Stephen Rees's blog

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

Archive for February 2011

How they got it so wrong

with 11 comments

The title is in response to a post on Pricetags which links to the story of a private sector tunnel operator in Australia who has gone bust because the traffic through their tunnel was less than expected. This is in contrast to the Golden Ears story, where Translink failed to transfer the revenue risk, and is now on the hook for the shortfall in toll revenue there, with consequent impacts on transit service. Which is also one of the reasons why questions are now being asked about the forecast toll revenue on the new Port Mann Bridge.

I spent much of my career involved in forecasting what could happen if various things happened on transport systems. New facilities, and how to pay for them being just one of the variations. And the tool most frequently used is one I have talked about here quite often – the four step transportation model. This takes someone else’s forecast of land use – population and employment distribution – and applies it to observations of recent travel behaviour, and then looks at the capacity of the existing system, and tries to allocate the resulting traffic to the network in a way that seems reasonable.

All models are to a greater or lesser extent partial views of reality. Mostly they use comparative statics: they take a snap shot of the recent past (a travel survey, traffic counts) to get an idea of how the present system is being used – usually just at the morning peak hour on weekdays as that has typically been the peak load on most urban systems, as everyone seems to get up at about the same time, leave home and go to work or school. This is then compared to the future scenario when the populations has grown, and there are more people and hence  more trips to be made. Not surprisingly, given the assumption (not unreasonable in our case) that there will be more trips it is usually the case that greater system capacity appears to be required.

In cities which are functioning well, the traffic pretty much fills up the space available when the system is working properly. Even brief interruptions – usually caused by events like collisions – will cause significant delays in a system that is operating close to capacity. And people will continue to add themselves to the traffic flow because they have less than perfect information. If the congestion is intolerable it takes a while for people to learn that and adapt, but adapt they do. There are many ways that people work out what is best for them, and some constraints on what they can do. The first option is to change the route to one that is longer but less congested. It may be a greater distance but the hope is that it will not take too much longer. Another option is to change the time of day of travel – but while we have seen some peak spreading, there is a practical limit as humans need to sleep and most of them do it at night for around 7 to 8 hours. So the hours between say 10pm and 6am are usually the quietest – except in the entertainment district, of course.

The way that trips are measured is known as “generalized cost” – a combination of time and money. Motorists are notoriously “bad” at estimating marginal trip costs. That is because much of the cost of owning and operating a vehicle occurs in one big lump. Having incurred the cost of buying, insuring and licensing the vehicle, there is a great incentive to use it as depreciation is rapid especially in the first few years and only poorly correlated to use. Motorists are very sensitive to costs that apply to trips like the cost of parking (but not if they get a “free” parking space at work as part of their remuneration) and, to some extent, fuel costs. But as people were saying on last night’s CBC news, when gas prices spike due to events in the Middle East, they have little option but to pay. If there is an expectation that as prices – or parking charges – or tolls – will continue to increase people have to start to look at other routes and other modes.

In Greater Vancouver, we have, on the whole, not done a great job of providing alternatives to car use. Much more has always been spent on increasing road capacity than transit capacity but when transit does get better for some people they do use it – the Canada Line, UPass and the brief period of the winter Olympics show that. Some of the more obvious alternatives – like car pooling – simply have not been very successful here, and the required vehicle occupancy for HOV lanes has been declining to avoid the “empty lane syndrome”. Although if the traffic in the general purpose lanes is not stopped, or very much slower, and the HOV lane clear, then it has very little attraction. Certainly not enough to overcome the “disutility” of having to share your car.

Transport economists have got steadily better at understanding how people see price signals, and the models can be “calibrated” to produce results which reflect our local realities. For instance, the model left to itself simply works by “gravity” – the number of trips between two places being a function of size and distance.  In Greater Vancouver that had to be modified as people do not locate themselves to be near their job – and drive past jobs on the way to the one they have. So the travel survey data on origins and destinations, and the cordon survey of traffic crossing key boundaries and crossings is used to make the distribution of the trips in the model closer to what is observed.

The forecast process is surprisingly simple minded. It just takes present circumstances and says suppose we had a new link or a wider road, how would the traffic respond to that? Then it says: and how would that work in some future date when there are more trips? The algorithms to do that have steadily become more complex as new information about behaviour becomes available. But there are always “known unknowns”. For instance, how much will people have to spend on transportation in future? And how will the price of oil – and the expectation of future oil prices impact that decision?

