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

Archive for May 13th, 2008

SFPR EA Referred to the Ombudsman

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The following letter has been sent to the Provincial Ombudsman and is being circulated by Donna Passmore. Her comments are attached at the end.

British Columbia Ombudsman

Kim Carter

Dear Kim,

I would like to bring to your attention what we believe is a fundamental unfairness in the Environmental Application process for the South Fraser Perimeter Road.

The E.A. for the S.F.P.R has been conducted with misleading and erroneous information thereby preventing the public and working groups from identifying and commenting on the actual environmental impacts.

The public was given 60 days to read, review, and respond to 3,500 pages of documentation, much of which was false or misleading and the open houses were held in the first two weeks.

People didn’t get much of a chance to review the application documents before bringing their questions to the “experts’ that, for the most part, only directed people back to review the application documents on the website for answers.

The information on the e-PIC webpage is not only difficult to find and navigate, but is incorrect, contradictory, confusing and misleading. In fact several documents that the public were referred to were never posted. Despite many of these discrepancies being pointed out, much of the errata did not get posted on the website as we were told.

We have brought this matter up with the E.A.O. and Environment Minister Penner and have not received a response from either of them. Minister Falcon responded that this is a matter for the Environmental Assessment Office to deal with, but did not comment on the false and misleading statements that have come from his ministry and reports.

The Environmental Assessment Process listed on the E.A.O. webpage states that…

“The assessment process is also needed to ensure that the issues and concerns of the public, First Nations, interested stakeholders and government agencies are considered.

“In general, the environmental assessment includes four main elements:

  1. opportunities for all interested parties, including First Nations and neighbouring jurisdictions, to identify issues and provide input;
  2. technical studies of the relevant environmental, social, economic, heritage and health effects of the proposed project;
  3. identification of ways to prevent or minimize undesirable effects and enhance desirable effects; and
  4. consideration of the input of all interested parties in compiling the assessment findings and making recommendations about project acceptability.”

As a fundamental part of that process is the need for the public, First Nations, interested stakeholders, neighbouring jurisdictions and Government Agencies to be commenting on accurate information in the Certificates text and maps or the whole process is in question.

As B.C.s ‘Independent voice for fairness’, we are asking that you investigate this issue for the citizens of British Columbia.

Please review the attached document and represent the citizens of British Columbia by ensuring that a fair environmental process is followed for the SFPR.

Sincerely,

Don Hunt
Sunbury Neighbourhood Association

And Donna added

Good for you for trying but asking the ombudsman’s office to exercise any control over the unethical actions of the Campbell government is akin to asking the Environmental Assessment Office to minimize damage to the environment.

But I suspect you know that and go through the motions anyway on the remote chance that somebody will finally stand up to Campbell while there is any nature, community, fish habitat, air quality, etc. left to protect in the south Fraser.

In that same spirit of persistence, I add the support of the entire Gateway 40 Citizens Network and add to your assertions the absurdity of having an environmental assessment process finalized when the public has not even been given the final route of this proposed road, when we have still not been told how sacred first nations sites will be affected.

And through this “harmonized” environmental assessment process, Gordon Campbell is making the federal government complicit in robbing the public of any expectation of an environmental assessment process with integrity. Shame on Stephen Harper for allowing that to happen, when it has been federal scientists that have blown the whistle on the impending devastation that the South Fraser Perimeter Road will have on the sensitive ecosystems of Boundary Bay.

Donna Passmore

Coordinator

Gateway 40 Citizens Network

I am repeating myself, but I feel it is necessary to point out that the BC EA process was gutted early on in the BC Liberal administration by the then Minister of Deregulation – Kevin Falcon. He clearly has carefully planned  how to get his pet projects built without having to bother about petty details such a public consultation or environmental impact. As was pointed out last night at Delta Council the entire process has been a sham.

