Stephen Rees's blog

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

TransLink audit complete

with 30 comments

Instead of giving you a link to one of the mainstream media stories this one takes you to the BC Government “Newsroom”. This both avoids the problems of media paywalls and the idea that the media are responsible for the “spin” in news coverage. This press release and its supporting “backgrounders” have all the spin.

For those of you who are new to this (is there anyone who fits that description?) Translink, the Region’s Mayors and the province  have been arguing about how to pay for much needed transit expansion in the region. In fact this discussion has been going on for many years – at least the last 20 years, probably longer. Vancouver and its suburbs constitutes the only major metropolitan area in BC. There really is no other major city. Its needs are therefore different to places like Kelowna or Kamloops. It is not just a matter of scale, its a different kind of place, with a different kind of economy and quite different patterns of movement. The growth of population alone poses a challenge – but at the same time most of the region is the typical large North America suburban agglomeration. “Zurich surrounded by Phoenix”.

A day after I wrote this post the Georgia Straight posted this video. It shows “one weekday (from 4am to 4am) of transit activity in Metro Vancouver, based on the General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS) data made available by Translink”.

See what a good system there is in Vancouver – and how thinly stretched it gets south of the Fraser. I have inserted it since it nicely complements the point made above.

There is a unique arrangement to run and pay for transit here. Half of the non fare revenues are supposed to come from a provincially collected regional gas tax – but changing travel patterns (in part due to higher gas prices) have not only increased transit use but also reduced transportation fuel sales. Oddly enough, there is plenty of federal government supplied gas tax revenue – but that can only be spent on capital projects and has to be matched by both province and region, so much remains unspent. At the same time, a fare concession to post secondary students has boosted demand and thus increased operating cost – which turned out be more important than the “revenue neutral” formula its price is based on.

Translink has thus had to put much of its agreed long term plan on hold. It has cut service in order to shift resources around the system to the parts that are overcrowded. At the behest of the province and provincially appointed Commissioner it has sought – and found “savings” all over the place. Meanwhile the region’s Mayors and the provincial Minister of Transport have argued about new sources of funding. The province has always maintained that property tax could be increased – because that is what the Mayors control.  The Mayors say, quite reasonably, that property tax has little relationship to transit spending and that they only get 8% of all taxes levied on households – but voters in municipal elections hate property tax increases. And anyway Translink has had other potential sources of revenue provided for in provincial legislation – like a vehicle levy – which the province refuses to collect. While the previous Minister promised to consider another funding source, this was conditional on a “temporary” property tax increase while it could be formulated, consulted on and then implemented. Then the prvince reneged on that agreement and the Mayors threatened to rescind the property tax increase. If they do that, Translink will have to cut service even further.

So the present Minister has been saying that she cannot even discuss a new funding source until an audit has been conducted – ignoring all the previous audits and studies. Now that audit has been completed – and it turns out that she has already been sharing its results with Translink, and many of its proposals have already been implemented. So despite the claim that “significant savings” have been found they only amount to  $41m – compared to the $98m already identified. And anyway are nowhere near enough – “still not enough to meet the future transit expansion needs of Metro Vancouver.” So basically the point of the audit was to delay and prevaricate. And the “next steps” are to delay and prevaricate some more.

Once the long-term regional vision has been developed, the mayors and TransLink will be in a position to go back to the public to discuss cost and how to pay for it.

The only word I can use for this is “chutzpah” . There has been a long term regional vision for as long as I have been here. The province simply decided to override it. There was going to be a compact urban area, with complete communities which protected the green zone and increased transportation choice. Instead of that a series major highway expansions is increasing sprawl, destroying the green zone and ensuring continued car dependence for the majority of the region. “Transportation choice” for three quarters of the population is Hobson’s choice.

Government needs a clear sense of the regional vision and priorities over the coming decades, what kind of transportation system will be needed in the future and how much residents are prepared to pay for it.

A practical discussion can then be held about possible funding tools.

In other words, we can put this off until after the election which has to be held in May 2013, which we are almost certainly going to lose, and then its someone else’s problem. In the meantime, the staff at Translink and the Mayors will take the heat for the increasing inconvenience and disruption on a transit system that is unable to meet the demands placed on it.

The TransLink audit is available on the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure website:

One of the reasons this blog post did not appear yesterday is I then took all this seriously and actually read it. It is a complete waste of time. The only “savings” are further service cuts.

