Stephen Rees's blog

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

Archive for November 28th, 2008

Liberals will try to bring down government, form coalition

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Good. That is what should have happened after the election. While the Conservatives won more seats that they had before, and got more votes, they still did not have a majority. And because of the “first past the post” system the wishes of the majority of voters – who clearly did not want another Conservative government – were ignored.  (37.6% voted for the Conservatives versus 61.2% who voted for other parties) The first priority for the coalition – after producing the stimulus package that the Conservatives refused to provide – should be electoral reform.

Sorry, Michaëlle, your trip is going to be cut short. But it will be worth it.

Events are moving quickly. The opposition parties are in talks to form a progressive coalition government. We need to show them that Canadians support this. Canadians for a Progressive Coalition is a non-partisan grassroots organization that has organized a petition and organized phone calls to show our MPs that Canadians support a new kind of politics in Ottawa. Canadians from coast to coast have joined this movement.

We need you to act now. Check out our youtube video: Canadians for a Progressive Coalition.

Here’s what you can do:

1. If you haven’t already, please sign the petition. You can find it on our website or click here for a direct link.

2. Please spread the word by forwarding this email to everyone you know. Many Canadians do not understand what a coalition government is. They can learn more at our website,, and watch our video: Canadians for a Progressive Coalition. We have found that the more people know about a progressive coalition government the more they support it.

3. Please call or email your MP directly. They need to hear from their supporters to know that we want them to act.  If you haven’t already signed the petition, you can find your MP’s contact info by signing it.  Or, you can visit:

Finally, if you can spare any additional time we would love to hear from you.  Please read more at or send us an email at

Written by Stephen Rees

November 28, 2008 at 3:27 pm

Posted in politics

B.C. funds commuter rail studies

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BC Local News

I was interviewed on the phone today by News1130 for my reaction to this announcement. I am afraid I was very unimpressed. Kevin Falcon has always opposed rail – he wants to expand freeways because they support the sort of development he and his developer friends like. So spending money on a study is just another way of delaying rail while freeway construction proceeds.

Translink has stacks of reports – all of them gathering dust in stock rooms. This one will just join them. What I have been saying – and all the groups that now want to see real transit alternatives now agree – it that we need a demonstration project, not a study. Because you cannot fudge the results of a demonstration. Run a train on a section of the line and see who uses it and why. This was the approach used by Ottawa for their O train and is being used in Vancouver for the False Creek “Heritage Railway” which will have modern trams borrowed from Bombardier for the Olympics.

“Commuter Rail” like West Coast Express is actually the last thing we need. All day bi-directional local community rail provides for many more trip types than commuters, and is much more economical. Both shape growth. West Coast Express has made it possible for people who work in Vancouver to live in Mission and have a comfortable commute. Any surprise then that developers want to add more single family homes to Mission? A frequent local train service, on the other hand, would reduce the need for long distance travel by improving accessibility. The more people and destinations within walking distance to the stations the better – so you would see “transit oriented development” which is what this region should have been concentrating on. Joyce and Edmonds stations are two examples of the sort of high density housing developments that can be achieved. Sadly neither can be said to be mixed use and the range of incomes in both should also have been wider, but both are far better than 29th Avenue or Nanaimo Stations where no change in land use has occurred at all.

While the money for an E&N study is new, the idea of yet another study of the old BCER Interurban is old news. It has been announced many times. It is not an indication of any chnage of heart as the final paragraph demonstrates

Falcon said the studies cost money and take time, but they are essential. He noted that TransLink, the Lower Mainland transit authority, was recommending surface light rail for the Evergreen line extension east along the north side of the Fraser River, but a study showed that it wouldn’t attract enough riders and SkyTrain service is a better option despite its higher construction cost.

That’s the good thing about studies.Write the terms of reference around a “buisness case” (not a development case) and appoint the right consultant and you can get the result you want. The idea that SkyTrain can be built for only 20% more than light rail and attract more riders – as the Evergreen “study” calims – simply is too silly to be worth analysis.

Written by Stephen Rees

November 28, 2008 at 3:21 pm

Even more on Port Expansion

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This morning I have a link to the LA Times. In Vancouver, the Port hired a local firm, Intervistas (spun off from YVR some years ago) to do a selling job for its ten year capital expansion plan. In LA they looked at the broader picture

a recent report by London-based Drewry Supply Chain Consultants, a maritime industry research firm that has about 3,000 clients in more than 100 countries. West Coast ports will see increased competition from the Panama Canal, which is undergoing a bigger-than-expected expansion due to be completed in 2014, Drewry said. In addition, rising Chinese labor costs will push some manufacturing back to Mexico and South America.

Irritatingly, the Times does not provide a link to the original report, and anyway I am writing this in a hurry. I am supposed to be somewhere else soon.

The main hook to the story is the expanded Panama Canal

As a sign of the new esteem with which the project is now regarded, Panama Canal Authority Administrator and Chief Executive Alberto Aleman Zubieta was honored Monday with an excellence award at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit in Lima, Peru, for “successfully moving the canal from a profit-neutral utility to a business-oriented enterprise.”

Now, Drewry says, West Coast market share is about to take a serious hit, “possibly forever,” from a “rejuvenated, aggressive and soon-to-be widened Panama Canal” that will have locks capable of handling cargo ships carrying as many as 13,000 containers — much larger than the 8,000-container ships it was originally expected to accommodate.

Drewry isn’t the only one who thinks so.

“With the ability to handle most of the world’s largest ships, the Panama Canal will begin to enjoy better economies of scale than its primary competitor, which is the transpacific intermodal route from Asia to the West Coast and to the rest of the U.S. by rail,” said Asaf Ashar, head of the Washington office of the University of New Orleans’ National Ports and Waterways Institute.

“It’s cheaper to move cargo by ship than it is to transfer it to rail and go overland,” Ashar said. “The logical conclusion is that market share will be lost.”

So there are going to be new routes opened up to the north and the south. The trade itself is likely to decline as the low cost manufacturing advantage China once enjoyed is lost. Moreover there is going to be a shortage of oil in future. The current drop in price is not going to last very long, so the marine mode will become more competitive over road and rail, simply because you get more ton miles per barrel of oil in a big ship than either land mode.

And, of course, none of this is news to regular readers of this blog

Written by Stephen Rees

November 28, 2008 at 10:19 am

Posted in port expansion