Stephen Rees's blog

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

Archive for July 19th, 2008

Let’s Kick Nuclear Power out of the Climate Change Debate

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By Linda Gunter, AlterNet. Posted July 12, 2008.

A very useful summary – from an American perspective of course – on why the nuclear option is actually not workable. Too slow and too expensive should kill it, but throw in too risky and requiring too much tax payer support and even the right wing seem less likely to go for it.

Canada has been trying to sell more of its nuclear reactors – despite their dismal record in Ontario. I found the practical approach taken by this article bolstered my own thoughts, which were based much more on the visceral dislike of the tecchnology and what it has done to us already. But fundamentally I think the idea that there is some way we can continue to over consume is at the heart of the nuclear proponents appeal.

Written by Stephen Rees

July 19, 2008 at 2:58 pm

Spatial variations in estimated chronic exposure to traffic-related air pollution in working populations – A simulation

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7th Space interactive

With a title like that I would be surprised if it gets much attention.

The data comes from Greater Vancouver and the source is “Author: Eleanor M Setton, C. Peter Keller, Denise Cloutier-Fisher and Perry W Hystad : International Journal of Health Geographics 2008, 7:39”

But the main point I want to make is that if there is a real hard nugget of information in all of this, you need to be a scientist to understand it. I re-read it several times with a growing respect for journalists who make a living explaining scientific journal articles to the general public.  I think the message might be that how you get to work is not really significant in terms of pollution exposure (at least in the case of the one pollutant they looked at – nitrogen dioxide) as you spend longer at home and at work than you do in commuting. So we need to be concerned more about air quality at home and work than outside. Which makes me wonder who paid for this research. It is one thing if it is “pure research” – it is quite something else if the money came from an oil company or a car manufacturer.

It is also probably worth noting that if you run Google alerts, you come up with some quite unexpected sources.

Written by Stephen Rees

July 19, 2008 at 8:33 am

Sorry suburbia, Vancouver is our true economic epicentre

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Miro Cernetig, Vancouver Sun

Myth-busting finding comes from a memo to Metro Vancouver’s mayors

The surprising, myth-busting finding comes from a memo that has been supplied to the mayors of Metro Vancouver from the city of Vancouver’s engineering department.

It is indeed very odd that a memo from this source would go to all the region’s Mayors. Generally speaking, this kind of information comes from Metro staff – and usually to one of Metro’s committees first. And of course it is also being publicised – presumably by the same source sending it directly to Miro. Someone, somewhere inside City Hall wants to get this shoved into people’s faces and not lost in the bureaucracy somwhere.

Not that the information is not useful – but its provenance and source material can now only be checked by some diligent digging through the StatsCan and other sources cited (but not precisely indentified) in the piece.

– According to the latest population forecasts by both B.C. Statistics and Metro Vancouver, the city of Vancouver will continue to have the largest population of all regional municipalities by 2036 and 2041.

– According to analysis by the Vancouver planning department, the city continues to have significant development capacity to accommodate future population growth (mainly outside downtown).

– Between 2001 and 2006, the city had the largest employment growth among Metro Vancouver municipalities. Vancouver counted 37,500 new jobs during this time frame (accounting for 32 per cent of regional job growth). Surrey, Delta and White Rock combined for 26,800 new jobs (or 22.6 per cent of regional job growth) during the same period.

– Vancouver’s core accounts for 60 per cent of the region’s overall office inventory (data from Colliers International).

– According to 2006 census data, Vancouver has about 400,000 jobs or 34 per cent of all jobs in the region. Surrey has the next largest number at 144,240 or a 12-per-cent share of regional jobs.

– Metro Vancouver projects that in 2031 Vancouver will still maintain a dominant share of regional jobs.

