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

Archive for August 2011

Diabetes Education Centre: Richmond Hospital

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I attended a course there to-day, as part of my efforts to better control my Type 2 diabetes. One of the things they taught us was to include more activity in our everyday lives. This is important for many health reasons. However, there is no bike rack at the centre. There used to be one behind the ER entrance, but that apparently has been removed as part of the new extension there. I saw one bicycle chained to the wheel chair storage – not ideal but inventive.

Nearly everyone on the course complained about the cost of parking. I would have ridden my bicycle if I had been sure that I could lock it up securely. Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH)  must do much better at promoting human powered transportation and provide secure bike racks at all its facilities but this centre must be top of the list in view of what it is supposed to be doing. And that there was a secure rack but someone in that organization decided to remove it and not replace it. Even though there is plenty of space behind the new ER extension and close to the south entrance, used by the Diabetes Education Centre.

The foregoing is adapted slightly from an email I just sent to Vancouver Health – they invited feedback and provided an email address. I promised to let you know what they say in an update.


Let us hope this is just the start

Dear Stephen,Thank you for your email and for your interest in Vancouver coastal Health.Your email has been forwarded to Patient Care Quality for Richmond Hospital.Best regards, VCH Feedback

You can almost hear the sigh of relief of the clerk in the “redirect these emails somewhere” department, can’t you. Do you think “Patient Care Quality” has any influence over the provision of bike racks? No, me neither.

Written by Stephen Rees

August 31, 2011 at 1:20 pm

Posted in bicycles

Tagged with , ,

“Vancouver drops from number 1 spot”

with 6 comments

The Vancouver Sun this morning reports on the Economist’s latest Liveability Index

“Vancouver drops from number 1 spot in livability survey for first time in nearly a decade” bleats the headline

Thanks to the Globe and Mail I have been able to find a link to the EIU survey. (WARNING – you do NOT get to read the report unless you buy it – and only the summary in return for registration. The EIU site is really really slow right now too.) The Sun does not do that. What was no surprise was the reason given – our transportation system. Until I read this

Instead it was an adjustment in Vancouver’s score for transport infrastructure, “reflecting recent intermittent closures of the key Malahat highway that resulted in a 0.7 percentage point decline in the city’s overall livability rating,” said the report.

This quote was published without comment by either the Sun or the Globe. Frankly I cannot believe that a quality newspaper can be quite so sloppy. The Malahat is on Vancouver Island. It is really important to Victoria and Nanaimo but not Vancouver. Can they be serious? Now if they had said Highway #1 and left it at that I would not be at all surprised. The current construction of the freeway expansion and the now half completed replacement Port Mann Bridge is indeed reducing the quality of service on that Highway. So have various closures in the interior but I doubt very much if many people who live and work in Vancouver were affected by that. Anymore than Malahat closures affect them.

Since it is inside the quote it shows that the EIU’s standards are slipping. Not ours (though Canadian newspapers should have said something). As if it matters.

For the sake of completeness here is a chunk from the Globe story

The Malahat Highway north of Victoria was closed for 22 hours in April after the crash of a fuel tanker truck.

Many Vancouverites are wondering why a highway closure on Vancouver Island — about 60 kilometres away — would affect the city’s score.

But Jon Copestake of the EIU told Global TV the ranking reflects what he calls “regional” traffic issues.

“The adjustment is miniscule, and should not be considered significant in the context of the overall score, but it was sufficient to drop Vancouver to third position behind Melbourne and Vienna,” the report said.

And when I went onto flickr I found this image on Raul Pacheco‘s photo stream. (It is Creative Commons licensed)

malahat and livability

UPDATE next day the Globe is still following up – there is an interview with the writer who wishes he had picked a better example – and the story was a trending topic on Twitter (oh wow). August was always known as “the silly season” on Fleet Street. This will all be forgotten after Labour Day. Meanwhile The Economist is sticking to its guns – and it still thinks the Malahat is within the Metro Vancouver region. Do these guys know how to use Google Maps?

UPDATE Friday September 2

Tweet 2011-09-02 at 8.01.59 AM - They are proud of the story trending!

