Stephen Rees's blog

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

Archive for December 19th, 2008

B.C. port expansion delayed

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Prince Ruperts new container berth

Prince Rupert's new container berth

Globe and Mail

The Port of Vancouver  and Gordon Campbell appear to believe that we are immune from these influences, but the Port of Prince Rupert is hurting and has now put off Phase 2 of its expansion.

Shipping volumes at the container port have fallen far short of initial expectations that capacity would be fully taken up this year.

Instead, only about a third had been used as of the end of November, and traffic dipped from the month before.

A Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters survey released yesterday indicates that 52 per cent of companies say their orders will likely fall between now and March, l 2009, and that more than one-third believe their inventory levels are too high. Both responses point to reduced demand for imported goods.

The decline has touched virtually every category of products shipped from Asia, including consumer goods and components used in North American manufacturing operations. But West Coast ports have seen particularly steep declines in categories of goods that don’t have to be delivered quickly.

The falloff in shipping volumes has demolished one of the key arguments for expansion at Prince Rupert – namely that other ports along the West Coast of North America were running at full capacity.

That assertion has of course not been true for some time, and is something that has been reported here. More than once.  Prince Rupert was supposed to be at an advantage too – a day or more sailing saved on shipments from China – a quicker, easier route to Chicago.

The big picture is of a US, and now a Canadian, economy in deep trouble. Even our Prime Minister is acknowledging that: six weeks ago, he was firmly promising that Canada would not run a deficit budget. That is no longer the case – and indeed it is now forecast to be around $30 billion. Desperate times. But not one in which you just start spending on projects that have little chance of being useful. Like the port expansion – which is simply not needed in Prince Rupert – and won’t be needed here either.

Written by Stephen Rees

December 19, 2008 at 7:41 pm

Posted in Gateway, port expansion

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Where to donate old cell phones

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3121575464_8a062db061Art by KK – message from Uncle Weed

Written by Stephen Rees

December 19, 2008 at 3:26 pm

Posted in poverty

Homeless woman’s body found burning in shopping cart in Vancouver

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Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson issued the following statement this afternoon:

Early this morning, a homeless woman known on our streets as Tracey, died tragically, trying to stay warm during a freezing night in Vancouver.

Tracey’s death is exactly what we’re all trying so very hard to prevent by mobilizing every resource available to make sure no one else suffers the fate of Tracey and Mr. Darrell Mickasko, who died in a similar tragedy last winter.

It’s painfully clear that—for all the efforts of case workers, faith groups, police officers, governments and caring people across the Lower Mainland—people like Tracey and Mr. Mickasko need our very best if we’re going to prevent more suffering in the cold, cold days ahead.

I believe the people of Vancouver, and indeed all Canadians, share my sense of deep urgency when it comes to homelessness and health for our friends who are most at risk. We must redouble our efforts and commitment to ending the unacceptable status quo, and I want to urge every citizen to make whatever contribution they can to this important work.

The Vancouver we hold in our hearts cannot be a city where people die of exposure. Yet today, we face the second death this year.

There are gaps in our safety nets, despite the best efforts of police and street workers, and we’re going to work even harder to make sure we remove every barrier we can for people like Darrell and Tracey. We’re opening shelter space for people with carts and pets, who might otherwise avoid a shelter, and we’re going to keep working hard throughout this tough weather to protect people from harm.

At this time of year, when the spirit of generosity is in abundance, many of us look to ways we can assist those in need. Ending homelessness is the first priority for our council, and I get asked a lot about how people can help.

During these past few days with the cold weather, we’ve been flooded with calls from people asking how they can help. I’ve spoken with Janice Abbott of Atira Women’s Resource Society, and with Judy Graves, the City’s Homelessness Outreach Coordinator, and they’ve offered this list of items that those without homes this winter are most in need of:

– Blankets
– Bus tickets
– Winter coats
– Long-sleeved shirts
– Thermal underwear
– Wool socks
– Sleeping bags
– Tarps (preferably small)
– Hygiene items (combs, toothbrushes, soap, shampoo, nail clippers, etc)
– Boots

Donations can be made to Gather and Give, a non-profit charity that provides a centralized inventory for organizations working with those in need. It is open Tuesday-Saturday, and is located at 105-418 East Kent Avenue South—just east of Main and south of Southwest Marine Drive.

Written by Stephen Rees

December 19, 2008 at 3:12 pm

Posted in housing

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Aston Martin designs Routemaster

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BBC News

The Aston Martin-Foster design has solar panels

The Aston Martin-Foster design has solar panels

The Capoco Design retains the Routemaster-style front engine

The Capoco Design retains the Routemaster-style front engine

Sports car manufacturer Aston Martin is joint winner of a competition to design a new Routemaster bus for London.

The Warwickshire-based firm’s winning entry was a team effort with leading architects Foster and Partners.

They share the £25,000 first prize with bus, coach and truck design firm Capoco Design, based in Wiltshire.

This is really about the vanity of Mayors in general.

Labour’s transport spokesperson on the London Assembly, Val Shawcross, said: “The design competition may have been fun and the winning designs are extremely impressive, but this is not a serious way to make policy and not a worthwhile use of public money. I have yet to hear one convincing argument for why London needs a new double-decker bus and until Boris comes up with some, Londoners will see this as little more than a vanity project.”

But Boris Johnson is not alone in thinking that his ideas beat everyone else’s simply because he won an election. We see the same thing here – both Sam Sullivan and Gregor Robertson think that they know more about traffic than their traffic engineers. A quite reasonable idea – to try two bike lanes across the Burrard Bridge – was rejected by Sullivan based simply on his own prejudices. Robertson thinks he is even cleverer, now proposing a five lane bridge wth a single reversible lane.

The problem with both these ideas is they are based on a politician’s need to be popular. This is not a sensible way to plan anything, let alone a transport system. Londoners have always had a preference for nostalgia. These new Disney cartoon versions of what was once quite a good bus design – for the 1950s – actually doesn’t satisfy that very well. Since then there have been a whole bunch of changes in our understanding of how buses work – and also regulations governing how they should operate. The old Routemaster’s features , an open platform on the back and no accessibility except for the able bodied, no longer fit the requirements of a safe, accessible form of transport. Trying to retain the “design cues” of an old fashioned bus in a “modern” design is, frankly, pointless.

The Burrard Bridge decision – which the City of Vancouver makes soon – should equally reflect the new reality. There are a lot of cyclists now – and there has never been a real need for three lanes of car traffic in each direction. That is because the volume of traffic across the bridge is determined by two sets of traffic lights: the controlled  intersections at each end of the bridge do not release the sort of volume that need three lanes. That really should have been the only thing that counted. All the rest is sound and fury signifying nothing. Except the self importance of the Mayor.

In both cases there are simple, low cost, workable solutions. Having a few old buses refurbished for two “heritage” routes is quite enough to satisfy the need for nostalgia. Two lanes designated for bikes will work – all you have to do is try it and see. Both of you mayors – get on with some important work and stop messing about.

RM on Westminster Bridge with County Hall in the background

RM on Westminster Bridge with County Hall in the background

Written by Stephen Rees

December 19, 2008 at 9:58 am