Stephen Rees's blog

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

Archive for September 19th, 2008

It’s time to reclaim the car park

with 2 comments

The Guardian

Hooray, one of my favourite days of the year: International Park(ing) day. This glorious anti-car festival only started in 2005, when a San Francisco-based group called REBAR decided that they would take over a parking space for a day and turn it into a park. So they did.

They brought along some astroturf and a bench and a tree and fed the metre all day long and had a lovely day with people asking what they were doing and why. As one of their members explained, they re-interpreted a parking space as a potential inexpensive short-term lease, and decided that it didn’t just have to be for cars: the day was a success.

But it didn’t stop there. People wanted to know how they could do it for themselves. REBAR explained the basic principle (don’t forget to feed the metre – that’s it really) and set up a website where people could post up pix. By the following year REBAR had a partner (the agreeable Trust for Public Land) and every year since then it’s just got bigger and bigger, spreading all the way around the world, to Italy, Germany and Australia (in the YouTube clip above).

Well, it should spread like wildfire, because it’s such a genius idea. It’s so simple, and yet so pleasing: it makes a very simple point (humans have as much right to this space as cars) and it makes it without nagging (as I am very nearly now doing) or whining, but just by having a laugh.

I have not heard of this before – but what I want to know is why is this not happening here yet and when are we going to start doing it?

UPDATE  Rob Baxter informs me

"It is happening at Main and 26th right now.  A few years ago it was done on Robson Street."
PARK(ing) Day Vancouver

PARK(ing) Day Vancouver by JMV

This image is one of a set of twenty on flickr by Jason Vanderhill

Written by Stephen Rees

September 19, 2008 at 3:09 pm

Posted in parking

Tagged with ,

P3 issues for the Underground and the Port Mann

with 4 comments

Eric Doherty on the Livable Region Blog draws some interesting parallels between what is going to happen with the P3 for the Undergound in London (citing the Economist – not exactly a hotbed of lefty thought) and the Port Mann/Hwy #1 project citing an article that appeared on BC Local News back in August.

P3 contracts have exactly the same defects as the Asset Backed Paper currently bringing the US economy to its knees – and as always the expectation is that we the taxpayers will dig these financial geniuses out of the holes they are digging.

Written by Stephen Rees

September 19, 2008 at 12:07 pm

Abrupt Climate Change Focus Of U.S. National Laboratories

with 3 comments

Science Daily

No, I don’t read this every day – hat tip to Danny Rubin who does such a good job of keeping the BC Environmental Network up to date on stuff like this.

The research is going to concentrate on “the four horsemen of the apocalypse”

  1. instability among marine ice sheets, particularly the West Antarctic ice sheet;
  2. positive feedback mechanisms in subarctic forests and arctic ecosystems, leading to rapid methane release or large-scale changes in the surface energy balance;
  3. destabilization of methane hydrates (vast deposits of methane gas caged in water ice), particularly in the Arctic Ocean; and
  4. feedback between biosphere and atmosphere that could lead to megadroughts in North America

These are all things that could cause sudden impacts. We are no longer looking at “boiling frogs” – gradual warming changes that we do not notice or presume are benign.

It is also worth pointing out that environmentalists are not just indulging in doom and gloom, or trying to be spoil sports. Ignoring risks, or pretending that we can wave a magic wand at them, is simply no longer an acceptable approach. The increased intensity of recent hurricanes and the rapid loss of polar icecaps and major glaciers should have been enough warning even for the most avid oil drillers. The fact that US scientific research seems to be set on a new direction is sign of hope in itself.

Pine Beetle damage

Pine trees next to Highway 97C (between Merritt and Kelowna) show the effects of beetle damage. The cold winters in this mountainous area used to kill off the beetles – but warmer winters mean the beetles survive, spread and kill off the trees. In order to kill the beetles two weeks of -20C are needed, and that no longer happens. For more pictures of evidence of climate change see this flickr group

Written by Stephen Rees

September 19, 2008 at 10:35 am

The End of Aviation

with 5 comments

New Republic

Bradford Plumer looks at what will happen when we can no longer afford to fly.

Generally it seems likely that we will find ways to cope with rising oil prices in land transportation. We can already reduce our carbon footprint for many trips by switching modes,  using existing technologies and of course rethinking about how often and why we travel.

Air transport is going to have to deal with that third option, since the promise of new technologies in this field is much lower. Heavier than air aircraft need very dense energy sources – and so far that has meant oil. And despite Richard Branson’s declared hopes for biofuels, the current impact of biofuel on food costs and supply is clearly unacceptable.

Much of the analysis presented in this lengthy article refers to the US but it applies to us too, and as I have said here before, small regional airports in marginal markets are at greatest risk. Abbotsford being the first that comes to mind. Much of Canada is also dependent on air travel since distances are so great. But the city pairs where rail makes sense are decades behind where they should be in terms of rail infrastructure. Canada really does need a national passenger strategy and – given that most of use live along the US border –  connections to the south must be part of that.

I was also a bit sad to read that airships don’t seem all that likely – but a shortage of helium is a big stumbling block

Written by Stephen Rees

September 19, 2008 at 10:21 am

Posted in Air Travel