Stephen Rees's blog

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

Archive for May 2008

CP Spirit of 150 Rail Tour – Schedule of Events

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CPR Empress on display at Railway Days in Kamloops
CP photo

From June 12 to July 6, the CP Spirit of 150 Rail Tour will visit 33 communities in the Kootenays, the Rockies, the Shuswap, Kamloops, the Fraser Canyon and Vancouver as part of the year-long BC150 celebration.

The CP Spirit of 150 Rail Tour is co-sponsored by Canadian Pacific, which is operating, staffing and maintaining the train. The train includes the vintage Empress 2816 steam locomotive and support cars, two vintage passenger coaches, a vintage business car, a heritage baggage car converted into a travelling museum and a vintage stage car.

The museum car features a selection of artifacts from the “Stories of you, me and BC,” a major exhibition at the Royal British Columbia Museum.

The stage car features the sound of British Columbia, with a live band and stage show by The Motherlode. Visitors can enjoy and interact with costumed performers depicting some of B.C.’s most entertaining and notorious historical figures.

June 26
Mission: West Coast Express Station, 33200 N. Railway Avenue (Between Home and Welton Street) 12:45 to 3:45 p.m.
Abbotsford: Gladys Avenue (extension of Highway #11) and George Ferguson Way/W. Railway Street. 5:30 to 9:30 p.m.

June 27
Maple Ridge: North Mainline Track (Across from the Billy Minor Pub, 22355 River Road) 9:45 to 11:45 a.m.
Pitt Meadows: West Coast Express Station, 12258 Harris Road. 12:30 to 2:30 p.m.

June 29

Port Moody: West Coast Express Station (West end parking lot, corner of Moody and Spring Street) 12 to 4 p.m.

June 30

Langley: Production Way, between 200th Street and Fraser Highway 2 to 4 p.m.

July 1 – Canada Day

Surrey: Cloverdale Village Square, Highway #10 (56th Avenue) and 176A Street (Rear Parking Lot) 10 to 4 p.m.

July 4

New Westminster: Advance Parking Lot, east of Westminster Quay, corner of Begbie and Front Street. 10 to 2 p.m.

July 5

West Vancouver: Ambleside Park, Marine Drive and 13th Street 10 to 2 p.m.

July 6

Vancouver: Rocky Mountaineer Station, 1755 Cottrell Street. 10 to 2 p.m.

for places outside the Vancouver region see the CP web page

Written by Stephen Rees

May 31, 2008 at 11:00 am

Posted in Transportation

Railway Standards not being met

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Vancouver Sun

A ‘culture of fear’ at Canadian National Railway is making it difficult for employees to report safety violations that raise the risk of derailments and other accidents, a federal parliamentary committee says in a new report to the House of Commons.

The report confirms what has been fairly common knowledge among those interested in railways for a while now. Certainly after the Cheakamus River incident, many were pointing to the way that CN had got rid of all the experienced people who understood the reasons for BC Rail’s more cautious attitude to operation over this line.

CN has been extremely successful as a privatized railway, shedding its branch lines all over Canada but taking over other railways in the US to become one of North America’s most profitable systems. But in concentrating on the bottom line both basic safety and the environment have suffered. The locomotive fleet includes engines built in the 1950s, which are left running all day as they are so hard to restart if stopped. CN has not been one of the leaders in buying new , more efficient and less polluting switchers, although with fuel costs increasing they may have to change that.

The climate of fear is a cultural thing, that lower and middle management pick up from the gung ho style of the top managers. It will take a while to get that to change, and the first step is accepting responsibility. It also means treating employees as partners and not adversaries, which means that unions need to adapt too.

CN 1419 and 7067

A pair of ancient road switchers left idling in the sun in Richmond this week


From the CBC :12,000 wheel sets on trains a derailment threat: TSB

Roughly 12,000 rail car wheel sets used by Canadian Pacific Railway and Canadian National Railway “have a high susceptibility to loosen” and should be replaced, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada said Thursday.

