Stephen Rees's blog

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

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

11 Responses

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  1. i 100% agree that “SFU’s closed garden approach in the middle of the city” needs to be re-evaluated. The whole campus including WiFi is uninviting and intimidating to non students.

    Roland Tanglao

    April 19, 2013 at 12:02 pm

  2. MaryPolak “don’t need to make car use more expensive, make transit more convenient”

    This from the party that spent enough money to build 6 light rail lines on new and wider freeways.


    April 19, 2013 at 1:53 pm

  3. Thank you David. That did not get into my notes at the time – blame technical issues – but I have inserted that quote into the text.

    Stephen Rees

    April 19, 2013 at 2:18 pm

  4. Going through your storify slides…

    I have voted in all but one election (Fed, Prov, Muni) since the mid 1980s. When I lived at home we were on a political boundary and our polling station was almost always a significant distance away so my dad would drive us all. Since then I’ve walked to the polls every time. I appreciate that’s one of the benefits to living in an urban area and understand that suburban and rural voters rarely have that option.

    Faregates were a handout to a political supporter masquerading as improved security and accountability, but it’s too late to turn back the clock.

    Polak and Bains both suggested municipalities wouldn’t like top down planning of land use and transit. That didn’t stop your parties from engaging in it while in power!

    Use of existing rail for both freight and passengers is a good idea until you look at the antiquated Transport Canada regulations that effectively ban mixed use rail corridors. Unfortunately the provincial government can’t do anything about that.


    April 19, 2013 at 2:21 pm

  5. Fascinating article by Jeff Nagel in the Surrey Leader shows the distance between Mary Polak and Christy Clark on issues like tolling and the referendum.

    Stephen Rees

    April 19, 2013 at 3:44 pm

  6. @David:

    Are you sure that the Transport Canada regulations apply to municipal systems? The idea that was explained to me is that you can use the same rail right of way and have both passenger trains and cargo trains use it as an infrastructure. I would not anticipate mixing a train in terms of having both commuters and cargo on the same train (cars coupled together), but it could be feasible to have one passenger/commuter train and another solely for inner city cargo. This makes logical sense and I would love to understand the rationale behind any regulations banning this. Even with national railways, the same tracks are used for both passenger and cargo traffic. I cannot understand why this would be different for municipal but wish to understand why.

    Again, I am not a transit engineer so I wish to be educated on this. Would love to grab a coffee to discuss.

    The above article has some slight truncations of the answers I gave and while grateful, just wanted to also state the following:

    – It appears to be a winning idea that regional transit planning be done in a holistic manner. It helps the economy and environment (best of both worlds). Should be non-partisan issue;

    – I strongly advocated that fare gates seemed to me a lower priority than removing the asbestos from Bayview school, the school where my children go. In all fairness, I am in a deep conflict of interest as I clearly care about the health of my daughters so please factor the love of a father for his daughters into the equation. My own judgment on this is likely clouded by my own emotions so it may not be most appropriate for me to state this. I stand by what I said however after disclosing this conflict;

    – “don’t need to make car use more expensive, make transit more convenient” is something I said;

    – I am glad there are vigilant citizens who correctly identified that ports/highways are federal. It is so easy to get sidetracked on this issue;

    Thank you for bringing this feedback to our attention.

    Best wishes and thank you.

    Duane Nickull
    BC Conservative Candidate,
    Vancouver-Point Grey

    Duane Nickull

    April 20, 2013 at 9:58 pm

  7. The reporting of what was said was more than a little truncated. I was using a tablet (one finger typing) on a dodgy WiFi connection. This was the first time I had tried this, so I added the storify of tweets to increase the coverage. I usually use pen and paper, and that seems to work better for me.

    Federal regulation of railways applies to those that cross provincial borders. Railways that only operate within BC would be a provincial jurisdiction. The major issue for most North American railways has been that the private companies make profits from freight, not passengers. To provide faster, more reliable service requires either dedicated tracks, or different priorities. For instance, Ottawa’s O train runs on tracks used by freight trains. Freight runs at night, passengers by day.

    Stephen Rees

    April 21, 2013 at 9:49 am

  8. The idea that freight and passenger light rail train share same track has certainly some merit
    but I am afraid that the Transport Canada regulations apply on anything on rail (and road) in the country…

    The ottawa O train is effectively able to operate because freight and passenger train are clearly physically separated. In Europe the exactly same train (Talent) can run in mixed(freight/passenger) traffic without any problem.