There is also this highly misleading graphic

The province has always wanted more property tax for transit in Vancouver. That is the reason why I wrote those paragraphs of introduction. What this graphic does is pretend that somehow residents of Greater Vancouver pay less in taxes for their transit  than they do in Toronto, Montreal or even Victoria. Of course there is no mention of the Translink gas tax – that is only collected in Greater Vancouver (by the province, as I pointed out). Nor the hydro levy, come to that. And the fact that “roads and bridges” were all downloaded onto the municipalities – and the gas tax was originally offered as a way of putting pressure on to them to sign up to Translink. They were going to get them downloaded anyway – so they might as well get on board with the provincial government’s proposed regional transportation authority if they want some new funds to help pay for that.

If the Mayor’s refuse to implement the property tax increase, then some of the province’s preferred schemes cannot proceed – such as the (much reduced) rapid bus over the new Port Mann Bridge.

None of this performance is anything to do with “long term vision”. It is all about short term, political expediency. There always was enough for the plans that the region agreed to. It was just that the province
chose to spend on highway expansions instead. We are stuck with the widened Highway #1, the South Fraser Perimeter Road and the widened Sea to Sky Highway. All of these are already contributing to an ever wider spread of suburban sprawl. “Expertise in land-use planning” has never been in short supply. We have had lots of regional plans and all our Official Community Plans have been crafted to fit into that framework – and much good has it done us (that’s irony, by the way). Port Moody, for instance, built a whole city centre around the idea of Transit Oriented Development. The Evergreen Line will now be built, many years after that development was halted, due to lack of transit service. Surrey has been asking for light rapid transit for years – and it might see a truncated BRT, if the other Mayors swallow their indignation at being treated so shabbily.

I also wonder about the timing of the release. After all, there was another event last night that was guaranteed to fill up the front pages and keep the political pundits occupied. Maybe they thought no-one would notice.

Written by Stephen Rees

October 18, 2012 at 7:57 am

30 Responses

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  1. Oh course they (and you can pick any politician in any level of government in any party for “they”) insist that someone else should be raising taxes to pay for transit. They know what the public reaction would be.

    Much like people in urban areas where there’s already transit fight tooth and nail against more density (the NIMBYS) you have a good majority of people in the suburbs that think that while density and transit are good ideas someone else should do that and someone else should pay for that. (SESDIts? SESpays?).

    The politicians of course mirror those thoughts. They do so because they like being elected.


    October 17, 2012 at 2:52 pm

  2. about showing again your post about the transportation tax that is used in some places to successfully fund transit?
    I would also encourage readers of this blog to find out who is in charge of transit planning and financing in some European towns that have a good to great transit system. I could copy and paste that info but would they believe me?

    Sound Transit (Seattle) is governed by an 18-member Board of Directors who are mostly local mayors and city and county council members. Board meetings are open to the public. The agency relies on the oversight and expertise from a dedicated and independent group of volunteers known as the Citizen Oversight Panel.
    The COP was created in early 1997 to monitor Sound Transit and make sure it is meeting its commitments to build and operate a regional bus, light rail and commuter rail transit system.

    The law that created Sound Transit also authorized the agency to levy and collect voter-approved local option taxes to pay for building and operating a regional mass transit system. These taxes could include an employer tax, a special motor vehicle excise tax (the tax on license plate tabs) and a sales and use tax. Taxes are only levied within the Sound Transit district.
    Right now it appears that they only collect a 0.3 percent motor vehicle excise tax (MVET) and a 0.9 percent sales tax.

    Portland Transit is overseen by a seven-person board of governors appointed by the state’s governor. Funding comes from a payroll tax.

    Portland fiddle with their fares in September each year. Their latest brainwave is quite interesting:
    “Please note: As of September 1, 2012, TriMet no longer has fare zones or a Free Rail Zone, and most fares have increased”
    Have a look at
    a few fares: for a single trip–up to 2 hrs: Adults: $ 2.50, Honored citizens (65+) $1, Monthly pass: Adults $ 100, Honored citizens $ 26
    Obviously they are trying to get more users with their reasonable–compared to here– fares.

    Seattle is interesting as they charge by the distance..sort of–and they only have 1 LRT line.versus 4 in Portland (both also have 1 streetcar line) .
    A LRT single trip goes from $ 2.00 (from Westlake–under Macy’s–Beacon hill, it covers more than the downtown area) to 2.75 for Tukwila and Seatac.
    The Sounder train fare from Lakewood (past Tacoma) to Seattle is $ 5.25. 1 month pass $ 189
    $ 4.50 from Everett to Seattle. 1 month pass for $ 162. Obviously the passes are cheaper for shorter trips.

