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

Archive for September 2008

Highway route just more proof gov’t doesn’t care

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A letter to the Editor of the Delta Optimist published on September 20

Re: Farmers fear loss of land if highway built as planned, Sept. 13

At a meeting with the Agricultural Land Commission, Delta farmers made it clear the provincial government is expropriating valuable farmland for the South Fraser Perimeter Road. What are the chances the Agricultural Land Commission will refuse exclusions for the new freeway?

At the 11th hour, the proposed route was shifted westward into the Crescent Slough, which is first class farmland. The planners stated the intent was to protect the hydrology of Burns Bog.

However, they neglected to consider the impact to the agricultural community and to the prime migration feeding grounds of the greater sandhill crane.

The B.C. Ministry of Environment has written that no other large aggregations of sandhill cranes are known to occur in the region and the Crescent Slough is a critical fall staging area.

The cranes, which have been using this area since the 1800s, are very sensitive to disturbance and it is irresponsible of the B.C. government to claim that a monitoring program can mitigate the destruction of this area for the South Fraser Perimeter Road.

Contrary to accusations that environmentally-concerned people want the freeway to go through the Crescent Slough, the fact is the original and new alignments will have irreversible impacts on farmland and productive habitats that support a unique aggregation of wildlife.

The B.C. Ministry of Environment wrote to the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office on Aug. 21, 2007:

“It is our opinion that the highway corridor, as proposed, will have substantial irreversible impacts on associated ecosystem values; particularly at the western side of Burns Bog and the wetland/stream complexes associated with Fraser Heights…

“The biophysical conditions associated with the western edge of Burns Bog represent a distinct culmination of ecological values including: the last remaining natural bog forest edge (transition area to a swamp forestland), productive habitat for a unique aggregation of wildlife, involving several threatened or endangered species and an endangered plant community. While any one of these features considered in isolation has distinctive value, the combination of these attributes is unique to the region and province.”

There are no satisfactory options for a route through this area.

As a solution to the loss of farmland, the Delta farmers have suggested to the Agricultural Land Commission that existing corridors should be upgraded to accommodate the new freeway. However, that’s not possible because it is logical and makes sense.

Discussions were held 15 years ago and the public made it clear that a freeway through farmland and along the edge of Burns Bog was unacceptable. That was in the days when public input meant something.

Since that time, the current route of the South Fraser Perimeter Road (freeway) has been imposed on Delta and Surrey because it maximizes the development of industrial land. It’s all about land development and the industrialization of the south arm of the Fraser River.

As the saying goes, “Follow the money.” It’s very clear that our decision-makers don’t care about farmland, locally-grown food, fish habitat, cranes, endangered species, critical wildlife habitat, important archaeological sites, air quality and the quality of life in Delta and Surrey.

If they did, they wouldn’t even suggest the current plans for the South Fraser Perimeter Road, let alone force them on the public.

Susan Jones

Written by Stephen Rees

September 22, 2008 at 8:01 am

Posted in Transportation

Montreal gets velib

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New text from CBC

Montreal unveils ambitious bike-rental program
‘BIXIs’ will be available at 300 stations across the city
Last Updated: Monday, September 22, 2008 | 10:01 AM ET
CBC News

Montreal introduced a new self-service, bike-rental system on Sunday modelled after the highly successful Vélib’ program in Paris.

So far there are only 40 of the bicycles available — the city calls them BIXIs, a mix of bicycle and taxi — but the plan is to have 2,400 BIXIs in service by next spring. In Paris, the Vélib’ service provides
more than 10,000 bicycles.

“It’s not for long trips. You ride it and you return it, and [for] the first half hour there’s no charge,” Mayor Gérald Tremblay said Sunday.

“We sincerely believe that a lot of citizens who are not presently commuting with a bicycle will use the bicycles,” he said.

The service will cost $28 a month, or $78 for seven months. Users can buy a day pass for $5.

Montrealer Michel Gourdeau won an online contest to name the bike service.

“Well, I’m a user of bicycles myself, and I thought it would be a good idea to participate and try to find a name that is special,” he said.

Gourdeau felt BIXI had “a nice international feel to it.”

The city will deploy a squad of BIXI experts to explain how to use the rental service over the next few months.

When it’s fully in service there will be 300 BIXI stations around the city where the bicycles can be rented or returned.

The $15-million system is being paid for by Stationnement de Montreal, the company that manages the city’s on-street parking.

It hopes to recoup its investment through the membership fees.

The bikes are designed entirely in Quebec, and are made of 100 per cent recyclable aluminum. The bike parking stations are powered by solar energy.

velib park

Written by Stephen Rees

September 21, 2008 at 7:51 pm

Posted in bicycles

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Software Freedom Day

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Software Freedom Day

Software Freedom Day (SFD) is a worldwide celebration of Free and Open Source Software (FOSS). Our goal in this celebration is to educate the worldwide public about of the benefits of using high quality FOSS in education, in government, at home, and in business — in short, everywhere! The non-profit company Software Freedom International coordinates SFD at a global level, providing support, giveaways and a point of collaboration, but volunteer teams around the world organize the local SFD events to impact their own communities.

