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

Archive for March 9th, 2009

Freeway fight escalates as North Surrey house falls

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A Guest Post from Carmen at

The fight against Gateway is far from over…communities are
(finally!) recognizing their common interest in stopping this
project, and are supporting each other. With this and the collapse of funding, it is highly possible that this freeway-building insanity may be stopped.

Brian Lewis really captured it in today’s Province

And here is some video from ShawTV (segment starts 4 minutes in):

Attached is our press release …thank you for following this mportant story as it continues to unfold!

SURREY – On Saturday morning, after a 5 day/24 hour blockade encampment, concerned citizens witnessed the demolition of the last house standing in the way of the proposed South Fraser Freeway in Surrey’s Bridgeview neighbourhood.

This working family neighbourhood is the first targeted by the Gateway, Project, forcing many residents with deep roots in the community to leave. The demolition equipment was escorted through a back entrance to the property under guard of private security hired by the Ministry of Transportation.

“This freeway is threatening to destroy communities all along the river, and outdated freeway projects like this are cooking our planet,” said Tom Jaugelis, a North Surrey resident and spokesperson for the group. “Instead of spending billions on the Gateway project, we should be investing in green jobs like the public transit that Surrey needs right now.” The Livable Region Coalition estimates that the Gateway project would increase carbon emissions from cars and trucks by 30%.

Ministry officials plan to lay pre-load sand throughout the neighbourhood so the boggy area will be suitable for paving in about three years. Although the government has spent about $100 million expropriating properties and dumping sand, the project design has not been finalized and no builder has been selected.

“Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon wants to spend billions putting a useless freeway next to our school that will cut us off from the river, beach, and our fishing dock.” Said Bernadette Keenan, who sits on the Board of the Bridgeview Community Association. “Our community has a different vision for North Surrey. This is going to be a mixed-use waterfront community, not an industrial wasteland beside a freeway. We are continuing to fight for our community.”

Jaugelis added, “We have been getting more and more support from communities all along the proposed freeway route, people from one end to the other have been coming by with encouragement, hot chocolate and snacks.We will be there to support them when Falcon tries to trash their communities. This is just the beginning.”

Written by Stephen Rees

March 9, 2009 at 2:57 pm

Posted in Gateway

Tagged with

Port Mann- A Bridge Too Dear

with 2 comments

Guest Post from Karl Perrin, of the  Environmental Commitee of the                  Unitarian Church of Vancouver.

Do I have this right?

1. B.C.’s Minister of Transport does a poll (in good times) to find out what desperate commuters would pay to cross the Fraser: $3 (rounded up).

2. Then he asks “Who can twin the Port Mann, and maintain the existing bridge, for $3 a trip?  As a P3, you borrow the money, but future tolls will cover all your costs and profit.”

3. A consortium wins the bid, but doesn’t want to maintain the existing bridge.  They’d rather build a bigger bridge and tear down the existing bridge, for more profit.  New price: $3.3 billion.

4. But the consortium is broke.  First it gets a partial bail out, then a total bail out from B.C. taxpayers.  And we’re told the builders, with no equity to lose, would never walk away from an unfinished bridge, requiring further payments.  (Meanwhile, B.C.’s credit rating is in jeopardy.)

5. The Minister of Transport says, ‘Don’t worry.  Drivers will pay, not taxpayers.’  And removing the existing Port Mann bridge will force them to pay.  The $3 toll can increase by 2.5% per year.  Let’s see, 2.5% compounded over 40 years is … a lot!  (ignoring the possibility of deflation and lower wages for commuters).

6. So now, in a recession, in the name of jobs, we’re going to build a Cadillac toll bridge, tear down a free bridge, and pay for it with the future wages of well off commuters (again assuming they have jobs, cars, gas, and no alternative).  And if the drivers don’t come, because of all the attractive transit crossing the Fraser, then the taxpayers do pay off the bridge costs.

(I calculate a commuter paying the toll to and from work on two of every three days pays $1,458 in year one, and $3,915 in year forty, with $3 per trip increased by 2.5% per year.)

7. Oh, and by the way, when you trash a bridge, where do you put it?

What’s the global warming footprint of the blow-torches, explosives, and jack hammers?  What’s the salmon footprint?

What’s wrong with this picture?  It’s financially logical, assuming the economy is booming in 2013.  But then, so was the nuclear arms race, the tobacco industry, and the Tar Sands.  And all those industries produced lots of jobs.

Here’s a story about Henry Ford:
Henry Ford went to a junkyard and asked, “What part of my cars does not break down?”  “The steering column.”  Ford went back to his engineers and ordered them to design a crappier steering column.

(This didn’t actually happen, but you get the point: somehow the Ford Co. produced the Edsel and the Pinto.) Thus began planned obsolescence and the end of craftsmanship.  The result?—a toxic industry, dead Detroit, and a rust belt from Gary, Indiana to Buffalo.  How do we treat the mineral wealth, the natural resources of North America?  “Trash it and move on.”  And now we are here, in the valley of the greatest salmon river in the world—and salmon stocks are crashing.  And we’re about to destroy a good bridge.  How green was my valley.

Who asked for Gateway?  Who asked for a truckin’ freeway to take crap from Asia to Walmarts back east, toxic toys for the children of laid off GM workers?  Why trash Burns Bog, and industrialize the Fraser shores?  Are we idiots to trust politicians with our money?

