Stephen Rees's blog

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

Archive for May 5th, 2008

Streetcars for Langley?

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Langley Times

Maybe I need a new category called “retrofitting the suburbs”. If Langley – and especially the dreadful 200 St – is going to become human something like this is essential.

Why is 200 St dreadful? Because it was turned over to the developers for Highway Oriented Development, which of course is the easiest option if all you want to do is make money. But it does not have a human scale, and is inimical to walking and cycling. It screams at you that only people in cars are worth considering – actually make that oversized pick up trucks.

Jordan Bateman is proposing a new mass transit option for Langley’s 200 Street corridor

Turn 200 Street into San Francisco, with streetcars running up and down the hill, taking travellers to shopping, sporting and business parks, says Township Councillor Jordan Bateman.

I don’t think he means the cable cars.

San Francisco - Cable Car

Photo by “Blende8” on flickr

Though I think these could find a useful home in North Vancouver and New Westminster


Here is his slideshow

and here is that image of a streetcar climbing a hill in Lisbon

Lisbon tram

Image from John Mariani

Written by Stephen Rees

May 5, 2008 at 12:21 pm

Posted in transit, Transportation

Tagged with , ,

Canada’s housing boom is ‘officially over’

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National Post

The Canadian Real Estate Association reported 75,476 homes changed hands in the first quarter of 2008, down 13% from the first quarter of 2007. In March, sales dropped 18.7% from the same month the year before, including a 39.7% slide in Calgary, a 34% drop in Edmonton and a 22.2% drop in Toronto.

Average prices rose just 5.5% to $327,620 in the first quarter over the first quarter of 2007, the smallest price increase since the fourth quarter of 2001.

So the sellers are holding out for higher prices against weaker demand at present. But that won’t last long.

Pretty much the same story was reported on Friday here

Sales edged down and new listings took another big jump during April in Greater Vancouver’s real estate markets, although so-called benchmark prices remain higher than they did a year ago, according to real estate board figures.

The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver reported 3,218 sales through the Multiple Listings Service, a five-per-cent decline from the same month a year ago.

This is of course just the start of the turn. Markets do not rise continuously over long periods, and the surprise is that ours has taken so long to slow down. And of course the local pundits are still “talking up” the market in the hopes of keeping the buyers interested.

board president Dave Watt, in a news release, said homes, on average, took six fewer days to sell than in April of last year

There are also people who think Vancouver is different – for a wide variety of reasons, of which the least convincing is the Olympics. A two week sports festival affects rentals and leases not sales.

The local trend I find disturbing is that of pre-sold condos turning out to be uneconomic to build. The local building and contracting market is very definitely overheated, and is being blamed for all sorts of project cost increases. That is another reason for thinking that our earlier trajectory could not be sustianed for much longer.

That does not mean there is enough housing – or that people are adequately housed. Because the market does not concern itself with such issues. Sadly, at present, government doesn’t either. Now is the time for government to start moving back into the affordable home business, as private sector projects start to dry up and resources become available again. But that would require a government that is aware, flexible and responsive.

Nah — not gonna happen

Written by Stephen Rees

May 5, 2008 at 8:50 am

Posted in housing

Fuel issues will ground the airline industry

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AC Jazz Dash 8 YVR 2007_1008_1640

Anthony Perl and Richard Gilbert add some weight to my recent comments about the future of the airline industry.

Last week, the chief financial officer of American Airlines Tom Horton said “there really is no playbook now for $110 a barrel oil.”

They argue that we are going to need to use buses and trains a lot more. This idea will not sit well with the “business as usual” folk but it is inevitable that the days of the cheap airline ticket are over. It is going to take time to get all this organised, and we should already be moving. But governments, chambers of commerce and boards of trade are still talking about airport expansions and better road connections for them.

It is not just here either. One of the really big issues at present in London is the proposal for yet another runway at Heathrow.

Sadly our political elites are still behind the times. Their idea of planning is still based on “previous trends recover and continue” not that we have entered a new era, that demands fresh thinking. Although to be fair, the idea that Canada needs decent passenger trains is hardly new. It just has not occurred to the governments and railway operators yet.

Written by Stephen Rees

May 5, 2008 at 8:16 am

Gas Tax Holiday

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One of the truly silly ideas floating around the US election. McCain started it saying Americans should not have to pay gas tax in the summer. Hillary followed that up with the idea that the oilcos would be forced to pay the tax for their customers.

From this morning’s ABC “town hall” with Hillary Clinton, about the gas tax holiday:

STEPHANOPOULOS: “But can you name an economist who thinks this makes sense?”
CLINTON: “Well, I’ll tell you what, I’m not going to put my lot in with economists.”

We can’t get no respect

Written by Stephen Rees

May 5, 2008 at 7:55 am

Posted in Economics, politics