Stephen Rees's blog

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

Archive for April 29th, 2008

What I did on Sunday

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There was a final trolleybus ride organised by TRAMS last Sunday. Jason Vanderhill was among those I shared the experience with and he has a wonderful set of images on flickr.

Mine – as seen on the Vancouver Metblog – were very ordinary.

Stanley Park loop

Photo by Jason Vanderhill

Written by Stephen Rees

April 29, 2008 at 6:00 pm

Posted in transit

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Estimate for bike lanes on Burrard Bridge hits $57M

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Photo by Chris Piggott on flickr


The cost of adding bicycle lanes to Vancouver’s Burrard Bridge has quadrupled, according to the latest estimates.

“The estimated cost to do the work necessary to make the improvements in 2009 dollars would be $57 million,” Coun. Kim Capri told the CBC on Monday.

And the final cost could rise further, as high $63 million, since the work would have to be put off until after the 2010 Olympics, said Capri.

The numbers were presented to city councillors on Monday by city engineers at a special workshop on the latest plan to add bike lanes to the heritage-listed bridge.

It was always a very stupid idea. Say thank you taxpayers of Vancouver to your Mayor and the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association. It all stems from their inability to understand basic traffic management. City staff, and Kim Capri, are infected with the same disease.

The news reopens the debate about whether the city should reconsider an older plan, which called for closing traffic lanes to make room for bikes, said Coun. George Chow.

That plan was adopted by the previous council, but dropped by the current council immediately following the last civic election, in 2005.

But staff warned against reconsidering it because it would back up traffic on both end of the bridge and lead to gridlock, said Capri.

If anybody ever uses the word “gridlock” you know they are grandstanding. Gridlock is a temporary phenomenon caused by drivers entering an intersection when their exit is not clear. Networks quickly sort themselves out – which is why the idea of a trial of lane closures preceded by a public information period was also rejected by the City. Because that would demonstrate that closing lanes to cars on the bridge (to allow for bikes and buses) would work. And we don’t want that do we. Otherwise people would start saying things like “Why can we not close more lanes to through traffic?” – just like they have been doing in Copenhagen for the last forty years and seeing a dramatic rise in the use and popularity of the City Centre.

The number of lanes on the bridge is not the critical issue for traffic flow. It is the capacity of the junctions at each end. And if all the traffic from West Vancouver (and some of North) can be accommodated into the three lane Lion’s Gate Bridge, which does Kits and Point Grey need six? And why would you wreck an art deco jewel with bolted on excrescences?

The City has a Transportation Policy. It states that priority will be given to pedestrains, cyclists and transit ahead of cars. That policy has not been rescinded and is part of the City Plan. So how come this nonsense continues? Because a very small group of very powerful people put their self interest ahead of common sense.

If they have $57m to spend I can think of a lot of things that could be done with that sum that would make the City a much nicer place to be. And the Burrard Bridge could stay pretty much as it is: a bit of paint for lanes and some road signs, and a bit of re-jigging of the intersections ought to do it for well under $1m I reckon. But the people carrying performance of the bridge would be enhanced significantly – and it is people that need to be counted not vehicles!

Brent Granby of WERA advises that there is a survey on the CBC web site

Written by Stephen Rees

April 29, 2008 at 11:26 am

Posted in bicycles, Traffic, Transportation

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‘Validators’ endorse Liberals’ tax bill even before public sees it

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Vaughan Palmer is getting a bit annoyed about the Liberal legislative process – or rather that he got some press releases from interest groups about the Carbon Tax Bill before it got to the house. Now it happened that one of my pieces yesterday was about this same issue and positive, but I want to assure you that I was not being lined up by Campbell’s spin doctors. It was conincidence. But it was driven by my irritation at the rural and northern mayors who “believe what is consistent with their self-interest, not with the evidence.” Nic Rivers has been doing some research which shows that people who live in small towns in the interior tend to commute shorter distances than those who live in the Lower Mainland. Which is really no surprise at all.

Currently the carbon tax is in for a round of mock indignation and parliamentary show boating. Debates in the leg are not about making the Act better, or discussing issues in the hopes of finding solutions. It is for sound bites and bits in the constituency newsletters. Vaughan Plamer is right to be irritated by the process, but that is how he makes his living. I am certain that more people read his column than read Hansard or watch the leg on tv. And the nitty gritty of parliamentary procedures and details of sub section 95 paragraph 1 c are not exactly gripping stuff.

The Liberal’s Bill is a small start. It is far from perfect of course. But we have to start somewhere. For one thing climate change is producing a shortage of hops. But someone is going to have to tackle the fact that as things stand our school boards are going to be giving back to the province money that should be going to educate our children but will instead be spent on carbon tax. Expect howls from the colleges, universities and hospitals too. And, of course, in a monument to bureaucracy that only Carole Taylor could be proud of, transit will also be hit by both higher fuel costs and carbon taxes, as well as loss of revenue as gas sales fall, at the very time when transit service is more desperately needed than ever.

Written by Stephen Rees

April 29, 2008 at 10:53 am