Stephen Rees's blog

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

Backwards and forwards

with one comment

I am going to start this post by looking backwards. I cannot now be sure of the exact date but it was forty five years ago that I started work in my first proper job in the transportation industry.

Weston Point Docks 1970

Weston Point Docks 1970

Not my picture but one by Les Fifoot. The docks were then run by British Waterways Board and were pretty successful in terms of tonnage moved, if not exactly money making. I am not counting my stint on the buses at Nottingham City Transport over Christmas the previous year: or the summer job as a Research Assistant in the Department of Industrial Economics of Nottingham University – which led to a new free bus service in the centre of Nottingham.

Over time, it became clear to me that transport ought not to be studied in isolation, and that land use planning – especially at the regional level – was critical to transport demand. How we arrange ourselves in on the surface of the planet is at once influenced by transport networks – rivers, canals and docks among them – and determines how much we use those networks.

Last night I went to a meeting of Transport Action BC  where amongst other topics the subject of the removal of the downtown viaducts came up. When I said that was driven by land use and development concerns, that seemed to be seen as something of challenge. We also talked about the way that transit funding – for major capital projects only of course – has been a been front and centre of all three parties announcements in the current election campaign. Our ability to tap into those funds is now in doubt since we cannot come up with our one-third contribution. Although there is nothing actually chiselled in stone that requires one third of transit building funds to come from each level of government. In fact in Ontario, the province is funding 100% of their new LRT lines. The province of BC only does that for major highways and bridges. They have also pretty well taken over Translink and are making a fine mess of it. The Evergreen Line is late and overbudget, mostly due to the bizarrely designed tunnel. Instead of two small bores – one for each direction – there is one large one into which a separating wall needs to be inserted. Something to do with the Fire Marshall no doubt. Anyway due to soil conditions and the proximity of the tunnel roof to the surface, sinkholes have been a problem and the TBM is not making progress at present.

The decision to have only one fare zone for buses, as the Compass card reader on board the bus cannot be made to work quickly enough, will lead to more revenue loss to add to the already unsustainable drain of the SkyTrain faregate fiasco – hundreds of millions spent in an attempt to stop the loss of at most single digit millions in fare evasion every year. Also thanks to the province, the downloaded Patullo Bridge has to be replaced – and may have to be be paid for through tolls due to lack of other funding: New Westminster is hoping to keep the new bridge down to two lanes each way (the same as the existing bridge) although it is not clear that Surrey will agree. Nor will Translink be able to provide much more service across the parallel SkyBridge due to lack of new trains.

Anyway next week I am going to be on board MS Volendam headed for Seattle, Hawaii and then the South Seas headed for Sydney. On board internet is going to be pricey, so I do not intend to spend much time – if any – online. There was a book sale at the library, so we have some dead tree reading matter that we will not mind leaving behind to lighten our baggage for the flight back. So even though you would probably not have noticed, given the slow rate of posting to this blog recently, I do not intend to be posting here, or tweeting or posting to facebook and flickr for about a month. Maybe more. But I am sure I will have lots of pictures and stuff to write about when I do get back. No Light Rail in Honolulu yet – indeed that is already over budget before it starts. But much to see in Sydney and only a couple of days to do it in.

Be nice to each other!

Written by Stephen Rees

September 17, 2015 at 10:55 am

Posted in Transportation

One Response

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  1. Enjoy your trip!

    I always enjoy your writing and the common sense perspective that you – as a professional transit planner – bring to transit and highway issues.

    Marc Erickson

    September 17, 2015 at 11:10 am

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