Stephen Rees's blog

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

What is our Premier Thinking?

with 5 comments

Richmond News

“More than 200,000 people a day will be taken off the road thanks to the Canada Line and travel time to downtown Vancouver will also be cut. “It’s the equivalent of ten road lanes heading in and out of Vancouver. Looking at this today I think it’s been worth the effort and worth the wait.”

The first run of a passenger carrying service is really just another PR event that really doesn’t need any attention. But the Premier got carried away and loved playing train driver.

Canada Line trains parked on the running lines OMC 2008_0929

Canada Line trains parked on the running lines OMC 2008_0929

The quote is what he said afterwards.

So obviously he can understand the basic math. A lane of freeway can move at most 2,000 vehicles per hour: at current average occupancies that is 2,600 people. The same space is needed for a train track but that can move over ten times as many people – or more. That is where he gets the “equivalent to ten road lanes” from.

Now the question he has to answer is, “In that case why are you so determined to build more freeway lanes?” He also wanted to get ahead of his peer group with a carbon tax. So the reality of global warming is also on his radar. Building more freeway lanes is going to induce enough additional traffic to more than offset the reduction in ghg emissions from the carbon tax. Worse, the spread of low density, car oriented suburbs locks us into a high carbon production mode for another generation at least. Premier Campbell even admits that more transit is needed – he just wants to put it off until his freeways are built.

Clearly, the decision is not based on reason. Building freeways does not solve traffic congestion. He said so himself when he was Chair of the GVRD. The Gateway idea has no place at all in a world which is facing a prolonged depression – and even less when the north west passage is open and trade from Asia can come by open sea over the North Pole. There is not only plenty of spare capacity in pacific coast ports now, but there is likely to be even more as trade contracts with the declining US dollar. And yes, like the oil price the trend is other way right now, but that is short term effect of destabilisation. Most economists now expect massive inflation in the US once these huge sums of new liquidity work their way through the system.

The incumbents in Washington have paid the price for their recklessness. And we have a provincial election next spring. His once unassailable lead in the polls now looks much less secure. And the financial institutions that have been doing the P3s all now look very dodgy indeed too.

I think Gordon Campbell is a lot smarter than McCain or Palin – actually I think the average spaniel is smarter than Palin – and he really needs to be working out a strategy to cope with the very different circumstances we now find ourselves in. And when he goes into the election he has to be able to convince the electorate that he has an appropriate set of policies to deal with this situation. It seems to me to be obvious that the Gateway program has to be scrapped – as unneeded, unnecessary and unfinanceable – if only to allow himself the financial leeway to stick to his preference to avoid deficits. It would be much better to be positive and simply shift from freeways to railways – just because they are so much better at moving lots of people, and also allowing a more sustainable land use pattern to emerge. And really this does not need to look like a flip flop (which is what Falcon’s remarks about light rail certainly do). It can be easily made to look like a statesmanlike adjustment of priorities in changed circumstances. Easy because that is what it would be. Sticking to the current plan is going to make him look daft.

Or just serving some very narrow interest groups who have been given far too much power in BC lately.

Written by Stephen Rees

November 14, 2008 at 11:12 pm

5 Responses

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  1. Please send this post to the Richmond News.

    Apparently they can’t dig up the real story on their own.


    November 14, 2008 at 11:40 pm

  2. Campbell is not going to want to stake his reputation/legacy on this type of fossil fuel megaproject being left behind by most of the developed world if it becomes a big election issue.

    Mr. Falcon, on the other hand, seems to worship at the church of pavement and apparently has a lot of sway in the party… and *does* seem to want to stake his reputation on building the Gateway to hell.

    It will be an interesting next few months.


    November 15, 2008 at 7:35 am

  3. When I first quoted Sam Sullivan three years ago that, “200,000 people a day will be taken off the roads because of RAV”, no one believed me. But this is just the sort of nonsense, myth, and down right lies, that were used to get RAV built.

    The sad fact is, the transit pool for people taking all transit across the Laing, Oak St. & Knight St. Bridges was under 50,000 a day. To say that RAV will quadruple this is nonsense, in fact, there is strong evidence that RAV will deter ridership; from South of the River (that forced transfer) and on Cambie St. (reduced bus service). But there is more, both Oak St. and Main St. bus services were used to bolster RAV’s projected ridership and once the metro opens, bus service on both routes will be reduced, reducing ridership! I really can’t see someone on Main St., transferring to a bus at 41st, to take it to 41st and Cambie, yet Translink thinks people will do this on mass!

    No wonder transit specialists across the pond go ‘tut tut’ when one mentions Vancouver’s metro system and only if they know something about it.

    Malcolm J.

    November 15, 2008 at 8:10 am

  4. Corey

    The Richmond News may or may not print something I send them. Actually, it is unlikely that this would get printed – which is one of the reasons I started blogging. And they certainly would both cut it and claim it as their copyright.

    Stephen Rees

    November 15, 2008 at 8:23 am

  5. I suggest everyone write the Richmond News, I just emailed a letter off.

    Malcolm J.

    November 15, 2008 at 1:01 pm

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