Stephen Rees's blog

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

Archive for April 2013

Better Cycling Facilities Means Mobility for Everyone – Not Just Cyclists

A Press Release from the BC Cycling Coalition

This just turned up in my inbox. I have already posted it in the comments section of an earlier post, that covered a Transportation event in Richmond I spoke at. Then it occurred to me that not many people would likely see it there.

Disability Advocates & Seniors Support Cycling Infrastructure Improvements

VANCOUVER, BC – Improved cycling facilities are not just for cyclists – they benefit everyone by increasing mobility, safety and accessibility. People who use power wheelchairs and mobility scooters have seen real everyday benefits in accessibility from new bike lanes and paths in the City of Vancouver. Leaders in the disability community and seniors are voicing their support for major investment in cycling facilities across B.C via a new video:

The BC Cycling Coalition (BCCC) is calling for $75 million a year in provincial funding to implement comprehensive cycling improvements outlined in their Cycling Strategy for B.C.  “Investing in better cycling facilities and safety education will bring widespread benefits to BC communities and all of its residents – including people with disabilities and the elderly,” said Craig Langston, vice-president of the Cerebral Palsy Association of BC.

“I get around on a power wheelchair – it goes a lot faster than is safe on crowded sidewalks and I used to have to creep along in Downtown.” added Langston, who sits on the Disability Advisory committees for the cities of Vancouver and Burnaby, and for TransLink.  “On the new separated cycle routes, I can travel at the same speed as slower cyclists and get around more efficiently. Cycle tracks are not just for cyclists or for the young and athletic.”

“I’m 63 years old and I started riding an electric-assist bicycle three years ago. I love the freedom and mobility that it gives me, but there are plenty of areas where I still feel unsafe riding.” says Fiona Walsh, Board Member for HUB: Your Cycling Connection. “We want better cycling facilities so that everyone – from eight to eighty years old – can ride their bike and feel safe and comfortable.”

The Cycling Strategy for BC calls for greater investment in cycling facilities, improved road user safety education for cyclists & drivers and clearer regulations in the Motor Vehicle Act around the use of cycling facilities by electric wheelchairs and mobility scooters.

“Streets that are bike-friendly improve safety, mobility and accessibility for citizens of all ages and abilities – including families with children, pedestrians, people with mobility issues and even drivers.” says Richard Campbell, President of the BC Cycling Coalition. “This is a wise investment that benefits everyone – not just the cycling community.”

For more information about the Cycling Strategy for B.C., visit

Written by Stephen Rees

April 29, 2013 at 4:45 pm

Posted in cycling

Tagged with

What’s with abandoned Gas Stations?

with one comment

I have often wondered why there are so many abandoned gas stations – and why so little ever seems to happen to them. This is not something outside my experience but is completely beyond my understanding. Until now. Patrick Johnstone does this sort of thing for a living – and he writes well. So take yourself over to NWimby and learn something. Warning: this is only part one – there is more to follow.

Written by Stephen Rees

April 28, 2013 at 8:28 pm

An Alternative to the Broadway Subway

with 22 comments

At the request of its leader, Adam Fitch

Saturday May 4 at 10am a Jane’s Walk (on bicycles!) to look at CPR RoW/16th Avenue for LRT


Written by Stephen Rees

April 25, 2013 at 10:59 am

Free Coffee at Translink

with 9 comments

For reasons that seems fairly silly to me, there has been a lot of attention paid in the last few days to the “news” that Translink staff get free coffee at the office. As it happens, I know why that is, as I was personally acquainted with the person who made that decision. And it was based on purely financial concerns. There was previously the usual arrangement of staff collecting money from their colleagues and buying the necessary supplies. There was a significant amount of time spent, during working hours, administering this system and collecting the money in cash. The calculation was quite simple. If the employer took over the administration of the coffee supply, then the time saved more than compensated for the cost of the coffee. By having a contractor deliver the supplies, and having one for all the offices, there was also real saving in the cost of those supplies compared to retail prices: but it was the staff time saved that clinched the argument.

Written by Stephen Rees

April 24, 2013 at 3:35 pm

Posted in Economics

Tagged with ,

You get the policy you pay for

with 4 comments

I breaking my own rule about linking to a paywalled story. I got it through a tweet – so maybe that is why their alarm bells didn’t ring. It is, in a way, a “no surprise there” story but it confirms why for the last ten years so much has been spent on roads and how little on transit.

