Stephen Rees's blog

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

Archive for August 13th, 2008

What Metro Vancouver doesn’t want us to think about

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This story, appearing in the Georgia Straight, was noticed by Gudrun Langolf and copied to the BCEN mailing list. I am going to break my usual practice and as well as this link, repeat the whole story. Becuase it is important.And its author is simply quoting from another web page.

There is a transportation connection. Our waste is currently trucked to distant landfills – except for Vancouver which trucks it to Delta, and Burnaby which burns it. GVRD is loking at options like taking it to the US – or building new incinerators. Doubling the size of the Cache Creek landfill is also been touted by its operator.

What Metro Vancouver doesn’t want us to think about

Prevent Cancer Now, a Canada-wide movement to eliminate the preventable causes of cancer, has just launched an anti-incineration campaign. Their Web site says:

“Almost all of us know someone who has cancer, or who has died from one of over 200 different types of cancer. We know the anguish, suffering and grief cancer causes. It has become so common that we think of it as an unavoidable part of life.

People are being diagnosed with cancer at unprecedented rates. Melanomas, breast and prostate cancers, colon cancer, testicular cancer and multiple myeloma are all increasing. During the 25 years from 1976 to 2001, the age-adjusted incidence of cancer among males increased by 27.7%, and the female rate increased by 17.8%. (Canadian Cancer Statistics 2006)

After examining 10 million people over a 70-year period, a recent Swedish study found that cancers were 90% environmental in origin, with “environmental” meaning everything outside our bodies that can make its way in, including tobacco smoke, toxic chemicals, alcohol, radiation from nuclear power plants, and the sun, processed foods high in sugars, fats, and additives, some pharmaceutical drugs, medical X-rays, and more.

These are avoidable substances, which should not be trespassing into our bodies. With changed policies, and industrial/agricultural practices that focus on prevention and precaution, with healthier diets and other personal habits, we can prevent this epidemic.

Helen Spiegelman is a Vancouver-based environmentalist and blog coordinator. Read more at Zero Waste.

Written by Stephen Rees

August 13, 2008 at 5:42 pm

Posted in Transportation

Wednesday news round-up

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I have spent the day at a workshop on Climate Change and Social Justice organised by the CCPA, so the blog entry today is going to be shorter than usual. I have an inbox full of stuff – and have selected a few stories to write about that contribute to discussions already under way.

But the were more than a few aperçus today that I wanted to share with you.

Larry Frank (Armand Bombardier Chair of Sustainable Transportation at UBC) said that this region is a statistical desert. For some research currently underway he is having to rely on the last transportation survey done in this region in 1999. There is another survey from 2004, done for the Gateway Council, but they refuse to share the data with him, as he is a well known critic of the Gateway program. Could it be that the data in 2004 also showed that the Gateway program was not justified? Larry’s data for his presentation today was all from Seattle.

One reason for not collecting transportation data is that it makes major decision making deceptively easy. The proponent simply makes an assertion than no one else can challenge. Instead of looking at a range of options, only one is looked at against a “do nothing” scenario – and in most cases doing something will score as better than nothing. Unfortunately that is not much of test. And actually, in case of Gateway, it even fails that one, if you do the sums properly.

The representative from the Bus Riders Union (whose name I did not think to write down and have, I am sorry to say, forgotten) said that the people they consult before making policy pronouncements (i.e. the bus riders) have told them that they do not want fares free transit. This was one of the options that the workshop wanted to evaluate, but the Bus Riders say it is impractical and unachievable, and would be happy with a “buck a ride” fare for the entire system. They also acknowledged that before any such fare could be introduced, a massive increase in capacity would be needed.

I also sat next to Heather McCain, the Executive Director of Citizens for Accessible Neighborhoods and a memebr of Translink’s advisory committee on handyDART. She was very optimistic about the new contract which will see one operator for the entire system next year.  I slogged for years over the complexities of the specialised transit system – and acknowledge that I was unable to come up with any solution that was thought to be acceptable – by Translink management that is. Very few of the ideas were even floated before the actual “stakeholders”. My one thought then – and now – was that if everyone had access to handyDART as a universal dial a ride service, it would be declared totally unacceptable immediately. I must also acknowledge that in this case I do have a connection with the succesful bidder. MVT’s Western director is one of my former brothers-in-law, but we have never spoken about this contract.

The story about the MIT students who found a way to hack into the Boston transit fare collection system and then were slapped with an injunction to stop them addressing a security conference has developed further. The presentation they were going to give is now circulating widely on the internet. It lacks one crucial bit of information, however. How to take advantage of the flaw. But expect someone to come up with that any day now. Meanwhile over in New York they have discovered “a software glitch that allowed vending machines on the Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North Railroad to dispense free tickets on some debit card transactions”. Apparently most people are thought not to reconcile their bank accounts very carefully, so the existence of the glitch was not widely noticed. Of course, a few people did notice and some started selling the tickets that they had acquired at no cost.

Yet another electric bike is expected to be launched soon. This one has “a proprietary motor that is highly efficient, producing more “torque”” and also “lithium-ion batteries stored inside the frame”. Its expected price will be around $2,500 so I hope they also have some pretty novel way of dealing with bike theft too.

“Soaring fuel prices and green pressures herald comeback for Britain’s waterways” says the Independent. And I am sure that local advocates of water freight transport (or “short sea shipping” as it is misleadingly called here) will be bucked – but I remain cynically unconvinced that anything will actually happen, just because it has not in the last 40 years. And there the fuel prices have always been very much higher than here.

And finally I am pleased to note that journalists in Beijing are giving Gordon Campbell a tough time over his Olympic plans, for both the Sea to Sky and how he proposes to tackle the social problems of the Downtown Eastside – and at least one of them is not local but from China. “It was a sobering reminder that the international media will not be looking for jolly-good stories as Vancouver prepares to play host to the Winter Olympics in two years.” Good.

Written by Stephen Rees

August 13, 2008 at 5:05 pm