Written by Stephen Rees

August 30, 2011 at 7:45 am

Posted in Transportation

Tagged with

Bering Strait Tunnel approved

with 10 comments

I did not see this story in our mainstream media this week. It came me from a secondary source that cited The Times and when I did a Google news search I could not find that either but I did get a piece from the Daily Mail. This is the précis from the secondary source

Russia has unveiled an ambitious plan to build the world’s longest tunnel under the Bering Strait as part of a transport corridor linking Europe and America via Siberia and Alaska. The 64-mile (103km) tunnel would connect the far east of Russia with Alaska, opening up the prospect of a rail journey across three quarters of the globe from London to New York. The link would be twice as long as the Channel Tunnel connecting Britain and France. The tunnel across the international date line would be built in three sections through two islands in the Bering Strait and would link 6,000km (3,728 miles) of new railway lines. The tunnel alone would cost an estimated $10-12 billion to construct. Russian Railways is said to be examining the construction of a 3,500km route from Pravaya Lena, south of Yakutsk, to Uelen on the Bering Strait. The tunnel would connect this to a 2,000km line from Cape Prince of Wales, in West Alaska, to Fort Nelson, in Canada.

Now, since it ends up in BC you would have thought, perhaps, that local news sources might have picked it up. Not according to Google.

For one thing, the Port of Metro Vancouver continues to talk about expansion even though their case looks increasingly thin. After all we already face a rapidly changing world as the new Panama Canal and an ice free North West Passage both will cut shipping time and cost. While the UK press naturally likes the story of a round the world trip by train from London to New York, the real issue is going to be the movement of freight, especially containers, between the far east and the United States. This is the market that the Port thinks will expand. I think this in itself is a bit dubious, given the precarious nature of the US economy. But whatever the size of the market a direct train service from China to North America would drastically cut shipping times and by pass sea ports altogether. Moreover such a route could be electrified – and not just the bit under the Strait – meaning it would cut dependence on increasingly scarce and expensive oil for transportation.

For BC a direct rail link also means that our exports of coal, lumber and oil could also start moving by train – but I think that is less likely given the fact that these lower value cargoes are more cost than time sensitive.

But in any event it really does show how sensitive transportation forecasts are to assumptions. And you can be sure that a trans Bering Strait tunnel was not included in any of the Gateway’s forecasts.

Written by Stephen Rees

August 26, 2011 at 8:38 am

World Rivers Day

The following is an edited version of a message I got in the email this morning. I have reduced its coverage to BC events but left in the links in case anyone living further afield is interested.

Below is another update from World Rivers Day chair
Mark Angelo, in the lead up to our seventh annual
World Rivers Day, slated for September 25th, 2011.

Greetings River Advocates,

Preparations are being made for World Rivers Day
on September 25th and some exciting events are
beginning to emerge for 2011!

Below is a small sampling of festivities from around the
world that are in the planning stages and many, many
more events will be included in future updates. We hope
you’ll consider organizing a Rivers Day event of your
own and globally, millions of people are expected
to participate.

Thousands of events around the world are anticipated to
take place. Just a few examples;

New Westminster, BC – The  Fraser River Discovery
Centre celebrates the opening of a major new exhibit
on the Heart of the Fraser at a special reception on the
evening of Sept. 23 in the run-up to Rivers Day. The
display focuses on efforts to protect the Hope to Mission
stretch of the Fraser, one of the most productive
stretches of river anywhere in the world. Contact

Vancouver, BC – Fraser Riverkeeper will be participating
for the 4th year in the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup
on September 24, 2011. Similar events are unnfolding
across Canada from Nova Scotia to Quebec and from
Prince edward Island to British Columbia. As part of both
BC and World Rivers Day, the Fraser Riverkeepers will
act as site coordinator for the cleanup of False Creek
East, which is a rocky beach near Science World.
Fraser Riverkeeper will also invite poets attending the
100,000 “Poets for Change” event in Vancouver that day
to take part of this action. The cleanup will go from noon
to two in the afternoon; contact –

North Arm with Baker

The North Arm of the Fraser River, Vancouver BC - my photo on flickr

Salmon Arm, BC – join in a major celebration of the
Salmon River Delta, including music, feasting, a blessing
from First Nations’ elders, and a riverside trail walk.
Contact – Warren Bell,

Port Angeles, Washington, USA – In the run-up to
Rivers Day, one of the most exciting and important dam
removals ever undertaken will commence as part of a
major river and fisheries restoration effort along
Washington’s Elwha River. A major science gathering
will take place on September 15 and the formal launch
of the dam decommissiong effort will take place Sept. 17.
In time for World Rivers Day, September 25, a new public
observation trail will be in place, as well as an interpretive
exhibit and several webcams so that the public can
continuously monitor the project over the next few years.
Contact –

