Stephen Rees's blog

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

Archive for June 21st, 2008

Tsawwassen treaty takedown

with 4 comments

Margaret Wente in the Globe and Mail talks to Bertha Williams and throws doubt at the treaty, but misses at one significant point.

“The government desperately needs land for a massive container port to expand our vital shipping trade to Asia.”

That one sentence shows that she really has not done her homework. The government doesn’t “need” the land – it has chosen to allow itself to be dragooned by the Gateway Council into a Port Strategy that was ill thought out in the first place and now seems bizarrely irrelevant. The decline of cross pacific container trade has been going on for two years now, and rising fuel costs, a declining US economy and a change in world trade patterns due to the collapse of the dollar all point to a reduction in the need for container terminal facilities. But like the treaty process, the Gateway has been rumbling on for many years and the original justification for it has long since passed.

“Vital” ? Who for? We really do not need to import so much of what we use. Manufacturing in North America is starting to pick up again as fuel costs and long lead times cut into margins. Asia is an important market for our exports – but not much of that moves in containers. It is mostly bulk cargo. It may be in future that we will start to make things here again. Instead of exporting raw logs, we could be making bookshelves for IKEA (they currently come from China) from some of our lumber. I can think of a number of mill towns that would love that opportunity.

I think she hits the nail on the head when she identifies the need for the BC Liberals to actually produce something out of the treaty process, even if it did mean outright vote buying. But that pressure to be “seen to be doing something” does not make it a good treaty or a wise land use and transportation plan for the region. In fact it is monumentally stupid to build something we don’t need, that will not do what it is said to do and is also costing us a fortune that could be better spent on meeting real needs. Both here and on the TFN reserve.

Written by Stephen Rees

June 21, 2008 at 9:27 am

Posted in Gateway

Everyone complains about gas prices

with 12 comments

but how many actually do much about it?

This is just based on personal observation, not on anything I have read. Although there have been a plethora of stories in the media about people who are switching to transit or using their bikes. What I have noticed is that as gas prices have risen steeply driving behaviour has not changed. Yet there is a direct link between fuel consumption and speed in urban areas. Because of the frequent starts and stops, a lot of fuel is used to get the vehicle moving from rest, but the same energy gets thrown away as heat in the brake pads. And the harder the acceleration, the sharper the braking. I live on Steveston Highway which has a posted speed of 50kph – but the times I see someone driving at or below that speed are very rare. The average speed on that road is 70kph – which means half of the vehicles are exceeding that speed. And that is not the only road where this can be observed. In general, moving traffic in Greater Vancouver is at least 10kph over the posted speed on arterial roads.

But everyone knows that rapid acceleration and hard braking wastes fuel and wears out cars. Yet nearly everyone does it anyway.

And I also notice that the number of brand new large trucks used as personal transport is a obvious as ever. In fact the trucks seem to me to be larger than ever. Yes, I also notice the number of Smart cars and hybrids – but they are greatly outnumbered in my unscientific observation than the SUVs “cross overs” and four seat pick ups – all shiny and new and quite a few jacked up with off road tires (another good way to increase rolling resistance and increase fuel use).

Yet all these people are bitching and complaining about how much gas costs and blaming the government and its carbon tax which has yet to be implemented. And Carol James, to her great disgrace, seems to support them.

This blog of course is mostly read by those who understand these issues. We do, every so often attract a comment from one of the dinosaurs but not often and it is even less a rational explanation – more usually an attack on those who they feel are trying to “socially engineer” them. And I have been one of the first and loudest to point out how poor some of the alternative still are after years of trying to get much needed improvements.

But what really surprised me recently was the way that the Chamber of Commerce people in Abbotsford are convinced that their airport is going to be an engine of growth. Is this the same sort of denial that is behind the choice of a brand new Hummer? Air Canada lays off thousands and cuts service. Small airlines go bust and cease operating. Others seek bankruptcy protection and start charging for sandwiches and tell their pilots to leave their manuals behind. These are not the indicators one looks for in a flourishing industry.

We know that oil production cannot keep pace with growing demand, especially as China and India are motorising at a phenomenal rate. China will soon replace Japan as the biggest consumer of oil. There isn’t any more cheap oil to find and the reserves we know about are often in places where drilling has been prevented due to environmental concerns. Like the coast of BC. Only people people like Dick Cheney and his puppet think that is a good idea.

But the fast and agressive driver seems not to make the link between his (or her – yes, there are increasing numbers of female drivers who forget their manners on the road too) behaviour and the effect at the pump. And I see no sudden increase in the number of parking spots available.

I can understand why people think they have no realistic alternative to driving if they live and work in the suburbs. What I do not understand is why they cannot drive in a way that reduces both acclerationand braking, allows for a much less stressful journey and cuts fuel consumption. And usually does not take any longer.

Written by Stephen Rees

June 21, 2008 at 8:17 am

Posted in energy, Transportation

Tagged with ,