The story is headlined “Corporations fill Liberal coffers“. The Sun has put together a database of corporate donors using Elections BC data. The number two donor is The New Car Dealers Association of B.C., giving $822,814.New Car Dealers Association of B.C. president and CEO Blair Qualey said dealerships have long been supporters of parties that have a free-enterprise approach.

“They are entrepreneurs at heart and like small government, few regulation and low taxes,” said Qualey of the association’s 350 auto dealers.

“They like to support democracy and make contributions locally to candidates in all the parties,” he added.

He noted that auto dealers have also made contributions to the NDP.

Individual dealers, you note, NOT their Association.

At that all party meeting I blogged the BC Road builders were handing out cards – to a fairly predictable response. Oh no, they replied, it’s about infrastructure. Yeah, right. If we simply made better use of the infrastructure we have we would not be building as many new roads – but there might be quite a lot more work for repairs and maintenance. Knocking down a huge bridge that had many years left in it does not make economic sense to me.

What strikes me is how obvious this all is. It is only because an Association makes a big donation to a party that this is getting noticed. What the Sun database needs to be used to do is to track how much money goes to candidates – and how much of that comes from what looks like individual small donations. Because these are not just new car dealers – they are  the people who have money to donate, from whatever business they happen to be in, and they all say they “like small government, few [sic] regulation and low taxes”. If someone who just happens to be a car dealer donates to the BC Liberal candidate in their riding, so what?  It has always been the case that the candidates with the most money do well. Those with little or no money hardly make a dent. It is only in places where majorities are thin that these candidates make a difference – which is why the two big ones get really worried about “vote splitting”. But that is all about first past the post, and is a distraction

Actually, roads are not at all “small government”. Road construction is a huge business and right now most of it is paid for from taxes. They are not too happy about those that are tolled but the policy – only new roads or bridges, not existing ones – means that toll revenues can only be used to increase road capacity, not reduce it. And the money so collected can only be used on that project, not diverted to other transportation policies. The BC Liberals have been very firmly attached to this policy – even though the last bit – ” and there is a free alternative” is looking a lot less credible on the issue of Fraser crossings.

Similarly, the people who fuel the cars favour less regulation and so on. But also rely very heavily indeed on subsidies. And in BC we seem to be only too willing to allow new fossil fuel extraction to be conducted without even demanding royalty payments. Alberta, of course, demands far less for its oil than, say, Norway. Encana, you note, is number three on the list.

De-regulation has been delivered, under the guise of making government more efficient. So processes like environmental assessments have become pretty much a foregone conclusion. And anyway, there is no-one left in the enforcement branches to see that there is compliance with any conditions that might have been imposed.  This doesn’t just apply to BC, of course, but Canada as a whole. Perhaps what is surprising is that all that this has created is growing public disquiet and unrest – and a few spectacular environmental disasters. Mostly, so far, elsewhere.

Perhaps what this article illustrates best is how far Christy Clark has fallen in the eyes of the very organizations that normally cheer for her. The mainstream media in general and whoever is pulling the strings at the Sun these days.

Written by Stephen Rees

April 23, 2013 at 10:25 am

All Party Forum: Next Generation Transportation

with 11 comments

Blogging on my tablet using the Steamworks WiFi as SFU does not provide a guest log in to their network. The only people who get to use the SFU Network are students, alumni and staff.  To make other people welcome on their campus, SFU really needs to reconsider that policy.

It was a well filled large room. The format was very tight indeed a two minute opening statement from each party representative then one minute questions, with a one minute response from each. At the end each party would get a two minute wrap up. The event was also a live webcast with other questions invited over twitter using the hashtag #bctranspo. I have those tweets on Tweetdeck so I can fill in the gaps in what I managed to get on my tablet. I have also gathered the tweets together as a storify page – which is also something carbontalks has now done 

Mary Polak

Minister, Transportation and Infrastructure
Jane Sterk
Leader, BC Green Party
Duane Nickull
MLA candidate, BC Conservative Party
Harry Bains, Opposition Critic, Transportation and Infrastructure, BC NDP

Jane Sterk goes first. Our trip systems are not serving us well – we have gridlock and lots of single occupant vehicles. Not the kinds of communities we need for now or the future. [It is not so much about transport] as land use and community – we made pedestrians our priority in Esquimault. The Green Party is concerned about living our lives well and creating locally based economy which reduces the need for motorized transportation.

