Stephen Rees's blog

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

Archive for December 17th, 2008

Drop in driving deaths linked to rise in gas prices

with 3 comments

I missed this earlier so hat tip to Ben West

Soaring gas prices throughout much of the year caused people to drive more slowly and less often

which means there were both fewer collisions and they were less severe.

If that were the only effect of a high gas price, it would be one worthwhile outcome. In fact it is just the start. The current slump in oil prices is becuase the economy is in the toilet – but it will not stay there for long. Even the IEA is now saying that peak oil is imminent – and that means price instability. As the world’s economy starts to regain strength – which may take a while – demand for oil will rise again – but this time there will be no capacity to meet that demand. So prices will go on a tear.

If we were sensible people, we would not just start lots of old projects that havebeen waiting for funding. Of course we do need to patch up a lot of crumbling infrastructure, so I do expect some spending on roads and bridges. Existing ones – and replacements of those too old to be worth repairing, like the Patullo. But we should also look again at any project that proposes to expand road capacity or encourage higher speeds.

But mostly what we need to do is give people a real alternative to driving. A safer, more comfortable and more enviornmentally responsible way to travel.

And that means we start with trains and trams – not new roads. And the people we do not kill as a result will be the most visible reward – but by far not the only one.

Written by Stephen Rees

December 17, 2008 at 2:18 pm

Posted in Road safety

Premier defends decisions in Delta

with 2 comments

Delta Optimist

DO: James says Prince Rupert must seriously be considered the site of future port expansion. What’s your view on further expansion at Deltaport and how does Prince Rupert figure in the equation?

Campbell: “I think the first thing the leader of the opposition has to do is start doing some homework. She obviously doesn’t understand the demands on our ports, whether it’s Deltaport or the Metro Vancouver port or the Prince Rupert port. There’s enormous demand for the Prince Rupert port. It’s there because of the work we’ve done and we continue to work and negotiate on that. We hope to expand that significantly.

But there will be additional expansion pressures on Deltaport as well. We need to do both of those in order to move forward.

Let me be clear about this: Carole James is not for the Pacific Gateway project. She’s been opposed to it. She said the Port Mann Bridge is the wrong place at the wrong time. She’s voted against every initiative to expand and improve our transportation infrastructure we’ve had as long as she’s been the leader of the opposition. She’s opposed to it, I suppose under the false pretense that somehow or another we’ll take care of all the demands that are coming towards the West Coast of Canada and North America at Prince Rupert port. That, quite frankly, shows a pretty profound misunderstanding of the demands placed on us.

We are the only ports on the West Coast of North America that have seen our container traffic increase in the last year. And only the NDP would say, ‘Let’s stop the investment. Let’s stop the activities that are taking place at a time most Canadians and most British Columbians are saying we should secure our economy and let’s make sure we have jobs.’

The Pacific Gateway project itself is about 3,500 jobs. The South Fraser Perimeter Road is about 3,500 jobs itself, and she’s done no homework on that and doesn’t understand what decisions have been made. So she says, ‘Let’s send it all to Prince Rupert.’ We’re going to do a lot of investment in Prince Rupert, but it’s only going to be balanced off by the investments in other ports in British Columbia.”

It is a sizeable chunk of newspaper the Premier has been handed here. And this is the second part of it – I mised the first one. And I don’t usually like quoting so extensively – but this man is busy diging his own grave with his teeth. And just in case one of his supporters tries to accuse me of quoting him out of context I put in the whole chunk about the Gateway.

So let’s take a look at some of his statements

there will be additional expansion pressures on Deltaport

Now why would anyone who has “done their homework” think that. Traffic through all of the Pacific Coast ports has been in decline – for years now. Most economic forecasts are cautious predicting a return to growth – as the impact of the recent attempts to reflate the US economy – and the world – have yet to produce any growth at all. Indeed Socitabank is now saying there will be no growth until 2010. And the previous pattern of US consumption of cheap chinese goods seems unlikely to return due to the expected rise in the cost of oil and the inevitable collapse of the US dollar once all this liquidity they have been pumping in starts to show up. At present the banks are just sitting on the bail out funds and refuse to lend.

He also only talks about Prince Rupert – that was the question – which means he does not have to mention the impact of the opening of the new Panama Canal or the North West Passage – both of which will dramatically reduce the need to ship through the pacific coast.

We are the only ports on the West Coast of North America that have seen our container traffic increase in the last year.

So he knows the container market is down. One of the reasons that our traffic stayed up is that Canada’s economy did not nose drive two years ago. We were not that exposed to daft mortgage lending – but the consequences of US finanacial deregulation sure are hitting Canada hard now. So we can confidently expect that container traffic next year will be very much lower – and indeed casual observation of Deltaport shows that is already visible. At one time the trucks were lining up along Deltaport Way all the way back to Highway #17. Recently there has been no line up at all. (Six days ago I was able to take pictures of mid train locos on a coal train  – there was not a truck or a contianer train in the way)

ES44AC mid train dpus - the lack of container activity means I could get a clean shot at them.

