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

Archive for June 11th, 2009

Metro Vancouver’s growth strategy hits interference

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Charlie Smith in the Georgia Straight covers the regional strategy but gets misled. The fact that a Vancouver Councillor says their staff are “too busy” is not the real story. The fact is that the regional strategy has drifted off course since 1995 – and Metro is now trying to get it back on track. But nothing is really likely to change very much – because “The regional growth strategy requires unanimous approval from all 21 Metro Vancouver municipalities.” Up to now the municipal level of government has almost carte blanche to do as it wishes without oversight when it comes to land use – with the exception of federal lands (of course) and the ALR. It is therefore not at all surprising that the region’s Mayors do not like the idea of Metro having some oversight

Vancouver councillor David Cadman worked for the regional government for almost 20 years and conducted public consultation on the Livable Region Strategic Plan, which was approved in 1996. In a phone interview with the Straight, he said his biggest concern about the new draft plan is that it puts parts of the “green zone” at risk. That’s because the provincial government changed the legislation to permit a two-thirds majority vote by the Metro Vancouver board to remove land from the green zone—which includes watersheds, farmland, conservation areas, and major parks.

And that is a big deal because there is always pressure to release more land – not least from people who think that will somehow help cure Vancouver’s housing affordability problem.

In most other places, it is recognised that there is a regional interest – and that sometimes municipal councillors may well need reminding that there is a legitimate broader public interest outside of their boundaries. Because the GVRD is NOT a megacity but a collective of municipal governments there is no regional voice at all. Just some staff who try point out that there does need to be a way to ensure an agreed strategy is actually followed – and bunch of Mayors busy scratching each other’s backs.  Just changing the name from GVRD to Metro changes nothing.

Written by Stephen Rees

June 11, 2009 at 7:15 pm

Bike-share program rides into Vancouver this weekend

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Georgia Straight

Starting tomorrow (June 12), Vancouverites will have the chance to test-run a bike-share program, which has recently gained popularity in Montreal as a cheap, environmentally-friendly, and around-the-clock transit system.

From Friday to Monday (June 15), the City of Vancouver will be hosting a public bike-system demonstration along the seawall area of Science World.

I won’t go, since I have already had a chance to sample the Paris velib program, so I am already a convert! But one thing we will need to sort out is how is this program going to deal with the requirements of the helmet law? They are not needed in Paris – and thanks to the chain cover you do not even need bicycle clips on your trousers. Just get on and go.  I also suspect that the costs of vandalism will be high here too.

Written by Stephen Rees

June 11, 2009 at 12:38 pm

Posted in bicycles

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Electrification evaluation expands

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Chicago South Shore & South Bend Railway "Little Joe"

Chicago South Shore & South Bend Railway "Little Joe"

The Railway Age has an interesting examination of negotiations between the US railroads and power companies. The idea is the the railway right of way would be used for transmission lines in return for electrification and low cost power for trains.  This is tied to the idea that if there is to be a high speed passenger network then it would have to be electrified. The new power lines will be needed to connect new power sources such as wind farms to the grid. But freight trains could also be hauled by electric locomotives. Indeed the story is illustrated by the image of a Chicago South Shore & South Bend Railway electric loco hauling a coal train (“Little Joe”). BC also had it own electric freight railway to haul coal to the coast from Tumbler Ridge – and one of the most inexplicable decisions surrounding the sale of BC Rail was the scrapped that system and its locos (except one pictured below preserved at Prince George).

North American freight trains are mostly hauled by diesel electric locomotives – and one of the ideas floated in this story is that  of dual power locos: the same electric motors could be powered by the on board diesel or the overhead wire. This would also, by the way, capture the energy used to brake trains – currently dissipated as heat – by using the same motors as generators with power being fed back into the system. SkyTrain and the trolleybuses already do this.

New Dual Mode Locomotive

New Dual Mode Locomotive

“A version of the latter, the ALP-45DP, is currently being built for New Jersey Transit and Montreal’s AMT by Bombardier. Such a locomotive would give a Class I the flexibility of operating trains in electrified and non-electrified territory without changing power.”

The railways identified as most interested are BNSF (who have a line into Vancouver) and Norfolk Southern. Notable by their absence – CN and CP.

BC Rail Electric Loco

BC Rail Electric Loco

Post updated from comment June 12, 2009

Written by Stephen Rees

June 11, 2009 at 9:29 am

Posted in Transportation