Stephen Rees's blog

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

Archive for February 2018

The true cost of Fracking

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This Eye-Opening Infographic May Surprise You
There are significant pros and cons, making fracking a highly controversial issue.
By Reynard Loki / AlterNet May 23, 2016,

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Written by Stephen Rees

February 26, 2018 at 6:18 pm

Posted in energy, Environment

Tagged with

OMG

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I am seriously contemplating leaving the Green Party of BC because of this tweet from our beloved leader

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And because that link won’t work here is one that will

Now here are three images I have downloaded this weekend

Daily Arctic TempIce extentSea Ice bering

Now I am not a climate scientist like Andrew Weaver. But I did watch that video on the NP link. I thought the estimates of the world’s potential refinery capacity for heavy oil was very informative. The calculations of how much oil is in the tar sands – and how long it will last – terrifying. And the idea that there will still be gas stations, but there won’t be any arctic ice appalling.

And I have one question for Andrew Weaver. What part of “keep it in the ground” did you not understand?

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This from the Washington Post via Clean Energy Review – the Post is, of course, behind a paywall; sorry about that.

Written by Stephen Rees

February 25, 2018 at 7:13 pm

BC Budget 2018

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You can read the whole thing on the BC Gov website or Justin McElroy on the CBC ‘s summary. Basically a commitment to increase necessary spending in the right areas which is being funded by increases in taxes on the corporations and the wealthy. So I am generally in favour.

But what is missing is a much needed correction of former BC Liberal policies which saw a giveaway of our natural resources. Once upon a time oil and gas revenues from leases and royalties made a significant contribution to our provincial budget. That is no longer the case, and ought to have been corrected by the new NDP (+ Green) government.

Two reasons leap out. Horgan retains Christy’s silly obsession with LNG, as well as Site C (which will increase GHG emissions) and, quite possibly, given the federal Liberals commitment the potential TMX pipeline expansion too. Our emissions are not going down even though it is quite clear from the state of the Arctic ice alone that this is a problem we are not tackling. Melting permafrost, with consequent releases of methane and mercury, are immediate threats, not something in the future.

But secondly the whole budget rests on a somewhat hopeful outcome of the ICBC debacle. I think the idea that somehow economic growth and a reasonable approach from personal injury lawyers is going to be enough is overly optimistic. We are going to need the revenues from oil and gas royalties and leases sooner rather than later.

But also, the whole fight with Alberta over the pipeline starts to look a bit different  when you consider how much diluting bitumen for pumping down the pipe depends on BC natural gas and its condensate. (For that thought I acknowledge the twitter feed of Eric Doherty.) The entire project is based on a falsehood, that there will be a market in Asia for dilbit at a higher price than the US refiners are currently willing to pay. It becomes less attractive to the US market (where nearly all of the exports go now) if the BC fuels it depends on have to pay some fairer share of the costs on our local environment and the fact that the resource is not renewable. There is a real reason to fear the loss of jobs at the Burnaby refinery if TMX is all about exports. We need to make sure that we are getting money for value. That isn’t case at the giveaway prices set by Clark.

AFTERTHOUGHT

Yeah, well there was something else that wasn’t in the budget. It would have been really welcome if the NDP had reversed some of Christy Clark cuts to the Public Service Pension. Of course, when these were announced they came with the message “these changes protect your pension” but what they actually meant was that the government was going to stop picking up the tab for some essential health services – so the pension paid out now has to pay for the things that are no longer covered. First up was MSP, of course, but at least that will be going if not immediately. Then there was extended health care, where coverage is now distinctly chintzy. A couple of fillings today cost me $200. And I will need either a denture (over $2,000 – some coverage) or an implant (near $7,000  – no coverage at all) soon. More of that would have been covered under the old plan.

And of course many Canadians have no dental coverage at all.


“As announced in September, starting on April 1 the carbon tax will rise by $5 per tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions. It will be the first of four annual increases and will bring the price on carbon to $50 per tonne of emissions in 2021.”

source: The Tyee

Written by Stephen Rees

February 21, 2018 at 3:58 pm

Weekly Photo Challenge: A Face in the Crowd

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A Face in the Crowd

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“Explore the use of anonymity to express both that which is common to all of us and the uniqueness that stands out even when the most obvious parts of us are hidden.”

I was stumped by the challenge at first, but then I looked at a couple of recent images that I had taken of the newly refurbished plaza in front of the Vancouver Art Gallery. The original is posted on flickr but this version is cropped to better meet the challenge.

It was a sponsored food truck event, part of the Dine Out festival. I was surprised at the number of people willing to stand outside and eat in this kind of weather. I wasn’t intentionally anonymizing people – but their umbrellas, and the truck awning, did that nicely. This one is, I think, a better photo but you can actually make out some faces.

