Stephen Rees's blog

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

Archive for August 22nd, 2008

Olympic Lanes

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In today’s print edition of the Globe and Mail, John Furlong is quoted as saying that we will have to have Beijing style “Olympic lanes” to ensure that important people are not inconvenienced in 2010. I tried to find it on the Globe web page without success.

In totalitarian, one party states, this is not a new idea. Moscow used to have special lanes set aside for the apparatchiks in their Zils. Since very few could other afford a car, that really did not have a lot of impact on the broad streets of the Soviet capital. In Beijing, not so long ago, there were serious attempts to curb the enormous number of cyclists who were getting in the way of high officials and their friends. But even the junta now admits that the headlong rush to motorisation cannot be kept in pace with new road construction, and switched quickly and determinedly to rapid transit for the masses, which seems to be working quite well, from what little I have read.

John Furlong needs to be reminded that Canada does not – even now – and will not in 2010 – resemble a single party state where Important People (i.e. Mr Furlong and his friends) get priority treatment at all times and in all places. And absolutely not for a two week winter sports festival – which is no excuse for distorting priorities of any kind, least of all our ability to move around our own region.

Written by Stephen Rees

August 22, 2008 at 9:26 pm

Posted in Olympics

Students ready for fare fight

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Georgia Straight

As the new term approaches the campaign for UPass for all students heats up again. Their argument is that all students ought to be treated the same. This is a nice principle, but the real world is not a fair place at all.

The deal struck with UBC and SFU was forced through by pressure from the top at Translink over the better advice from staff. The system was already under strain, with not enough capaicty and no way to get much  more quickly, and a distinctly iffy financial prospect. But that was ignored in favour of making a nice big splash. Of course, the fact that the CEO’s daughter was just starting at UBC at the same time is merely coincidental, and it is simply mischievous to suggest that such a well respected public servant could possbibly be influenced by such personal conscerns.

Anyway, the money problem now looks like getting worse and Translink simply cannot afford to subsidise every student in the region. And cvertainly could not cope with another influc of riders. Though int he case of some institutions like VCC, where most of the student already use transit with no financial inducement, there is very little ridership to gain but a lot of revenue to lose.

And it might also be argued that there are many other low income riders who also “deserve” a break,  not that anyone is suggesting that our taxes be used in this way  – other than the BRU that is.

Written by Stephen Rees

August 22, 2008 at 9:07 pm

Posted in transit

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Edmonton round up

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This week I have been in Edmonton, checking out the new extension to the LRT, which opens next year and also the historic trams on the High Level Bridge and Fort Edmonton Park.

On the left, an old Melbourne streetcar on the high level bridge

On the left, an old Melbourne streetcar on the high level bridge

The LRT is going to be getting some new cars – the first are already on site but carefully tucked away out of sight. The system is proof of payment and there is no proposal to install gates. Stations are also unmanned and I have not seen a single armed police officer checking tickets. Because the system is not automatic train frequency is quite sparse – 10 minute headways, 6 minutes at peaks. Trains are lengthened at peaks to  4 articulated cars, but ridership is reported to be an average of 42,000 a day which is not high by LRT standards. One ticket machine stiffed me out of $2 change for my $7.50 day pass.

Siemens Duwag car 1029

Siemens Duwag car 1029

No trolleybuses are running at present as there is too much construction going on. They are scheduled for withdrawal completely in 2010. One argument is that they are not “clean” as the electricity is generated by coal in Alberta – but of course Calgary runs its LRT on clean wind energy. Diesel buses are similar to Vancouver’s but much quieter due to the use of a Cummins six cylinder diesel – not the Detroit Diesel Series 50 which has 4 big cylinders and a very distinctive howl. The additional service at Stadium for the Eskimoes game was very impressive: one incentive for the operators is not just the overtime but a free ticket to the game.

Edmonton airport is a long way out of town in Leduc, with no public transport link except the privately operated shuttle van service.

I would recommend a visit to Fort Edmonton if you are in the area. The recreation of the historical street scenes is very authentic, and rides of the steam train and streetcar are included in the price of admission. Plan to spend the whole day.

1920 St Fort Edmonton

1920 St Fort Edmonton

And this week there is lots of entertainment in town  due to the  Fringe Festival.

Written by Stephen Rees

August 22, 2008 at 9:32 am

Posted in Transportation