Stephen Rees's blog

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

Archive for March 2017

Massey Tunnel: Impact of Trucking

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The case for doing something about traffic congestion on both sides of the Massey Tunnel at peak periods is very strong. No-one would dispute that. What is in dispute is why that congestion occurs and what can be done about it.

This week the well known left wing cabal at the West Vancouver City Council reported that “Buses only 2% of vehicles that cross the Lions Gate Bridge but carry 25% of the people.” Actually the data came from Translink and is five years out of date but the principle holds. Single occupant vehicles are dreadfully wasteful of road space and are the cause of traffic congestion. Trying to get people to share their vehicles – there are usually at least three empty seats – has not been a huge success. If you could get everybody else to use the bus, then you would have lots of space to drive on – until all the other drivers caught on.

We know that widening roads and building ever wider bridges is a temporary fix at best. Actually what will happen if you cure the bottleneck at one point is that you simply shift it somewhere else. That is why no extra lanes were added to the Lions’ Gate Bridge  – and why a multi-lane expansion of Highway 99 across the Fraser won’t do very much either.

But in the case of the Massey Tunnel it is NOT all about traffic congestion. The Port wants to dredge a deeper channel to allow for bigger ships up the river. The tunnel is an obstacle to that ambition. The port also controls access to its operations – and has a policy of making congestion at the tunnel worse in order to promote its campaign for removal. Now that is an assertion that I am not able to back up with direct evidence. I have no way of eavesdropping on the conversations between board members. But John Berktyo – of Fraser Voices – has been doing some digging and this is what he found

Deltaport runs the business is a separate corporate entity from Port of Vancouver, which owns the land.  Deltaport is owned by DP World, headquartered in Dubai. It employs 37,000 people worldwide. Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem became Chairman of DP World on 30 May 2007. He is a citizen of the United Arab Emirates. Their Board of Directors is shown here: .

Their professed commitment to the environment and sustainability contacts are shown here:

The Deltaport web site is here:

Their hours of operation are here: way down page)

The hours are divided into  “day gate” and “night gate” as shown here on their website:

Standard Gate Hours:

Day Schedule:
MondayFriday: 08:00 – 15:59
Saturday– if required based on volume
*Closed Sunday

Night Schedule:
MondayFriday: 17:00 – 23:59
Saturday– if required, based on volume
*Closed Sunday

Please note: unlike other Ports which are open 24/7, Deltaport is normally open only 5 days a week. It will allow limited access on Saturday if they have no more room for containers and need container pickup ( “based on volume” ) to accommodate incoming container traffic (expensive to have a ship sit at anchor with a full load).

Regardless of the circumstances they are closed on Sunday (Day gate = normal operations). Rather than open at 6:00 am or be 24/7, they open at a leisurely 8:00 am, thereby forcing truck traffic on to the roads.  They close “day gate” normal operations at 3:59 in the afternoon, again forcing trucks into rush hour traffic. In summary, on a daily basis, they are only open for normal business for 7 hours of the day ( lunch hour included ). So in a normal day, as opposed to handling trucks for 24 hours (100% of the time), they are only open for normal operations 7 hours (29% of the time).  This is approximately 1/4 of the time, they could be normally open, so I think it would be fair to conclude that operations are being intentionally restricted, and that a consequence is snarled traffic.

Night gate = limited access hours. Night gate means (according to conversation with management, because it isn’t published anywhere) that access is restricted, and subject to higher tariffs for entry. In other words, “day gate” is the best and easiest time to access, and “night gate” is limited and restrictive (the details are apparently extensive and for truckers, no fun to deal with).

The port is totally closed to trucks from midnight to 08:00 every day that it normally opens.  Please note on their June 11, 2014 website news release found here: that on 2014 they announced that night gate would extend to 1:00am, not midnight, so one can only conclude that reversing that decision puts more trucks on the road, and that hours are being intentionally restricted.  INTERESTINGLY, the same June 11, 2014 news release clearly states their knowledge that, “ …..additional operating hours at the terminals will create 377 jobs (including direct, indirect and induced), reduce truck traffic and congestion during peak daytime hours, maximize the use of existing port infrastructure and create more opportunities for growth by offering a wider range of access times at the terminals for container truckers. These benefits will be achieved with no need for additional capital funding by the terminals or the governments.”

In other words, at no real cost, the Port is clearly aware that extended hours would create employment, clear traffic and maximize their use of the terminal. So why wouldn’t they, except to exacerbate the current traffic problem.