There is a “time budget” as well as a money budget. There are only so many hours in the day, and North Americans have steadily been increasing the amount of time they travel and work at the expense of sleep, with evident results in poorer health. We have also seen a steady erosion of real disposable household incomes. Wages have not kept pace with inflation – except at the top end of the income scale – and governments have shifted to ever more regressive revenue collection methods. Income taxes have been reduced but all sorts of fees and charges imposed. So far as I am aware, that has not been incorporated into many traffic and transportation models. I think that people must have been getting steadily more sensitive to changes in prices. They are borrowing more to maintain their life style, but are hitting the limit of what they can stretch to. So it really is unsurprising to me that assumptions made in recent years about the willingness to pay a toll for a faster journey have been shown to be overly optimistic. I do not recall ever having a conversation over a model scenario about a populace that in real terms has been getting steadily worse off, in most cases. And with no prospect of that getting better and a very real prospect of increasing energy costs.

The great assumption in all economic models is always “other things being equal” (ceteris paribus) but that is about as silly as assuming that everyone has perfect information (which underlies most of what is taught in Econ101 – and seems to be about all that anyone remembers).

Forecasts cannot be made without assumptions – and mostly modellers try to make those assumptions explicit and given time they will test the sensitivity of the model results to different scenarios. This is all very technical and complicated, and gets done at relatively lowly levels of the hierarchy. The eyes of managers and politicians quickly glaze over if you talk about this stuff to them. It was not uncommon to be given instructions – or in later years, thanks to the FoI Act, a clear understanding without anything traceable – that a certain outcome was required and that the figures in the final report should reflect that. There have been studies that examined transportation project outcomes against earlier forecasts and nearly all have been shown to have been overly optimistic. (Here is a link to one – I know there are more out there.) And there are plenty of well known projects which turned out to be quite wrong about financial viability. Concorde has always been one of my favourite examples.

Much has been made of the impact of greater private sector discipline in this area. Modellers started talking about “investment grade” forecasts – and much stress placed on “due diligence”. But it seems to me that there is a sad record of the private sector producing wildly unreliable forecasts as way of getting funds out of investors. And thanks to the invention of the limited liability “joint stock” corporation often avoiding completely the consequences of over optimism. The over provision of trunk fibre optic cables being one glaring example. We now get cheap long distance, but only because many investors lost their shirts in companies that no longer exist. It seems very odd indeed to me that here we trumpet the supposed benefits of private sector finance, but seem unable to transfer any of the real risk. People who buy shares know – or ought to know – that there are no guarantees. The potential return ought to be greater because it puts a value on the risk that the whole of the investment may be lost. Unlike secured loans or bonds which have some recourse against assets that can be sold in the event of default. What we seem to be doing is paying a higher price for capital and at the same the shouldering much of the risk too.  Great for the corporations, not so good for the rest of us.

A risky investment has to promise possible high returns to get investors. Just talk to anyone – as I did recently – involved in the BC mining industry. Or people offered a “share of the profits” on a show or film: somehow the accountants make sure that there is little or nothing for the angels, no matter what the box office takings. It seems to me to be the height of irresponsibility to introduce this approach to infrastructure and facilities on which we will depend. I think it needs to be recalled that most public enterprises came into being to correct the excesses (and abuses) of the private sector. After the first fine flourish of modern capitalism came a period of increasingly stringent regulation – and, in many sectors, public provision being the preferred delivery method.  The early provision of railroads in Canada for instance which lead to the creation of CN.  Health care is another good example in Canada where, despite the rhetoric, the data is clear that public sector provision is much more efficient and effective than the private sector model in the US. The great shift that started in the 1980s to deregulation and privatization in general ignored the warnings of those who knew their history. And the results were often exactly as predicted and in some cases (like British Rail) horribly worse.

UPDATE March 1

It seems modellers here are not the only ones who failed to predict the decline in car traffic across the Pacific North West as reported by the Sightline Institute

Written by Stephen Rees

February 25, 2011 at 12:13 pm

Posted in Transportation

Transport Simulator “Cities in Motion” Released Today

with 8 comments

It is not often I get inspired by Press Releases. This one is different. This is not serious planning software. This is a computer game that allows the user to “develop and operate their own public transport company building a travel network across Vienna, Berlin, Helsinki and Amsterdam using more than 30 different modes of transport including buses, trams, subway trains and water buses. As each city develops and grows the player must continue to meet the ever changing transport needs of its commuters, while at the same time ensuring it remains as profitable as possible.”