Harry Bains: the size of the crowd shows how concerned we are. 1.2 m people coming to the region in the next 30 years but we are moving backwards. Lack of funding, lack of leadership,we do not have the transit service to meet present demand. Victoria is fighting the mayors, not working with them. TransLink is not accountable, the carbon tax is revenue  neutral (just cuts income taxes) and the insistence on P3 for every major project raises the cost. [All HBs remarks were negative but were aimed at “Victoria” and not the BC Liberal government by name]

Mary Polak: everybody has ideas and there are a large number of retired engineers living here. Every community has a different priority. Dust suppression on the Peace is as important as transit here. I came here tonight from Langley on a crowded express bus, with people standing, over the Port Mann. [There was no word on an any policy.]

Duane Nickull – I have some great ideas for Point Grey. Data and facts. Renewable and clean energy. Jobs for BC success of Canada Line – high speed electric rail. I commute on a bicycle, but that is not a solution for everybody.

Q1 Governance for TransLink directly elected people to the Board. Rep by pop directly elected.

DN – open transparent and accountable Regional approach would work

MP – that is one thought I am of two minds Not too much weight for most populated area. How to incentivize  people not to behave parochially

HB – we have to change – [then sounds like local councillor]

JS – nine people does not sound enough because of the size of the problem. Need real local government representation

Voony – road pricing

JS – we could use all kinds of transportation demand management techniques including pricing, PAYD insurance, but is it essential that we are also improving transit in parallel

HB – carbon tax: we will roll back tax breaks to companies to free up revenue for carbon reducing activities like transit

MP –  we are currently looking at short term solutuions. There are lots of different types of road pricing – whatever gets chosen will be the result of our work with the Mayors’ Council which will then be the subject of a referendum at the next municipal election

Q: There are too many people driving because it is too easy and too cheap. Have you considered raising the cost of driving?

MP You are talking about how to change behaviour

DK “We don’t need to make car use more expensive, make transit more convenient”

[SR actually I think you have to do both at the same time]

HB The problem for most people is that there is no alternative mode to driving. The idea of that everybody commutes to Vancouver is wrong: most trips that start  south of the Fraser stay  south of the Fraser

JS We don’t always need to travel. For instance this evening there is a live stream of this meeting. That helps us reduce need to travel

Email from Saturna – why are coastal tax payers, dependent on ferries, treated differently to people who can use roads and internal ferries which are both free?

HB we will freeze ferry rates for next two years while we conduct an audit into BC Ferries

JS IT is an inherent unfairness in our system. We need to factor cost into road use. It is a big complex problem but meeting everybody’s demands would cost a huge amount of money

DK Two tenets in Conservative Party – one is fair taxes. Ferries are essential services. The CP would introduce tax rebates for ferries and road tolls. It is fair that tourists should pay but not those who depend on ferries and tolled bridges for their journeys to work [and other essential trips].

MP our consultations show that the challenge is are the same around the world. All ferrry companies are seeing declinign use and rising costs. The ferry commissioner reports that only 62% of BC Ferries cost is now covered by fares

Tiffany Kalanj – were faregates a good use of money?

MP These faregates work well in London. I think that the estimates of fare evasion were low. They should have been there in the beginning. Experience will show that they will be effective.

DK It is not a wise investment. When you consider that fixing the asbestos problem in schools would have been 1/10th the cost and children’s health is much more important than lost fare revenue

HB there was no business case We will have to wait for the data, but is unlikely they will pay for themselves

JS The perception of fare evasion is not objective. I doubt it

Larry Frank UBC Have you considered an incentive for municipalities to change their land use policies to transit oriented development when transit investment is made? We need a rationalized approach to see if they actually support transit

DN I am a big supporter of the feedback loop. We did this with energy efficient buildings – it is factual and  scientific

MP mixed use in Langley – we may all have ideas – they have their own ideas. Don’t tell people in the valley what to do

HB work with the mayors – I think they will agree can’t be top down

JS you have more expertise than us. We need to change our pattern of growth. We made need a stick, or education, set conditions like we do for businesses

Darryl from Surrey – youth will have no voice in the referendum

MP . The are many different options – you can have impact in broad consultation

HB referendum is shirking responsibility. South of Fraser are the fastest growing areas.

JS referendums are divisive. “Majority rules” is not a good approach to the complexity of problem

DN the referendum is wasteful.  There are lots of ways to get views. In my riding I will hold town hall meeting because good ideas can come from anywhere

[The Province has a longer version of this section but the link might be paywalled]

Q – Why do you have separate plans for goods movement and people ?

HB – Public transport is for people

DK Use existing rail corridors – railways can also be used for both people and goods

JS –  we have different view of the current economic model. If we had a locally based economy there would be less travel for us and our goods. Excellent question

MP people forget about the importance of freight.

