Stephen Rees's blog

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

Archive for June 2008

More on Community Land Trusts

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I am pleased to be able to pass along a link to the Lincoln Land Institute’s newsletter which brings news of John Emmanuel Davis (a visiting fellow there) and a new initiative in Boston. You may recall he spoke at SFU about housing affordability earlier this year

Written by Stephen Rees

June 30, 2008 at 6:11 pm

EIA Predicts 50% Increase in World Energy Consumption by 2030

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I stumbled upon this report this morning – or rather Timothy Hurst’s summary of it on “Red Green and Blue”

The key assumptions are that non OECD growth continues at a rapid pace and that there is no effective international agreement to limit greenhouse gas emissions.

And as the price of oil rises so “Unconventional resources (including oil sands, extra-heavy oil, biofuels, coal-to-liquids, and gas-to-liquids) from both OPEC and non-OPEC sources are expected to become increasingly competitive”. And of course in the case of oil sands – and actually the other sources too – these sources are themselves major CO2 emitters.

It is, of course, a lot easier to project forward from existing trends than to judge how the world is going to respond to this – meaning us, the planet’s reaction is all too predictable too, and has been predicted for some time, but so far nothing very effective is being done about the threat this poses to human survival. And the press that I have been reading over the weekend seems to be obsessed with the short term political outcomes – the impact of BC’s carbon tax and whether Stephane Dion’s announcement of a proposed equivalent – are the kiss of death to Liberal political hopes. On the whole I find it very hard to be concerned about that.

I think the only real question left is how bad does it have to get before we start to change? And by “we” I mean human beings in general and the largest consumers of fossil fuels in particular. And of course this is not a particularly original thought

Written by Stephen Rees

June 30, 2008 at 9:21 am

Posted in energy

Say farewell to the Green Zone

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Yesterday Metro Vancouver decided to allow land to be taken out of the Green Zone for redevelopment. This was at the bidding of Surrey – but undoubtedly there has been a campaign for some time. The line goes – we support you to take some land out and then you support us. Expect to see much more taken out in coming months.

The first four words of the Livable Region Strategic Plan are “Protect the Green Zone”, and since 1995 that is what has been done.  The LRSP is still the legally mandated Regional Growth Strategy, which Metro exists to defend. But what the councillors at yesterday’s meeting showed was that when the temptation to make money from property development gets big enough, nothing will ever be allowed to stand in its way. We have already seen the protection of the ALR gradually whittled away. Now the Green Zone will follow. The SFPR and the expansion of Deltaport will see an end to farming in much of Delta and will kill both Burns Bog and the last salmon runs in the Fraser. The twinning of the Port Mann Bridge and expansion of Highway 1 will see continuous suburban car oriented development south of the Fraser – unless someone wakes up in Victoria soon and realises what has been happening across North America is starting to happen here too. (North of the Fraser the Golden Ears Bridge and the replacement of the Pitt River Bridge will see the same effect.) Rising oil prices mean that automobility as we know it will no longer be economically feasible – so the irreversible damage to the region’s livability will have been for nought.

And the judgement of future generations on what this short sighted, greedy decision means for the region will be harsh.

I searched in vain for a mention of this in our local media – nothing in the Sun or Province – and of course nothing in the locals since they went to press long before the meeting started. The CBC was there – they have a story on Translink funding – but obviously missed the significance of what happened.

UPDATE Sunday June 29, 06:40

Frank Luba has a short piece in the Province this morning

a long-time defender of the ALR, Richmond councillor Harold Steves, called the decision “disappointing.”

In addition to setting a precedent for other developers hoping to take land out of the ALR or Metro’s Green Zone, he contends the development will affect the Pacific flyway used by migratory birds.

“We’ve talked about eco-density and the city centres and preserving the Green Zone and this flies in the face of both,” said Steves.

Written by Stephen Rees

June 28, 2008 at 3:37 pm

Posted in land use, regional government

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Carbon Cool Challenge

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Salt Spring Coffee and the Sierra Club of BC have a competiton on line. Fairly modest prizes (though I could do with a year’s supply of coffee) but mostly about raising awareness of what you can do to reduce your carbon footprint. Have a look and refer your friends.

Written by Stephen Rees

June 28, 2008 at 3:14 pm

B.C. green cheques may buy trolley bus

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Nanaimo Daily News

I must admit I was a bit startled by the idea of trolleybuses in Nanaimo – especially when it is said that “$200,000 [is] required to establish the service”.

Of course it is not a “trolleybus” but one of the fake SF type trolley bodies on a small bus – just like the so called “Vancouver Trolley”

It is one thing when green pressure groups and political parties start asking you for $100 – it is quite another when a municipal government does so. I also take more than a little umbrage at the Premier signing the letter that heads the cheque – and the little pamphlet that also tels me how to spend my money that they are giving back to me, to offset the carbon tax I will be paying.

We have NOT got $100 extra each. We have had some of our income tax returned to us so we can pay our carbon tax. All the rest is spin.

And from a government that includes highway widening in its greenhouse gas reduction plan on the utterly bogus premise that widening roads reduces traffic congestion.  All these so called “green alternatives” are trivial in comparison. Gordon Campbell knows that “you cannot build your way out of congestion” – that is a direct quote of what he has said more than once.

And if you really want me to reduce my power consumption – how about a law which trumps silly strata title rules like “no washing lines” and “no solar panels”?