Now that is where I begin to wonder about the utility of this thing. I think the words “profitable” and “Public transport” need to be kept well apart. Britain saw extensive deregulation of its buses and trains and the results were not pretty. Services to people in rural areas who were dependent on pubic transport almost disappeared. Profitability was also an issue as instead of lots of small companies competing – as was anticipated – a few large very profitable groups emerged and now control most of the services. A lot of small companies went bust – and continue to do so. Breaking into the market is now a very expensive operation even with so called “open access” imposed by the EU.

Moreover, the game is just about pubic transport. The land use – and, presumably, other modes, are built in based on the 100 year history of the cities involved. There is a “sand box” mode but I would be very surprised indeed if the population actually responded to the provision of new services as they do in the real world in this type of time frame. Of course, as I have often complained here, real transport models as used in this region don’t do that either.

I have also got over an early fascination with this type of simulation, and I have played a few in my time. I would like there to be a video of what the Arbutus Line would look like with Brussels streetcars, for instance, if only to be able to show that it would not nearly be as disruptive as the locals think. But then they are much more concerned about change in their neighbourhood  – and people from outside it travelling through it – than they are about transit technology. And no amount of simulation will change that.

Actually, change in every neighbourhood is inevitable. The people are coming here and there is nothing we can do to stop them. They will be accommodated. The only question is how pro-active do we wish to be in shaping that growth. The current sudden fuss about the new regional plan – after many, many soporific meetings and consultation sessions where not a word of dissent was heard – is a good illustration that it is only when we feel under attack do we respond. Most people south of the Fraser actually thought widening Highway #1 and the Port Mann was a Good Idea. And that is now almost done and the consequences will follow. The SFPR and the NFPR seem a little less certain for now, but no doubt the uncertainty will be dispelled soon after the new BC Liberal Party leader is selected.

There is a video but I can’t embed it as WordPress only likes Google or You Tube.

As a parting shot I must also add that there does not appear to be anything in the game about pedestrians – and every transit trip is an interrupted walk  – or bicycles. But then we do know that these places do look after such things properly.


Written by Stephen Rees

February 22, 2011 at 10:49 am

Posted in computers, transit

Guest Op Ed from Dani Rubin

The following was originally part of an on-going discussion an email list discussion that is (gently) moderated by the author, Dani Rubin. LandWatch is a private listserve used by its participants for educational/informational purposes. It is not a “newsletter” or “publication.”

The title of the thread is “US Population Policy?” but the range of what Dani wrote is beyond that.  It is one of the few things that I have read recently that instantly provoked the thought “I wish I had written that.” So I asked Dani if I could reproduce it, and I am delighted that he gave me permission to do so.


Please put aside any interpretations of pretentiousness when reading the following – actually I am deeply saddened and terrified by what I am describing below.

Underlying and facilitating the global Capitalist economy lays the world’s vast digital accounting system (as you recall from recent posts, the shear physicality of paper currency makes its usage for large global transactions utterly unworkable – base metals such as gold and silver are even less suitable as planetary mediums/markers of exchange).  While Capital reproduces and enlarges itself, it remains, via the global digital accounting system, anchored/rooted in particular legalistic notions of ownership acquired from the long dead Roman Empire (e.g., ‘ownership’ is the right to use and abuse). The tenacity/appeal of notions of ownership can never be overstated.  Nor can the reach/efficacy and durability of global systems of digital credit/debt transaction.

Often it is said that the value of any particular national currency is a direct function of that nation’s net ability to produce. The industrial metaphor for is characterized by the image of a number of productive factory facilities delivering their surplus outputs (a model of ‘wealth’ for all). We as environmentalists have challenged this metaphor by introducing notions of ‘limits’/’irreplacability,’ ‘biological consequence’ and ‘aesthetics’.

However, in post-industrial/digital societies the anchoring ownership that underpins Capital also lays largely upon human indentureship (contractual slavery of the Willing).

While the flim-flam narratives that we are embedded within use digital communications to inject idealized notions of democracy and individualism into our civil life, the on-the-ground realities betray the truth. I note that America has been at war for seven years – without invoking the draft. There can be no greater demonstration of the Hegelian master/slave relationship than endless waves of young men and women eagerly marching to their deaths while their parents urge them onwards, for the greater good.

