Stephen Rees's blog

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

Archive for February 3rd, 2009

‘Good without God’ ad finds believers in Vancouver

with 4 comments

It seems the controversy we thought we might avoid (discussed here some time ago) is coming to the SeaBus terminal if not the buses themselves. The CBC has now learned that

Translink’s advertising firm in Vancouver recently approved the ads, and they are expected to appear in SeaBus terminals in a couple of weeks, according to Pat O’Brien, the president of Humanist Canada.

The same ads have been rejected in Halifax NS and Victoria BC

It seems to me to be a bit pointless. It is not as if we are bombarded with evangelicalism on transit. The original British ads were a riposte to a somewhat aggressive series of ads which linked to a web page which threatens non-believers with hell fire and damnation. So far as I am aware there has been no such campaign here – on transit or indeed in any media that I scan. Of course there are all sorts of places where people proselytise, including my doorstep. And there are even faith based tv channels and so on. But nearly all of this is easy to avoid. And as an atheist myself, I see little point in trying to persuade people that they do not need to believe ten impossible things before breakfast. Everyone is entitled to their beliefs – and freedom of religion must of course include freedom from religion. Of all kinds.

So if you are a true believer in the Church of the Flying Spagetti Monster, or a Mormon or a Scientologist, I think you are welcome here – and on transit. Just stop bugging everyone else about it!

And then I stumbled upon this image which I cannot resist posting

Religion flies you into buildings

Religion flies you into buildings

Written by Stephen Rees

February 3, 2009 at 12:04 pm

Posted in Transportation

What should we be building?

with 9 comments

The current provincial government is saying that we should proceed with their Gateway projects becuase it will provide economic stimulus for an econmy battered by the world wide economic crisis. The projects, they say, are “shovel ready” and thus should get new federal funding. Now these projects are exactly the same ones that were being promoted during the boom times as being essential to relieve the  congestion that was supposedly reducing our competitiveness and thus causing us to miss out on opportunities to win more trade through the port.

The impact of the credit crunch was felt much earlier in the US – and there is in fact a great deal of spare capacity in West Coast ports. Our competitors do not need to spend very much to win new trade – they already have the ability to undercut Vancouver just to get some business. If only there were some to be had.

The economic stimulus argument also needs to be re-examined. And Todd Litman has done some work on this topic

“Smart Transportation Economic Stimulation: Infrastructure Investments That Support Strategic Planning Objectives Provide True Economic Development”
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This timely new report discusses factors to consider when evaluating transportation economic stimulation strategies. Transportation investments can have large long-term economic, social and environmental impacts. Expanding urban highways tends to stimulate motor vehicle travel and sprawl, exacerbating future transport problems and threatening future economic productivity. Improving alternative modes (walking and cycling conditions, and public transit service quality) tends to reduce total motor vehicle traffic and associated costs, providing additional long-term economic savings and benefits. Increasing transport system efficiency tends to create far more jobs than those created directly by infrastructure investments. Domestic automobile industry subsidies are ineffective at stimulating employment or economic development. Public policies intended to support domestic automobile sales could be economically harmful in the long-term.

Many types of public investments can stimulate short-term employment and economic activity but some are better overall because they also support other strategic goals. Smart economic stimulation responds to future demands and helps achieve various economic, social and environmental objectives. This study indicates that highway rehabilitation and safety programs are economically beneficial, but urban highway expansion tends to stimulate more driving and sprawl, exacerbating transportation problems. Demographic and economic trends reduce highway expansion benefits and increase demand for high quality alternatives. Investments that improve alternative modes tend to provide greater total benefits.

Increasing transport system efficiency is particularly important for long-term economic development. Vehicle and fuel purchases generate fewer domestic jobs and less economic activity than most other consumer expenditures. Each million dollar shifted from purchasing fuel to a typical bundle of consumer goods adds 4.5 U.S. jobs, and this is likely to increase significantly in the long run as international oil prices rise and domestic production declines. Each million shifted from general motor vehicle expenditures (purchase of vehicles, servicing, insurance, etc.) adds about 3.6 U.S. jobs. Public transit operations create a particularly large number of jobs.

A reasonable scenario of aggressive fuel economy targets, investments in alternative modes and supportive land use policies can reduce U.S. fuel consumption 20-40%, saving future consumers $150-350 billion annually in fuel and vehicle expenses, providing economic benefits from reduced fuel import costs of similar magnitude, producing additional economic, social and environmental benefits, and generating 1 to 2 million additional annual domestic jobs. This equals the total (not annual) jobs created by $30 to $60 billion of infrastructure expenditures and is five to ten times greater than the jobs provided by domestic vehicle manufactures.

Written by Stephen Rees

February 3, 2009 at 9:47 am

Posted in Economics, Gateway