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

Archive for June 19th, 2009

Canada Line to appeal $600,000 in damages awarded maternity shop owner

with 3 comments

Vancouver Sun

Canada Line announced Friday it will appeal the B.C. Supreme Court ruling that awarded $600,000 in damages to maternity shop owner Susan Heyes after her Cambie Street shop suffered losses during construction of the rapid transit project

This is a dreadful waste of public money. And the excuse “Pitfield’s decision has potential ramifications for numerous public-sponsored infrastructure projects” is nonsense. The judgement made it plain that the defendants abused the process. They said they were going to build using bored tube, got consent, and then changed the plan to cut and cover. That is an old dodge known as “bait and switch”. They would never have got the consent of the city or the impacted community if they had known what was to come. And the other bidders should have called foul too, since they had presented their offers based on bored tube as requested.

What the judgement does is make project managers in future much more respectful of the public consultation process. It can no longer be the dog and pony show we have got used to in recent years, but actually has to listen to what people have to say and make sure that everyone understands what is actually going to happen. And then stick to the plan that was presented – not change it to suit some other interest.

What the proponents did on Cambie Street was wrong – and if they did not realize that at the time, they should have done. It is unfortunate that the burden on the penalty falls on the tax payer and the individuals who committed this wrong do not themselves have to pay any penalty. Yes this decision does set a precedent – and other merchants on Cambie Street should benefit from it. It will not impact other projects other than to ensure a proper process – which is what they should have had in the first place.

Written by Stephen Rees

June 19, 2009 at 1:58 pm

Posted in transit, Urban Planning

Toronto’s plea for streetcar funds rejected

with 9 comments

Globe and Mail

New design for Toronto Streetcar

New design for Toronto Streetcar

There is a federal stimulus program available for city infrastructure programs. It was designed for “shovel ready” projects that would be ready to go straight way and could be spent in a couple of years. Obviously, the people who determined these conditions were thinking of the average Canadian city – not its biggest one.

Toronto is ready to replace it current streetcars – which are old, heavy and high floor, with this new design based on what Bombardier has been building for European cities. It would be built in Thunder Bay – which badly needs the work – using a combination of local, provincial and federal funding.

The problem is that there is no program specifically designed for this issue. So Toronto applied for the funds from the available program – and of course got turned down. Now if the federal government Minister had any sense at all he would not have made a  “a profanity-laced critique … for which he apologized the next day.”

He says that it is “not a technicality”. But what he really needs to do is give his head a shake and realise what happens when he turns down what he admits is “a fantastic project”. Obviously it cannot be made to fit the procrustean bed he has made. So he should have quietly gone behind the scenes and talked to his cabinet colleagues about how to make this thing happen.

There are no other cities in Canada that have a streetcar system that needs new cars. So obviously whatever Toronto did could not be made to fit any program. Of course the federal government should have been getting behind major urban transit investments – and somehow money has been found for projects like the Canada Line – which was also, at that time, unique. The current flap is simply political ineptitude. It is essential politically for any minority government of Canada to hold on to the centre – they desperately need to ensure that they get the votes of the people who live in Ontario and Quebec. For a government that is all the time hovering over the abyss of a potential confidence vote  to make this kind of mistake is incredibly silly.

Baird has come up with a “compromise”

Move up construction projects that can be completed in two years and use the savings to pay the federal share of the $1.2-billion streetcar contract.

So it is alright to use federal funds to build new roads but not replace streetcars? Is that any message to send when there is a critical international climate change conference coming up where Canada looks like one of the worst offenders already because of its tar sands?

Like most Canadians, I do not want a summer election – but I would also like to have a federal government that shows it is capable of rational thought.

Written by Stephen Rees

June 19, 2009 at 8:04 am

Posted in politics, transit

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