To conclude, I am suggesting that the downfall of the Republic does not mark the end of the Empire. Personally, my heart goes out to  all of the well-intended folks that embrace the devolution of industrial capitalism (Orlov-styled collapse) and a return to a stable biospheric dynamic.

But the primary motivating forces in human history have shown themselves to be dark, deceitful and insanely ambitious and we are nowhere near the End Game.

Speaking as one who, years ago, endured several long face-to-face conversations with survivors of the camps (WWII) I do not look forward to approaching instability with hope in my heart.  I am old and my time to die approaches soon enough – I am ready – it is the onslaught of misery for others that frightens me.

Written by Stephen Rees

February 18, 2011 at 1:15 pm

Posted in personal thoughts

How to pay for transportation

with 17 comments

Yesterday there was a short sound bite of mine on the six o’clock tv news from CBC Vancouver. You might have been blinking and missed it. One of the reasons I have a blog at all is to try and add something to the mainstream media coverage of issues around transportation and land use in this region. As with so many things, the “need” to spend a lot of time on really important topics, like hockey, Justin Bieber and the ability of a computer to answer trivia questions faster than humans means that the CBC really cannot deal properly with other issues.

It started with the news that Translink is going to have to pay the contractor who runs the Golden Ears Bridge a lot of money ($63 million) as the tolls collected from drivers are not as much as expected. Ken Hardie, Translink’s spin doctor in chief got a few seconds prior to this story to assure the taxpayers that they will not be coming to them for more. “…a deficit we will be able to cover through savings, through other capital programs and reserves.” He did not get to broadcast saying what that means exactly. But to give you some idea, there are now a bunch of buses stored at Oakridge out of use. (See my comment below the image for why this is interesting)

Leah Hendry then did a piece about what other places do – with Anthony Perl advocating road pricing, and clips of the London congestion charge and so on. My bit was reduced to the suggestion that we should try distance based car insurance and increasing parking charges – which might seem a bit odd if you don’t read here regularly. If you do, you do not need to read any further, as you know all this, but in case you are new here please stick with me.

Leah and I had an interesting conversation on the phone before the interview. We talked about why the toll had not worked – and why the Golden Ears bridge was fundamentally ill conceived. People grumbled a bit about having to wait for the Albion Ferry  – but it was still better than driving to either of the nearest alternates. Increasing capacity on the ferries would have been difficult – because of lack of space at each end to queue up vehicles. And there was no room to turn a bus around at the Fort Langley end.  Translink had a big capital projects department anxious to be seen to be doing something, but the planners at the GVRD and at Translink did not see this crossing as a huge issue. Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows being outside the growth concentration area, there were many more pressing issues than a four sailing wait for a short ferry ride for a few people. But the very odd tolling policies of the province meant that Translink could build new bridges if they could be paid for with tolls. Tolls could not be applied to existing facilities.

Road pricing has always made eminent sense. Currently we have the “all you can eat buffet” paid for from a variety of sources most of which have little or nothing to do with road use, and none that vary by time of day. But road space is a very time sensitive “perishable” commodity. At peak periods people line up for it. At other times, much capacity goes unused. Prices can be used to adjust demand to fit available space better. That’s what airlines do – and in other countries like Britain the railways do it too. But road pricing is a difficult thing to persuade people to accept, firstly because they confuse construction and use: “We’ve already paid for the road” and secondly because they are feeling the pinch financially. Leah asked me why, and I said it was because while taxes have declined (mostly for the well off) fees and charges have increased. In fact, the way government collects money has become regressive with the majority paying much more to the benefit of the well off minority. Road pricing would fit very well into such an approach: it would hit people with little money but time to waste very hard, and get them to change their road use habits so that those with money could get where they are going much quicker.

On the other hand, if you used the revenues from road user charges for transportation in general rather than just for building more roads, then the impact could be significantly different. We already know that transit uses space much more efficiently than cars. In fact while taxes on things like gas do not come anywhere near the cost of building and using roads, the general belief of road users is that they are not subsidized while transit, bikes and pedestrians are. This, of course, is the opposite of the reality. A strip of concrete 3m wide (a lane of highway) can carry around 1,000 cars an hour – 2,000 if it is a freeway. At current average occupancy that’s 1,300 people per hour (pph) for an urban road with intersections. Surface transit systems easily carry 10 times that number, where there is enough demand. Or, as Gordon Campbell put it so memorably, the Canada Line is the equivalent of ten lanes of freeway. Which makes anyone with their head screwed on wonder why he was so determined to widen Highway #1 – which costs much more and will carry much less. If you count people and not cars.

