid for some of my pictures. Not often and not enough. But something.

I do not do this for money. The internet was not built that way. Much the best feature of the internet experience is how much is given away – software, operating systems, information. And usually the free stuff is better than the stuff people sell. In fact the harder they try to sell it, the less I want it.

Blogging is simply about passing along what I have found and what I think about it. It is to some extent a way to give away the sort of analysis that clients and governments used to pay me for. Not that they paid much attention. I used to get the feeling sometimes that they regarded what I said as wrong because I was saying it. They accused me of paranoia. But fortunately I have been shown to have been right more often than wrong.

We all of us need others to pay attention to us. The cruelest thing society can do is to shun someone. Unfortunately since so much of the media here is in so few hands, and the control of the media is used to mainly to reinforce one world view (despite their claims about “balance”) that many of us seek other outlets for our views. It seems that there will be times when we have to force the powers that be to listen – since their pantomime of “consultation” is so ineffective. In between those times it is important I think to keep up a steady flow of what I hope looks like reason and thought and not just invective.

The only rewards I get are your comments and page views. And they are greatly appreciated.

Written by Stephen Rees

April 21, 2008 at 8:52 am

Going a different shade of green

with one comment

Miro Certenig, Vancouver Sun

It now appears the premier is listening to business and will slow down the implementation of CO2 reduction targets.

Well, of course. Campbell depends on contributions from businesses to run in 2009. And the biggest emitters are the biggest contributors.

Some notably generous backers of the Liberals last year included Brookfield Asset Management ($50,000), Elk Valley Coal Corp. ($56,000), EnCana ($56,000), Goldcorp ($78,700), Teck Cominco Ltd. ($68,180), Teck Cominco Metals ($50,000) and Telus ($52,580).

It is much more important to Campbell that he get himself and his party re-elected than anything else. And he obviously feels he owes his paymasters much more attention than anything as trivial as doing something even remotely effective at tackling one of the biggest issues facing humanity. Climate change does not endanger the planet. That will still be here and will slowly adapt. That process of adaptation of course does not take account of our desires – including those of wealthy industrialists. It is not the planet that is under threat – it is us, humans.

Of course, sensible people – of all walks of life – noting change around them, also try to adapt. Most of what they are trying to do has been well ahead of the business community – and therefore ahead of the government too. And there is not usually much willingness to listen to their opinions. After all they only provide votes – and those can be manipulated by all sorts of methods. Mostly lying. One exception was their recent spirited defence of a provincial park. Would that there were more such examples.

And, it is also worth noticing, some businesses are also adapting. They are the leaders – and they will still be in business long after the enterprises that survive only because they are propped up by subsidies and tax breaks have gone to the wall. There is usually a competitive advantage in being among the first to adapt to changing market conditions. Toyota has now overtaken GM – and for good reason.

Of course when the Godfathers summon you, and start making their offers you cannot refuse, it is a bit dangerous to suggest their operating methods may need to adjust to reflect changing times. Corporations behave in antisocial ways. Behaviour like that among individuals would be regarded as psychotic. But politicians like Campbell have been loosening the restraints on businesses, claiming that is good for us. Of course it isn’t. And any sensible measure will show that we have regressed in recent decades. Wealth has been made, but concentrated into very few hands. The social and environmental cost of this shift has been huge – and is generally ignored by the politicians.

The economy is a subsidiary of the environment – not the other way round. Environmental impact is important – ask any salmon fisherman. The people who insist on business as usual may make money in the short run but they are condemning all of us to a faster demise. And a politician who has the courage to make that the central plank of the 2009 campaign is likely to do rather better than one who is clearly in the pockets of the polluters.

Written by Stephen Rees

April 21, 2008 at 7:39 am

Posted in Environment, politics