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

Archive for December 4th, 2008

Transit Report

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I do use transit. Not as much as when I had a free pass, I admit, but more often recently. Last week I parked at a friend’s place in Edmonds and we went downtown by SkyTrain. Fast, comfortable and without incident. Tonight I went to Canada Place, and recalling what I had paid to park there last time, went on the bus. I checked the Translink website and took the route they advised. Out to Highway 99 and an express bus. Very swift, very smooth. And there was even leg room in  the latest iteration of the Orion V, plus a polite GPS annunciator. And a door to door time of 45 minutes which is about the same as driving.  Probably (he said to anticipate the inevitable comment from Malcolm) it will not be as good next year, when Canada Line forces a transfer.

Coming back was slower as I did not know what time I would leave, so I just jumped on the first B Line I saw. The next bus signs seem to have been set to “underpromise” so the service can overdeliver. It told me I had ten minutes to wait – but I did not go get a coffee as I could see it coming. The bus I caught was using all door boarding – very effectively – and even had the SkyTrain chimes to warn of doors closing. No GPS on this puppy. And a very rough ride indeed along No 3 Road. Also very drafty: the heaters seemed to be switched off and many windows were open. I was resigned to the usual 20 minute wait at Richmond Centre for a #403 when another B Line turned up running back to the garage. So my return journey was a respectable 60 minutes. Or roughly twice the time it takes to drive at 7pm.

But the good news was I was only out of pocket $6.25. Which is probably less than I would have paid to park  since I got there before 6pm. The test for transit is: can you get people out of their cars? Impark and it’s competitors seem to be doing Translink’s job for them. The incentive to take the bus gets stronger as the developers build on ever more parking lots, and the parking prices soar.   The kinks are getting worked out of the information technology and there are even a few places now with actual bus lanes – like northbound Seymour. But what will be really impressive is when you can take transit without any trip planning – and still equal journey times of the car.

Written by Stephen Rees

December 4, 2008 at 9:59 pm

Posted in transit

Canada Place – Rally for the Coalition

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Colation Rally

Colation Rally

Photo by Paul Hillsdon – posted on facebook

The place was packed. At half past five people were taking their seats while outside there was a lot of chorused shouting of slogans. Lots of media presence – I had the sense I was at the place where news was being made.

Inside the two huge ballrooms that sense began to falter as the band – quite a good one – kept being told to “do one more number”. Things got going late but seemed quite upbeat: I got the sense that the BC Fed and the NDP were actually running the show, though they did trot out Herb Dhaliwal who did his best – even though someone behind me tried to throw something at him. No damage was done and the perp was not identified – though the stewards did their best.

They managed to cue up a video of Jack Layton alright, but the one from Stephane Dion had problems. Odd that. But the audience – it seemed to me where I was sitting that they were all like me – older and white – cheered all equally. There were a large number standing at the back – they were the people who had brought home made banners and seemed younger and more diverse. But the general feeling was good natured and a sense of unity around the idea that Stephen Harper was not going to divide us.

I left feeling good. But when I got home, I turned on CBC Newsworld. They were already declaring the coalition dead. Liberals in particular were identified as wanting out – and offering the Conservatives policy guidance. “Give us this concession and we will fall in line again” apparently. Andrew Coyne, of course, was leading the pack in announcing that the coalition could not last seven weeks and that every party – except the Bloc – was now in the business of “damage control” .

And apparently this is all because Western Canada is angry that the Conservative government that it elected would not tolerate a coalition. “Western Canada” of course being code for Alberta.

I had the sense at the meeting that there really was a common purpose among progressives who are tired of right wing orthodoxy and dogmatism. And the prescriptions being offered for the current malaise – transit, daycare, infrastructure, more EI – seemed to strike a chord. There was even talk about the need to become more green and look to ways to regorganise our economy to fight climate change (no cheers for that I noticed)

But clearly these things are not decided in public meetings in Vancouver. Central Canada has moved on. The CBC “at issue” panel – one in Ottawa, one in Toronto, one in Montreal – has spoken. So the rest of us had just better fall in line.

UPDATE The Canadian Press is now reporting attendance last night as “more than a thousand”

The rally was organized by the B.C. Federation of Labour and the Canadian Labour Congress and was one of several pro-coalition events that was staged across the country Thursday.

and here is an article in the New York Times which seems more balanced than anything I have seen in the our media

Written by Stephen Rees

December 4, 2008 at 9:30 pm

Posted in Transportation

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Psst – want some free offsets?