Transit, bikes and walking are also much better at getting us the sort of place we need – what we used to call “livability” but now call “sustainability”. Even if every car were zero emission, automobiles impose huge costs on society not the least of which is suburban sprawl. We are going to need every inch of available land for agriculture. Indeed spiralling food prices are one of the main drivers of the current unrest seen across the world – most effectively so far in Tunisia and Egypt. Peak oil is now something that even the Saudis (in secret) and Shell acknowledge – and building the infrastructure for cars that don’t use oil is going to require huge amounts of oil!

In this region we already had plans in place that would have been a good start towards sustainability. We were protecting agricultural land, building complete communities in a compact urban area and we were supposed to be increasing transportation choices. But then we elected the BC Liberals and they have been working hard to reverse all that – with visible impacts all over the region. The short period of the winter Olympics last year was merely the Potemkin village for  media consumption: immediately afterwards transit contracted again, and the road building continued.

My remarks were aimed at what we could have done. I talked about what Copenhagen has been doing for the last forty years – reducing the amount  of space dedicated to moving and parking cars in the urban area. About how improving facilities for movement without cars (more transit, more bike lanes, more pedestrian areas and sidewalks) has to happen before you try to get people to use them more. So that is where the bit about distance based insurance and parking charges come in – those are the easy first steps. Road pricing will take longer and cost more to set up, and could be offset by reducing other imposts  to make it more palatable to introduce. But like the carbon tax needs to bite to have any effect on behaviour. And it has to be part of a concerted policy. Not the current one – which is to make BC more attractive to corporations. But to serve the people of BC better – and to ensure that our children and grand children have a future.

That may seem a long way from not enough tolls to pay for a bridge, but it is all connected, and not in a way you can talk about in a matter of a few seconds. Which is why you read blogs and do not rely on tv news alone.

Bike path safety

with 9 comments

The “controversy” over segregated bike lanes in downtown Vancouver continues elsewhere. I have refrained from comment. Much of the controversy seems to ignore the simple fact that providing safer routes means that more people will cycle. Indeed for many years my former employer (the UK Department of Transport) did NOT encourage cycling because it was thought to increase risk of casualties. Instead it looked at existing routes used by cyclists and tried to find the best engineering practice to make those routes safer. Often the solution was to find a path where cars could not go – but often mixed cyclists and pedestrians. A pedestrian hit by a cyclist would usually not suffer anything like the severity of injury as a cyclist hit by a vehicle.

The following turned up in my email today. I did not know that engineers in north America had been saying that segregated bike paths were more dangerous than riding on the street – which seems to me to be counter-intuitive. The risk to pedestrians and cyclists alike is posed by people in vehicles. In any collision, someone wrapped in more than a ton of steel and other materials is much more likely to escape unharmed than the unfortunate person they collide with. The primary reason that people here do not use bicycles as transport (as opposed to recreation) is the feeling of vulnerability – and the seemingly impervious attitudes of drivers who believe that cyclists should not be allowed on “their” roads.   Not a few of whom are happy to try and scare off cyclists as they think they can get away with it.

a new study on the safety of bicycle tracks vs cycling on the street published today, Wednesday, Feb. 9, in the journal Injury Prevention. Bicycle tracks are physically separated bicycle-exclusive paths along roads, as found in The Netherlands.

The study was led by Anne Lusk, Ph.D., Research Associate in the Department of Nutrition at HSPH. The study was conducted in Montreal, which has a longstanding network of bicycle tracks. Researchers at the Université de Montréal,McGill University, Northeastern University and Brigham and Women’s Hospital collaborated on the study.

Title of article: “Risk of injury for bicycling on cycle tracks versus in the street.” Anne C. Lusk, Peter G. Furth, Patrick Morency, Luis F. Miranda-Moreno, Walter C. Willett, and Jack T. Dennerlein.

Link to the open-access article:


Most individuals prefer bicycling separated from motor traffic. However, cycle tracks (physically separated bicycle-exclusive paths along roads, as found in The Netherlands) are discouraged in the USA by engineering guidance that suggests that facilities such as cycle tracks are more dangerous than the street. The objective of this study conducted in Montreal (with a longstanding network of cycle tracks) was to compare bicyclist injury rates on cycle tracks versus in the street. For six cycle tracks and comparable reference streets, vehicle/bicycle crashes and health record injury counts were obtained and use counts conducted. The relative risk (RR) of injury on cycle tracks, compared with reference streets, was determined. Overall, 2.5 times as many cyclists rode on cycle tracks compared with reference streets and there were 8.5 injuries and 10.5 crashes per million bicycle-kilometres. The RR of injury on cycle tracks was 0.72 (95% CI 0.60 to 0.85) compared with bicycling in reference streets. These data suggest that the injury risk of bicycling on cycle tracks is less than bicycling in streets. The construction of cycle tracks should not be discouraged.

