Stephen Rees's blog

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

Archive for December 30th, 2008

Shipments in and out of B.C. ports threatened as Friday strike deadline looms

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Canadian Press

A strike is imminent in BC’s ports – and this piece does some breast beating about how bad that would be. But buried in the middle of the story is this gem

Local 514 workers have been without a contract since March 2007

I am not going to take sides in a dispute I know nothing about, but we have to recognize brinkmanship when we see it. Nearly two years have been allowed to go by. And no doubt negotiations have been tough – but somebody at that table was certainly pushing things beyond reasonable limits. And pointing to the current state of the economy is just pure politics

In a letter recent letter to federal labour minister Rona Ambrose, [Vancouver Port CEO Gordon] Houston said a strike would “significantly impact most of Canada’s west coast supply chains at a critical time in our economic history.”

In other words he is preparing the way to push for legislation to get the strikers back to work – once we get parliament back in session.

Of course there is always the other way. Actually bargain in good faith and come up with a compromise with disatisfies each side equally – you can’t always get what you want, but if you try you can get what you need.

Written by Stephen Rees

December 30, 2008 at 11:52 am

Posted in Transportation

Vancouver’s winter weather nightmare raises questions about Olympic readiness

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Canadian Press

The last two weeks have been a winter weather nightmare for Vancouver, with huge dumps of snow followed by rain, heavy slush and flooding. All over the city, people are griping about the toll storm after storm has taken on their holiday season.

But they’re asking another question, too: what if it happens during the 2010 Winter Olympics?

Really? Was that top of mind when you were stuck for an hour waiting for a SkyTrain at metrotown? Or when you were unable to get around on the North Shore because of bus reroutes?

I suppose at least it is welcome that there is some acknolweldgement that some organisations are admitting they were not that well prepared.The airport for example – “We have already ordered a couple of extra pieces of snow-clearing equipment for 2010” – tho0ugh I am not sure that a couple of pieces is quite enough. I think some variable sign messages at the east end of  Sea Island would be useful too, to divert people to lots where there are parking spots instead of wasting time in line ups trying to get out of lots that have no space available.

The city’s transit system will be different in 2010, with more buses and a new subway line that won’t be affected by weather because most of it runs underground, said Ken Hardie,

But that new subway emerges from its tunnel at Marine Drive and then is in the open all the way to both Richmond Centre and the airport. And the short platform lengths mean the SkyTrain method of operating longer trains with a driver are not an option for the Canada Line.And while they may be more new buses, will there actually be funding in place to ensure that they will be operating

But my real point is that Olympic readiness is frankly a minor headache. We can expect the weather to get steadily worse. Yes we came near to breaking records this year – but the idea that this is exceptional is wrong headed. When climate changes, precedents are no longer a guide as to how to proceed. Steering the ship by staring at its wake is pretty stupid. Because the planet is warmer now, there is more energy driving the weather systems. Because the ocean is warmer, currents are changing. This means that more severe weather events are inevitable – and they will of progressively greater severity. We have done nothing very much to reduce our contribution to this process, and failed this year to agree to do anything different. And the scientists are now admitting that their earlier forecasts were far too conservative as they left out a number of feedback mechanisms.

It is now too late to stop this process. But it does mean we have to revisit our contingency plans and get ready for a different weather pattern than the ones we have been using for event planning. And I for one have very little confidence in organsiations which admit that  their plans are dependent on divine intervention. But mostly planning should not be what to do for the Olympics but what to do to make sure the place does not come to a grinding standstill for days on end when confronted by entriely predictable worsening weather conditions.

Written by Stephen Rees

December 30, 2008 at 11:15 am