The great brains at Micro$oft are trying to improve their image. Apparently they feel that they have been damaged by the “I’m a PC and I’m a Mac” ads. I think the choice is actually a bit better than that. Micro$oft produces expensive, bloated software but has been widely accepted by commercial organizations. Macs produce pretty machines that run even more expensive software that seems easier to use of you are not  a geek. Or you could just get a free operating system – like Ubuntu – or a cheap PC like my Asus Eeepc notebook – and get free software that works. The little notebook came with everything I needed preloaded and preinstalled and I have not had to “look under the hood” once. And I do not intend to. And if it were not for some proprietary software/hardware issues I would probably be running Ubuntu all the time on this PC instead of 75% of the time.

And WordPress is free too, of course

Written by Stephen Rees

September 20, 2008 at 12:01 am

Posted in computers

It’s time to reclaim the car park

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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

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P3 issues for the Underground and the Port Mann

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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

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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

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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

The Contrarian approach to traffic

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Simon Jenkins in the Guardian weighs in on a silly controversy in the British Press over this picture. She isn’t wearing a helmet

Elle bike and child

Elle bike and child

But her son is and is also sitting on the handlebars. Jenkins is quite right to point out that they are a lot safer that way. Drivers give a wider berth to riders without helmets.

“The world’s most celebrated cycling country, the Netherlands, has just 1% helmet use and has the safest cycling record anywhere. It has one third the cycling death rate of Western Australia, which has the most draconian law. The Dutch Cycling Council declares that helmets “increase cycling speeds and encourage riskier cycling behaviour …They also reduce the care motorists give to cyclists”.”

And he also gets into the Hans Monderman stuff – covered here extensively, as well as the success of the various “naked streets” like Kensington High Street.

I know I have spent some time on this before, but I make no apology for bringing it up again. The conventional wisdom holds sway in defiance of the evidence. Enormous amounts of effort have gone into making cars safer – mostly for their occupants – and into separating out cars from other road users. And our urban spaces have suffered a degradation as a result. But far worse is the decline in the care we take for each other. Cocooned in our padded shells, we speed around and the only interaction with have with other road users is to hurl abuse and make rude gestures.

Given that the rate of casualties is not getting any better you would think that more practioners would show some ineterst in understanbding why matters have deteriorated this far, and start thinking about what can be done to change it. But sadly we do not seem to be capable of making this kind of change. There’s too much traffic so we must build more roads. Gas is getting too expensive so the government should step in and punish the oil companies. The deregulated financial markets are falling apart so the rest of us have to pay to protect these profiligate clowns from their idiocies and greed – another bigger bail out is already in the works as AIG is only the first of many needing cash  – now. There are some days when there really does not seem any more point arguing about why saving civilisation may actually be more important than ensuring we all can get cheaper gas. Rationality and careful analysis having no place in a world run by sound bites.

Written by Stephen Rees

September 18, 2008 at 8:58 pm

Posted in politics, Road safety

The Burns Bog Conservation Society’s positon on the South Fraser Perimeter Road

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This is a letter Eliza Olson wrote in response to an article in the Delta Optimist. It showcases some of the Society’s concerns and points out the misunderstanding related to any Society involvement with working with Gateway.

Since the letter is long and detailed I am doubtful if much or any of it will actually appear in that paper and I feel it is well worth reading in full