    Red frog

    October 18, 2012 at 9:38 pm

  3. Stephen, an excellent analysis. I took the liberty of posting this link and some of your comments over on Frances Bula’s blog who also has a post.

    The behaviour at the provincial level on this and other issues is deplorable.


    October 19, 2012 at 1:08 pm

  4. The behaviour at the provincial level on this and other issues is deplorable.

    you are right MB, but does the behavior of metro Vancouver mayors is any better?

    Here we have a bunch of mayor whose have agree on a 2 years temporary property tax fro Translink several month ago, and now explain to Translink they can’t use it !!!
    How you qualify this attitude?

    Translink last year come with a Gondola proposal, this single proposal can save more money than the 22 bus route cut spelled by the government audit. the cash for it is there-it is the federal gas tax Translink can spend on this kind of project (and not on operation).

    Who has shut down this good sense investment. The province or the very pathetic mayor of Burnaby?

    By the way why Translink can’t spend the federal gas tax money on bike infrastructure since 2010?…well because the UBCM has asked for that in 2009…and mayor of metro Vancouver are also member of the UBCM…

    So I for one, am pleased that the current Translink governance doesn’t give the mayors more power, because they can do lot of damage to our transportation system…

    (BTW Translink governance is not much different of the one seen in most of Europe, where it is worth to note that the transit system are pretty frequently operated by private company. One of them Veolia, also operate Viva in the north Toronto suburbs).


    October 19, 2012 at 9:54 pm

  5. “..Translink governance is not much different of the one seen in most of Europe, where it is worth to note that the transit system are pretty frequently operated by private company..”

    But the difference is important, unless I am missing something.
    In the European towns I know —located in several countries– the Transit authority is made up in majority of mayors and/or councilors. They decide everything: which technology to use, where lines go, the funding, the fares etc. and also chose which transit operators will run the transit system.
    There is a slightly different set up in some towns: In Berlin federal politicians are also involved. In London the Mayor is THE person in charge–under the watch of the London Assembly. In the Paris region the Transit authority, a representative of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry is a board member.

    The major difference between them and TransLink is cultural. Over there politicians and businessmen used transit when they were young–and may still use it nowadays. Especially those that aren’t in the news all the time and thus aren’t recognized.

    Voony is right about transit operators being often private companies. Keolis and Veolia are competitors within France..even towns with a small population (La Rochelle with 76 000, Le Mans with 150 000) use one of them. Inter-cities commuter buses in France are owned by private companies for the most part (I can’t check them all..).
    The RATP group operates transit systems in France–besides Paris, and in 12 foreign countries.

    Red frog

    October 20, 2012 at 5:36 pm

  6. Private companies do not have a magic wand. They also do not operate on charity. What can make them seem more efficient is that much of the politics get cut out because a contract is in place. I suppose if the governing authority is inept enough that they can’t stop meddling and let the professionals that they hired do what they are paid to do, then perhaps the private sector is a better option. The service is not provided for free however. The private sector plays to win…and will most certainly do so in order to survive. Contracts are signed and the public must pay.

    Once the government enters into a contract with a private company, it must be paid according to the terms of the contract….and must be paid before all other government expenditures. There is no option to cut….you must pay or be sued and pay much more. Of course, the public (represented by government) is the most lucrative group to contract with…taxes can simply be raised and they must pay. The public must abide by the contract they enter into with the private sector…and “the public” is one customer who has the best ability to pay compared to any other customer out there. They are legally bound to do so with the best collection scheme in the world…the taxation system. If that’s what you want, sign on the dotted line. Just be very sure…there is absolutely no charity from the private sector at play here…quite the opposite.

    And yes, the Europeans do this a lot. They also pay fabulous taxes. What’s the VAT in much of Europe?


    October 20, 2012 at 11:18 pm

  7. I’ll take the bait..
    There are as many rates of VAT as there are countries. France alone has different rates for Metropolitan France and for Overseas France. There are 3 rates in Metropolitan France.

    I never said that private companies are best..I only noted that in France private companies operate transit systems. Some of these companies goes back to the 19th century.
    Private is not an accurate term when it comes to transit operators..
    Veolia Transdev is 50% owned by the Caisse des Dépôts et Consignations, a French financial organization created in 1816, and part of the government institutions under the control of the Parliament.
    Keolis, the biggest transit operator in France, is majority owned by SNCF, the French state rail operator.
    RATP DEV (working both in France and in many foreign countries–just like Keolis and Veolia Transdev) is is a subsidiary of RATP, the Paris region main transit operator, that is state owned.