Written by Stephen Rees

May 13, 2008 at 10:36 pm

Transport mode share in different countries

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Hat tip to Dave Thomson on the trans-action list
Paul Krugman at the New York Times blog has a neat little table that compares a selection of countries.

Unfortunately he does not give the original source for the data or a year. But he does have this observation.

Canada has lots of open space, too — and it doesn’t even have $8 a gallon gas. Yet it still has usable public transit in a lot more cities than we do.

Our gas is currently around $5 a gallon. And while Vancouver, Burnaby and New Westminster have usable public transit most of the rest of this region doesn’t. Which is why we are not much better than the average for the whole of the country. Given that we are the third largest urban conurbation, nearly everywhere except Toronto and Montreal is in a worse position than we are in terms of size. Bigger places tend to have better transit systems. And while people like to say we are less dense than most cities that neatly avoids the sort of comparisons that show that the developed bits of Surrey are denser than the developed bits of Burnaby. Indeed much of Lulu Island is cranberry bog and blueberry patch. So the developed bits of Richmond – especially the large central area – are actually quite dense too, and getting denser. Not that the Canada Line will actually serve the whole of the city centre, let alone the rest of the city. And it will be next to impossible to extend too.

Who would you most like to emulate on this list?

Vancouver – as an urban region – really needs to catch up to the targets is set for itself back in the early ’90s. By now we should be at 17% transit mode share. And, of course, back then no one expected that the main east west freeway from the eastern edge of the City of Vancouver out to Langley would be doubled – or the Port Mann twinned. Nor that the Golden Ears Bridge to replace the Albion Ferry was the highest possible priority for the agency tasked with care of the transit system.

Written by Stephen Rees

May 13, 2008 at 11:44 am

Posted in transit, Transportation

Pollution ‘ups blood clot risk’

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BBC on Harvard School of Public Health Report

Breathing in air pollution from traffic fumes can raise the risk of potentially deadly blood clots, a US study says.

Exposure to small particulates – tiny chemicals caused by burning fossil fuels – is known to increase the chances of heart disease and stroke.

But the Harvard School of Public Health found it also affected development of deep vein thrombosis – blood clots in the legs – in a study of 2,000 people.

Particulates are nasty little things, but their chemistry is horribly complicated and they are difficult to measure and quantify because they are so small. A lot of attention is paid to diesel emissions because they contain small particulates: in fact the number of very small particles has been increasing as the technology to reduce the total weight of emitted particles has been improving. And the smaller the particle the further it can penetrate into the lung. So the links to asthma, lung and heart disease are fairly clear.

What this research does is provide an understanding of how particulates have even wider impacts than we used to think. And these particles may not be directly emitted, but form in the chemical soup that the air we breathe in our car oriented urban areas has become. There are chemical reactions that lead to the creation of more particles as the various pollutants interact with the nitrogen, oxygen and hydrocarbons that are in the air naturally. I have long suspected that more attention was being paid to trucks and buses, because that way car drivers can point the finger elesewhere. In this region, where cars have to pass regular emissions testing (but not, of course basic roadworthiness or safety checks) people believe their cars are clean becuase they have a certificate that tells them so. And every time a heavily loaded bus accelerates away from a stop there is the tell tale plume of smoke. So obviously that convinces the car drivers that air pollution is not their fault.

In truth, of course, the huge volume of vehicles means that the impact of cars as a whole is much greater than the relatively small number of buses and trucks. And while those cars  generally have passed Air Care, they are far from zero emission, and the total volume of emissions is very significant.

What is also not said in the BBC piece, but I think may also be worth looking at is the fact that air quality inside vehicles is usually much worse than the air in general. And many people are inactive, since they are sitting in their vehicles for long periods. Taxi drivers should be concerned. But I would also like to see studies done in North America since the use of diesel cars is much greater in Italy (where this study was done) than it is here.

Written by Stephen Rees

May 13, 2008 at 8:15 am

Posted in air pollution, health

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