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

Archive for December 7th, 2008

End, don’t mend, the Transportation Security Administration

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The Christian Science Monitor

With a name like that, no-one is going to accuse them of favouring terrorists. But they have printed what I suspect a lot of us knew, but no-one else in the media seemed willing to publish

The TSA has always been a political, not practical, response to 9/11. It hassles us at checkpoints not because of penetrating insights on security or some brilliant breakthrough, but because politicians handed it power. Specialists in security didn’t invent the TSA; the Bush administration imposed it on us. So we might hope the incoming president would abolish this absurd agency.

In fact the TSA has not achieved anything except a boost for employment for people who would have a hard time getting any  sort of job elsewhere.  The only thing it has done is prevent people who present no threat at all from travelling by plane. The “no-fly” list is a gross abuse of power, and quite indefensible. There seems to be no appeal – no way to correct the inevitable cases of mistaken identity. And a niggling suspicion that it is a very easy way for the officious to make life difficult for those who would cast a stronger light on this make work project.

Mr Obama, please listen to the common sense of the CSM. You don’t need the TSA. The US never did. A land which calls itself “the land of the free” cannot tolerate this bumbling beuraucrcy any longer. Scrap it now.

Written by Stephen Rees

December 7, 2008 at 6:39 pm

Posted in Air Travel

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Energy Realism and the Green New Deal

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Richard Heinberg has written a memo to President elect Obama and published it at Global Public Media

I am reproducing here the executive summary and the section on transportation, but I strongly recommend you read the whole thing. While it is specifically addressed to the United States new leader, it also should be front and centre in the debate here about who is going to form our next government. Stephane Dion did not get these points across forcefully enough in the last election. That does not mean he was wrong. If anything he was too timid and afraid to get ahead of the pack. And given his allegiance  to the Alberta tar sands I cannot see Stephen Harper even understanding what is being said here, let alone implementing it.

Executive Summary

Our continued national dependence on fossil fuels is creating a crippling vulnerability to both long-term fuel scarcity and catastrophic climate change.

The current economic crisis requires substantial national policy shifts and enormous new government injections of capital into the economy. This provides an opportunity for a project whose scope would otherwise be inconceivable: a large-scale, coordinated energy transition away from fossil fuels and toward renewable energy.

This project must happen immediately; indeed, it may already be too late. We have already left behind the era of cheap and plentiful fossil fuels, with a permanent decline of global oil production likely underway within three years. Moreover, the latest research tells us we have less than eight years to bring carbon emissions under control if we hope to avoid catastrophic climate change. Lacking this larger frame of understanding and action, a mere shift away from foreign oil dependence will fail to meet the challenge at hand.

The energy transition must not be limited to building wind turbines and solar panels. It must include the thorough redesign of our economic and societal infrastructure, which today is utterly dependent on cheap fossil fuels. It must address not only our transportation system and our electricity grid, but also our food system and our building stock.

Our 21st century nation’s dependence on 20th century fossil fuels is the greatest threat we face, far more so than the current financial crisis. A coordinated, comprehensive transition to an economy that is no longer dependent on hydrocarbon fuels and no longer emits climate-changing levels of carbon—a Post Carbon Energy Transition—will be the Obama Administration’s greatest opportunity to lead the nation on a path toward sustainable prosperity.

And in section headed The Solution he writes

2. Electrify the transportation system

America’s sunk investment in highways, airports, cars, buses, trucks, and aircraft is enormous. However, this is a transport system that is completely dependent on oil. It will be significantly handicapped by higher fuel prices, and devastated by actual fuel shortages.

The electrification of road-based vehicles will help; however, this strategy will require about two decades to fully deploy, given that the average passenger vehicle has a useful lifetime of 15 years. Meanwhile, road repair and tire manufacturing will continue to depend upon petroleum products, unless alternative materials can be found.