    Japanese rail companies are truly private companies. With the exception of JR, the former Japanese National Railway company that cover the whole country, the private rail companies only service a small area in a region and do not compete with one another.
    Originally some of these railways were built by real estate companies that bought cheap land well outside a major town, and had to find a way to bring buyers there, in the days when few average people had a car. Eventually these rail companies built a department store by the downtown terminus of their lines.

    I am somewhat familiar with Hankyu railways in Osaka, as I used it whenever I am there. While it carry nearly 2 million people a day from Kobe, Tarazuka and Kyoto to Osaka, the parent company owns another rail company, freight companies, stores, hotels, real estate, a baseball team, a movie company, an iconic revue company etc. etc.
    For many of these private transit companies it often looks as if rail was more a way to bring customers to their various businesses than a money venture. Their fares don’t increase that much year year, if at all.

    I wouldn’t say that Europeans pay fabulous taxes…more to the point the taxpayers do get something in return…like good healthcare (including dental), doctors visit older patients at home, in big towns doctors come to your home at night…
    University tuition are low, homeowners and renters get grants and low interest loans to renovate a home to save energy etc. not to mention lots of holidays…And yes I know…the natives always complain…

    Mind you, in my job in Vancouver I started with 4 weeks on year 2. Eventually I had 7 weeks, plus extra days instead of overtime pay..but then our managers were mostly from outside Canada…

    Red frog

    October 21, 2012 at 9:15 pm

  8. re Japanese private rail companies: I wrote “their fares don’t increase that much year year, if at all” I meant to say “..don’t increase that much each year, if at all”

    Another benefit European get from their taxes is transit services..people living in towns with a population barely around 150 000 can get a LRT…they don’t have to feel like orphans compared to big towns..

    In the Gironde department (capital Bordeaux) the inter-cities commuter buses only charge Euros 2.50 per trip, regardless of the distance. Cheaper with a monthly or yearly pass for commuters (33.33 Euros per month on a yearly subscription).

    I can’t find if the small ferries in Finland (similar to the one going to Bowen Island) are still free, but their huge ferries between Turku (Finland) and Sweden aren’t overly expensive. 10 Euros for a passenger (day crossing). For a car up to 5 metres long: 21 Euros day crossing, 41 Euros night crossing

    Red frog

    October 21, 2012 at 11:22 pm

  9. Voony, I am more open to an elected Metro board than I used to be. That would apply to TransLink too unless the Metro board appoints professionals to TL. My attitude changed after reading the parochial responses to Metro’s latest regional plan by mayors. I’d prefer good public sector managers over private ownership.


    October 21, 2012 at 11:34 pm

  10. “ . . . I mean what we are going to do when the major systems we depend on for everyday life begin to wobble and fail.

    There is zero cognizance even among the paid kibitzers (and voony and MB and Red Frog and Stephen et al . . . yunno, thu usuals) that we are near that point.

    Rather, a rapture of techno-narcissism holds in thrall even people who ought to know better, and a chatter-stream of infotainment propaganda spreads an hallucinatory fog of national self-esteem-boosting figments ranging from “energy independence” to “green jobs.” ”

    James Howard Kunstler
    October 22, 2012

    (. . . put him on your regular read list:

    Now that is our local TX Blogistas down to the letter . . .

    Roger Kemble

    October 22, 2012 at 7:06 am

  11. The reason why you would like have private company running a system is implicitly given by Der_late:
    “much of the politics get cut out because a contract is in place”

    and if you believe there is some inefficiency in your system, you don’t need to to n audits, you just will see how competitive companies will bid to the tender for the next contract period. So far, it has work quite smoothly in continental Europe (Britain is another story, but their privatization scheme was also the model to avoid when deregulation occurred in rest of Europe),

    That said, to complete the previous answer, in France at least, Transit is usually under the authority of a metro council which is not directly elected: I believe it should be the same for Translink which should report directly to Metro Vancouver not to an adhoc council.

    Also to answer to Redfrog, mayor of Metro Vancouver decide fo transit technology and al. pretty much like they do in France.

    Speaking of Bordeaux, I have my last post about it, (thanks for the plug!)


    October 23, 2012 at 1:30 am

  12. The simple fact is that there is capacity to raise property taxes to fund transit in this region. I know I pay much less property taxes than my friends in other parts of Canada. So why not just do it? What’s the worst that could happen house prices would fall? Hmmm sounds like two birds with one stone to me.


