Stephen Rees's blog

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

Archive for May 26th, 2008

Gordon Campbell’s Free Ride

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Harvey Oberfeld has a blog called “Keeping it Real” and he thinks that the BC media have been much too easy on Mr Campbell.

He is a retired journalist and he still keeps a professional eye on what passes for news and comment in the mainstream media. And when someone like that says that if the same crimes had been committed by the NDP the media would have been up in arms, he knows what he is talking about.

I think Harvey earns his place on my blogroll on the strength of this one piece alone. For his  has confirmed for me what I have long suspected and often written about here. The mainstream media in BC are in too few hands, and far too much power is concentrated at CanWestGobal. And instead of doing their job, which is to keep a jaundiced and wary eye on all concerned, the Asper family have decided that their job is to provide comfort to the ruling clique. They are happy that we have an ultraconservative provincial government, and they, as a business, want to see that continue. No matter what impact that has on the people of this province, their Charter Rights and Freedoms, their environment, health and education, all of which have suffered grievously under the BC Liberals.

Written by Stephen Rees

May 26, 2008 at 7:08 pm

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Prince Rupert casts a wary eye on Chicago

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Globe and Mail

I am very grateful that the The Tyee has this neat column headed “Reported Elsewhere” which meant I finally caught up with this story. You may have heard that Barrack Obama has gone on record as opposing CN’s acquisition of the EJ&E (“The Juice”) a railway in suburban Chicago that would help it avoid the congestion in the US biggest rail hub.

CN has run into significant public opposition in its bid for approval of the acquisition of Elgin Joliet & Eastern Railway Co. CN wants the rail line so it can bypass Chicago through the suburb of Barrington and cut nearly 30 hours off the time it takes container trains to reach destinations in the American Southeast – and that means a faster route from Prince Rupert into key U.S. markets.

“It certainly would add tremendous market weight to our gateway,” Mr. Krusel said of the EJ&E acquisition. “If they are successful in getting that line, it will be 100 hours [from Prince Rupert] to Memphis. We’ll be just as close in time as L.A./Long Beach – maybe closer.”

But what catches my attention is the broader context. Prince Rupert is not, at the moment, doing very well. Partly that is simply teething trouble with a new facility. But as noted elsewhere, the world is changing too

Prince Rupert is holding its own while other West Coast ports are seeing declines in container shipments now. “A year ago we would have expected a second carrier here,” he said. “That hasn’t happened. Carriers are reducing service on the Pacific, everywhere.

Prince Rupert has plenty of spare capacity and the demand for moving containers from China to the US is declining. So what on earth are we doing pressing ahead with a port expansion at Roberts Bank? There are all sorts of questions raised about its environmental impact and plenty of reason to suspect that whatever studies were done were pre-determined. In BC we seem to think that somehow we are immune and do not need to concern ourselves about ecology. But more than that, why are we proposing to spend vast sums on infrastructure for a port expansion that seems to be destined to be a white elephant.

Prince Rupert has a two day sailing advantage over Vancouver for Asian Pacific trade – and that is important in reducing cost, both inventories and ship’s bunkers. And the CN line through Chicago looks like a lot better bet then the congested lower mainland, where rail investment means the odd overpass here and there – not massive increases in capacity and some very weak links indeed.

By the way, has anyone ever heard one of those management types from Port of Vancouver ever admit that trans pacific container trade was actually declining?

Written by Stephen Rees

May 26, 2008 at 6:50 pm

Posted in Gateway

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Sullivan finally agrees to a debate

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Frances Bula, Vancouver Sun

This is what passes for news this morning. In fact its one of those announcements that’s not an announcement, as there is no date and no location. So no debate yet.

It is as fractious as the Democratic nomination. The incumbent had to, reluctantly, agree that the nomination should be open. But he really does not want to have a process that might actually have some substance. And his supporters have even managed to get Peter Ladner to make a loyalty oath to the political party that is not a political party. In terms of decision making there really is not much to choose between them. Peter Ladner lost all credibility for me when he reversed himself on the Burrard Bridge bike lanes. He had been up to that time an advocate for cycling. But of course what Sam wants to do is spend ridiculous amounts of money to protect (in his mind anyway) car capacity. The conversion of GP lanes to bikes being an important shibboleth for the DVBIA and the car driving community that would actually have no impact on car use, as it is the intersections on either side that control traffic flow. Indeed, such is the symbolic value that Sullivan would not even allow a trial conversion, for fear it might actually work.

Ladner’s case for running is the Sullivan is not electable, given his record. Which might well be true, but Ladner’s is not much different. Which is why the debate is so important to him, as it is the first opportunity for him to distinguish between his policies and those of the current Mayor. And of course that is exactly what Sullivan and his supporters fear most which is why the only date suggested for the debate so far is the morning of June 8, the day when NPA members vote on the candidate.

I think this whole process has damaged the NPA more than it has damaged Sullivan – who’s hopes of re-election were slim and are now that much worse. Because there is nothing of substance here, and it seems to be only about personalities. Forget the people who hold NPA membership cards , and think in terms of the wider electorate. My bet would be that the  people of Vancouver are tired of the NPA and its assumption that it will rule Vancouver for as long as it likes. I suspect – hope – that there is a desire for change at 12th and Cambie, and that this charade will only hurt the NPA’s turnout, whatever the outcome.

And the Burrard Bridge is not the only issue – or even the most important one. But my suspicion would be that fear and loathing are going to be – and EcoDensity may be Sam’s achilles heel.

Written by Stephen Rees

May 26, 2008 at 7:19 am

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