Stephen Rees's blog

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

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

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