    October 23, 2012 at 11:31 am

  13. The simple fact is that people here pay for transit through a regional gas tax. They don’t do that elsewhere in Canada, which is why property tax has to be a bigger source for transit. But Canada is not a place I would cite as having really good transit systems – so not the best possible example to follow. And I do not see that increasing property tax necessarily causes a fall in house prices. Indeed for most of the time I have lived here house prices have risen – very significantly – and all the while people were bleating about how much their property tax was going up.

    Stephen Rees

    October 23, 2012 at 11:52 am

  14. I realize there may be better funding models but It doesn’t matter what tax we use to raise the money people will complain about it. I’ve yet to hear a good argument for not increasing the property tax. So before considering new models can we first prove that the current options don’t work. I haven’t heard a good argument for not increasing the property tax. It’s perfectly sustainable unlike the gas tax and it appears to me that it could be raised quite significantly without causing homeowners to flee the region.


    October 23, 2012 at 10:10 pm

  15. @ Roger

    I’ve read several of JHK’s works, such as ‘The Geography of Nowhere’, and often peruse his blog for entertainment purposes. Though I agree with several of his ideas and solutions about suburbia in ‘Geography’, it forced the reader to swim 75% of the way through his rant-filled, piss-on-society book to come to what, two pages of solutions? His pessimism and writhing negativity has a power all to its own. In fact, I suspect he is so popular because these attributes give energy to a bitchy society with more than its fair share of whiners, codgers and contrarians-by-nature (not just talking about ‘Mericans here), regardless of the topics he discusses

    I’m not blaming Kunstler for being perpetually angry and ejaculating all over his audience, but one can see after a while that it is merely a lot of style slathered on to a kernel of truth. Alistair MacLeod said at a recent Writers Festival event that he feels “style is the clothing of thought.” MacLeod is noted for his lyrical prose and insightful, low-key social commentary. It’s obvious with Kunstler that in-your-face style has become substance, and that sells books and makes it possible for him to emit tens of thousands of kilograms of carbon emissions every year to make his appearances and give his speeches, all likely generously remunerated. MacLeod does a little of the same (book tours), but has a better reputation and more respect as a superior writer. With him you learn the great conserved power contained in subtlety and restraint.

    Kuntstler’s profane Doomer profile has become infotainment to – how did John Crosby once describe them? – the Nabobs of Negativity.

    Some of us are a little more optimistic and are repelled by ostentatious hubris.


    October 24, 2012 at 12:17 pm

  16. MB I’ve read several of JHK’s works, such as ‘The Geography of Nowhere’, and often peruse his blog for entertainment purposes. Huh! entertainment purposes?

    And what do you read for enlightenment? Vancouver Sun? Globe and Mail? The Daily Horoscope!

    I have no qualms accepting JHK‘s “ . . . in-your-face style“.

    . . . a rapture of techno-narcissism holds in thrall even people who ought to know better, and a chatter-stream of infotainment propaganda spreads an hallucinatory fog of national self-esteem-boosting figments ranging from “energy independence” to “green jobs.”

    Do you not recognize, “a rapture of techno-narcissism . . .” in our local chatter stream? The obsession with shiny trinkets moving mindless hordes for point ‘A’ to point ‘B’, i.e.

    that may alleviate the need to rush from here to there, never considering for a moment there may be alternatives! And far preferable to Dave’s pusillanimous “I realize there may be better funding models.

    Or expressing intrusive opinions on such recent topics as the Arbutus tussle. Indeed the conversation quickly segued from the imminent demolition of the cinema and bowling alley into the techno-wizardry of the VIFF.

    Stephen twiddling knobs on the Olympic line with Mike egging him on: I can count at least half a dozen obsessives who can control the on-line conversation for days on that!

    But . . .

    I have a big problem with a Federal government driven by end times ideology!

    I have a big problem with a Provincial government driven by, well, no idea of what to do at all!

    I have big a problem with a municipal government enjoying congenial lunchtime soirees casually, at arms length, over housing affordability offering such ridiculous solutions as building in the middle of the street!!

    I have a big problem with Milton Friedman’s Monetary Fascism, actually the sotto voce root of all most societal problems . . .

    . . .and the lying, cheating and corruption need to keep us at bay.

    You, MB, seem to have a naïve faith in what you are fed by your filtered sources.

    Like it or not your life and mine is predicated upon the self-serving whims of gnomes and weasels, we know not and will never meet, yet hold the balance of our lives, polity and environment in their greasy hands . . .