The 36-inch wheel sets were among 43,000 produced at the CN Transcona shop in Winnipeg. Most of the sets, manufactured between April 1998 and February 2001, have already been removed from service, but roughly 12,000 are still being used.

Written by Stephen Rees

May 31, 2008 at 9:34 am

Posted in Transportation

Things the Liberals stepped in during the spring session

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Vaughan Palmer helpfully lists the long and shameful series of unfortunate events that befell the Provincial Government during the Spring Session.

The gossip I hear is that there will not be a fall session. With the new gag law in place, and nothing happening in the leg, it is going to be that much harder for the opposition to get coverage. As Vaughan points out, not that they had to work very hard this session.

Written by Stephen Rees

May 30, 2008 at 10:28 am

Posted in politics

“Fixes to deadly Pattullo Bridge delayed again”

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Vancouver Sun

New Westminster Fraser Bridges aerial

As always everyone blames the infrastructure. When I started work back in the seventies, I had to deal with press stories headed “Killer Canal Strikes Again” as though somehow the canal had leapt from its banks and slaughtered the innocent. The tail end of the Sun’s story says it all for me

Local police said Thursday they are looking forward to news of how the bridge will be fixed.

“There’s obvious public concern with regards to the safety of the Pattullo Bridge,” said Surrey RCMP Sgt. Roger Morrow. “Any improvements are being welcomed.”

New Westminster Police Sgt. Ivan Chu said most crashes on the bridge are caused by drivers following too closely or making unsafe lane changes, and speeding is a particular problem at night.

“It’s the curve stretch where most of the accidents happen,” he said. “Because they clip one another because the lanes are so narrow.”

Chu called the bridge “daunting to drive…. It’s difficult to drive when you haven’t driven over it, because you have two curves, it’s uphill and then it’s downhill, and the lanes are very narrow.”

Hardie said there have been no front-end crashes on the bridge since centre-lane nighttime closures were introduced.

“The Pattullo Bridge is a perfectly safe bridge and people can cross perfectly safely if they maintain the proper speed and just drive safely,” he said.

Just as the Sea to Sky Highway was “perfectly safe” but presented an irresistible challenge to people with fast cars to see just how quickly they could get from Vancouver to Whistler. And, of course, a frightful number did not make it at all.

The answer to unsafe driving is not widening or straightening but enforcement of the existing laws. As I have written here more than once, average speed cameras are an obvious, low cost and highly effective solution. Following too closely and making unsafe lane changes might need additional cctv which would need to be monitored – but that is a lot safer than putting police personnel at risk on the bridge itself. And we do not need to study this, or have a pilot program. All it needs is for the Provincial Government to end its stubborn persistence in a policy that was introduced very early in its mandate, and was simply a way to appeal to the people who saw photo radar as a “tax grab”. Indeed, it can even be announced as a way to save lives while the “problem” of the bridge is being reviewed.

For I will bet that a few months after it is introduced the “problem” will have been solved.

Written by Stephen Rees

May 30, 2008 at 10:18 am

“Gateway to Gridlock”

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Stuart Ramsey writes to me that a four-page newspaper pull-out, produced by the City of Burnaby will be appearing this week in the Burnaby Now and the Burnaby News Leader, as the result of a Council motion to “prepare a statement with respect to the City’s position on the Gateway Program for publication in local newspapers.”

I have uploaded the pdf file here (burnaby-2008-05-29-gateway-newspaper-pull-out)  (if you are not a resident of Burnaby) as it seems to me that many people will be interested in the City’s position.

Written by Stephen Rees

May 30, 2008 at 9:53 am

Posted in Gateway

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Help Stop the “Gateway to Global Warming”!

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Forwarded at the request of Ben West

Our Environment Minister in BC may be close to signing the environmental certification for the Gateway mega -project.