That last one in particular needs to be looked at critically. “Projects” usually means “if present trends continue”, but I would suggest that going 25 years forward at the same rate as we did overv the last 5 years is unlikely, if for no other reason than the world has changed dramatically since these stats were collected. The future, it seems to me, is now a lot more uncertain – becuase the price of oil has not only changed significantly but so has the way that we respond to it. “Present trends” are no longer present – that was then and this is now – and in between times there has been a huge shift in understanding of peak oil and climate change. The broader policy context is already different.

But secondly has the City Engineer talked about this work to the City Planner?

For years there’s been much talk about about setting up new commercial districts to encourage the construction of office towers, not simply condominiums, in Vancouver. There have been dreams of creating a high-tech cluster, too, to bring about those green, high-paying jobs that need to be part of Vancouver’s — and British Columbia’s — future industrial strategy.

But nothing much ever seems to happen. These latest statistics, however, make it crystal clear that Vancouver is — and will continue to be — our economic epicentre. We need to stop ignoring that fact.

Is this even accurate? The idea of the “high tech cluster” on Terminal Avenue did see shovels go into the ground and new streets are now visible next to the train tracks. The commerical proposal died as a result of the bust.

An office tower proposal next to BC Place also died – no tenants could be found for such an “out of the way” location.

Miro suggests this is going to be material for the municipal elections – which makes the involvement of the engineering department even more problematic. Civil servants at any level of government are not supposed to dabble in politics.

This puzzle ought to become something of an issue – but I suspect it will provoke a very strong response from politicians, not so much about the content of the message, but how it is being delivered.

Written by Stephen Rees

July 19, 2008 at 8:21 am

Queen Elizabeth Park – the mourning after

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This post is reproduced by permission of the author, Ned Jacobs, who sent it to the Livable Region Coalition email list. I thought it deserved wider circulation.

The Vancouver Parks Board decided to cut down trees which were blocking the view of downtown from the high spot in the park. This is the destination used by many tour bus operators, and was also the site of a proposed commerical development which included a viewing tower, which was not approved after public protests. Ned has also propsed a low cost, free tower which would have achieved the same result without tree rmoval or commercial development. In my estimation, this proposal was not seriously considered by the Board, who acted in unseemly haste to avoid further public discussion.


I want to thank each of you who contributed in any way—large or small—to what unfortunately was an unsuccessful effort to convince a majority on Parks Board that the loss of so many fine trees (exact number unknown) cannot justify the “restoration” of limited and ever-shrinking views of Vancouver’s skyline from the plaza opposite the Bloedel Conservatory. It was to create this corridor that the majority of condemned trees were sacrificed.

As you can clearly see, removing scores of 50-year old trees from Canada’s first Civic Arboretum has revealed the skyline of our fair city in all its world class glory! Now if only we could do something about those selfish red cedars that still insist on getting in the way of Harbourfront, BC Place Stadium, the West End, etc, etc. Thank God we can now at last see Science World (far right). This morning, a group of frustrated tourists were standing on the stone wall trying to get a better view of downtown. It’s not like we planted those cedars; after Little Mountain was logged 120 years ago they just started growing–without a permit!  You can see how overcrowded they are, and what poor form.  Besides, just like those pathetic trees that were “removed” yesterday, they are all infected with an untreatable disease–called “life.” If we leave them alone, not only will they soon completely obstruct these unparalleled views of Vancouver, some of them might fall victim to the ravages of life in four or five hundred years. Or a branch might fall on someone and the city could be sued! Better to put them out of their misery now—those cedars will be much happier as wood chips. But I suppose we’d better leave that to another board–the current crop of commissioners has already suffered far too much verbal abuse from those silly tree-huggers. Don’t they deserve a break? How about giving some of them an opportunity to make equally astute decisions on City Council next year?

Please forgive my lapse into sarcasm —these trees were my companions for many years…

Please forgive me for my inability to reproduce these pictures in the way that Ned did in his original post. I simply cannot understand how WordPress handles images to show these side by side in two columns at their original size. If you know how to do this with (not!) please let me know by email – not as a comment.

Written by Stephen Rees

July 19, 2008 at 8:00 am

Posted in Transportation