Stephen Rees's blog

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

Archive for September 16th, 2008

Now that one tunnel is closed, what do you do?

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You will doubtless have heard by now that a fire has closed one of the twin bores under the English Channel. Eurostar is now operating a much diminished service. So I was very interested to read in today’s Guardian how to do it the old fashioned way. Once upon a time there was through ticketing and reasonably convenient connections between train and boat i.e. a short walk through the customs shed. No more. I wonder if they will get any better- or now that it is all in the hands of competing copmpanies the current shambles will continue until the tunnel is fixed. Inter-modal transfers are not what they used to be.

Written by Stephen Rees

September 16, 2008 at 5:35 pm

Posted in Transportation

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Greens to call for twinning of many of Canada’s rail lines

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Globe and Mail

Ms. May released her entire platform last October in a 156-page document called Vision Green. However, because no election campaign was on, it received little attention in the news media.

It may not have received much attention in the media but it got a lot of attention from the Liberal Party – they copied most of it. Not that there is anything wrong with that. Good ideas are still good, no matter who promotes them. As long as they are part of a consistent platform. Of course the carbon tax is in there – as part of a tax shifting policy. Now it is not progressive to shift from income taxes to consumption taxes, and that is something that needs to be understood. And “revenue neutrality” may not be desirable either – because it is not so much how much revenue government collects but what it spends it on. One of the great myths around is that government is incapable of spending wisely, and that government expenditures are wasteful – whereas private spending is good for the economy. But actually, spending money on our public healthcare system is both good for us, the economy and much more efficient than the private sector model we see operating just to the south of us. And leaving people with more to spend on big pick up trucks, foreign holidays or widescreen tvs is of limited benefit. Which is also why I like the idea of an alternative to the GDP as a way to measure the economy.

So the proposal to increase GST looks pretty good

Restoring the GST to 6 per cent from its currently 5 per cent, and transferring that revenue to cities for environmental infrastructure projects such as public transit.

BUT my advice would be to avoid dedicated taxes that can only be spent on one thing (look at the mess the gas tax is creating in the US with transit systems running out of money as people switch from cars to buses and trains). Much better, in my view, to come up with a program of support for city transit to come from general revenues, and be unabashed about rolling back the tax breaks given to the rich and to corporations. My first target for revenues would be an end to corporate welfare, and many of the subsidies given to industries that need better direction – for example the money that goes to the oil companies, or the motor vehicle manufacturers.

I like the headline – it is not often that you get a headline like that in a general election. The only way it could get better is if it also raised the idea of electrifying railways, which is something we are going to need to to do to give us a much better range of power sources. Right now most trains in Canada are diesel. And a lot of locomotives are old and need to be replaced with much more efficient versions. The switcher below, for instance, saves lots of diesel oil by reducing the need the idle all the time. Many engines are not switched off even though they are not being used!

NREX 2007 Roberts Bank BC 2008_0914

Written by Stephen Rees

September 16, 2008 at 5:34 pm

Work starts on Highway #1 expansion

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Gateway has been sending out notices of work they have already started in Burnaby. So obviously getting formal environmental approval from the federal government is a detail that can be ignored. I am also interested to note that this in some way is thought to be an improvement to both habitat and the environment. Though quite how preloading with sand prior to large amounts of new pavement being constructed achieves that is beyond me. The notice – which is reproduced verbatim below – is completely silent on exactly what environmental work is being done. Which is a shame, because one of the submissions to the EA process pointed out that the so called “mitigation” measures identified were actually already in place from earlier projects and therefore were ineligible for the credit of this project.

Drainage and Environmental Improvement work alongside Highway 1 between the Kensington and Cariboo/Gaglardi Interchanges scheduled to begin in late September 2008.
Preparations for the Port Mann Highway 1 Project road and bridge improvements will continue
through fall 2008. Key activities include:
•   Habitat enhancement and drainage improvements
•   Preload construction activities.
All work will take place behind the protective concrete barriers and visual screen fencing to minimize any traffic disruption. No highway lane closures are required for this work.
Subgrade and preload work involves applying sand and gravel to the base of the road alignment to
prepare for final road construction – allowing areas with soft ground conditions to settle, and provide a level and stable base for future road construction.
Night-time lane closures, from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m, remain in effect until the end of September to
complete removal of old lane markings and complete installation of roadside barriers. Travel delays, if any, are expected to be minimal.
Drivers are advised to check the Port Mann Highway 1 “Traffic Updates” page on the Gateway
Program website at for information on traffic and construction schedules and the Drive BC website at for up to date information on current road conditions.
Staying in Touch
A key goal of the Port Mann/Highway 1 Project is to maximize predictability during construction and
minimize disruption for commuters, goods movers, residents and the public. Construction updates will be issued regularly as the project progresses.
For more information about the Gateway Program, Port Mann/ Highway 1 Project or this bulletin,
please contact the Gateway Program information line at 604-775-0471 or e-mail

Written by Stephen Rees

September 16, 2008 at 12:59 pm

Posted in Environment, Gateway