The Burns Bog Conservation Society fully supports the position of the Delta farmers regarding the South Fraser Perimeter Road. We cannot afford to lose one acre of agricultural or bogland, especially when there are alternatives. These include light rail, public transportation, short-shipping and improvements on current roads among other options.
Unfortunately, I was not able to attend but we wish to make it clear that the Society was not part of the decision-making process relating to the South Fraser Perimeter Road. The destruction of bogland either inside the Conservation area or outside of it is unacceptable to the Society for a number of reasons. These include the following.
The Society does not have the requisite engineering or commercial resources to fully assess the relative merits of any South Fraser Perimeter Road routing proposal. However, the Society’s position on the project is that any routing proposal should take into account the world heritage nature of the Bog and all proposals should first and foremost meet a “do no harm” criteria insofar as the Bog is concerned.
Ten percent (3 billion tonnes) of greenhouse gases comes from the destruction of peatlands world-wide even though only 3% of the earth’s surface is covered with peatlands. This represent half of the world’s wetlands. The United Nations Report, Dec. 7, 2008 points out that the most cost-efficient way to reduce greenhouse gasses is to immediately stop the destruction of peatlands.
A more recent report issued  July 20th of this year by 700 scientists from 29 countries at a wetland conference in Brazil points out that 771 billion tons of greenhouse gases “one-fifth of all the carbon on Earth and about the same amount of carbon as is now in the atmosphere is stored in wetlands.” (Paulo Teixeira, coordinator of the Pantanal Regional Environment Program, Brazil). All wetlands represent 6% of the earth’s surface worldwide (bogs or peatlands, swamps, marshes, river deltas, mangroves.tundra and river flood plains) and they store 20% of the earth’s carbon.
Wetlands produce 25% of the worlds’ food and filter 10% of the world’s freshwater.  About 60% of the world’s wetlands have been destroyed in the last century due to drainage.
Part of the problem according to Teixeira, is that wetlands have an image problem, people are willing to save “a rainforest but not the swamp.”
The Society has worked very hard to change this image by creating educational material for teachers and their students and re-opening the Delta Nature Reserve to the public by building boardwalks for easy access.  It was set aside for an outdoor classroom in the 1970s thanks to the work of a very dedicated group of people. The community of Delta, the Province and Canada responded by supporting the protection of half of the historical area of Burns Bog in 2004.
The destruction of the lagg will negatively impact on the Sandhill cranes as well as at least three other endangered species found in Burns Bog. These include the Green heron, the Southern Red-backed vole, the Pacific Water Shrew and the Townsends vole.
The Society finds it interesting that some of the area slated for the South Fraser Perimeter Road is the same area that a Delta resident was convicted of destroying and sent to jail for a few years ago.
International concern has been raised by peatland scientists.  Dr. Catherine O’Connell, Chief Excecutive Officer of the Irish Peatland Conservation Council sent a letter to Hon. John Baird, June 16, 2008,expressing concerns that the construction of the South Fraser Perimeter Road may place Canada, the Province of British Columbia and Delta in contravention of several international protocols. These include the Convention on Biological Diversity and the UN Convention on Climate Change.
The International Mires Conservation Group has placed Burns Bog on its list of “Areas of Concern” due to the potential destruction of Burns Bog by the South Fraser Perimeter Road. “The International Mires Conservation Group (IMCG, is a worldwide organisation of mire (peatland) specialists who have a particular interest in the conservation of peatland habitats.” (Hans Joosten, Secretary-General, Greifswald, February 7, 2007, in a letter to the EU Commissioner of Environment, Mr. Stavros Dimas. This letter was written in opposition to the proposed road through the Rospuda bog, Poland. Poland has since cancelled its plans to build the road.)
The Society has a concern that the proposed road routing almost certainly transects the Bog lagg zone and may negatively impact the lagg zone and the Bog itself via:
-potential below grade disruption of the water hydrology and thus the lifeblood of the Bog,
-potential traffic generated fugitive dust and water spray penetrating the Bog proper and potential wildlife disruption, especially that of the extremely small population of Sandhill cranes that use the Bog for nesting, rearing young and staging with other cranes of the Lower Mainland.
One Lower Mainland naturalist who has studied cranes in the Bog, believes that the destruction of “Sherwood Forest” will lead to the extinction of our cranes because it will disrupt their traditional habitat and lead to them refusing to nest again in Burns Bog.
The Burns Bog Conservation Society believes that in addition the Gateway Project has a further burden of proof that the proposed routing will be consistent with the stringent conditions for Burns Bog’s conservation as codified in the Conservation Covenant agreed to by four levels of government at the time of the acquisition of the Conservation Area ( this is about half the area of the original size of the Bog) at the expenditure of $73 million of taxpayer’s monies.
As Delta and Metro Vancouver (GVRD) are signatories to the Conservation Covenant, the Society has requested verbally and in writing that the Corporation of Delta and Metro Vancouver invoke Section 5 (Dispute Resolution) of the Conservation Covenant relating to the South Fraser Perimeter Road.
According to a letter written by a staff member of the Corporation of Delta, Delta is refusing to invoke Section 5 of the Conservation Covenant. The Society has yet to hear from Metro Vancouver.
Needless to say, the Society is disappointed with the Corporation of Delta’s inaction.
I hope this clarifies the Society’s position regarding the South Fraser Perimeter Road. The Society’s complete Position Statement can be found on its website along with other information regarding the South Fraser Perimeter Road.
These are only a few of the concerns that the Society has regarding the South Fraser Perimeter. In conclusion, the Society reconfirms its support for the position of the Delta farmers against the South Fraser Perimeter Road albeit may be for differing reasons.

Eliza Olson, B.Ed.

Burns Bog Conservation Society
4-7953 120 Street, Delta, BC V4C 6P6
Tel: 604.572.0373 Fax: 604.572.0374
TF 1.888.850.6264

Written by Stephen Rees

September 18, 2008 at 9:57 am

Posted in Environment, Gateway

Tagged with ,

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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