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

Archive for January 15th, 2009

LA Port Traffic collapses in December

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Daniel Say posted this link to the trans-action list

It takes you to a blog called “Calculated Risk” which got the story from the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles. In bound traffic has been steadily declining since 2006. Now export traffic has started declining  as well.

That is the way that a depression works. The US financial disaster triggered by the sub-prime mortgage fiasco cut American’s ability to buy stuff from Asia. Now that means that the Asian economies have been hurt due to the loss of one of their biggest markets and have therefore stopped buying things from America. And we can expect that trend to continue for some time until either the much vaunted Obama rescue package starts to work or the world comes to its senses and starts to deal seriously with the major crisis that it now faces.

Which is not that economic growth has stopped. In fact, that might actually help a bit towards reducing the growth of carbon emissions inthe short term. In the longer term we actually need to figure out a way to reverse the warming trend that has been impacting this planet since the Industrial Revolution. Part of that is going to be dealing with the fact that ever increasing personal consumption did not make us happier or healthier. The metric of GDP actually tells us nothing about really important things. And the idea that an unregulated free market can bring about all kinds of benefits has also been shown to be a chimera.

But there are loud and insistent voices that cling to notions that are clearly unsustainable and untenable. Sadly those voices seem to be the ones our governments and media prefer to listen to.

I cannot imagine a worse time to be proposing port expansion in Vancouver – together with all the assorted infrastructure projects grouped under the Gateway banner. They are all – separately and together – pointing in the wrong direction. This is not Smart Growth. This is the opposite of Smart Growth – it is repeating exactly the same mistake – over and over again. And worse than that – deliberately lying about the expected outcome. The demand forecasts used have now been shown to be misleading. The costs have been understated. Most of the deleterious impacts have been ignored. All of the supposed benefits are either overstated or illusory.

On Saturday the legislature of this province is being recalled. But procedurally it will deal with only one “crisis” – the need to get more funding to complete Vancouver’s athlete’s village in time for the 2010 Olympics. There will be no question time. This session will not be allowed to become a platform for the Opposition to do what it is supposed to do – hold the Government to account. Because if they were allowed to do that, it would have a measurable and negative impact on this government’s chance of being re-elected. So it does not matter what serious concerns the people of BC may have – or would like to see debated. That will not happen. And no doubt there will be yet more non-events, like the SFPR gong show this week, to try and paper over the rather obvious cracks in the government’s strategy. Building things with public money can help offset a recession. But building the wrong things – or useless things – is a lot less effective than doing the right things.

And in our case calling a halt to Gateway, and spending the money on transit instead, would be a very sensible thing to do. Which is why you cannot expect this government to even consider it.

Written by Stephen Rees

January 15, 2009 at 8:09 pm

Posted in Gateway, port expansion

Skytrain has run its course; LRT is the way to go.

A debate is to be held at the Vancouver Public Library’s  McKay room (Bottom level of VPL downtown at 350 West Georgia St, Vancouver) on Wednesday, January 21, 2009  at 7pm

Arguing the Affirmative:
Patrick Condon, Senior Researcher, UBC Design Centre for Sustainability

Arguing the Negative:
Mike Harcourt, Former Premier of British Columbia

As a former premier of British Columbia, mayor of Vancouver and city councilor, Mike Harcourt helped British Columbia earn its reputation as one of the most livable places in the world. His focus on conservation and sustainable development – and his resolve to contribute to the transformation of cities and communities around the world – has played a significant role in promoting quality of life for those in Canada and abroad.

After stepping down from politics, Harcourt served as a member of the National Round Table on the Environment and Economy, where he served on the Executive Committee and Chaired the Urban Sustainability Program. He was a B.C. Treaty Commissioner, and he was chair of the Prime Minister’s Advisory Committee for Cities and Communities and he co-chaired the National Advisory Committee on the UN-HABITAT World Urban Forum. Harcourt also chaired the Directors Selection Committee on behalf of Mayors in collaboration with Translink and B.C. Ministry of Transportation. He is Honorary Chair of the International Centre for Sustainable Cities, and Co-Chair of the International Panel of Advisors.

Professor Patrick Condon has over 25 years experience in sustainable urban design; first as a professional city planner and then as a teacher. He started his academic career in 1985 at the University of Minnesota, moving to the University of British Columbia in 1992, acting first as the Director of the Landscape Architecture program and later as the James Taylor Chair in Landscape and Livable Environments.