Pullaway and Iron Horse with a log tow

The Fraser River at New Westminster BC - my photo on flickr

New Westminster, BC – The  Fraser River Discovery
Centre, we will be celebrating BC and World Rivers
Day with a festival that honours the Fraser River,
the province’s most magnificent river, and its many
tributaries. Inspired by the river, Artists on the River is
an art and environmental festival that attracts over
3,500 visitors to the Fraser River Discovery Centre
and the Westminster Quay boardwalk.  Consisting of
artists and artisans in all media displaying their work,
live entertainment for all ages, and crafts for children
and their parents, there is something for everyone!
Contact –

Fernie, BC – The Elk River Alliance is hosting the
“Elk River Swim, Drink, Fish Festival” Saturday
September 24 – Sunday September 25, 2011.
Celebrate our connection to the ribbon of life that links
residents in the Elk River watershed and is the lifeblood
of our community. On Saturday September 24, be an
active participant in stream science on Lizard Creek:
The Elk River Alliance Lizard Creek Streamkeepers
invite the public to their fall sampling day.  Get involved
in hands-on stream science taking water quality tests,
flow rates, mapping, measurements and sampling
freshwater creatures. Build a cutthroat kite or sculpt
a water critter. View displays on the Elk River
watershed. And on Rivers Day Sunday, participate in
the 7th annual Elk River Shoreline Cleanup:  Meet at
Annex Pond at 1:00 pm.
Contact – Lee Ann Walker at

Chilliwack, BC – on both BC and World Rivers Day,
join in one of western Canada’s biggest stream
cleanups as the Chilliwack Vedder River Cleanup
Society undertakes another major initiative along
one of BC’s most important recreational rivers.
Contact – Chris Gadsden at

Burnaby, BC – A massive celebration will take place to
celebrate the inspiring restoration of Guichon Creek, an
urban stream that only a few decades ago was severely
degraded (contact

Yale & Hope, BC – A major paddle trip is planned down
the mighty Fraser River from Yale to Hope. A flotilla of
canoes, kayaks and rafts will travel 22 km downstream
between the two historic communities.  Along the way,
we’ll stop for lunch and explore interesting locations
under the leadership of Fraser River historians.
Contact –

New Westminster, BC – the Fraser River Discovery
Centre will unveil an exciting new display on the
“Heart of the Fraser” as part of their World Rivers Day
celebrations. Contact –

Howe Sound, BC – local events will celebrate the
ecological resurgence of the area culminating in a plan to
restore fish stocks in Britannia Creek, a stream that was
once a toxic hot-spot but has bounced back following
efforts to address long standing pollution concerns.
Contact –

Numerous events are in the planning stages across the
United States as well as Africa, and South America.
Details will be forthcoming in future updates.

Visit our Web site at:
to find out more about World Rivers Day, We can help
your promotions via our website, as well as emails like
this one.

World Rivers Day is based on the incredible success of
BC Rivers Day in British Columbia, Canada over the
past 31 years.

Promoting River Stewardship
World Rivers Day is a celebration of the world’s
waterways. It highlights the many values of rivers
and strives to increase public awareness and
hopefully encourage the improved stewardship of
rivers around the world. Rivers in every country
face an array of threats, and only our active
involvement will ensure their health in the years

Join the Celebration!
World Rivers Day organizers encourage all of you
to come out and participate. In particular, consider
starting a Rivers Day event of your own, which
might range from a stream cleanup to a community
riverside celebration. And if you create an event, be
sure to tell us about it! We’ll keep you posted in
the months ahead as new Rivers Day activities are

International Partners
World Rivers Day is intended to compliment
the broader efforts of the United Nations
Water For Life Decade initiative and we look forward
to working closely with them in the months ahead to
promote this event and encourage new participants.
In launching World Rivers Day, we also greatly
appreciated the support of the United Nations
University and the International Network on Water,
Environment, and Health.

Special thanks to our World Rivers Day sponsors:

– Rivers Institute at BCIT and the
visionary commitment of its founding
supporter, Mr. Rudy North
– United Nations Water For Life Decade,
Canada initiative
– United Nations Water for Life Decade; 2005 – 2015.

To find out more about water issues, and how
to get involved with World Rivers Day, visit the
Web sites below for more information.

