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

Archive for December 2012

2012 in review

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The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

19,000 people fit into the new Barclays Center to see Jay-Z perform. This blog was viewed about 100,000 times in 2012. If it were a concert at the Barclays Center, it would take about 5 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Written by Stephen Rees

December 30, 2012 at 11:44 am

Posted in Transportation

Carl Honore: In praise of slowness

with one comment

Other media give their staff time off at Christmas. That’s why you see so many year in review, top ten this and best moments that pieces. They are written in advance. That gives the writers time to do something else. There is a moment in this talk when the value of slowness in urbanity gets mentioned. But he is delivering his talk against the clock and it whizzes by. One of the best lessons I have learned in recent years is the value of doing less but doing it better. Transportation experts are obsessed with speed. But urbanists have learned the value of slow. The best thing to put in a street is a chair with a table. Better is lots of them. Take time to enjoy the holidays.

Written by Stephen Rees

December 28, 2012 at 8:21 am

Posted in Transportation

Buying carbon offsets

with 3 comments

I get a lot of email – and some of it is press releases from organizations that want coverage in this blog. Most do not get more than a cursory glance, since they simply do not have anything to do with what this blog is concerned about.

The press release inserted below caught my attention – and held it – and I started clicking on the links. As I think most of you will be aware I do travel quite a bit, and a lot of that is by air, and I have been also somewhat critical of the opportunities to offset that carbon. Indeed, one program that was actually promoted by Air Canada was for a scheme which said it was about planting trees – but in reality was more to do with cutting them down first.

On my perusal of the project described below and its association with a Vancouver based organisation, I decided to use them to offset my recent trip to Los Cabos. I do not think of this as some have described it as purchasing papal indulgences for sins. This project does seem to be well designed and worthwhile – but that does not mean I am telling you what to do. You must make up your own mind. Even if it does little to save the planet for humanity, if it helps people in the benighted Congo that is worthwhile in itself. And a much better use of a few dollars than the usual seasonal trinkets and trivia, in my opinion.

Wildlife Works & ERA Deliver First REDD+ Project in the Congo Basin Rainforest

VANCOUVER and SAN FRANCISCO – December 19, 2012 – ERA Carbon Offsets Ltd. and Wildlife Works Carbon LLC are pleased to announce the validation and verification of the first REDD+ project in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The project has earned 2.5 million tonnes of Verified Emission Reductions to date and will generate an average of 5.6 million tonnes annually. H.E. Mr. Bavon N’sa Mputu Elima, Minister of Environment, Nature Conservation and Tourism of the DRC stated, “The Ministry welcomes the validation and verification of this project in two rigorous standards – the Verified Carbon Standard and the Climate, Community and Biodiversity Alliance Standard. The Department is pleased to work with ERA-Congo and its partners, ERA Carbon Offsets and Wildlife Works, for the protection of forests in the DRC and the improvement of local community livelihood through REDD+ projects.”


The 299,645 hectare Mai Ndombe REDD+ project, a former logging concession in the Bandundu Province, will avoid more than 175 million tonnes of CO2 emissions over the 30-year life of the project. The local forest community of 50,000 Congolese villagers will receive direct benefits from the project in the form of jobs, schools, health clinics, improved food security through better agronomy and redevelopment of robust native fish stocks, and capacity building of local NGOs and Community Based Organizations all financed through transparent and equitable sharing of the carbon revenues.


“As someone who knows personally the hardships that families in these forest communities have to bear, I am overjoyed at the benefits this REDD+ project will bring, making a brighter future for 50,000 of my friends, family members and compatriots in Mai Ndombe,” said local project Manager Jean-Robert Bwangoy Bankanza. The project area is part of the Congo Basin, the world’s second largest intact rainforest after the Amazon. It is part of the Ngiri-Tumba-Mai Ndombe wetland, recognized under the Ramsar Convention as the largest wetland of international importance in the world. It is home to a wide array of biodiversity including highly endangered forest elephants and bonobo chimpanzees, which have been driven away in increasing numbers due to logging and poaching activities. It is expected that the wildlife populations will be restored now that the project area is on a conservation trajectory.