If Barry Penner signs the certification for this project his legacy would be that of the Environment Minister that gave the green light to the most counter productive and in fact destructive transportation mega-project of our generation!

On Minster Penner’s website he claims “The BC Government is working to aggressively address global warming and climate change” he even goes on to clearly state “there is still more work to be done if we are to meet our legally-mandated goal of reducing BC’s greenhouse gas emissions by 33% by 2020“. How he could say this one day and then rubber stamp what many are calling “the gateway to global warming” is unconscionable.

Concerned British Columbian’s are writing letters and emails to the minister of the environment and the Premier insisting that the environmental assessment not be signed and that genuine consultation take place. This is your chance to have your voice heard and tell Barry Penner and Gordon Campbell to do the right thing.

Here are just a few key points to consider:

The various elements of the Gateway plan will drastically increase the lower mainlands contribution to green house emissions that cause global warming and pollution levels in the region. The tripling of shipping vessels and heavy truck traffic off delta port will feed into new induced traffic that will be find its way onto the SFPR, the Twinned Port Mann Bridge and then the widened highway 1 and then into the heart of the lower -mainland. To make things worse the Gateway Project will induce car dependent suburban sprawl that leads to further global warming emissions and less healthy community.

The South Fraser Perimeter Road (SFPR) will harm and maybe kill off Burns Bog, the lungs of the lower mainland our carbon sink!

The expansion of Delta port on Roberts Bank has serious impacts on migratory birds such as the Sandpiper that relies on the region to survive as they fly north. Also Port expansion at Delta Port may severally impact Orca Whales whose population in the area are already dwindling.

The Gateway Project as a whole would impact 1000 hectares of farmland, some of B.C.s most fertile.

The Gateway mega project contradicts the last democratic community planning process that was held around the region, the Livable Region Strategic Plan. Gateway induces car dependent sprawl and starves public transit by monopolizing billions of dollars in public transportation funding.

All of this while not examining the impact of rising fuel prices on the feasibility of the project compared to other options. In fact it has recently been un-covered through a freedom of information request that the project managers used the price of $0.80 a litre in their models for studying the project over the length of the contracts which is the next 25 – 40 years!
No contracts can be signed until Barry Penner signs the environmental assessment.

No meaningful public consultations have yet to be held with the Premier, the Environment Minister or the Transportation Minister. The open houses and community meetings that have taken place have been well orchestrated Public Relation campaigns that were more like focus groups than a genuine attempt to decide the fate of this multi-billion dollar mega -project based on the public will. Make sure they hear your feedback. Send an email today!

Minister Penner
101, 7388 Vedder Road
Chilliwack, BC
V2R 4E4

Premier Campbell

3615 West 4th Avenue
Vancouver, BC
V6R 1P2

Please CC a copy of your letter to .

If you would like to stay informed about the campaign to stop “the gateway to global warming” and the campaign to get transit before freeways email with the subject line ADD ME.

Written by Stephen Rees

May 29, 2008 at 10:40 am

Posted in Gateway

Sapphire Energy turns algae into ‘green crude’ for fuel

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LA Times Business Section

I suspect we are going to be seeing more and more of stories like this one. A newly formed company says that is can produce “green crude” using algae, CO2 and sunshine, and that it is three years away from commercial production at costs comparable to “artificial crude” from the tar sands.

I have no idea of the veracity of any of this but I notice that the people interviewed are cautious as opposed to optimistic: they want to know what the greenhouse gas effects of the entire process are, probably due to being bitten by that issue by other biofuels. Then there is the question of tailpipe emissions. If it is just like the fuels we use now in that respect, then perhaps local air quality will suffer. So it’s not a magic bullet. And of course there are other promising technologies too. One of the great things about  $135 per barrel oil is that a lot of people now have some real financial incentives to get creative.

Written by Stephen Rees

May 29, 2008 at 10:38 am

Posted in alternative transportation fuel

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