    We have governments who’s one string policies seem to be sell out!

    energy independence . . . green jobs. ” BULLSHIT! I’m on JHK’s side . . .

    Roger Kemble

    October 25, 2012 at 5:45 am

  17. There was going to be a compact urban area, with complete communities which protected the green zone and increased transportation choice.” LMRP: yup! That’s my point.

    Roger Kemble

    October 25, 2012 at 6:48 am

  18. @ Roger

    And what do you [MB] read for enlightenment? Vancouver Sun? Globe and Mail? The Daily Horoscope! […] You, MB, seem to have a naïve faith in what you are fed by your filtered sources


    And Kunstler’s work is not filtered? Like I said, you have to wade through layer after layer of brash over-ornamentation of language to get to a few salient points said before by better writers/commentators.

    People like Thomas Homer Dixon and Richard Heinberg are far more professional and do not believe that bluster and profanity have anything of value to contribute to the communication of ideas.

    With Kunstsler it’s a slatherfest of bluster and profanity first, marketing second, then recycling mostly other’s ideas dead last. He may have the occasional inspired interpretation, but not enough to fill books, let alone an average chapter.

    I have no qualms accepting JHK‘s “ . . . in-your-face style“.



    October 25, 2012 at 12:20 pm

  19. People like Thomas Homer Dixon and Richard Heinberg are far more professional . . .” (professionalism has killed architecture, and its only a matter of time before it kills the neighbouthoods) yet aloof from the fray and obscure. It was JHK who first challenged sprawl at a level the public understands.

    Now tonite the Arbutus people will be in full dudgeon against Cressy (no not the “we band of brothers” one, sadly) and I hope they have the good sense to see the big picture. Dixon and Heinburg are far too esoteric for that level but a read of JHK would encourage the owners.

    In a nut shell: the city is densifying, still there is no need to throw the babies (Cinema on top of Bowling Alley) out with the bath water.

    I hope tonites meeting will give pause for the community to commence planning a compact Arbutus Urban Village replete with Cinema, bowling alley and amenities suited for a thriving local population to meet some of their needs without having to embark on an expensive shiny, burrowing trinket the city cannot afford.

    JHK would approve . . .

    Roger Kemble

    October 25, 2012 at 12:47 pm

  20. The “Band of brothers” speech was before the Battle of Agincourt, not Crecy

    Please respect the English spelling of the word “tonight”

    Thank you

    Stephen Rees

    October 25, 2012 at 1:16 pm

  21. Touché

    Roger Kemble

    October 25, 2012 at 1:29 pm

  22. Thanks Voony for the link about trams in Strasbourg and Bordeaux…and more

    A few geeky remarks..”Cours” in Bordeaux means an avenue built in the 18th century. Boulevard is used for the ones built in the 19th and 20th centuries.

    The VAL was the baby of Chaban-Delmas (mayor from 1947 to 1995…he spend most of his time in Paris in various political positions but still kept a very close eye on Bordeaux) and he refused to accept that it would be much too expensive to build, as there are several underground rivers under downtown (ironically these rivers were the reason why the area was settled by a Celtic tribe around 300 BC, likely earlier.
    The whole area was a marsh, with a few rocky islands sticking out, protected by the rivers acting as natural moats).
    Even if an underground mini-metro could be built, where would the stations have gone, when so many buildings are protected?

    In the downtown area the original tramway system (from 1880 to 1958) was powered by underground cables in the downtown area ONLY (meaning that poles were used elsewhere). At street level there was a flat strip of steel with a slit in the centre.
    It worked well enough, except for unwary cyclist that got their front tire stuck in the slit and did a great face plant.

    Everyone talking about Bordeaux without actually knowing much about its history say that the port is dead..
    Actually it was decided in the late 50s to move the whole port downstream for several reasons:
    1-the existing facilities were getting too old and crowded,
    2-a huge steel fence totally cut the city from the river.
    3-this prevented the 18th century buildings from being properly appreciated.

    The move started in the early 60s. Now only cruise ships dock downtown. There are altogether 7 terminals, each one assigned a special tasks. They are Bordeaux, Bassens, Grattequina, Ambes, Blaye, Pauillac and Le Verdon (at the very mouth of the estuary).

    Pauillac, by the way, is where the huge Airbus parts are loaded on a special barge that must go under one of the arches of the 19th century bridge, a low tide only, with not much clearance..

    The quais are now quite pleasant, more so than Montreal quais..
    Alain Juppe was re-elected in 2006 and is on his way to be mayor for a long time…The powerful old families in the wine trade didn’t care much for Chaban-Delmas and were originally cold to Juppe but, like Machiavelli, they understand that nice, honest, gentlemen don’t survive very long in politics.

