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

Archive for December 10th, 2008


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I wrote about this decision recently. This press release arrived this evening

For Immediate Release

Dec. 9, 2008


DELTA –The Agricultural Land Commission’s decision to reluctantly hand over prime Delta farmland to Campbell government bulldozers reveals the extent to which the integrity of the farmland protection process has been destroyed, say New Democrat MLAs Charlie Wyse and Guy Gentner.

The commission has reluctantly agreed to remove 90 hectares from the Agricultural Land Reserve so the Campbell government can proceed with its preferred route for the South Fraser Perimeter Road, despite widespread public opposition. The commission said it “deeply regrets that suitable highway alignment alternatives to the use of prime agricultural land were found not to be acceptable from transportation and environment perspectives.”

The news follows last week’s discovery that construction along two sections of the proposed route started before any decision had been finalized.

“The way the Campbell government has pushed through its chosen route for the highway demonstrates an appalling arrogance. They’ve shown that they’ll do whatever they want, when they want, regardless of rules and community opposition,” said Gentner, the MLA for Delta North.

“As far as I’m concerned the commission has been strong armed into a decision that is the beginning of the end of the farmland protection process,” said Gentner. “Campbell’s route for the highway threatens one of the best soil bases for farming in all of B.C., and its removal shows the duplicity behind the Premier’s ‘green agenda’.”

Agriculture critic Charlie Wyse says the decision to fragment the farmland will deteriorate the agriculture economy in the area.

“Farmers have said they are deeply concerned that the highway will threaten irrigation and drainage systems that support agricultural production,” said Wyse. “The Transportation Minister won’t say how he plans to mitigate the impact his project will have farmland, the Burns Bog ecosystem, and neighbourhoods in Delta or how his government will enhance agriculture elsewhere in Delta.

“On the one hand the Campbell government has made promises to British Columbians to be more prudent in spending and help the economy, while on the other, the cost of the project has skyrocketed and the agricultural economy stands to suffer.”

Written by Stephen Rees

December 10, 2008 at 10:16 pm

Posted in Gateway

Dutch Road Pricing Proposal

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The TerraPass Footprint has a short piece on the proposed introduction of road pricing into the Netherlands in 2011. It includes this useful  link to the official (english language) Dutch government site – and a biggish pdf file can be downloaded from there.

We have known about road pricing for a long time and some of us have speculated how long it would be before Metro Vancouver seriously considered it. This proposal is much closer to what it needed here, regionwide, than other existing congestion pricing schemes which are based simply on a flat fee for a central area (like London).

It really is a serious alternative because it is structured in a way that is both tied directly to the behaviour that causes the problems but it also equitable, since it replaces other taxes on cars which are regressive.  It also has a good chance of working there since the Netherlands has an excellent public transport system and one of the highest bicycle use rates already.

A system here could also be revenue neutral if it replaced not just taxes on car ownership but also basic car insurance premiums. It has been clear for a long time that pay as you drive insurance would be a much better idea than subsidies to people who drive badly and a lot from low risk drivers who do not drive very far. ICBC refuses to even talk about it.

RP also does not stand a chance of being fairly evaluated here, since all our institutions are geared up to continue doing what they have always done, but expect a different outcome this time. And, of course, it was Not Invented Here and could not possibly work in this region. Just like so many other innovations which other places have introduced but leave us baffled. But an RP scheme would end once and for all the problem that Translink now faces – the cash crunch – which it has always faced – and would also eliminate the need for the road building schemes which are about to destroy the  hope of a sustainable and liveable region. Becuase we know that you cannot build your way out of congestion – no-one ever has – but several places are now showing that you can price your way out of congestion.

Written by Stephen Rees

December 10, 2008 at 6:21 pm

Posted in Economics

Runaway bus smashes into Salvation Army store in New Westminster

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A Coast Mountain bus crashed through the front windows of the New Westminster Salvation Army Thrift Store early Wednesday.  (The Salvation Army)

A Coast Mountain bus crashed through the front windows of the New Westminster Salvation Army Thrift Store early Wednesday. (The Salvation Army)

Police say the transit driver had set the brakes and parked the bus near the New Westminster SkyTrain station, but it began to roll, smashing into several poles and signs as it rolled down the hill.