The Government of the DRC will receive a substantial portion of the project income to ensure that REDD+ represents a financially competitive alternative to logging Congo’s rich forests.


The Mai Ndombe REDD+ project is the world’s largest REDD+ project to achieve validation and verification under the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS), and received Gold Level validation from the Climate, Community and Biodiversity Alliance Standard (CCBA) for exceptional climate change adaptation and biodiversity benefits. According to Jeremy Freund, Wildlife Works’ VP Carbon Development, “This demonstrates that robust VCS methodologies for monitoring, reporting and verification can scale to make REDD+ highly significant to the future of the Congo Basin Rainforest and beyond.” The Joint Venture between ERA and Wildlife Works has both companies cooperating on project finance, technical development, implementation and sales of carbon credits generated from the project.


About REDD

Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) was originated by the United Nations (UN) to help stop the destruction of the world’s forests. “REDD+” goes beyond deforestation and includes the role of conservation, community development and job creation, and enhancement of forest carbon stocks among other benefits.


About Wildlife Works LLC

Wildlife Works is the carbon market’s leading REDD+ project development and management company, applying innovative market-based solutions to the conservation of biodiversity. Over a 15-year history, Wildlife Works established a successful model that uses the emerging marketplace for REDD+ to protect threatened forests and wildlife, and uplift impoverished local communities. The company is recognized for developing the world’s first REDD+ project to successfully achieve issuance of REDD+ carbon credits under the VCS and CCBA Standards. For more information, visit:


About ERA Carbon Offsets Ltd.

As Canada’s largest and most diversified carbon management solutions company, ERA Carbon Offsets Ltd. helps organizations understand, reduce and offset their climate impact. Its team of industry leaders specializes in the origination, development and commercialization of high-quality carbon offset projects and is proud to also provide clients with a comprehensive offering of sustainability consultancy services. A merger of ERA Carbon Offsets and Offsetters, ERA Carbon Offsets Ltd. is based in Vancouver, Canada and has worked with over 150 of the world’s most prestigious organizations including Aimia, Vancity, lululemon athletica, Catalyst Paper, Harbour Air, HSE – Entega, and Shell Canada Limited. ERA is publicly listed company on the Toronto Venture Exchange (TSX-V:ESR) and in Frankfurt:9EA. For more information, please visit us at and

Written by Stephen Rees

December 19, 2012 at 2:34 pm

Posted in Transportation

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Wally Oppal identifies “blatant failures” in B.C. missing women inquiry report

with 7 comments

The headline comes from the Georgia Straight. A lot of people – including some of the groups most immediately impacted – dismissed the process long before the report was even written.

However I am sure that they will endorse this summary

In a 1,448-page report released today (December 17), Wally Oppal writes that the police investigations included a failure to “consider and properly pursue all investigative strategies” and a “general systemic failure to address cross-jurisdictional issues and ineffective co-ordination between police forces and agencies”.

The official recommendations include a call for the B.C. government to establish a Greater Vancouver police force.

On this blog I have been making this plea for some time – and so have others, including some lo cal police chiefs.

If you were to design a policing structure for the region, would you design one like ours? Not in a million years.”

The opportunity to get rid of the RCMP seems to have been muffed. But this situation cannot be allowed to continue.

UPDATE Tuesday December 18

The following is taken from Mayor Gregor Robertson’s statement

On the specific issue of a regional police force, this is an approach I have supported in the past and believe is crucial to improving public safety and policing in the region. I am hopeful that the Province will quickly commit to establishing a Metro Vancouver police force as recommended in the report.