    One thing for sure, Juppe cleaned the city cobwebs. Besides deciding to have a tramway system (from the vote to opening day it took 6 years…how many years for the Evergreen line?) –thus extending the car-free pedestrian areas, and turning miles of waterfront in gardens, sport fields etc. he pushed hard for the renovation of the area around the main train station.
    It is at the planning stage (15 000 homes, plus hotels, offices, stores etc. A second rail station, on the other side of the tracks from the historical one, will open in 2017, when the TGV from Bordeaux to Paris will take only 2 1/4 hrs, 1 hr less than currently.

    A new bridge will open soon. Building it only took 2 years
    Pose de la travée centrale du pont Baba ou Chaban Delmas de Bordeaux

    Red frog

    October 26, 2012 at 12:31 am

  23. Thanqxz Voony for telling us about trams in Strasbourg and Bordeaux. Red frog too! I don’t know how relevant they are to Vancouver: interesting nevertheless.

    In the same vein you may be interested in trams, or the lack thereof, in other places. Back in the thirties, when I was a kid in the UK every major city had tramcars servicing just about every corner of their respective areas: London, Leeds, Kingston-upon-Hull etc.

    Frank Pick was the famous manager of the London Transport Authority in the glory days of expansion: the 1930’s. We are/were old boy from the same school, so too was Guy Fawkes although well before our time.

    Frank commissioned many of the famous stations and the very recognizable LTA identifying red and blue roundel.

    Last time I was in the UK, 2008, the TX system was in shambles. We managed the airport to Victoria Station, while minding the gap, with out incident. From there the tube was not running: we eventually got a taxi to Kings Cross after waiting hours. The train was scheduled for Edinburgh but had to disgorge its passengers onto buses in York because of an unsafe line ahead: so we were told.

    Fortunately we were scheduled to change to the Scarborough line at York.

    I lived in Mexico City 1997/8. The City’s Metro, the most efficient I have experienced, French technology, you will be interested to know, runs its rubber wheels on tracks.

    It is the most efficient I have experienced principally because I used the Insurgentes / Coyacan line servicing UNAM’s students.

    IMO Mexico City Metro is successful because it is augmented by an incredibly dense surface network of green and white peseros (two pesos to anywhere when I was there) that penetrate to the, oh so many, off-line locations.

    Mexico City, evidently, had trams back in the thirties when Frida and Diego were courting!

    Metro does not service the very densely service worker populated Nezahualcóyotl, Naucalpan or Chicoloapan that Polanco and Zona Rosa depend upon for cheap labour. For those passengers must change from the Metro to waiting peseros.

    Curitiba, Brasil . . .

    . . . needs no introduction. Vancouver could learn from its colour coded buses.

    Buenos Aires has La Subte that I have used but not sufficiently know much about. It, like Paris, does not service the Aeropuerto

    Buenos Aires is the Paris of the southern hemisphere and that is good enough for me.

    Roger Kemble

    October 26, 2012 at 10:04 am

  24. Roger,

    I wrote my post after having attended a “public consultation” (called block 51, notice the esoteric name!) which was “sold-out” (Do I am the only one to see an oxymoron here?), but where 2/3 of the seats were empty:

    There, young and enthusiastic people was happy to explain you, in the same sentence, that We need to close Robson square to Transit, because we want to make it for pedestrian like they did at Exhbition road in London (sic).

    …and obviously, for many, transit is a motor vehicle like car, so it is bad!

    So, my post is trying to educate, or at least open people mind (in case of, there is transit on Exhibition road too, bus 360!)

    I did my little series on Robson square history in this context too ( ).
    I will write a final post on this so called “public consultation”, where my previous posting will serve.

    Rico, good complement: notice How the Bastide bridge cost 1/5 of the GEB one… $800 millions more is the price Translink has preferred to pay, to not disrupt traffic 20mn/week or even less, for the very occasional big ship on this portion of the Fraser…Lot of things to learn from Bordeaux !

    By the way I wrote more on France for 2 reasons
    (1) it is because I know this country pretty well 😉
    (2) and it happens, its transit, looks to be celebrated worldwide (I was at a lecture of Ian Ghel in Richomd last year, and he talked of Bordeaux…).

    …But there is no doubt there is good example elsewhere.


    October 26, 2012 at 9:30 pm

  25. We need to close Robson square to Transit, because we want to make it for pedestrian like they did at Exhbition road in London (sic).” I’m with the young enthusiasts . . .