Why would we tear down a perfectly good free bridge?  Clearly, so drivers will pay $3+.  But what if

1. They paid $3 tolls now with time sensitive electronic tolls (i.e. less in non-peak hours)?

2. Queue jumper lanes, like those on the tunnel, allowing buses to access the bridge faster than cars?

3. more and longer Sky-Trains? Another Sky-Train bridge?

4. trucks go free after 8 pm?

Would we need another toll bridge? Why not make the Pattullo replacement bridge bigger?  Why not start over? ($3.3 billion could build a lot of transit!)

And what about Gordon Campbell’s wish to cut B.C.’s greenhouse gases by 33% by 2020 from 2007 levels?  Is he serious?  Producing a tonne of cement creates a tonne of CO2, before you even start moving it.  Imagine the carbon footprint of a ten lane bridge, to say nothing of the rest of Gateway.

Our Unitarian minister a few years ago, Dr. Bill Houff, looked at the destruction of perfectly good houses in his neighbourhood, and called it “vandalism”.  Spending $3,300,000,000. to build one bridge, tear down another, and turn farms into container parking lots, is vandalism on a massive scale.  It’s stealing the future from our children.  It’s all very logical, and totally insane.

Our civilization must change.  “Trash and move on” and the Earth becomes a rust belt.  Stop Gateway!

And then I had a dream.  If the jobs-at-all-costs faction wins, and they build the new Port Mann bridge, why tear down the old one?  Why not use it as a park, with slow, electric buses, cars, and bikes?  Why not build planters down the middle, for community gardens?  Why not give tourists an unobstructed view of Mt.Baker, the Fraser River, and the eagles over the valley?

Why should B.C. tax-payers subsidize cars, trucks, and container traffic from Asia to eastern North America?
Why tear down a perfectly good bridge?

Written by Stephen Rees

March 9, 2009 at 2:37 pm

Posted in Gateway

US Rail Developments

with 3 comments

We are not the only place that is going to build a huge new bridge with the promise of LRT capacity for the future, but a lot new freeway capacity much sooner. The same mistake is being advocated by the  Columbia River Crossing Project Sponsors Council for the Washington/Oregon boundary. This this is not the same as the Gateway Council set up (where the proponents were mainly business interests). The Seattle Transit Blog reports that

The Columbia River Crossing Project Sponsors Council is made up of leaders both in Oregon and Washington including leaders of Vancouver, Portland, TriMet (Portland’s transit agency) and Oregon DOT and Washington DOT.

This would be a twelve lane bridge – replacing the existing 6 lane – so the outcome – double the capacity double the traffic – is not in doubt. The discussion is also intersting beneath the story since it would appear that, like the Port Mann, there is actually no defined plan for actually connecting up the proposed bridge to the regional rapid transit system.

Just as with the US federal bailout program, there is still a lot of interest in roads and bridges, and much less availble for railways. Yet another opportunity to change the dorection of North America is going to be lost, it seems. Railways are much more efficient people and freight movers than roads – both in terms of land taken and energy consumed. Global warming and peak oil should have seen everyone start to switch towards renewable sources of energy much sooner and faster than they have – and go for electrification, since electricity does not have to come from fossil fuels. Road vehicles rely almost exclusively on oil – most “alterntative” fuels still being fossil fuel sourced or processesed – and electric cars still being something only distant commercially in sufficient quantities to make any difference.

New York seems to be the exception to this rule. There railways lead much of the development of the state – and not a few are already electrified and carrying large numbers of people as well as freight. The North East of the US bing rather different to most of the rest of the country.

State will invest more than $10 billion over 20 years to improve connections between New York’s biggest cities

This morning at the Albany/Rensselaer train station, New York Governor David Paterson (D) announced a major new effort by his state to invest in its rail system

Most of that investment is designed to upgrade existing corridors to enable better transportation of people and goods. This is not yet electrified high speed rail adopted by most other advanced countries, but is an important step in the right direction.

The contrast with BC is stark. He we sold of BC Rail (a process still mired in controversy) and are currently proposing to spend a lot of money enabling freight railways to continue to disrupt communities. This is because we have a government at present that only cares aboiut business – nothing else matters. We actually had an electric railway to move coal up at Tumbler Ridge but we scrapped that. We could have used the Olympics as a way to get good quality passenegr rail between North Vancouver and Whistler – not hard or expensive to do, and common to most ski resorts in Europe and japan – but the porfit to be made from the sale to CN was a quicker fix. And we only have short lengths of rail rapid transit in the core of the region – and one way, peak only commuter rail for one part of the rest.

Rail for the Valley, streetcars and light rail for region, even a second daily train to Seattle all seem to be terribly difficult to achieve – but all objections to yet more roads and freeways are simply swept away as if they had no validity. We plan by staring at the wake of the ship and ignore the hazards now clearly visible from the bridge.

Written by Stephen Rees

March 9, 2009 at 1:34 pm

Posted in Railway, Transportation

Green Movie Nights

Surrey-Newton Green candidate Trevor Loke will begin hosting a series of Green Movie Nights, every Tuesday evening at the Strawberry Hill Library in Surrey. The non-partisan event will provide a forum for community members to see unique, independent documentaries and continue a discussion about the topic following the film. Admission is by donation, to help pay for the meeting room rental. Doors open at 6:15 and the movies start at 6:45pm.

TOMORROW MARCH 10 – The 11th Hour

MARCH 17 – American Drug War

MARCH 31 – Who Killed the Electric Car?

This post was updated Mar 9 11:34pm – final show date was changed

Written by Stephen Rees

March 9, 2009 at 12:43 pm

Posted in Environment