As the attachment shows from their daily schedule found here:   we can see that in the week Thursday March 30 to Wednesday April 5 by example, that the Port is CLOSED for 11 SHIFTS, and only OPEN FOR 10 shifts. Thats right, as opposed to being open 24/7, they are actually closed more than they are open. What business do you know of that can operate at 50% capacity ?  None.

Screen Shot 2017-03-31 at 5.28.33 PM

Hope that clarifies matters. It appears that local Port management is knowingly and willingly restricting access to make it as hard on truckers as possible, and force them into rush hour traffic in order to grow support for the bridge.

Written by Stephen Rees

March 31, 2017 at 5:31 pm

Posted in Transportation

Arbutus Greenway: March update

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I took some photos yesterday between Nanton and 41st. I didn’t get around to putting them on the blog yesterday – but maybe you already follow me on Instagram or Flickr – in which case you need read no further.

Nanton at Maple

A new crossing sign has appeared together with much paint on the road where the Arbutus Greenway crosses Nanton. While the elements used in the sign are standard the combination is not actually shown in the Uniform Manual of Traffic Control Devices. (But I have now seen it also used at the Highway #1 on ramp at Main Street, North Vancouver southbound to the Ironworkers’ Memorial Second Narrows Bridge.)

In general the Greenway street crossings are anything but uniform or standard, and many (not this one) have railway signalling equipment and crossbucks still in place.

One of my Instagram contacts commented

I believe it is telling you it’s okay to stand on your bike while jumping a snow fence. But I could be wrong.

Candidate for preservation?

This house and its delightful surrounding garden seems to me to worthy of consideration for preservation.

The city defines a “character home” as a structure built before 1940 that meets “established criteria for integrity and character of original features”. In addition, character homes are not listed on the Vancouver Heritage Register.

Georgia Straight

New Stairs

New access stairs near 35th Avenue

Broken box

Former signalling gear – used to trigger the crossing bells and wig-wags – are still in place. I am a bit surprised that the metal thieves have not scavenged all the copper from this box.

Written by Stephen Rees

March 31, 2017 at 10:01 am

Posted in Arbutus Greenway

Weekly Photo Challenge: Dense

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Vancouver Aerial

This is a photograph of Vancouver’s downtown, which in recent years has become – in terms of urban development – one of the densest parts of the region. This was the result of a set of inter-related planning decisions, to allow for towers, closely spaced, and mainly for residential use. This was a departure from the way other places kept downtowns for other, non-residential uses. This has allowed for much greater choices in terms of how people get to and from work – and other activities. In most modern cities, built since World War II, the plan has been to allow for most use of cars, which has created large swathes of low density suburbs. Traditionally, prior to motorised transport, cities were designed to allow for most trips to be completed by walking. Railways and streetcars allowed things to be spaced out a bit more, but the greatest impact was the use of the personal automobile. Most North American cities are now turning away from this pattern of development and rediscovering the benefits of urbanity. (Most European cities made that choice much sooner – to retain the amenities and cultural significance of their central areas. ) Not just better energy efficiency, and cleaner air – though both are worthwhile improvements – but in greater interaction between people. More sociability, greater opportunities to meet other people – more culture, more entertainment, more choices of where to go and what to do.  Indeed the pursuit of higher densities remains a central plank of urban and regional planning – the subject matter of most of this blog – made possible by increasing the choices of transport open to residents. More trips that can be made without needing a car, by walking, cycling and public transport. That produces happier, healthier places. It doesn’t just protect the environment it increases economic activity.

Note too that one important lesson of developing a dense urban core is that green spaces – that’s Stanley Park in the foreground – can be successfully protected and made available for many more people to enjoy, rather than the large areas that get fenced off to keep people out in low density suburbs and exurbs.

Written by Stephen Rees

March 29, 2017 at 9:26 pm

Will planting eelgrass help salmon?

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Mouth of the Fraser aerial 2007_0710_105838AA

My aerial photo of the Fraser River Estuary


A guest post from Doug Massey

Port of Vancouver looking to plant eelgrass beds at Roberts Bank.                      

So the Port of Vancouver says it will replace the eelgrass beds that they initially destroyed in 1970 when they built a un-bridged causeway over Roberts Bank and a 20 hectare (49 acre) manmade pod. They added another pod in 1983, and again in 2010. This makes it a problem nearly 50 years in the making.

Further; all of this was done over the objections of a Federal Government report in March of 1979, called: “Report of the Environmental Assessment Panel; Roberts Bank Port Expansion” which stated and I quote; “The Panel recommends that approval for the full expansion as proposed not be granted”.