ES44AC mid train dpus - the lack of container activity means I could get a clean shot at them.

More than 5,000 people took part, for example, in the open houses that took place around the South Fraser Perimeter Road. There’s balances you have to make and make the best decision to the consideration all the people have.

The balances incuding trading off the threat toBurns Bog with the threat to the ALR. How balanced is putting a road designed to carry heavy truck traffic close to elementary schools? Ignoring the archaelogical records and buidling across First Nation sacred sites – in return for some money and land to one nation – is that your idea of balance? Ignoring the existence of species threatened with extirpation for an illusion of economic growth? Is that balance.

And if the Gateway itself is 3,500 jobs – and includes the SFPR – how can the SFPR be 3,500 jobs? That means none of the rest of the Gateway creates one single job? I think the Premier misspoke.

under the B.C. Liberals we’ve seen an increase in the Agricultural Land Reserve. In 2000, it was about 4,720,000 hectares; today it’s 4,759,000 hecatres. So we’ve been adding land to the reserve because we think it’s important.

Well that is true if you think an acre of the highest quality agricultural land in Delta has the same food growing potential as an acre of marginal land in the north. I am no agronomist but I do know how land values work and I think the Premier is deliberately misleading with this statement.

DO: Are there any plans to upgrade or replace the George Massey Tunnel?

Campbell: “We have to look at how we are going to carry on and build our transportation strategy. We have a $14- billion public transit strategy that I think will help in some ways. I think the new Canada Line in some ways will help relieve some of the pressure there.

There’s actually three more paragraphs of this waffle. He makes no commitments – very wisely. But this opening  shows that he is groping at straws. There is not a $14bn stragtegy – there is a hope that the federal government will send some of its promised regeneration money this way – but the whole thing hangs on P3s which are unfinancable now – and in the foreseeable future. And the Canada Line does not help Delta residents at all. Some will tolerate being told to get off their bus and try to squeeze on to a crowded train with few seats – and some will have no choice. My bet will be that we will see a rerun of what happened with the #98 BLine. Three months after that was introduced with the forced transfer peak hour only express buses were back beween Richmond and downtown. The Canada Line has been undersized to keep costs down – and has little scope for expansion. My bet will be that direct express buses will be need at peak hours very soon after it opens.

Written by Stephen Rees

December 17, 2008 at 1:33 pm

Posted in Gateway, transit

Rising sea levels, earthquakes to hit B.C., says study

with 3 comments

Richard Watts,  Vancouver Sun

Not a comfortable story for residents of the Fraser Delta to read. The conservative extimate of sea level rise from the IPCC is 90cm “by the century’s end” . But everything else I have been reading recently suggest things are going to start happening much faster than the IPCC predicted because they did not account for the “feedback loops” in the processes of global warning and climate change. For instance, as the polar ice caps have been melting, so less sunlight is reflected back into space and the dark surface of the ocean absorbs more heat than the bright surface of the ice. So that process can now be measured and shows the IPCC erred when it made its “conservative” estimate.

One major force is the melting of ice caps in the North and South poles and the world’s glaciers. This is coupled with an expansion in the volume of the oceans’ waters due to an increase in their temperatures brought on by global warming.

And that process can now be seen to be inundating low lying nations around the Pacific. Years – deacades –  before the IPCC thought they would be.

Meanwhile, in the Lower Mainland, the loading of sediment from the Fraser River is actually pushing the land surface downward, a process called subsidence.

Not only that, but the lack of dredging in the secondary channels of the Fraser (the Port only dredges the main shipping channel in the South Arm) means they are full of sediment. So there is less storage capacity for the spring freshet – the ice melt from the interior glaciers.

As also predicted, weather events have been getting more extreme, as global warming means there is more energy driving them. Climate change is not just wamer springs and longer dry spells – it is also more and worse storms.

So what we are looking at is a sesimically unstable area, that is sinking while sea levels rise – and the wetaher gets worse.  You might think that would be stimulating a lot of activity on the dykes – and a fresh examination of dredging policies, given the devasation that will occur when (not if) the dykes are overtopped. But so far all we have heard are platitudes and reassurances – not action. And my concern is that the message that this process has been speeding up is not being heeded by municipal, regional or provincial authorities.

Indeed, there is no sense of urgency at all in this story. Except for this little gem

“Once the big earthquake hits, within minutes the land all falls back down a metre or so and then the big tsunami hits, and it’s not going to be fun,”

Written by Stephen Rees

December 17, 2008 at 11:27 am