Stephen Rees's blog

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

Archive for January 16th, 2009

Shipping rates hit zero as trade sinks

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The Daily Telegraph (UK)

Following the new reader mandated policy of posting fresh rather than updating old posts here is more news from the world of shipping.

Freight rates for containers shipped from Asia to Europe have fallen to zero for the first time since records began, underscoring the dramatic collapse in trade since the world economy buckled in October.

Korea’s exports fell 30pc in January compared to a year earlier. Exports have slumped 42pc in Taiwan and 27pc in Japan, according to the most recent monthly data. Even China has now started to see an outright contraction in shipments, led by steel, electronics and textiles.

A report by ING yesterday said shipping activity at US ports has suddenly dived. Outbound traffic from Long Beach and Los Angeles, America’s two top ports, has fallen by 18pc year-on-year, a far more serious decline than anything seen in recent recessions.

That last was the story I picked up one earlier from another source.

Global trade is going to decline this year – the first year that has happened. The World Bank used the word “may” – I won’t.  Neither will I retract my earlier statements that the port expansion at Point Roberts and the associated highway megaprojects will be white elephants. Joining the Olympic Village and the Convention Centre as projects we wished we had never built. The 2010 Olympics will join the Montreal Olympics as the object lesson in public investments that went wrong.

One of the best lectures I ever attended was called “Great Planning Disasters” by Professor Peter Hall – and every single one the candidates was a transport project. (They included the Third London Airport, Concorde and London’s motorways.) That was a few years ago and in the UK. It gives me no pleasure at all to think that I will be able to take a PowerPoint slide show on the road in a few years time with the same title about projects in this region which we must cancel – now – while there is still time to change course.

Written by Stephen Rees

January 16, 2009 at 4:01 pm

Posted in Gateway, port expansion

Atheists hope (don’t pray) to bring ads to Toronto

with 3 comments

Globe and Mail

This story goes back to London, where christian evangelist advertising on buses prompted atheists to have a whip round for some riposte ads of their own.

“There is probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life”

Actually in atheist circles the word “probably” itself became controversial.

Ariane Sherine started the campaign after noticing ads on London buses that led curious readers to a website that suggested non-Christians would spend eternity in hell.

Initially, Sherine hoped to raise enough money to post ads on 30 buses in London. The campaign received enough donations to buy ads on 800 buses across the U.K.

(source : MacLeans)
There is now a group who wants to do the same thing in Toronto – it has already spread to Washington, Barcelona and Madrid.

So I posed the question to Ken Hardie – would such ads offend the rules in Vancouver? Because, as far as I know, we have not been bombarded with hell fire and brimstone from religious groups in bus ads. But then maybe I missed them. The ads I tend to notice seem to concentrate either on pushing high priced loans – or debt counselling (which is nicely balanced).

Ken replied (very quickly, thank you Ken) that it probably would

As you know, we have resisted material that raises controversy so as not
to put transit workers on the firing line.  Some people who don’t like
something they see on a bus tend to take it out on the operator, and
nobody should have to deal with that kind of abuse.

We’re awaiting a Supreme Court of Canada ruling on the business of
political ads on the system — you’ll recall that the BCTF challenged
our refusal to accept their ads…we won the first round but they
succeeded on appeal and there were a few political campaign ads on the
system during the last federal campaign.

Except of course these are not political ads but religious ads – or more properly anti-religious ads. Because atheism is not a religion or even a belief system. It is based, as Jon Stewart likes to put it, on rationalism.

As long as there are not ads on buses pushing religion then we don’t need the opposite either – so the whole thing should be moot.  Let’s hope it stays that way.

Because the only car cards I enjoy reading are Poetry in Transit.

Written by Stephen Rees

January 16, 2009 at 12:20 pm

Posted in transit

Tagged with

Mann private-financing woes embolden NDP

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Michael Smyth, the Province’s  “provincial affairs” columnist decides that this week’s PM2H1 story has a political angle. He does not, of course, look at the vices or virtues of the project itself but concentrates on what mileage the NDP may be able to get out of it tomorrow. Because you cannot ask questions on Saturdays. (I did not know that)

“It’s absolutely an issue we’ll be raising,” acting NDP house leader Adrian Dix said yesterday, reacting to news that Australian toll-booth operator Macquarie Group is having trouble coming up with cash for the bridge, which was supposed to start construction by May.

There are actually some real issues here that the opposition should rightfully be able to raise not  the least of which is the new estimate of how much the project will cost. My friend Eric does a great job on this

Who does Highways Minister Kevin Falcon think he is fooling?

The U.K. business publication Project Finance reports the Port Mann freeway expansion needs $2.3 billion in financing, yet Falcon says it will only cost over $1 billion.

In 2004, Falcon said the freeway project would cost $800 million, so the project is now $1.5 billion over budget. At $2.3 billion, it is nearing three times the original estimate.

Borrowing $2.3 billion ($1,400 per B.C. household) for a freeway most Metro Vancouver residents and local governments oppose may not worry Gordon Campbell or Falcon. But we should all be worried about politicians who try to mislead the public.

Eric Doherty

Written by Stephen Rees

January 16, 2009 at 11:53 am

Posted in Gateway

Tagged with

A message from SPEC

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The Done Deal is Coming Undone – We Demand Transit First, Not Freeways

Faced with the twin meltdown of climate and economy, the Premier and the Prime Minister seem intent to drive us over the edge by refusing to rethink the Gateway Project.

The people of this Region don’t want more Truckin’ Freeways or Evil Twin bridges, and now it seems the banks don’t want them either. The twinning of the Port Mann Bridge is now on shaky ground because banks don’t want to invest in the $2.3 billion project — more than double the cost promised by the Highways Minister.

The provincial government, desperate to save face, has extended the deadline for the Port Mann deal until February. NOW is the time for us to deliver a clear message to the provincial and federal governments and to the banking community: Don’t Bankrupt our Communities and our Climate – We Need Transit First! The BC Treasury Board states that transit projects create more jobs than freeway projects by 7 to 1.

Stand up for your community and demand green jobs, not blacktop!

With less than five months to go until the Provincial election, NUMBERS make all the difference. Please join us, bring drums, signs, costumes and banners, and add your voice to the rising chorus.

Come out at noon on Thurs. Jan. 22 and help to bring this dinosaur to its knees



When:    Thursday, January 22 @ NOON to 1 pm

Where:    5 Bentall Centre @ 550 Burrard and Dunsmuir- the offices of Australia-based Macquarie Bank, major Gateway financier. Kitty-corner from Burrard SkyTrain Stn.

What:    A gathering of activists and concerned citizens from across the region staging a creative protest to tell Gordo, Harper, and potential investors to RETHINK GATEWAY, create GREEN JOBS, and invest in TRANSIT FIRST.

For background see Vancouver Sun, Thurs. Jan 15:    Port Mann Bridge financing thrown into question

For more info about the Gateway Project visit or

Written by Stephen Rees

January 16, 2009 at 10:05 am

Posted in Transportation