They specifically stated;

“Any proposed expansion go forward that it be tested on a hydraulic model, where currents and wave action can be measured in order to determine a suitable design to avoid excessive erosion of eelgrass beds and other benthic habitat.”

This environmental destruction throughout Port of Vancouver history has been known for decades, but nothing has ever been done.

Worse the report also notes that a large portion (80%) of the salmonid rearing grounds in the Fraser River Estuary has already been alienated and that any further losses should not be allowed.

They concluded also that certain mitigation measures, such as eelgrass transplants, and provision of new habitat, have not been proven to be effective, and cannot be accepted as compensation for existing fisheries habitat.

In 2010, the B.C. Government scientists reported their concerns about ongoing channel erosion between the Tsawwassen Ferry and Roberts Bank Port Terminals and claimed reports were “grossly incomplete” and their cumulative effects were being discounted.

The Roberts Bank Port Expansion together with the Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal, have virtually destroyed the natural eelgrass beds by physically obstructing the natural flow of water and sediments.

This in turn forced the migrating salmonoids away from the eelgrass shelter area and forced them to be exposed to the natural predatory fish in the Strait of Georgia, thus causing a high mortality rate. This mass destruction of fish stocks has never been investigated or studied by the Department of Fisheries & Oceans.

Now in order to compensate for the loss of the salmonid and crab eelgrass, and marshland resulting from the construction of Terminal 2 at Roberts Bank, the Port of Vancouver in October of 2016, proposed to create 43 hectares of  manmade eelgrass and marshland immediately north of Steveston’s south arm jetty, next to the Sturgeon Banks.

Then on February the 13, 2017 they proposed to plant 4 hectares of eelgrass near the Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal, in an attempt to recreate the eelgrass that was lost over 50 years ago, when the ferry terminal was built.

How important was this eelgrass system 50 years ago?

Quoting again from the 1979 government report:

“The Fraser River Estuary and associated transitional wetlands comprise of one of the most dynamic and productive ecosystems in Canada. The ecosystem supports a large and diverse community of organisms.

All links of the food chain are present from plankton, benthic invertebrates and estuarine vegetation, through to the complex life forms such as fish, birds and mammals.” 

We must not let these proposals of mitigation by the Port of Vancouver fool us into a false sense of security, by trying replace, or imitate eelgrass that was naturally created by an undisturbed flow of sediment down the mighty Fraser River. Perhaps they should remove the training walls they have installed all along the Lower Fraser River (Trifurcation) and allow the Fraser River to flow in its natural channel and carry and deposit the sediment to its natural destination along the river  and create the marshlands and eelgrass beds at its mouth where it will create the most good.

One cannot overstate the need for a full scale hydraulic model of the Fraser River Watershed be constructed, governed by an independent Agency that would determine what the cumulative affects each and every proposal would have on the  Fraser River Estuary.

In conclusion: If the Port of Vancouver is truly serious about retaining the Fraser River’s Ecosystem they should step back from their proposals to further expand Roberts Bank Port with Terminal 2, and stop advocating for the removal of the George Massey Tunnel and the dredging of the river deeper so they can industrialize the whole of the Lower Fraser River. After half a century, the destruction of the mighty Fraser River has to stop now while there is still something left to save.

Submitted by: Douglas George Massey,  Delta, B.C. 

With the help of  dedicated friends.

Written by Stephen Rees

March 29, 2017 at 12:55 pm

The Future of Mobility

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Hat tip to The Seattle Transit blog who saw a tweet by Andrew gdh to an article on The Verge

Written by Stephen Rees

March 29, 2017 at 11:49 am

Posted in Transportation

Arbutus Greenway North End

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We walked from Valley to Granville Island today. Since I was on foot there are more photos than the last episode.

Arbutus Greenway North End

A woodchip trail has now been laid parallel to the blacktop between King Ed and 16th.

Arbutus Greenway North End

It would appear that some of the neighbours have needed to adapt a STOP sign to something more needful.

Arbutus Greenway North End

The first bike rental station I have seen on the Greenway itself, but I am still not tempted to use them – they are just too pricey. $7 a day – as long as the none of the individual rides is longer than 30 minutes.

Arbutus Greenway North End

The crossing at 12th seems to be utterly contrary to the City’s stated priorities: cyclists are expected to get off and walk their bike down to Arbutus street and back again.

Arbutus Greenway North End

From 10th to Broadway is the only section that has not yet seen any blacktop.

I have not taken any pictures of the crossing of Broadway since there isn’t one. There is also no signage. One group of cyclists we saw were riding in circles trying to see what it was they were supposed to be doing. The answer of course is to walk to the existing crosswalk at Arbutus Street.