As Chair he pioneered multi party sustainable community design workshops now generally known as charrettes, starting in 1995 with the seminal Sustainable Urban Landscapes Surrey Design Charrette.

Since that time he has worked to advance sustainable urban design in dozens of major charrettes, and scores of publications. He has lectured widely in both Canada and abroad, and is the author of several books, most recently “Design Charrettes for Sustainable
Communities”, Island Press.

He has been instrumental in establishing the highly successful Smart Growth on the Ground charrettes with Smart Growth BC and is currently focused on the Sustainability by Design project, a vision for a sustainable region of 4 million.

He is now a senior researcher with the UBC Design Centre for Sustainability, an urban design think tank that evolved from the original efforts of the Chair and now employees over a dozen researchers.

If you read the comments on this blog you will know why this gets posted here. It is apparently one of a series called “Langara Dialogues” and it is suggested that you get there early to ensure seating.

Written by Stephen Rees

January 15, 2009 at 7:08 pm

Posted in transit

Tagged with ,

SkyTrain route rejig possible

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Jeff Nagel on unnamed consultants’ idea for reconfiguring SkyTrain if the Evergreen line is built.

transit network 2014

transit network 2014

The image, by the way, is not the one Jeff used – this better quality one I got from fellow flickrite Paul Hillsdon.

The idea is to run trains through from Coquitlam to VCC so that there is no need to change at Lougheed Mall. The existing Millennium Line service would be cut back to a low volume shuttle service between Columbia and Lougheed freeing up a lot of capacity for Expo Line service to Surrey. A new short turn service on the Expo Line could also be added to run between Waterfront and Metrotown, which is the section which has the highest demand.

The August study indicated the configuration could save TransLink $20 to $100 million by reducing the number of extra SkyTrain cars that would have to be bought to achieve desired service levels.

Which may appeal to the current Translink management – though as usual Ken Hardie is doing his best to be non-committal. If there is a cash crunch – because the Mayor’s have yet to approve a new funding source – then there may be little option. Of course my preference would be to have more SkyTrain cars and more service. Because everywhere I have been that has been shown to be the most effective way of getting people to switch modes from driving to riding transit. But that is not – it seems – Translink’s main objective any longer.

And while I am taking images from Paul’s flickr stream here is a shot of the new SkyTrain cars in the new, standardized Translink livery. (Although that is where I found it, apparently it originates with the Buzzer blog.) The Darth Vader tendency at Translink wins again. Their preference for all new vehicles is “paint it black”.

New SkyTrain cars

New SkyTrain cars

Written by Stephen Rees

January 15, 2009 at 5:19 pm

Posted in transit

Port Mann Bridge financing thrown into question

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The Sun has the story this morning (January 15) but adds (to what has already been posted) only this observation on Macquarie’s troubles

The consortium chosen to enter final negotiations was selected in August. Called Connect BC Development Group, it includes Australian-based Macquarie Group, an international toll road operator and investor.

But Macquarie, which operates more than 30 roads worldwide, has been hit hard by the financial meltdown.

The value of the company’s toll-road portfolio fell by a third in the last four months of 2008. In a statement issued by Macquarie, it blamed “the recessionary environment” and “higher assumed financing costs.”

And the NDP’s finance critic Bruce Ralston questioning the need for a P3 – but not, note, the need for the bridge and highway expansion.

Written by Stephen Rees

January 15, 2009 at 9:57 am

Posted in Transportation

TransLink’s budget increase questioned

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Matt Burrows in the Georgia Strait has coverage of Jim Houlahan questioning next year’s operating budget at Translink.

TransLink approved an operating budget of $1.3 billion, according to the same December release. Revenue and expenditure budget figures from the TransLink 2009 budget and business plan summary reveal that total operating expenditures are about $1.27 billion this year, up from approximately $1.08 billion in 2008. The 2007 annual report lists the operating budget for that year at $896.3 million.

So the year on year increase is $190m or 17.5% – but Jim decides to go for $400m in two years – the figures are bigger but the questions remain.

The answers from Translink’s spokesperson Judy Rudin look a bit thin. The addition of a third SeaBus does not seem to explain very much. And a 4.6% increase in service does not translate into a 17.5% increase in costs – or rather, it shouldn’t. And even if we start paying the Canada Line debt service this year, says Jim, that’s only $30m a year.

I don’t spend much time trawling over Translink Board reports these days. Maybe someone who does can throw some more light on this.

Written by Stephen Rees

January 15, 2009 at 8:53 am

Posted in transit