Stephen Rees's blog

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

Archive for March 27th, 2009

Vancouver’s CanadaLine to open in September

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Ken Hardie tried to get this out early on Twitter but forgot to post a link to anything – and I am sorry but a “tweet” is not the same as a story. They had a media event and “Premier Gordon Campbell and other officials rode the entire length of the route for the first time on Friday morning, with reporters.” Once again Translink appears to have favoured conventional media over “social media” – which is understandable.

I love this quote from our Premier

Campbell said the line will provide the same transportation capacity as 10 lanes of roadway along the route, reduce the number of one-way vehicle trips per day by 200,000, and cut greenhouse gas emissions by 11,000 to 14,000 tonnes a year.

So Mr Campbell, in that case why have you decided to build ten lanes of roadway across the Fraser? If the reduction of one way vehicle trips and greenhouse gas emissions are important on Cambie Street, why are they not important everywhere else in the Metro Vancouver region?

Actually, the Canada Line will not reduce vehicle trips for very long or by very much – if at all. The people who use the Canada Line will mostly be people who are currently riding buses. The shift from car to transit will be unnoticeable since the trips moved to transit will be more than offset by  new induced car trips. These will occur because more road space will be available due to the design of the project and the relative absence of buses on currently crowded streets. (Toronto traffic engineers noticed very early on that the opening of subways made traffic worse on the streets under which they run.)

Oddly enough this would not be the effect if the H1PMR replacement was cancelled and replaced by an equal investment in streetcars.  Firstly because road space would be taken away from cars and dedicated to transit – a much more efficient people moving system. This would produce the mode shift which you appear to recognise as desirable – but which will not happen by nearly as much as you say thanks to your current policies. Secondly the shape of development will not change very much in Vancouver – the dense parts are already about as dense as they are likely to get – the golf course and the park along much of the southern part of the Canada line will not be redeveloped. But if you had streetcars in Surrey and Langley just watch the pace of redevelopment along those arterials! The ranchers, bungalows and sidesplits would become townhouses and apartments over shops seemingly overnight.

The argument has always been about serving or shaping growth. The Canada Line serves an already well served area. Therefore not much change will happen. Changing the proposed transportation infrastructure in Langley and Surrey, on the other hand, will start to shift the transit mode share significantly – because it is only 4% now and has almost nowhere to go but up – given the right kind of system. Widen the freeway and the number of car trips will increase much faster and further than your model is capable of predicting. Because propensity to make trips – assumed fixed by your model – will increase.

Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome is a definition of madness.

It is time we changed direction.

Written by Stephen Rees

March 27, 2009 at 2:37 pm

Posted in transit

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800,000 still not registered to vote

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The Province

This is a bit of a concern

It seems that the big issue is people moving and then forgetting to update their registration. You can still vote without being registered – as long as you are a Canadian citizen and have lived in BC for six months. But that involves lots of hassles at the poll. Much better to do it now and be ready

To get on the voter registry, check out, or phone 1-800-661-8683.

Written by Stephen Rees

March 27, 2009 at 12:46 pm

Posted in politics

Ontario Introduces Green Stimulus Funds

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New York Times

Ontario has a real Liberal government. BC currently has a government that has hijacked the Liberal brand but is in fact deeply conservative – in fact they are essentially a re-tread of the old Social Credit Party – or at least the right wing of that  party. They are still stuck in the old blacktop politics that both parties espouse.

In Ontario the provincial budget espoused a Green shift

“jurisdictions that embrace the shift to a low-carbon, sustainable economy — aligning environmental goals with economic ones — will see more robust growth, more jobs and higher wages.”

And part of that is $2.6bn for transit projects in Toronto. Note the difference. BC commits to spending $3bn on an expanded freeway – but it is not in the budget. It is an afterthought after an unfundable P3 collapses – thought the partners in that project still are in line to get the lion’s share of the profits they would have gathered under the P3, and without taking on any of the risk. It seems, like The Producers, sometimes promoting a flop can be more profitable than promoting a hit.

BC has not, of course, done anything very significant to shift to a low carbon, sustainable economy. The big headlines here are for the money being made from oil and gas licenses, the hugely profitable privatisation of power generation (mainly for export to California) and the Olympics. There has been very little emphasis on the carbon tax, as even though it is too small to make any difference is still a distinctly unpopular move in the “heartland” (another word we no longer hear as often). The hydrogen highway has not been forgotten – but probably should be as there are still hardly any hydrogen cars. There are promises of transit investment – but for many year hence, and are also not fundable as they need both federal and regional contributions. The region cannot even fund current transit operation – and the Minister of Transport has even said that he doubts Translink will get new funding sources.

Fortunately there is going to be an opportunity to change the government soon. The question in my mind is “Is the NDP different enough?” I thought the switch of policy to favour the highway widening was bad – but the most recent Vaughan Palmer story has Carol James offering tax cuts to the  B.C. Business Council. Both mainstream parties are busy fighting to grab hold of the centre – both being overly confident that they can hold their own side of the spectrum. I wonder about that. What I hear is that people are increasingly dissatisfied with both parties – and think it is time for some new ideas. I can understand those who say the only way to get rid of the Liberals is to hold your nose and vote for the NDP, but sadly they will take that as an endorsement for an approach which is not based on principles  but on opportunism.

We already know that you cannot trust Gordon Campbell. He ran on a promise not to sell off BC Rail and then he did exactly that. That process is still before the courts – but related material about Patrick Kinsella a well connected Liberal insider shows that it was far from honest or open. The fix was in – and it was a politically driven fix. CP withdrew and Omnitrax was only kept in by promises of a “consolation prize” – subsequently withdrawn. On his tv show last night Palmer was careful not to talk about matters that are sub judice – but pointed to those who were in court and are writing about it.

Carol James does not seem to be able to convince people that she could run the province – and appears to be doing what many left wing leaders do in those circumstance. She is trying to be “reasonable” – or, in other words, shift right. Tony Blair made a great electoral success out of that in Britain – and out Thatchered Thatcher. I worry that something similar could be on the cards here if she wins. Is there a real choice here?

Written by Stephen Rees

March 27, 2009 at 10:58 am

Posted in politics