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

Archive for September 2013

“Doing Enbridge’s homework” by Elizabeth May MP September 12, 2013

This post appears today on Island Tides and her own web site. Because of its significance I am copying it here in its entirety, but closing comments. 

Elizabeth May MP

The very idea that the federal government, having slashed scientific research into climate change, freshwater science, ozone depletion and contamination of marine mammals (to provide an incomplete list) would be running a gold-plated research project called “the Northern Gateway project” is a stunner. The fact that $78 million is to be spent in 2013-14 on research as to how bitumen mixed with diluent will disperse in the marine environment, as well as better weather forecasting along proposed tanker routes in and out of Kitimat, with $42 million set for next year was shocking. The documents leaked from sources inside the federal government included numbers never made public.

I suppose I should not have been surprised that the response from Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver was to say that somehow Dr Andrew Weaver, Green MLA from Oak Bay–Gordon Head and I had simply missed a public announcement of the funding.

It is marginally better than denying that what we revealed to the press was true. Instead, Oliver said we had not done our homework. He claimed this was all in the public domain, announced on March 18, 2013. I remember that press conference vividly. Natural Resources minister Joe Oliver and then Transport Minister Denis Lebel stood against the background of the Vancouver waterfront to announce their ‘World-Class Tanker Safety System.’ I actually watched their whole press conference on CPAC and had gone through the Natural Resources website to correct errors. It was bizarre to hear Joe Oliver claim that we had simply missed that the federal government was spending over $100 million on something called ‘the Northern Gateway project.’

I went back and reviewed that file. True, the press release said that ‘The government will conduct scientific research on non-conventional petroleum products, such as diluted bitumen, to enhance understanding of these substances and how they behave when spilled in the marine environment.’ In fact, the only substance they are studying is dilbit in the research programme called the Northern Gateway project – no ‘such as’ about it. The research is essentially a disguised subsidy to Enbridge which was supposed to have done this work and presented it to the Joint Review Panel. The key reason that the BC government submitted its objections to the project in the hearings was the failure of Enbridge to provide any evidence of the environmental fate and persistence of dilbit, either in a pipeline (terrestrial) or tanker (marine) spills.

Oliver managed to get a good chunk of media to accept that we were scandalized by something that was well-known. Nothing in the Vancouver event this spring suggested to those of us paying the most attention that the federal government was trying to fill the gaps in Enbridge’s evidence.

Nor was there anything in the announcement to suggest infrastructure investments in better weather forecasting for tanker traffic routes in and out of Kitimat.

We have placed the key documents on the Green Party of Canada website. I hope that people will go to the original documents and decide for themselves if this was something we all knew.

Hansard: June 6th, 2013

To the contrary, I asked very directly in the House if the Prime Minister planned to push the Enbridge project through:

Ms. Elizabeth May (Saanich—Gulf Islands, GP): Mr. Speaker, in 2001, the Prime Minister wrote a famous letter to the former premier of Alberta in which he urged him to act “to limit the extent to which an aggressive and hostile federal government can encroach upon legitimate provincial jurisdiction”. Six days ago, the provincial government of British Columbia said no to the Enbridge project. It said that Enbridge had completely failed to demonstrate any evidence that it knew how to clean up a spill or even knew what would happen with the bitumen and diluent.

Will the Prime Minister confirm that under no circumstances will the federal government become the aggressive and hostile government that approves a project as long British Columbians say no?

Right Hon. Stephen Harper (Prime Minister, CPC): Mr. Speaker, the project in question, of course, is subject to a joint review panel process. Obviously, we believe in the rule of law and in adjudicating these things based on scientific and policy concerns. The government will obviously withhold its decision on the matter until we see the results of the panel and its work.

Many may conclude it was only prudent of the federal government to spend over $100 million on ‘world class’ work in support of a project which is subject to a review process not yet completed. On the other hand, I think Stephen Harper’s claim that (as he said twice) “obviously” he will wait for the panel recommendation before deciding about Enbridge is undermined by this spending. When one follows the money, it all leads to supporting Enbridge.

Written by Stephen Rees

September 12, 2013 at 8:18 am

Daily life shapes sustainable transportation

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I would like to start by acknowledging Pamela Zevit as my link to this story. She put a link to it on Facebook. I would not normally see phys.org – but I found this article very heartening.

I have been very critical here, and elsewhere, of our reliance on the very limited four-step transportation model, and especially the paucity of data we rely on for some very important decisions. It could be that since 2004 things have improved, but I see no evidence of that. Land use is still treated as an exogenous variable, there is no feedback loop and no ability to predict induced travel making. We still seem to be obsessed by the false analogy that traffic flows like water which must be accommodated. The reduction in driving seen across North America does not seem to apply here, even though there is clear evidence from Vancouver that it is happening here too. And we also have a government that prefers not to pay any attention to science and data, since that deals in facts which disprove most of its preferred political dogmas and ideologies.

In Southern California they have been tracking the movements of 18 million people. Not a small sample, and not just journeys to work or journeys by vehicles. All their trips, for all purposes all day and every day.

this is a new method to reflect the activities, and show how those activities change, in the everyday life of people—how their behavior changes, and how a change in land use is going to provide more incentives for people to walk and bike and not use their car

All of that data goes into the model – and “the researchers were able to map and predict movements and activities down to the mile, land parcel and minute.”

What it means is that instead of the stumbles made here – like Translink’s inability to forecast usage of the Golden Ears Bridge, which means that the company that builds and runs it gets paid so that there is less money for much more essential transit service – the model can actually deal with what happens in real life. Such as the impact of the 405 toll road which put more traffic on parallel streets in stop and go traffic, and creates more emissions.

I would like to think that we are going to emulate that model here, but we will have to continue to deal with the paucity of data, not the least of which is the absence of the long form census, one of the few reliable sources of long term trend data on journeys to work.

Written by Stephen Rees

September 4, 2013 at 10:19 am

Portland’s new ticketing system

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I do hope that as a regular reader of this blog you follow Human Transit on twitter (@humantransit). If you do, you’ve already seen this. But I think this deserves a wider audience, and I especially hope that my followers at Translink read it. Not because of what it is, but how it was done.

Before you roll your eyes, I am not going to take the line that just because it is done somewhere else it is necessarily superior to what is done here. Nor is it something that we could now adopt. Unless there is someway a smartphone can communicate with a proximity reader. But it does seem to me from reading the following two blog posts that there is something happening in Portland that seems better suited to systems our size than the big system, Cubic engineered gates and readers we have imported.

The first article “Joseph Rose: GlobeSherpa’s TriMet Tickets app rescues riders from the machines” explains why TriMet were looking for a new system – and how the beta testers found the new app working. The second “TriMet’s highly anticipated Tickets app ready for download (a day early)” looks at its roll out.

I look forward to reading in the comments section below a comparison with the experience of the beta testers of Compass. And no, I do not know if the TriMet system would allow for conversion of or three zone fares to fare-by-distance at some later date, which does seem to be the USP for Translink.

And I found some pictures of TriMet light rail cars from a visit I made there in 1998 – when the technology available for web pictures was considerably less advanced

Lowflo~1pionee~2port2

Obviously it is well past time for me to go to Portland again, soon

UPDATE September 4

The Portland system official site

Compass/faregate introduction delayed or maybe not , but it is over budget.  And although Compass may not be available to everyone by then, FareSavers will still be gone by 1 January. All of this and more from Jeff Nagel in the Surrey Leader and other local press from the same stable

Written by Stephen Rees

September 3, 2013 at 3:39 pm