Peter Ladner – [poor] health [is strongly correlated to] car dependency. Will you make health part of transportation decision making

JS  yes

HB waffle about all those issues

MP walking and cycling doesn’t work in a lot of BC. We have included bike paths on the new Port Mann Bridge and will be on all new infrastructure, but we do not want people walking on provincial highways

DN – I was recently hit by a car when cycling on West 7th. If the data supports that assertion then it is a factual decision

Q Have you examined transportation issues on socio economic lines?

DN The carbon tax people hits people who have no alternative to driving. It is the same with tolls. People need to be protected from these taxes

JS people on low incomes are punished – affordable housing is further out so they need to drive more. They use cheaper, old cars [which are less efficient] . We disproportionately penalize those with low incomes [with user fees].

MP I think that regional needs are more divisive than socio-economic divisions. The niddle class are the most challenged. We have done so much for the poorest.

HB carbon and gas tax hit them but they don’t have transit which could equalize

One list of capital  projects for the region  [not two separate ones (one for Translink, one for MoTH)]

HB waffles about current system – not a bad system now

MP planning integration – provincial highways serve a broader purpose than local travel. We are doing a lot better now with [Translink’s] MRN e.g. Patullo Bridge joint project panel. We also put bus lanes on SFPR and [the approaches to the Massey] tunnel

DN need for more public input – integration is more efficient

JS one list is important – but are there more alternatives. The amount of money spent on the Port Mann project could have provided rail for the whole region! [scattered applause]

Q – Safer streets for PEDs and cyclists

JS it’s a local government issue. Sidewalks are very expensive. They have to be wider. We are committed to both modes. How do we transition to new economy? Or do we continue to “Dig up the province and sell it to China”

MP we have $148m in BikeBC. We fund projects but it is better run by local governments.

HB many communities are doing that – better coordination

DN happy with Highway #99 but we should not have walking on provincial highways

Organiser – there are many more who want to ask questions but we are out of time. I ask that you ask those questions on Twitter and other media to all the candidates

HB closer

Start planning today for the growing pop. We can’t go on the same way. South of Fraser is so far behind we can’t afford referendum.


At this point my tablet lost its wifi link. I continued typing but as WordPress is a web based platform my notes are lost. However the storify link enables me to point you to a crowd sourced alternate. I also found that Jeff Nagel not only writes a more than adequate story – nice pics too –  about the forum he also embedded my storify.



The meeting was very well organized and run. No-one got to monopolize the conversation, there was no speechifying or abuse. Generally all four candidates presented themselves well. I must say that of the four, Harry Bains was least comfortable and the most to rely on canned speaking points. He was also repetitive and focussed on his constituency (Surrey).

I will also say that I spoke to Duane Nickull, the conservative candidate, afterwards, since he was far more impressive than anyone I have ever met carrying that party’s card. I suspect that in real policy making he is going to find it much harder to reach conclusions in the public arena than the private sector. Sadly it is not always easy to reduce things to data – nor can one rely on it to the exclusion of all else.

The mind boggles that Mary Polak thinks her government has done so much for poor people. Her belief is, I am sure, sincere. Which just goes to show how far out of touch with reality she is. She also demonstrated that she has not grasped many of the complexities of her brief – which she admitted baffled her.

On the issue of freight I was angry that no-one said we have done far too much to meet the demands of the BC Truckers. The SFPR and the widening of Highway #1 – Port Mann Bridge was all attributed by the government to the needs to get trucks out of congestion and promote the port. We lost large swathes of prime agricultural land, much sensitive habitat and important archeological sites. Most freight already moves by rail – but no-one mentioned that railways and ports are both federal responsibilities. Nor was anyone there from Transport Canada. No one pointed out either that there is little congestion on provincial highways off peak – but the port continues to work bankers’ hours M-F, 8-4!!

Jane Sterk did very well – and was lucky to secure first and last spots. Her closing remarks on the need for better inclusion of all opinions got a round of applause.

And as an afterthought here is a graphic from the Guardian which shows very forcefully why Business As Usual is not an option

Screen Shot 2013-04-19 at 12.45.44 PM

Written by Stephen Rees

April 19, 2013 at 10:52 am

Posted in Transportation

What I like about walking (video)

with 2 comments

This is on Gordon Price’s blog this morning

Amazing, isn’t it, that people need to be told about this activity. Actually every trip is an interrupted walk. Just like avoiding sitting all the time is important to health, so extending the walk parts of every trip is key. Even if you just chose a more distant parking spot than the one closest to the door.

Bad parker

Written by Stephen Rees

April 10, 2013 at 9:55 am

Posted in walking