Written by Stephen Rees

December 17, 2012 at 9:16 pm

Posted in regional government

Tagged with

The Dykes and Sea Level Rise

with 6 comments

The main stream media are reporting the release of a new BC government report – instead of sending you to a paywalled site (one of the reasons there is less on this blog lately is I have made a commitment to my readers not to do that) here is the local CBC as one example

Screen Shot 2012-12-11 at 12.26.17 PM

The network of dikes protecting Metro Vancouver will require billions of dollars in upgrades in coming years because of rising sea levels,according to a new report issued by the B.C. government.

The cost of dike improvements over the next 90 to 100 years could hit $9.5 billion, according to a report released today by the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations.

Well that was going to be a relief until I read a bit further.

It followed a 2011 report which predicted a sea level rise of one metre along B.C.’s coast by the turn of the next century.

Which is not comforting at all when you consider that the (US) National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s latest assessment was that sea level rise could reach 6.6ft – or two metres – by 2100. But not, apparently, in the Pacific North West according to the side bar in this US Today story

I have had a new book “High Tide on Main Street” on my reading pile for a while now – since superstorm Sandy raised awareness of things like king tides. But I must admit I feel a bit out of my depth [groan] so I have not really felt able to post a review on it – yet.

I am not at all an expert in this area, but for as long as I have lived in Richmond I have wondered about the adequacy of the dyke system – and I have never found the attitudes of the local politicians especially comforting. Complacency has no place in this issue, as far as I am concerned.

No 1 Road North Drainage Pump Station Renovation

Works currently underway in Richmond on the
No 1 Road North Drainage Pump Station Renovation

Written by Stephen Rees

December 11, 2012 at 12:48 pm

The Massey Tunnel’s future

with 11 comments

The Province of BC is going through its public consultation process. As usual, I get the distinct impression that they have already decided on that they think is the correct technical solution to the problem they pose. Nothing much has changed at the Ministry of Transportation which is still operating in “predict and provide” mode. They continue to follow the pattern set by Robert Moses.

My attention was drawn to this by my Green Party colleague Michael Wolfe (who tweets as @bogberry) “See for yourself “Who Uses the Tunnel?” 1% of traffic is transit vehicles, moving about 26% of people” referring to this graphic

Screen Shot 2012-12-11 at 10.13.19 AM

Which adds underneath “HOV and transit currently carry up to 46% of people through the tunnel”

ADDENDUM Please make sure you read the comment by Voony – with a link to his blog – to see why these  MoT transit numbers are simply WRONG

But the whole tenor of the materials (the link above has the entire pdf file) is based on the idea that congestion is getting worse so we must build more space for car traffic. Not that that has ever cured congestion anywhere.

Actually the tunnel now sees a bit less traffic than it used to –

From the 2008 Regional Screenline Survey (measuring traffic volumes in the Lower Mainland):
The total number of vehicles per day in 2008 was 390,972, which reflects a minor decrease of 2.6% from 401,227 vehicles in 2004; the greatest decreases were at the Deas Tunnel (-7.5%) and the Pattullo Bridge (-5.8%) …>

I would like to provide a link to that but it came from Gord Price’s blog – there is none there and a search of the Translink document library gave me lots of other stuff but not that quote.

But “Canadian Veggie” came to the rescue in the comments and provides this useful graph

The MoT actually understates this “Over the past 10 years, average annual daily traffic volumes have seen minimal growth. This is attributed in large part to the fact that the tunnel is already at capacity for a good portion of the day, as well as to improved transit service”

Actually declining traffic is being observed all over the place – Gord Price has turned it into one of the memes he writes about regularly. Sightline has this on two different bridges crossing the Willamette River in Salem, OR. “The data show that traffic across the river has essentially flatlined for the last decade; there’s simply no evidence of growth. If anything, the numbers show a very slight decline, given that traffic reached a ten-year low in 2011. ”

Screen Shot 2012-12-11 at 10.36.54 AM

From which you can see that the AM peak is slightly down, but most of the reduction occurs in the evening. 5,000 vehicles per hour is “close to capacity” in the interpeak when two lanes operate in each direction. At peaks, the contraflow lane adds to one direction’s flow at the expense of the other. So if you are south of the tunnel in the mid-afternoon, trying to get north means a longish wait. Or as they say “a single traffic lane is no longer sufficient to manage off-peak direction volumes. Long lineups are causing congestion…”

So why does it need replacement? “the tunnel currently has 10 – 15 years of serviceable life before major operating systems will need to be replaced.” So that is not the actual tunnel itself, it refers to the traffic signals, the ventilation system and the drainage pumps. The sort of things that get replaced on a regular basis.