Even if it is electrified, a ground transport system consisting of trucks and private automobiles is inherently energy intensive compared to public transit alternatives like bus and rail, and non-motorized alternatives like bicycling and walking. The building and widening of highways must come to a halt, [my emphasis] and the bulk of federal transportation funding must be transferred to support for electrified and non-motorized infrastructure and services. This overall shift of transport investments and priorities will require comprehensive planning and coordination at all levels of government.

There are few if any good options for maintaining the airline and air freight industries without cheap fossil fuels. While some amount of air travel is likely to persist throughout the transition, its cost will inevitably and persistently rise, and the airline industry will contract accordingly. Increasingly, high-speed electric rail connections between major cities will become the lower-cost option, but the national high speed rail network is still in its infancy. Meanwhile, the existing fleet of private automobiles must be put to use more efficiently through carpooling, car-sharing, and ride-sharing networks coordinated primarily at the local level, but supported by federal policy and funding.

Written by Stephen Rees

December 7, 2008 at 4:04 pm

Surrey Residents “Cancel” Gateway

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Surrey Residents “Cancel” Gateway, originally uploaded by Rob__.

As part of the International Day of Action on the Climate Crisis, residents of Surrey, BC modified a sign advertising the Gateway program. The Gateway program is a highway expansion program that will increase ghg emissions in the sector that is already highest for this region.

Surrey Citizens Spoof Province on Global Day of Action on Climate Crisis

SURREY: Jim Shook, an engineering contractor and concerned Surrey resident, took on the unusual role today of speaking at a press conference organized in front of a large Ministry of Transportation sign which had been altered to say that the Gateway Project had been canceled due to concerns related to Global Warming.

Shook’s only prior public speaking experience was at his brother’s wedding last summer but according to Shook, “The hypocrisy of this government going ahead with this project and at the same time as claiming they are taking action to prevent the climate crisis is just too crazy not to do something about it.”

Shook was among the local area residents who joined efforts today with a broad-based network of Lower Mainland activists who used the website and its mailing list to orchestrate this surprise “announcement” of the cancellation of Gateway, timed to coincide with the Global Day of Action on Climate Crisis. spokesperson Carmen Mills explained the reasons for the spoof action: “Gordon Campbell says he wants to address the climate crisis and get BC to ‘live smart’ – so cancelling Gateway is our friendly suggestion, to help him get it right.”

The sign was altered bye placing a swatch over the  Ministry of Transportation’s sign announcing the construction of the  South Fraser Perimeter Road. The hacked sign announced that funding for the  project had been “diverted to transit improvement”” by “Live Smarter BC,” a parody of the BC Government’s climate change initiative entitled Live Smart BC. The sign also featured a website address,, which mimics the actual government site.

“The Gateway Project is really where the rubber hits the road, in terms of the government’s commitment to reducing green house gas emissions,” said Shook. “It will be impossible for the government to meet its commitments if Gateway goes ahead.” He added, “Gateway won’t even ease our traffic problems, or help people south of the Fraser –
it will actually make congestion worse, with a huge cost to the taxpayer and ultimately to our environment.”

According to a poll done by the David Suzuki foundation, 69% of Metro Vancouver residents support redirecting money away from road expansion projects toward a better public transit system.

The Provincial government has selected a contractor for the Port Mann/Highway 1 component of the proposed Gateway project but they have yet to sign a contract. No contractor has been selected for the new South Fraser Perimeter Road (SFPR) freeway project. Many critics are saying that the economic downturn makes the private financing required for Gateway increasingly unstable, and the demand for port expansion has disappeared – therefore, a key rationale for the project no longer exists.

Carmen Mills added, “Transit is a win-win deal – we can reduce emissions and congestion while creating far more jobs than we would by building highways. TransLink says that transit service and ridership must be doubled to meet the province’s climate commitments. But they are seriously underfunded and may have to cut service. It doesn’t make any sense for us to go forward with Gateway.” Mills predicts escalating citizen action throughout the region in the near future if the government does not begin to reconsider Gateway immediately.

For more information including print-ready photos and video footage visit

Written by Stephen Rees

December 7, 2008 at 2:31 pm

Posted in Transportation