Written by Stephen Rees

February 9, 2011 at 2:56 pm

Posted in cycling

Take the Transit Survey

This is a simple ten minute survey. I urge all my readers to take it – and spend some time on the open ended questions about what you would like to see happen in this region

Written by Stephen Rees

February 7, 2011 at 1:20 pm

Posted in transit

Should Translink be split up?

with 12 comments

Delta Council seems to think so – and the discussion has also been picked up by Paul Hillsdon on Civic Surrey. The argument is not new, and is based on the conviction that Vancouver is at an advantage in any regional arrangement. Politicians like to compare how much is collected in their area and how is spent in the same place. In this case, they have been saying for years that Vancouver gets much more transit than the rest of the region and that less is spent in their municipalities.

Actually it is quite difficult to determine how much is spent in each municipality or even how much goes to the north or the south. Paul Hillsdon states “What we don’t know is how much the SoF communities contribute and how much service they see back for this money.” So I am a bit reluctant to enter that debate at all. It is hard to argue anything when there aren’t any reliable figures – and the ones that are being batted around look like they are carefully picked.

But Hillsdon goes on “However, there are advantages beyond simply service levels. One area that would improve is autonomy.” Now this is where the wheels definitely come off the wagon. There is indeed a lot wrong with the current arrangements. But I find it highly unlikely that a new SoF authority would be directed by their own politicians while the rest of the region would continue with the present set up. I think the argument shouldn’t be about “we want ours” – I find that argument petty. It also does not just apply to South of the Fraser. The North Shore has always felt itself left out. Do we end up with transit agencies for each municipality? Do we need separate agencies in Anmore and Belcarra? Obviously there are regional services. While there is always going to be an argument about where to draw the boundary, the functional economic region is clearly much bigger than any city – they are all interdependent. And while the discussion is limited to transit it is going to be skewed by the province’s preference for building roads rather than transit. South of Fraser is seeing huge sums spent on freeway expansion and the South Fraser Perimeter Road. The replacement of the Albion Ferry was never a very significant issue in the region, but Translink did it just because they were able to fund it from tolls. It was, I think, a very poor decision from a number of perspectives, but shows the mess we get into when we insist that user pay is the only way to assess the value of transportation projects.

Translink does need reform. The province has continued to maintain its iron grip over transit and never really relinquished it, even to the GVTA. Which looks better than what we have now but was not exactly popular at the time. The province is also dominated by concerns for “the heartland”. Rural votes always count for more than urban votes. Everything costs more to build when much greater distances have to be covered – especially when given the difficultly of much of the terrain in BC. And blacktop politics has always been a major force in BC.

We can also see what happens when transit agency boundaries do not much up to “commutersheds”. The long running hostility between  Mississauga and Toronto, for instance. It gets much nastier than just the need to pay an extra fare at the boundary.

In this blog I have often argued that we need better arrangements. We do have to look as transportation as a whole – not just transit. But we also need to be shaping growth not just serving current demands: of course, transit must serve current demand a great deal better than it does now. But we also must put priority on reducing motorized trip making  – reducing the demand for trips as well as switching modes. We must not continue to behave as though transportation and land use are separate: obviously they are not. It is a regional issue, and maybe we need to adjust the boundaries of what I still think of as Greater Vancouver to better reflect current and future realities. Maybe Abbotsford and Squamish were not supposed to become suburbs of Vancouver once – but the province has ignored that in its massive road construction program and we now have to deal with the consequences.

The future we face looks very grim indeed – and much of that is due to our dependence on personal motorised transportation. We need better arrangements that are more responsive to local needs. We need accountability. We need more not less democracy. We need greater involvement in the decision making process. It is simply not enough that we get to chose the name of a new transit smart card, but nothing of any importance. Of course Translink has to be reformed. But breaking it up into smaller fiefdoms to suit local politicians is the wrong direction to go in and spells certain disaster.

Written by Stephen Rees

February 2, 2011 at 12:45 pm