    But Voony I’d like to get back to planning at home: i.e. Arbutus!

    (I notice the city’s new web site has changed from a go-to address for neighbourhood population and other vital info into a feel good colour photos promo slicking City Hall. How come no one has mentioned this?)

    Despite efforts to introduce the Mount Pleasant / Rize process into the Arbutus debate there is no similarity.

    Rize was about a few objecting to towers, in particular on the Rize site but also generally, and not about community. The Community Alliance Group was asleep at the wheel throughout the process.

    Arbutus, thanqxz to KARA is about community initiative: although removing one floor is hardly worth the effort. I hope they work beyond that!

    Let’s hope the KARA group can rise beyond squabbling over one or two story’s and gets to the heart of real community planning: a recognizable village centre, even with a coalescing little place, bringing together all the amenities, traditional and otherwise, nieghbourhoods thrives on.

    But my real concern, that I have been parroting on Stephen’s and other blogs is, the best TX is no TX.

    Now I know this doesn’t get much traction with the techno-enthusiasts but it is worth remembering that all the cities we have been discussion started out small that grew by subsuming their contiguous neighbourhoods and at the same time quelling the, at the time, local jobs: i.e. the industrial revolution.

    Well, in fact Vancouver now, obsessing over shiny trinkets is going back to a post-industrial revolution!

    To say the least the manufacture, moving onto site and installation of the gadgetry is anything but green to say nothing of the high wire act as they scream thru established neighbourhoods.

    Orhe unimaginable cost and disruption . . . and don’t talk to me about Cambie-izing Broadway. That is yesterday’s cold spaghetti: a more brutalizing fall-back I cannot conceive!

    If Vancouver, a big IF, wants to be a player it had better smarten up and realize incrementalization is the future: self contained neighbourhoods providing close to home jobs and other living amenities. Take note KARA.

    You want green Mr. Mayor? Then stop being green: i.e. naive!

    Roger Kemble

    October 27, 2012 at 8:55 am

  26. PS 160 planners at Thu Hall and they are not doing their job.

    ¡Necessita cambio!

    Roger Kemble

    October 27, 2012 at 9:26 am

  27. Roger: “We need to close Robson square to Transit, because we want to make it for pedestrian like they did at Exhbition road in London (sic).” I’m with the young enthusiasts . . .

    So, what you see in the middle of this picture?


    October 27, 2012 at 2:53 pm

  28. Oh God Voony life is a mine field. I haven’t been in Kensington for six years and I certainly wasn’t looking for bus stops.

    You got me! Just like MB did with my Shakespearian quote and Stephen and the Gherkin in the City . . .

    I know, I know but I have other things on my mind!

    No, no, no for heaven’s sake, no wheels behind VAG.

    You want to get serious? The other day when we were talking about a Culture Precinct at the end of Georgia I took a serious look at the CBC addition. I’ve seen it many times but, oh boy, what a thud . . .

    . . . and read the comments.

    What was once a reasonable plaza, often used for community event looks like a 747 crashed into it reflecting CBC’s well-oiled complacent news delivery!

    Only in Canada . . .

    Roger Kemble

    October 27, 2012 at 3:42 pm

  29. . . . and oh BTW Voony your picture was photo shopped so next time look a little closer . . . x

    Roger Kemble

    October 27, 2012 at 8:52 pm

  30. Thanks Stephen for a great review. I didn’t find the analysis I was looking for. Namely, the reorganization of the urban routes into grids feeding the high-capacity lines. And dropping service in areas that don’t meet certain density thresholds. Let those folks drive/cycle to a park and ride.

    I also did not see an aggressive move to repeat the success of the B-lines and maybe use the extra trolleys for BRT. The glass seems half empty with the folks that gave us the Green line. Why would’t BRT-trolley on a few choice locations in Vancouver, for example, attract more riders and boost efficiencies?

    Only 33% of the cost is borne by the fare? It is tempting to pose either-or questions to the Mayors: Either fund the increases through property taxes (agree with Dave); or fund them by trimming back the lines that don’t meet threshold levels of use in your jurisdiction. Don’t buy that ‘future shaping’ argument. Seems like fig-leafing pet projects.

    Finally, as an outsider in the field, the best option of all is to bring representation to Translink and Metro. I mean, that is obvious isn’t it? It is not the facts that are getting in the way, it is the ability to move on them.

    lewis n. villegas

    November 21, 2012 at 10:28 pm

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