“At 22 metres below sea level, the tunnel is … too shallow to accommodate the navigational access needs of increasing ship sizes” Two thoughts about that. First is that sea level rise is going to add 6 feet or more to that before the end of the century – that is if we are better at predicting sea level rise than we have been over predicting the loss of arctic ice. Provided of course that you can persuade Richmond and Delta to raise their dykes enough to keep the water out of the tunnel itself. (see next post) But secondly, the expansion of Roberts Bank is going to provide a lot more berthing capacity for very large ships, without having to worry about squeezing underneath the Alex Fraser Bridge. Given that huge amounts of money are being spent on port expansion there – and the South Fraser Perimeter Road too – why does the Port think it needs yet more large ship capacity – and what happens to the existing deep water berths on the Burrard Inlet (finest natural harbour in the world and all that)? I do NOT think that the predictive capabilities of the Port Authority should actually drive the transportation and land use plans of the region, given their current dismal performance.

I did look through the feedback forms, and there is some ability to state that you actually value agricultural land over concrete. But population expansion – and (by implication) more sprawl – seems to be a given. But I would like more ability to state that I do not think the tunnel does need to be replaced, especially when I think that it is likely to be yet another massive cable stayed bridge, with immense ramps on either side that will have to be fitted alongside the existing freeway.  There is no illustration of what that would look like. But it either fits behind all the temples along No 5 Road (where the land has not generally been cultivated even though it is ALR) or  – more likely – along Sidaway and over the golf course – with a nice big interchange at Blundell to gratify the City of Richmond’s ambitions.  Quite how the connections at Steveston Highway might work, my imagination fails.

As part of the context there is also this gem

“Provincial Transit Plan: Consideration will be given to increasing transit share in Metro Vancouver from 11 to 17 per cent by 2020”

Not an actual commitment, of course. And not a very significant target either. I recall that we were talking about a 17 per cent target for 2010 back in 2004 – because it did not seem like too much of stretch back then.

My feedback would be that the tunnel can be made to work more effectively at people moving. And if we really are going to allow more people south of the Fraser then we should get serious about where they will be living and working. Mixed land use might cut the need to travel. “Building complete communities” was what we once called that – not more dormitory suburbs. We could also look at building a transit system with more people moving capacity for the longer term – perhaps electric trains serving the corridor all the way to Seattle, for instance. In the meantime, we simply extend the bus lanes to the south tunnel portal and get them out of the last few hundreds of metres of congestion. And crack down really hard on HOV lane intrusions.

We might also think about what the region is going to need as water shortages and rising temperatures in the California desert mean that it will not be the place which we can no longer rely on for our vegetables and fruit. That maybe instead of expanding ports and pretending that importing miners from China is a “jobs plan”, that we adopt a real economic strategy of import replacement and increasing local resilience.

Actually I think that is my take home message. Next spring we get to chose a new provincial government. It looks like that could be one that takes a new direction. I have a sinking feeling that the NDP will be just as wedded to conventional economic growth as the BC Liberals – and have nothing really different to offer. But perhaps a few Green MLAs can help them see a better way.

POSTSCRIPT – the next thing I read was this BIV profile of Moe Sihota that quotes Glen Clark, which says something about how the NDP and the Liberals are actually the same kind of people

Written by Stephen Rees

December 11, 2012 at 11:24 am

Posted in Traffic

Tagged with