    Beside it, they are some other consideration making the idea usually not going very far:
    “normal” freight car can’t use light rail corridors (due to envelop limitation, curvature, rail profile, weight limitation…), so you could need a special designed freight train – that means extra transloading…for limited advantages (transit rail are free only part of the night… when road are too…go very limited distance)…and that is the reason, that thought touted, mainly by greens party in Europe, the idea doesn’t go very far there too.

    That said, the idea could have some merit here, mainly on the island – where in fact the rail network is insulated of the rest of the continent. Here, to allow the circulation of 4 freight car a day, you can’t have a European style tram-train, or commuter train (Talent car), but need to resort thsi anticated Bud car, averaging one ton per seat to comply with Transport Canada rules: A non starter for passenger traffic.

    Here, on the island you have an ideal ground to develop your ideas.
    -Introduce light rail freight (with a set of new regulation adapted to it, whcih can be insipred from Europe)
    -and introduce light passenger traffic (can be tram-train style going into the heart of Victoria).

    PS: The current way of course, where some people hope to revive passenger traffic on the island, in the current set of federal regulation designed for freight train, is in my opnion a non starter, and a waste of money

    @Duane I appreciate your straighforward answer on road pricing (even if I disagree… but at least you have answered, at the difference of Harry Bains), but then how you make “transit more convenient” without using tax payer money, when at the same time you support the statu quo that car is entitled to be subsidized (“don’t need to make car use more expensive”). Someone has to pay for the road…or congestion,and as many time demonstrated, car users, especially in dense cities, are not nearly doing that…


    April 21, 2013 at 8:35 pm

  9. “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”

    According to Transport for London, in 2010 (they don’t show more recent figures) the fare evasion on the tube was 20 million Pounds (plus nearly 60 million on the buses).
    Toronto and Paris estimate a yearly fare evasion amount around 20 million (in their respective currencies). ALL these places have had turnstiles then gates for eons…

    NOTE that buses are were cheating is the highest…

    Even in Japan there are fare cheaters….though theirs is more theoretical than real.

    Over there a commuter pass is for a well defined route (often incorporating several different transit providers). At rush hour some people “cheat” by going in the wrong direction for a few stops in order to get a seat then backtrack past by their original station.

    For example, let suppose that my commuter pass only allow me to go from Granville station to Broadway-Commercial, where I MUST change to the Millennium line to go from Commercial station to Lougheed.

    But at Granville I take the SkyTrain to Waterfront to get a seat, going past Granville station again….then at Commercial I take a train to VCC-Clark and go by Commercial again, on my way to Lougheed.
    I used 2 different segments– twice each– that aren’t included in my monthly pass…

    Japanese transit companies know what is going on but turn a blind eye as checking millions of people a day—or even a fraction– would cost too much in staffing and inconvenience too many people.

    As it is, their transit systems in big towns either make a profit or whatever deficit they have is part and parcel of bringing customers to the stores, hotels and malls owned by the railway companies..
    I have only been checking basic cash fares in Osaka and Tokyo for 3-4 years and they haven’t increased…ditto with day passes, long-distance rail tourist passes etc.

    Red frog

    April 21, 2013 at 9:17 pm

  10. Sorry about the mis-quote Duane. Tweets quoted by others and then put on presentation slides are ripe for misinterpretation.

    Mixing passenger and freight in Canada requires massive separation of the two or, as Voony noted, the use of heavy rail vehicles. That makes it a complete non-starter for anything but heavy trains like the West Coast Express and Go trains in Toronto. Ottawa doesn’t really mix light rail and freight because one runs during the day and the other at night.

    Here in Vancouver the passenger rights for the Fraser Valley interurban right of way are owned by BC Hydro. The government could easily require passenger service to operate on the line, but without knowing more about Southern Railway’s customers I wouldn’t want to suggest forcing them to operate only at night. Driving SRY out of business is not in the best interests of anyone.


    April 22, 2013 at 4:31 pm

  11. Today the US Federal Railroad Administration announced a shift in policy to “allow proven trainsets used in other countries to operate in the U.S. market” Now that specifically is in the context of High Speed Trains, but once adopted it would hard not to extend to other types of trains. Canada, of course, has to harmonize with the US on all things like this. It is a considerable departure from the current reliance on US standards which are very out of date. Temporal separation of freight and passenger trains (or separate tracks) would still be required – but it has the potential to reduce costs of equipment significantly.

    Stephen Rees

    April 24, 2013 at 11:09 am

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