Stephen Rees's blog

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

Archive for June 10th, 2008

The Globe and Sam

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I was praising, not so long ago, the decision by the Globe and Mail to open up its web site. Now you can read the opinion pieces as well as the news. But in the case of Gary Mason maybe that is not such a great gift. In today’s piece he spends a lot of space to say that he does not like Sam, but does not know why. And he projects that onto the people he says he talked to. Not exactly insightful analysis.

Perhaps he should have looked over the shoulder of his colleague on the news desk Rod Mickleburgh who writes down what people say to him.

NPA Park Board Commissioner Ian Robertson

“People kept telling me they had supported the NPA in the past, but they weren’t going to support the party in the fall if Sam was leader. He just disappointed people. He didn’t deliver on their expectations.”

Urban planner Michael Geller, a new NPA council nominee

“I do believe Sam would not have won this fall,” Mr. Geller said. “I don’t know why, exactly, he didn’t do better. Some of the people around him may have been giving him bad advice.”

Which actually doesn’t get us much further.

Mason does point to some of his blunders – but mostly it is about attitude. Sam doesn’t listen – not to the people around him or the people who will not vote for him. He is convinced of his own rightness. He needed to bear in mind that famous Oliver Cromwell quotation “Consider the possibility you might be wrong.” Mason says he “flip flopped” but surely it was his determination (I was going to write “pig headedness” which is bit unfair) that gets him into trouble. EcoDensity was something he tried to patent for himself – and he got tied into knots when people said they did not trust developers. He was unable to accept that Vancouver citizens have been accustomed to being consulted about what happens in their neighborhoods and it worried them that they would not be in future. The cancellation of the trial of bike lanes on Burrard Bridge is also a good indicator of someone who does not want to be proved wrong. He would not let experience show that his assertions were wrong. But most of all the slogan “Sam’s strike” – fair or not – stuck. It went on for far too long, and Sam was blamed for that. Even though he had recognised that his early comments weren’t helping and he had backed off and left it to the negotiators, as was right and proper.

I think he will show up again before too long. The BC Liberals need some new blood in the leg after the retirement of a number of senior people. I cannot imagine Sam as anything but a politician, and he has been scandal free, so there is no reason why he would not take another run at a seat somewhere else. Just as long as he doesn’t try to copyright the word “plucky”.

Written by Stephen Rees

June 10, 2008 at 10:47 am

Posted in politics

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High gas prices taxing public transit system

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Department of the Obvious. Gas prices go up, more people want to use transit. But our transit system here has been under supplied – or over capacity – same thing – for many years.

Every time TransLink adds new buses and SkyTrain cars, Hardie said, they fill up with passengers.

That is also not news. It was as true in 1998 as 2008!

But we have a provincial government that prefers to build highways. Abandon the useless Gateway project and start spending money on buying more buses, building more depots and hiring more operators. And do not wait – get on with it now. And pay for it with the increased royalties you are getting from oil and gas.

The so called “transit plan” should be jettisoned. It was simply posturing for effect. It was unfunded, pie in the sky, jam tomorrow. We need more transit now. More bus lanes. More buses. And note that simply increasing frequencies on existing bus routes will of itself stimulate further increases in demand as the improvement in service quality will be noticed by all. This is one of those beneficent spirals that we should have got onto back in the 1970s when the first oil shock hit. The years since then have been characterised in North America and the UK by a strange ability to ignore the inevitable. Cheap oil is over and its not coming back. Cars and urbanity do not mix. You cannot build your way out of congestion.

Get on the bus!

Translink P3355 Braid Stn New Westminster 2007_1220

And yes Malcolm I know you think we should buy trams too – but we do not have time now for that argument to distract us. We need to see a significant hike in capacity at the next sheet change – and that requires some creativity and “thinking outside the box”. I am not talking about strategic plans, I am talking about getting ready for the inevitable crunch in September

Written by Stephen Rees

June 10, 2008 at 8:22 am

Posted in transit

Vancouver mayor blasted for bragging about wheelchair accessibility

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Calling Vancouver “the most accessible city in North America” is not only unproven, it also sends the message that nothing more need be done – which is obviously not true. And this quite substantial critique for people who have to cope with what has not been done, or been done badly, demonstrates that the City of Vancouver has a long way to go. As does every other municipality.

And it also affects transit. This is Margaret Birrell of the B.C. Coalition of People with Disabilities talking about the Canada Line

“There are 19 things wrong with the design of the stations for the blind the visually impaired alone — and they are going to rectify that — but why wasn’t that thought about before? Why didn’t they hire a specialist in design?”

Or just talk to the people who have been working steadily to make SkyTrain accessible for the last twenty years.

The fact that we might be a bit better than Seattle or Kelowna is irrelavant. Accessibility is one of those thing that  is either there or not – and it is very specific and needs a strong commitment with leadership from the top. It is not enough that Sam says “I just set policy”. He has a responsibility to ensure that policies are implemented effectively – not just taking credit for the things that seem to work better here than elsewhere.

Written by Stephen Rees

June 10, 2008 at 8:04 am

Little difference observed between Ladner and Sullivan

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It is understandable that COPE and Vision would take this line. But for the NPA this is a difficult choice. Right now they do not want to appear divided – even though they are. But as Ladner pointed out, if the NPA doesn’t deliver change, then Vision will. The current party line is that there was no difference in policy and it is all about personality. But some of those policies are really difficult to defend – including EcoDensity and the daft plan to widen Burrard Bridge.  I think that the people of Vancouver want to see more than a different face and a more approachable manner. What the NPA seem to be saying is to put style over substance, and I think the small percentage of Vancouver residents who can be bothered to vote will regard that as insulting to their intelligence. I also expect NPA supporters to stay home – just like they did when they had the opportunity to choose a candidate for Mayor and so many didn’t.

But the best quote of the day is from

Al De Genova, a former NPA park board commissioner who is now seeking the Vision Vancouver mayoral nomination, was even more adamant that Ladner is unlikely to depart from the Sullivan policy book.

“I can say it in four words: Nothing has changed,” he said. “Peter has been toeing the party line for the past six years on council.”

In my view a basic qualification for municipal office is the ability to count – even if you have to use the fingers of one hand to do it.

Written by Stephen Rees

June 10, 2008 at 7:30 am

Posted in politics

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