World Rivers Day Web Site:

Rivers Institute at BCIT:

BC Rivers Day Web Site:

United Nations “Water For Life Decade” /

Yours truly,

Mark Angelo,
— Chair, World Rivers Day
United Nations Water for Life, Canada initiative
— Chair, Rivers Institute at BCIT

Written by Stephen Rees

August 25, 2011 at 9:11 am

Posted in Environment, water

Tagged with

“Metro Vancouver transit users to get smartphone tools”

with 5 comments

Kelly Sinoski in the Vancouver Sun says that Translink will release an app for real time information on bus service on September 6. “The first phase of the program will allow transit [users] to access a map that pinpoints the location of every Coast Mountain bus and community shuttle in real time”…”the second phase, which will predict a bus’s arrival at a particular stop, [will be released] early next year.”

Obviously this second phase will be a great deal more useful. Schedule information in a system where the bus is mostly at the mercy of traffic is not very much use at all. The fact that there is supposed to be a bus in five minutes is not helpful if the bus is running early or missing entirely – and neither circumstance is at all unusual. Of course, with rising passenger numbers and the lack of adequate funding, there is also absolutely no guarantee that you will actually be able to board the bus when it does arrive.

In a book review on the Spacing blog John Calimente has some interesting comments to make about Zurich, and why their system works so well even in their low density outer suburbs. He talks about timetables, transfers and frequency. In my comment after that, I point to the difference in political culture. The Swiss have never dropped their commitment to decent public services. Once they got railways and streetcars – and into some very challenging terrain – they ensured that it was not only usable but attractive. Of course they also have autobahns and high car ownership – but not instead of good public transport – as well as. Underlying much of what is wrong in many systems is the notion that somehow the people who use public services are not as important or as good as those who drive themselves. Mrs Thatcher’s famous remark about any man over thirty on a bus being a failure might be apocryphal but it certainly rings true in many ears. And many politicians at all levels seem to have bought into the notion that if a system benefits major corporations like General Motors or Exxon then it must be good for all of us. Certainly the corporations themselves have spent much on convincing all of us that should be the case. It isn’t. It never was.

Zurich Bicycles

Zurich Bicycles by Alex Minza, on Flickr

Transit is not a stand alone issue. We should be pursuing greater density anyway. It is simply a better, more efficient system all round. The fad of low density auto mobility is – or ought to be – over. It did not work as advertised, and under present circumstances cannot be allowed to continue. Urban areas with separated land uses and great distances between origins and destinations are hugely wasteful of resources – and created much social anomie. In this region we had appeared to recognize that, and congratulated ourselves on stopping one inner city freeway. But that was about all we did. Yes, SkyTrain was a significant decision. But we focus far too much on big projects and gee whiz technologies. Most of what Zurich has achieved is because they stuck to what they knew worked, and concentrated on making it work better. We can emulate that – but first of all we have to come up with what they had all along, which is a level headed approach to public service provision supported by taxation.

by ponte1112, on Flickr”]Triebwagen

Written by Stephen Rees

August 23, 2011 at 12:29 pm


No, that title does not mean I am going to stop blogging. It is the expression that first occurred to me as I read two news reports today that cover ground this blog has visited more than once.

Firstly, the second Amtrak train is now secured in that the Canada Border Services Agency is giving up its pursuit of an unreasonable payment from Amtrak to allow it to operate.

Secondly, it is being officially acknowledged in BC that rising sea levels due to climate change do pose a serious threat to parts of this region. There is a link to map on this story but interest in this story has, of course, overwhelmed the server where it is kept.

In both cases the view espoused in earlier blog posts has been shown to have been right. I like being right.

Written by Stephen Rees

August 18, 2011 at 3:46 pm

PRT at Heathrow

with 7 comments

I have now and again posted about the idea of Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) which has always seemed to me to be just beyond the horizon. It turns out that there is indeed an application where PRT is now working – shuttling passengers between the car park and Terminal 5 at London Heathrow Airport (LHR).

It’s a five minute ride – and the pods are not equipped with windscreen wipers. And that female voice they use sounds very familiar. I thinks its may be Sonya (as in “It gets on ya nerves”)

Of course here the same job is done by the Canada Line. Indeed the original idea behind what became Skytrain was an airport shuttle (which originally would have been MAGLEV as well as LIM) – a function it does serve at JFK.

If the video is not enough POPSCI has an article they credit to the New York Times


Written by Stephen Rees

August 9, 2011 at 10:55 am

Posted in transit

Tagged with