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

Archive for May 2nd, 2008


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South Fraser Way Abbotsford, originally uploaded by Stephen Rees.

This image was taken in the early evening around 6:30. The rush is long past.

The mountains are, it goes without saying, magnificent. The urban fabric much less impressive. There is a lot more of this. And you need to bear in mind that it is supposed to look like this. It is not the result of unhindered private sector decision making. There is planning, a building code and zoning, traffic and transportation standards – and public sector parsimony. The wirescape is actually quite restrained – I have seen far worse, I am sad to say.

Note the number and size of parked vehicles. Most of the businesses in this part of town seem to be tire stores. I did not see any pedestrians – or cyclists, come to think of it – from the window of the White Spot where I had supper last night. The only walking is from car to front door. Though the intersection behind me did have a pedestrian push button.

This is not really suburb. It is a free standing town beyond the Vancouver region – though the main flow of commuting from here is to Langley and Surrey. Abbotsford did not want to be a commuter suburb for Vancouver so it opted out of West Coast Express – though it is quite a short run on existing CP track from Mission. Much attention now focusses on the old BCE Interurban line used by SRY for four short wayfreights a day.

Abbotsford has five freeway intersections – and spreads along Highway 1. You do not have to go very far north or south to find yourself back into countryside. And oddly familiar, too, since the roads are forced to acknowledge the topography. Unlike the wide, straight grid of arterials further west.

What will happen to this place as gas prices rise? The widening of the freeway stops at Langley, and there are no commitments to transit expansion either from the province – well not any time soon anyway.

There is a lot of talk about Abbotsford Airport too – as though somehow it is immune from the impact of rising aviation fuel costs.

Written by Stephen Rees

May 2, 2008 at 11:07 am

Gwynne Dyer thinks oil prices could fall

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He takes credit in his latest Straight piece for predicting $120 a barrel oil when no-one else did, so he continues his contrarian ways with the suggestion that economic recession in western countries brought on by the credit crunch will lower demand enough to be reflected in oil prices. Of course, in the longer term they will soon bounce back – and more.

What seems to be missing is any discussion of the instability of many of the places that the world relies on for oil. All it takes is some sabotage in Nigeria or a wave of unrest in some of the former soviet republics and the supply drops rapidly.Similarly, since there is so much dependence on a few very large supplies and a continuing issue with refinery capacity a few hitches – like the damage to Gulf coast installations by Hurricane Katrina – and the present predictions go out of the window.

The rate at which the Chinese and Indians are buying cars will also be a significant replacement for the west finding more efficient ways to get around. I have not worked out the ratio, but I suspect that for every gas guzzler replaced by a Prius or Civic there are several new Chinese cars for households that formerly rode bicycles or scooters. The easing of demand for Chinese products in the US will probably just release capacity for more home consumption or for exports to economies with stronger currencies.

The he returns to the doom and gloom of the impact of climate change – and its effect on political stability in nations at risk. Given that we really ahve not yet tackled the causes of these changes, he is right to do so. There seems still to be a remarkable lack of urgency about effective steps – and the on going saga of BC’s carbon tax seems to be solely about our local issues not the need for tackling the biggest crisis to face mankind.

Written by Stephen Rees

May 2, 2008 at 10:32 am

It may be the ‘best place on earth’ but …

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can we afford it?

B.C. has been hit by the sharpest wage decline in Canada. We have less purchasing power now than we did in 1981, figures from 2006 census show.

And the article looks at some of the reasons why that it so. But what it does not say of course is that much of the recent decline has been due to government policies. The attack on the support workers in healthcare, the continuing privatization of what were once secure public sector jobs. Taxation has been shifted from progressive to regressive – that is what happens when you cut income taxes for the well off but raise all the other fees and charges to pay for services.

Since this region is also the most expensive in terms of housing many households have to have multiple wage earners. Not just Mum and Dad working – and not unusually more than one job, or longer hours – but the kids cannot afford to leave home. Or people hit by adversity later in life having to move back into the family home.

Immigration is the other big headline story – and we have more of that then other places too. And immigrants are paid far less than Canadian born, and their education and qualifications are ignored to “protect” the interests of those already established. This is a huge drag on the economy, as we need the skills and knowledge of the engineers and surgeons who are running 7-11s and driving cabs.

Add rising food and fuel costs to this picture and you begin to understand why people having been feeling more and more under pressure. What is distinctly odd is that this does not seem to affect the government’s polling numbers very much, and they continue to behave as though their re-election next year is in the bag.

Written by Stephen Rees

May 2, 2008 at 9:40 am

Posted in Economics, politics