I just could not resist the picture.

I used to watch bus drivers at the 22nd St Station loop carefully put a large wooden chock in front of a wheel, before they went off to do the sorts of things bus drivers do when they finally get a break. I often wondered why.  It was not something I had seen on other systems. The story does not say if this Novabus was also chocked – or even if this is still required practice at CMBC.

And, by the way, before it was the Salvation Army, this was the former BCER station.

Written by Stephen Rees

December 10, 2008 at 1:12 pm

Posted in transit

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Vision Vancouver spurns Cadman and hogs regional directorships

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Charlie Smith at the Georgia Straight is angry that David Cadman was not, as he had suggested earlier this week, selected as one of the City of Vancouver’s representatives on the Metro Board. Charlie thinks it is because of the “lucrative per diem allowances”.

Vision overlooked COPE’s Cadman, who worked for the regional government for 19 years and who has probably done more than almost any other Vancouver municipal politician to promote effective regional land-use, transportation, and drinking-water policies.

Well, I don’t know about that. This may well actually work against him. Most Metro representatives think their first allegiance is to the people who elected them, and who they will have to face at the next election. The extent to which there is consensus at Metro is based on the understanding that ‘I will stay out of your back yard if you stay out of mine’. The fact that Cadman has a regional perspective would actually be seen by many as a disqualification as someone who might not look after the City’s interests first.

There is also what in the British civil service what we called “going native”. This referred to  Ministers who were so enthusiastic about their responsibilities they actually do more than just “command their brief” (read what we had written for them) but actually started to learn and understand something about the subject. This was a particular problem in the Department of Transport whenever we got a railway enthusiast as a Transport Minister. David Cadman’s professional background at the old GVRD means that he knows a great deal more about the regional governing body than many who work there now – and also those who are newly elected to municipal office.

But of course it is really an issue of party politics. This is about COPE – which is a lot further to the left than Vision. Just because there was an electoral agreement not to run against each other at the recent election does not mean an end to all hostilities. And, in general, the heat of debate between people of similar but different opinions is usually much greater than that with people on the other end of the political spectrum. If only because there is always the potential for getting a potential ally to forgo the difference, whereas somone who is diametrically opposed never will.

One odd fact comes to mind. I once, in the early days of my assication with the Livable Region Coalition, decided to attend a COPE meeting. It was held in a cafe on Kingsway at Main. The east side of town, naturally. And it was open – not members only – and about transport. And I did not hear one thing in the speeches or the questions about regional transportation. Perhaps even more surprisingly given that it will dump lots of traffic into Vancouver’s east side, nothing about the Gateway either. Of course, once I put my hand up and pointed that out, David Cadman ably filled the gap.

Parochialism is alive and well. Local politics is a blood sport. And the more local, the bloodier.

What we need is a really effective regional body

Metro Vancouver has a huge impact on residents’ quality of life through its decisions regarding planning, air quality, drinking-water quality, and many other areas.

Sadly it has not had nearly enough impact – especially as regards planning. In fact for a long time it had no actual planning powers at all. Not that that stopped it from producing plans. But it also meant that when those plans were ignored – by province and municipalities alike – there was nothing they could do. And in some areas – like sewage disposal – it has done very badly indeed – and is not doing nearly enough to correct that.

Metro Vancouver’s board could one day reverse the moratorium on logging in the watersheds. Metro Vancouver can also have an impact on the removal of land from the Agricultural Land Reserve if it blocks providing regional sewage connections or takes other steps.

“Could” and “can” – but won’t. And actually the watersheds do see some logging – and threats to withhold sewer connections have been met with court challenges – if I recall correctly.

On reality I don’t think much has been lost – except maybe David is a bit out of pocket. But I hope he does not feel aggrieved. And I also expect him to be an effective opposition to the Vision Council. Because it is a big job for just one NPA councillor – and the approach needs to come as much from the left as the right. A council which has only one party on it is a very different ceature than one that needs to defend its decisions in public on council night.

Written by Stephen Rees

December 10, 2008 at 12:52 pm