Stephen Rees's blog

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

Archive for October 1st, 2008

Home is where the growth is for Asia

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Marcus Gee in today’s Globe and Mail is saying the same thing I have been saying at anti-port expansion, anti Gateway rallies for some time. We know that both consumer demand in US has been falling as a direct result of the mortgage crisis and falling house prices. Imports of consumer goods through US ports have been going down for the last two years – actually that may be three now, given the length of time I have been reporting this. It is clear that China, Taiwan and South Korea are all going to have to find replacement markets – and in China that obviously means turning Chinese from savers to consumers. The general liberalisation of investment is already producing a sizeable middle class who are buying cars, and indeed Beijing has stppoed trying to keep up with increased traffic and like Shanghai is investing in transit instead. (They seem to be faster learners than Kevin Falcon and Gordon Campbell.)

The Gateway was always based on a set of very dubious assumptions – one cannot call them forecasts. And in any event they were not the real reason for all the roads, that was just spin. They have always wanted to build more roads, because that means ever more suburban sprawl development. The sort that they think breeds right wing voters.

The port expansion was desired by the newly independent Port Authority, just because it is only in one business: so the only way for them to become more important and increase their revenues and status was to grow port activity. No one – as far as I know – ever looked at an alternate strategy. And certainly no-one did the very basic task of assessing what other ports were doing, or what other events were happening that might affect port traffic. “Present trends continue” is actually not a very good basis for planning, because often they don’t – other events intervene.

So the loss if the irreplacable ecosystem that used to occupy the mouth of the Fraser now seems to be ineviatble. Say farewell to the sand hill cranes, the sandpipers, the salmon, and all the rest. And for what? Nothing at all. The new port berths will be standing empty – mute testimony to the greed and self interest of a a very few people, and the gullibility of a great many.

Written by Stephen Rees

October 1, 2008 at 2:19 pm

Posted in Gateway, port expansion

Streetcar of Sam’s desire on track

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Vancouver Sun

I am beginning to get a real dislike of the subs at the Sun. Anyway, the idea is to borrow a couple of Brussels streetcars from Bombardier and refurbish the old CP track along South False Creek currently used by TRAMS to run their heritage interurban cars at weekends. The cost is $8.5m for a 60 day demonstration. And of course the spiffy new track and passing loop will be there for the continued operation of the old cars afterwards and one day, maybe, could be part of the City’s downtown streetcar line, which has been on their wish list since long before Sam took over.

Bombardier Flexity in Frankfurt

Bombardier Flexity in Frankfurt

For 1.8 km for Granville Island to Olympic Village Canada Line station that is a very expensive project. No doubt Malcolm will chip in with comparative details of other places that manage to do things cheaper. The tracks were, of course, never part of Vancouver’s streetcar or interurban systems – and are currently prevented by a city approved Starbucks from linking up to the Arbutus line (which is still in place on the whole). That may or may not have been a strategic decision on their part but, once the Canada Line got under way, they did speculate on local streetcars for Arbutus. Just not at the price CP wanted for the right of way. Apparently the creme de la creme would quite like a tram of their own to ride on as long as those oiks from Richmond did not get to ride through their exclusive neighborhood.

Anyway this is one of the few Olympic projects I am in favour of, and I will stay in town for long enough to snap some pics of it once they get it going.

Written by Stephen Rees

October 1, 2008 at 10:30 am

Direct capture of CO2 from the air

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I heard about this while listening to Tom Allen on CBC Radio2 this morning. Thanks to BCEN Landwatch I can give you this link to David Keith’s homepage. I did try reading his presentation which is a the top pdf document on that page, but I am afraid I need one of those really smart people who can turn science into journalism and that’s not me.

I doubt that one invention is going to allow us to continue with business as usual – but it will help with the transition. For one thing, CO2 release is only one of the problems we face. We need several more planets identical to earth if the human race is to consume resources at the same rate as North Americans (sorry Canada is as bad as the USA in that regard).

The second catch, of course, is finding somewhere to store the CO2.

While some scientists have suggested storing it deep underground or at the bottom of the ocean, it’s not yet clear how effective or affordable that would be on a large scale.

Written by Stephen Rees

October 1, 2008 at 10:12 am

Posted in Environment

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