Written by Stephen Rees

June 27, 2008 at 11:42 am

Posted in politics

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A walk through a tunnel or two

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In got really lucky. I happened to be online when an email sent to all local members of the Institute of Transport Engineers came into my inbox. It was an invitation to a site visit to the Canada Line construction site under False Creek. There were a very limited number of places, and as I was one those who responded straight away I got on the tour.

Work is still continuing. Track is laid in only one of the tunnels, and there is no electrification yet. Work is currently busiest in the station boxes, but in general the project is actually ahead of schedule. I also understand that contrary to what may appear in some of my earlier pieces, there is capacity in the stations for three car trains, but initially they will all be two cars.

The engineers are of course all quite pumped to see the thing getting closer to completion. Actual constriction being much closer to their hearts than the long process of deciding what should be built and where. And of course int his case that process was rushed and not at all inclusive, and we could go on for days about what else could have been done. But what is being done now is impressive.

Written by Stephen Rees

June 26, 2008 at 6:43 pm

Posted in transit

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The future of the region: discussion forum

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I spent the morning at the Executive Plaza Hotel in Richmond at the Future of the Region Discussion Forum. The format was quite different to the other Sustainable Region Initiative meetings. What is astonishing is that the process has now taken 6 years – and counting.

After a short – and insipring – introduction by David Marshall the ED of the Fraser Basin Council we were divided up into very small groups – mine was 5 people. And with no shifting around between groups or streams we talked for the next three hours. My group included John Yap, who is my MLA, and Harold Steves. I must say that was very impressed by John, who showed himself to be well informed and thoughtful. And while he stayed fairly close to the party line when pushed (he was not going to condemn the Gateway outright) left to speak for himself he did.

The atmosphere is my little group was collegial and with a very high level of consensus. There was no grandstanding and no big arguments broke out. Even more surprisingly the other small group in the room that had the airport and board of trade reps, came to very similar to conclusions to ours.

Everyone wants a better transportation system. Everyone wants more local say and less rule by fiat from Victoria. We are all concerned about adapting to the impacts of climate change and how we absorb growth. In this region we do not have the option of no growth because the people are going to be coming here and we cannot stop them. So we did not get diverted by the “no growth” argument – even though both Harold and I emphasized that if we were serious about sustainability constant attention to the GDP was not going to be an indicator that would be helpful.

All the comments from the discussion groups will be posted on the Metro web page in about a week so there is no point me trying to summarize futher. There will be a Sustainability Summit in October, where all this and the results of similar meetings elsewhere in the region will be  turned into a Vision and Action Items.

Just to return to what David Marshall said, which I think set the tone for the meeting. The Fraser Basin Council was based on a collabarative framework between four orders of government – federal, provincial, municipal and abiriginal. It had a sustainability theme from the outset in its 1996 Charter for Sustainability and it has been a remarkably succesful project. And it is not the only one that has adopted this framework – so did the Nechako River and the Britannia Mine projects. So although the problems facing our region are daunting and the curent governance not promising, it is possible to make this thing work. Because clearly what we have now, isn’t.

Written by Stephen Rees

June 26, 2008 at 1:00 pm

Flying kettle aims to break speed record set in 1906

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Only in Britain would somebody invent a new kind of steam car, build it is a shed and then take it to Bonneville Salt Flats to break a world record that has stood for a hundred years.

And only the Guardian would try and find a way to make this kind of effort “green”.

I only refer to it at all because I enjoy this kind of eccentricity. Oh and it also might happen in New Zealand too – it remnided me of th “The World’s Fastest Indian”

Felix Clay

Written by Stephen Rees

June 25, 2008 at 9:43 pm

Posted in Transportation

The Geography of Hope

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Canada should be covered in shame – our PM is letting us and the world down with his refusal to get serious about reducing greenhouse gas emissions as an urgent priority. The story in BC is not much better – the carbon tax is merely seen as a wedge issue here too, only for electoral advantage. Nothing about dealing with the issues.

So (taking inspiration from Gudrun Langolf) here a link to CBC’s Quirks and Quarks which devoted an entire programme to Chris Turner’s new book. It is about communities around the world who have already changed their carbon footprints, and not sacrificed any of their quality of life.

It is clear that we have a long way to go, as we continue to hog tie ourselves in rules and regulations that prevent us from taking even the simplest steps. Can you hang your washing out to dry? Or put a solar panel on your roof?  But there are places that are doing the right thing, and discovering that all that stuff about reducing carbon emissions ruining the economy is nonsense peddled by the satraps of big business.

Written by Stephen Rees

June 25, 2008 at 11:10 am

Cost of rail

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The following is from Transport 2000 in Ottawa

Last week’s Mayors’ Summit in Ottawa was told by two Ministers, one federal and one provincial “they should not dream up hugely costly public transit systems that municipalities can’t afford to operate” (mentioning rail). The Ministers should take reassurance from the cost performance of such rail operators as GO Transit, Calgary Transit and OC Transpo, reports Harry Gow, President of the Transports Collectifs des Collines.

GO Transit carries 48 million passengers a year of which 85% go by train. It is the cheapest transit system per passenger to operate in North America, with 89.4% cost recovery from the farebox. Calgary pays 25 cents per passenger for operation of its light rail trains, but it pays $1.28 per passenger for buses. Labour costs for Ottawa’s O-Train are about one-sixth of those for enough buses to provide service on the same line of travel, and fuel costs per passenger a third of those for buses of equivalent capacity, Gow reports.

Just thought that those who keep on banging away at the bone headed resistance at the BC MoT might like a bit more ammunition.

Written by Stephen Rees

June 24, 2008 at 3:28 pm

Posted in transit

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