Arbutus Greenway North End

There isn’t any official public art on the Greenway yet but this piece seems worthwhile.

Arbutus Greenway North End

This is the City’s poster on the trail – actually almost at the same point where the photo was taken before it was photoshopped to show the chip trail and “divided” blacktop.

Arbutus Greenway North End

It was a nice day today

The crossing of Burrard Street is all in place but just not working yet. Even so, compliance seems admirable. Down at the Fir Street playground things seem to fizzle out. Like the southern end there is no signage but at least the right of way between 5th and 4th has been kept clear of parked cars, unlike the following sections.

Arbutus Greenway North End

Written by Stephen Rees

March 25, 2017 at 4:03 pm

Evidence based policy making

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There was a flurry of commentary yesterday in the wake of the budget. General approval of the huge expansion of funding for more transit services, but griping at the removal of the tax concession to transit passes.

Now we could get into a debate about how the BC Liberals seem prepared to go into the election denying that they have an obligation to match the federal funding that would see the Broadway subway and Surrey LRT built. I would provide a link to Frances Bula’s piece in the Globe and Mail but that site is, of course, paywalled. But post writing the first bit of this I found that Metro has good coverage.

Instead I have decided to post something I picked up yesterday from a tweet. It turns out that there has been research into the impact of the tax treatment of commuter transit passes – and it found that there was no discernible impact on ridership. It was supposed to encourage people to ride transit instead of driving, but didn’t. Public Transit Tax Credit is  a pdf file that carries the title “The Effectiveness and Distributional Effects of the Tax Credit for Public Transit” by Vincent Chandler. Now, I do not know if this research was actually consulted by the government, but I do think that they are right in their conclusion that investment in more and better transit is a better way to spend tax dollars than subsidizing people who are using transit already. It certainly is much more likely to change behaviour in terms of mode choice.

Building a great big bridge over the Fraser is not going to cure traffic congestion. Putting in an extra tube that carries railway trains will. But the BC Liberals think that they will get re-elected if they get the bridge to the point of no return before the election, and refuse to budge from their current position on transit expansion. The contribution from provincial funds is set at one third and that will not be changed no matter what the feds promise. Of course, they do not do very well in polling in places where transit expansion is critical – Vancouver and Victoria. So perhaps this is just the usual appeal to their supporters in the rest of BC.

And now, thanks to Les Lyne of the Courier, I know that the Liberals really are interested in collecting more data to improve decision making. Thanks to facebook I have also come across another blogger with his perceptive take on the Conservatives “boutique tax cuts”.

Written by Stephen Rees

March 23, 2017 at 10:26 am

Posted in Transportation

WPC: It IS Easy Being Green

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via Photo Challenge: It IS Easy Being Green!

Parque Josone, Varadero
Parque Josone in Varadero, Cuba where even the water in the boating lake is green.


Written by Stephen Rees

March 22, 2017 at 10:32 am

Arbutus Greenway 2017

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Sunshine – and everyone (it seemed) was out on the greenway this morning. Though the pictures don’t show that.

Newly installed bench

There are to be benches at regular intervals: this is Maple Crescent around 29th Avenue

End of the line

The Greenway ends in one of those no-places – with no connections, or even signs to indicate onward connection. This is Milton Street at Rand Avenue. Note that the Greenway doesn’t appear on Google maps – even as a disused railway.

Screen Shot 2017-03-19 at 1.06.07 PM

Arbutus Greenway

This is the reverse angle looking back up the Greenway. The dashed lines indicate where the blacktop will be removed and replaced by a “landscaped” divider.

The bike ride is great – but will definitely get better as more separation between pedestrians and cyclists is established. Right now people tend to just keep to the right even where signs and paint on the path indicate otherwise. The biggest issue is the street crossings – especially on the busier streets like 41st Avenue and Marine Drive. The old train signals are still place – and what signage there is suggests that cyclists behave like pedestrians. 41st at the Boulevards has long been a vehicle only type of intersection with corrals and blockages to pedestrian desire lines. Much work is long overdue here – and the Greenway is going to increase that pressure.

But even so it was nice to be out on the bikes again – and enjoying the long sections of gravity assistance!

Written by Stephen Rees

March 19, 2017 at 1:15 pm

Atop the clouds

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via Photo Challenge: Atop

Atop the clouds

Heading home from Varadero it was already dark by the time we left the airport, but once we got atop the clouds there was still some afterglow from the sunset. And since the view here is westwards perhaps someone can help with the identification of that star.

Written by Stephen Rees

March 15, 2017 at 1:04 pm