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Stephen Rees,

As the holidays near, Brighter Planet is getting into the spirit
of giving. Yesterday we launched the One Day campaign.  We’re
donating a day’s worth of our premium offsets to those willing
to conserve during the holidays.

Because of your past help with our 350 Challenge, we’ve
automatically donated 136 pounds of offsets in your name.
Congrats, you’re carbon neutral for a day! You can download your
certificate here:

We’d love for you to help spread the word, so we’ve allocated 25
One Day gifts for you to divvy out. Paste your special link
below into a blog post, twitter, facebook, email, etc. Just be
sure to tell everyone that it’s first come, first serve.

Written by Stephen Rees

December 4, 2008 at 2:03 pm

Unterwegs mit der Kirnitzschtalbahn

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This image on flickr caught my eye.

It is a rural tram line in Eastern Germany near the Czech border. Of course, the former regime in this part of Germany was not driven by market considerations, which is why the line survived. And is probably a boon now as a tourist attraction – but also to provide an alternative form of local transport in an era of steadily rising oil prices. Which is what is going to start happening as the world realizes the meaning of the term “peak oil”

Written by Stephen Rees

December 4, 2008 at 10:43 am

Posted in Light Rail, Transportation

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Province authorizes South Fraser road construction before land commission ruling

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Vancouver Sun

Two private land owners are going to proceed with work on the SFPR, with the Province’s encouragement and a promise to reimburse them. The SFPR cannot be built until the Agricultural Land Commission rules on the future of up to 90 hectares of land.This was part of the “Sophie’s Choice” – either Burns Bog or agricultural land had to be taken for the road to follow the south bank of the Fraser. Of course, if it really was about connecting Deltaport to Highway #1 as the proponent claimed, there was a better route. That was never considered. The SFPR is less about transport and much more about changing land use – a process that makes millions by a stroke of the pen. The cost, of course, is far more than money.

“We’ve been fighting this, knowing the fix is in from the beginning,” protested Harold Steves, a veteran Richmond farmer and city councillor who heads Metro Vancouver’s agriculture committee.

“It doesn’t say much for the land commission at all. Effectively, government is able to ignore the commission and do as it pleases.”

Well, until the spring of next year anyway.

Written by Stephen Rees

December 4, 2008 at 9:11 am

Foreign workers on Skytrain project treated unfairly: B.C. human rights ruling

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Canadian Press

Their headline – not mine. They mean The Canada Line. And a bigger blot on that name is hard to imagine.

The tribunal ruling ordered the companies to pay each worker the difference between the salary paid to them and the salary paid to others, as well as the difference in paid expenses.

The companies were also ordered to pay $10,000 to each worker for injury to their dignity.

Figures contained in the ruling showed substantial differences in pay. It said European workers were paid an average wage roughly twice the base net salary of the Latin American workers.

That would be quite enough you would have thought. But the CBC News last night was also reporting that the companies involved (SELI Canada Inc. and SNC Lavalin Constructors Inc) are going to appeal the ruling. So the unfortunate workers who have been discriminated against will not see any of the money that the tribunal has awarded them for this injustice. The companies say they were paid  “the same rate in Canada as the Canadian workers” – but the unions and the tribunal say that European workers were made paid more.

The B.C. Federation of Labour said Wednesday’s ruling sends a clear message that the rights of foreign workers in the province should be upheld.

“You can’t bring people from Third World countries, pay them less than you’re paying other people on the job site and expect that to be legal. It’s now illegal. It’s a form of racism,” president Jim Sinclair said.

When the BC government tells us that it is investing in the future of the province, it avoids discussing how much of the money flows to other places. There has already been quite a kerfuffle about BC Ferries buying German built ships. There have been related stories about other big projects in the region where foreign workers were employed – and either not paid properly or at all. (They were the water tunnel on the North Shore and the Golden Ears bridge). And of course the other common factor is that they are all P3 projects, where the private sector has a very strong incentive to cut costs. The suporters of P3s like to call that “private sector efficiencies”. This, based on what the tribunal found, is simply exploitation. And note too that these companies think it worth spending a lot more on lawyers than their own employees.

UPDATE Friday December 5

The Globe and Mail has the other side of the story, which I might have found more persuasive if Patrick Brethour had made an effort to at least appear like an objective reporter. This reads more like a pro-business opinion piece, but at least you can see why there is an argument.  As Canada’s unemployment rate is now increasing, perhaps our infrastructure builders won’t have to look quite so far afield in future.

Written by Stephen Rees

December 4, 2008 at 8:52 am

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