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

Archive for June 5th, 2008

SkyTrain Billions Better Spent on Trams: Study

The Tyee

None of this will be of any surprise to readers of this blog, and it confirms what Malcolm Johnson keeps on writing about here – and I keep talking about whenever I think anyone is listening.

Map on left shows the conceptual location of the $220-million-per-kilometre Broadway SkyTrain line proposed by the province. On the right is an illustration of how much tram infrastructure you could install for the same price. Map shows heritage streetcar routes as solid lines, and a conceptual expansion of that historic system in dashed lines.

Actually I think that map could be a red rag to the region. It shows trams all over Vancouver – which already has a much better transit system than the rest of the region. What is actually needed is a system which serves the places which currently are under served but have quite dense pockets of development, separated by big chunks of green. Exactly the right sort of land use for on street running in towns with fast sections of reserved right of way across rural areas which thus remain undeveloped. Rail means you do not get ribbon development or sprawl as people will only move to where they can walk to a station.

But to provide you with some sources, here is the top of the Tyee article

The planned SkyTrain subway spur along Broadway and out to the University of British Columbia campus will cost taxpayers 15 times what it would take to build a tram line along the same route.

In fact, for the $2.8 billion cost of the single 12 kilometre SkyTrain tube from Commercial Drive to UBC, Vancouver could build 175 km of tram lines crisscrossing the city and beyond.

That is the finding of a study led by Prof. Patrick Condon of the UBC Design Centre for Sustainability. His team based their calculations on the recent experiences of Portland, Oregon, and various European cities with light rail transit.

“This study demonstrates that the money needed for one 12 km subway line would be more than enough to rebuild and substantially expand the region’s entire historic streetcar system,” state the authors, noting that Vancouver and surrounding communities were built along trolley lines dating back to 1890.

Read the rest of David Beers’ article here

and the actual report here (downloadable pdf)

NET 209 approaches Highbury Vale 14Ap04

I took this picture in the suburbs of Nottingham, England. In the centre of town the tram runs in street – mainly on narrow streets closed to other traffic, but also, on wider streets in its own lane with general traffic around it. Out of town it operates just like a train, and moves much faster between stations more widely spaced than the on street tram stops.

Written by Stephen Rees

June 5, 2008 at 11:40 am

Posted in transit

Tagged with

Peak Gas

with 3 comments

Hat tip to Meredith Botta for this link to an article in the Oil Drum which makes the case that our natural gas production has probably peaked. And that continued demand for ng to process the the oil sands to make articificial crude, as well as exports to the US (the pipelines remember mostly point south not east – west) could dramatically reduce the availability of gas for domestic use. And of course, the industry acknowledges that we face severe gas shortages as they are planning a new LNG terminals on the BC coast with pipelines to get it to the tar sands.

I will include the chart but recommend you read the article before commenting. This is not a simple issue.

Written by Stephen Rees

June 5, 2008 at 11:12 am

Posted in energy

Tagged with

The Tipping Point

with 2 comments

There has been a protracted debate about global climate change for far too long. The vested interests and the people who think that their national economy is more important than the planet we live on – and some frankly deliberately contrarian publicity seekers – have thrown up a huge sandstorm of doubt and uncertianty. Meanwhile the natural processes have continued – as have humans burning ever increasing amounts of fossil fuels.

This longish opinion piece appears in Yale Environment 360, a publication of the Yale School of Forestry
& Environmental Studies. The author, Bill McKibben is a scholar in residence at Middlebury College. His The End of Nature, published in 1989, is regarded as the first book for a general audience on global warming. He is a founder of, a campaign to spread the goal of 350 parts per million worldwide. His most recent book is “American Earth“, an anthology of American environmental writing.

He doesn’t pull any punches, but he is clear that processes that has been thought to take many years have already started happening. And of course Stephen Harper is still banging on about “realistic” targets.

Perhaps the most important, in the short run (though it’s like picking which terminal illness you’d most want to contract) is the prospect of rapid melt on the ice sheets of Greenland and the West Antarctic. We used to think these ice sheets were stable on a time-scale of centuries, because how do you even start to melt a mile and a half of ice? I mean, it’s inertia defined. But it turns out that nature may have a method. As temperatures warm, snow at the very top of that ice sheet is turning to water, and that water in turn is finding its way through cracks and fissures to the base of the ice sheets where it can grease the skids for their slide into the ocean.

Meanwhile, rising and warming seas can eat away at the glaciers along the sea’s edge, which serve as corks in the bottle for the inland ice sheets. Add it all up badly enough, and there’s at least the possibility — or so [head of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies] Hansen testified recently in federal court under oath — for five meters of sea level rise this century. Which is another way of saying the end of civilization as we know it, since there’s not enough money on earth to defend our coastal cities or the fertile plains near the sea — the places where the world mostly, you know, lives — from that kind of rise.

Many of the people who question climate change also believe a large number of other impossible things. Perhaps the most scary being that the “end of the world” has been prophesied and that bringing it about would be a Good Thing. People who would rather read Revelations than Science are, of course entitled to do so. But what is also very much to the point is that one common theme among neo-conservatives is that what they say does not necessarily have to be true, as long as it gets things moving in the “right” direction. The ends, they say, justify the means. Which puts them in the same camp as Al Quaeda.

We now have plenty of evidence that we have been consistently lied to – and if they lie about Weapons of Mass Destruction and the threat from the former Soviet Union, they will happily lie about climate change too. The science is not in question and no scientist publishing in peer reviewed journals has ever questioned the link between anthropogenic CO2 and climate change. And no-one in the right minds would believe that somehow the economy does not depend upon the environment – and not the other way around.

This issue puts all other issues into a different perspective.

Physics and chemistry don’t bluff and they don’t bargain — they just are. If there’s a way out of this box, therefore, it’s up to us.

Hat tip to Bill Henderson for brining this article to my attention

Written by Stephen Rees

June 5, 2008 at 10:55 am