Stephen Rees's blog

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

The case for the Gateway is falling apart

with 8 comments

Today’s story in the Vancouver Sun is about the trans pacific airline business. And that is part of both the federal and provincial strategies, and the Airport is one of the key players in the Gateway Council.

The masterminds behind B.C.’s efforts to boost trade with the Asia-Pacific have long identified the need for more airlines offering more seats between Vancouver and Asia’s major cities.

This is still the overarching strategy. But, for the time being, high fuel costs have several carriers publicly — or sometimes discreetly — dropping flights, merging schedules and substituting planes to reduce capacity.

“for the time being” – don’t you just love that? As though somehow a fairy godmother will wave her magic wand and we can be wafted back to the days of cheap oil. You know what? It ain’t gonna happen.

As the CEO of American Airlines said “There was no game plan for $140 oil” – or whatever the three digits were when he said that. And as far as the producers are concerned as long as they can sell what they produce at that price, that’s fine with them.

Newer aircraft are more fuel efficient than they were in the past, and just flying a little slower, carryng less fresh water and only one set of pilot manuals are all being tried to cut the bills. But there is no sparkling new technology just around the corner to transform the business. And as the airlines shrink so do lots of other businesses.

My prediction is that the airlines will retreat from the mass market, and return to the days when they were an expensive luxury. They will pull out of the short distance markets too as more fuel efficient modes are already there in many parts of the world, and will be here before long, once the North American railways get their act together.

Unlike the Port of Vancouver, YVR has deferred its expansion until it was sure there was a market. So there is less of the overbuilding we are seeing at Roberts Bank. But even so, times will be tough, and other major international airports along the west coast are not going to sit idly by either.

Written by Stephen Rees

June 23, 2008 at 3:29 pm

Posted in Gateway

8 Responses

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  1. Our planners are living in a 20th century dreamworld which certainly did not include $140 a barrel oil.

    Gateway is a 20th century ‘rubber on asphalt’ solution to 21st century transportation problems and in 20 years. Tomorrow planners will be desperately trying to plan and build a public transit infrastructure to suit the needs of the region, because Metro Vancouver and the province thought only to invest in roads and an expensive, small metro network.

    And look at RAV, this $2.4 billion metro, demanded by the airport authority, to cater to the millions (predicted when oil was $40 a barrel) of airline passengers. There is nothing like a overbuilt and underused metro to make the populace wonder out loud, why it was built in the first place.

    “Oh what fools we mortal be”, alas in Victoria, the fools are more foolish than ever.

    Malcolm J.

    June 23, 2008 at 3:44 pm

  2. I think it is widely acknowledged that the majority of riders on the Canada Line will be from Richmond, not necessarily YVR. YVR is paying for the cost of its branch and imposed some operational requirements, such as end to end travel time from the YVR branch.
    A Richmond rapid transit line has long been in the political arena – i.e. under Van der Zalm and Rita Johnson when the “airport spur” was not a required element of the then Richmond Skytrain line.
    YVR’s contribution ensured that YVR participated in the line – which serves double duty as the airport’s internal peoplemover to its long term park and ride lot – avoiding the situation at many other airports which have a separate internal “peoplemover” and an external connection to a regional rapid transit system (i.e. San Fransisco has BART and an internal Bombardier peoplemover to parking lots and car rental facility; Toronto will eventually require passengers arriving by train to transfer from heavy rail to its Doppelmayer cable-driven peoplemover to reach the terminal buildings).
    Describing the Canada Line as an “airport line” probably has more to do with favouring Richmond over the northeast sector than expectations of ridership to or from the airport (although a good number of people work at YVR).
    Having every second train originate from the airport branch will also provide a train of empty seats for transferring South of Fraser passengers at Bridgeport Station in the morning rush hour.

    Ron C.

    June 23, 2008 at 4:09 pm

  3. It was the airport authority that dictated the less than 30 minute travel time from YVR to downtown Vancouver that paved the way for the subway.

    Even with much higher gas prices, South Surrey and Delta/Ladner residents will switch from bus to car rather than be forcibly transferred from bus to RAV. In Richmond, RAV will give current B-Line passengers a more inconvenient trip, a hell of a way to attract riders to transit.

    I think RAV will prove to be an embarrassment for Campbell/Falcon and the rest of the SkyTrain/metro folks as it is bush league planning from start to finish.

    Malcolm J.

    June 23, 2008 at 8:07 pm

  4. “My prediction is that the airlines will retreat from the mass market, and return to the days when they were an expensive luxury. They will pull out of the short distance markets too as more fuel efficient modes are already there in many parts of the world, and will be here before long, once the North American railways get their act together.”

    Hopefully this will happen soon- before our local airport buldizes the land for runway 2.

    Andy in Germany

    June 24, 2008 at 1:43 am

  5. Just a note:

    Last weekend, on most US media, there was an interesting story: “where has the traffic jams gone?”

    From New York to California a phenomenon has happened, traffic has eased so much that where just a few month ago stop and go traffic at peak hours has been replaced with free-flow traffic. Some car drivers have opted for transit but it seems that people are rationalizing their travel and combining journeys to reduce gas expenditures!

    Campbell – Falcon get your heads out of the sand boys, kill Gateway and start planning for 300 km. of LRT for the region, oh yes built for the same price as Gateway.

    Malcolm J.

    June 24, 2008 at 7:53 am

  6. This is a good spot to plunk down Jeff Kenworthy’s Ten Myths of Automobile Dependency again just for those who believe that cars would / should always be with us, and to confirm to the rest of us that there is no greater way to bancrupt society than to continue on this course considering all the other challenges we and the next five generations face.

    I note that one of the “cars will always be with us” folk is Dejan K who posted comments on June 20th in “Algae or air could fuel cars”. Another is Mark Jaccard, coauthor of “Hot Air”, a book written supposedly as a proposal to reduce GHG emissions, but ended up being on Gordo’s reading and Policy of the Month list as a flawed and inequitably distributed carbon tax.

    Click to access ad_myths.pdf

    Meredith

    June 24, 2008 at 3:50 pm

  7. Hi–Meredith —What a shame that Gordon Campbell twisted mark Jaccards real good work and turned it into creamed crapolla.

    When Campbell starts the cap and trade in may 2013 one can only hope he doesn`t turn that into a { hide the pea game} but I expect no less from Campbells creamed crapolla coroporation.

    grant g

    June 24, 2008 at 5:14 pm

  8. […] July 2nd, 2008 A couple of weeks ago I write about how the rise in oil prices is going to hit the airlines. The effect is also going to hit Beoing, Airbus and Bombardier hard too – as outlined yesterday by […]


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