Written by Stephen Rees

February 21, 2018 at 11:26 am

Patullo Bridge Replacement

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Improving safety and creating jobs

Province of BC picture on flickr

Premier Horgan announced today that the province is going to take over the replacement of the Pattullo Bridge.

I must admit that I was somewhat surprised, but on reflection I think Horgan’s announcement of the removal of tolls on the Port Mann and Golden Ears bridges left him nowhere else to go. The only way that Translink could have built the bridge is through the previous government’s preferred method of user pay through a P3 agreement.

The Pattullo Bridge replacement project will be delivered solely by the Province. The project includes a new Pattullo Bridge that will be located upstream of the existing one, network connections in Surrey and New Westminster, and the removal of the existing bridge. The new Pattullo Bridge will be owned, operated and maintained by the Government of British Columbia.

That seems to me to be the clearest possible repudiation. I wonder if it also presages other possible changes in future. There was very little logic in the choices of the infrastructure downloaded from the province – other than avoiding anticipated future expenditures. The Knight Street Bridge carries a provincial highway (Highway 91) but needed urgent attention to improve its seismic stability.  The Westham Island Bridge is a purely local affair within Delta and doesn’t even rate a mention as part of the Major Road Network. The Annacis Island bridge does connect Delta and New Westminster, but is also not on the MRN, carries the Southern Railway of BC, and remained a provincial responsibility. And then there’s the Lion’s Gate bridge which also remained provincial. There were no provincial highways within the City of Vancouver to be downloaded, but a rationale for payments from the MRN was one of the ways that George Puil persuaded his colleagues on council to sign up for Translink.

Of course it is a reasonable way to proceed with the aged and decrepit bridge, but I do wonder what it says about the only regional, multimodal transportation authority. I always felt that the MRN was a way to redirect funds from transit to road building. That was also the case with the Golden Ears, which was never really needed, as Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows were outside of the Growth Concentration Area. Though arguably the decision to introduce West Coast Express through those communities was a stimulus to suburban sprawl. The use of Translink funds to the now defunct bridge tolling company was indeed detrimental to transit: it diverted funds to shareholders that ought to have been spent on transit operations and maintenance.

I have also seen more than once the argument that “balanced” transportation is not what it is needed in urban areas. We need to address decades of underfunding and neglect that motordom has inflicted on transit, walking and cycling infrastructure.

Let it be noted that separated and protected walking and cycling paths are promised for both sides of the new bridge which will only have four general purpose traffic lanes. Good.

This announcement does make things easier for the Mayors’ Council to arrive at an agreement on future transit expansion in the region, since they no longer have to carry their share of the $1.377-billion bridge. But there still exists a significant gap between what the province and federal governments have committed for transit expansion and what has to be funded from local sources. And that won’t be coming from bridge tolls.

POSTSCRIPT

The Executive Director of TransLink Mayors’ Council Mike Buda tweeted the following Point of Clarification: the transfer of Pattullo Bridge ownership to the province will not affect the $70M regional funding gap since the 10-Year Vision assumed toll revenue to pay for it.

AND NOW (February 18)
Rob Shaw in the Vancouver Sun sheds some light on what’s next

Postmedia reporter Jennifer Saltman reported last week the Horgan administration and mayors are close to a deal on phase 2 of the 10-year transit plan, which would include the Broadway subway line and rapid transit to Surrey. Horgan has already increased the province’s share from 33 per cent to 40 per cent. The federal government is in for 40 per cent. That left TransLink with a $60 million to $70 million annual shortfall to fund.

Here, too, the Horgan government is riding to the rescue. It is negotiating to give TransLink approval of one or more new funding sources — including possibly the carbon tax, gas tax or a vehicle levy — to cover up to $40 million of that shortfall. There’s also an idea floating around that the province could take over the Golden Ears Bridge, freeing up TransLink from its $40 million a year in bridge debt repayment that it could then funnel towards its share of phase 2.

The rest of TransLink’s funding gap could be paid with relatively small increases to property taxes or transit fares. A good deal if the mayors can get it, especially during a municipal election year. All this, the Pattullo, and potentially more, courtesy of the Horgan government.

I am also going to add this thread of tweets from Bowinn Ma – who you should follow on Twitter too!

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I have to say that this is the best Parliamentary Secretary for TransLink I have ever come across!

Artist rendering of bike and pedestrian lanes on the new Pattullo Bridge

A picture recently added by the Ministry to their flickr photostream

Artist rendering of bike and pedestrian lanes on the new Pattullo Bridge

A NEW Pattullo Bridge, located upstream from the existing bridge has been announced. The bridge will be four-lanes wide with walking and cycling lanes, separated from traffic, on both sides. Construction is scheduled to start summer 2019 and open to traffic in 2023.

Written by Stephen Rees

February 16, 2018 at 11:11 am

Speed Cameras

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The following is the text of an email that I sent to  B.C. Solicitor General Mike Farnworth inspired by this article in the Times Colonist:


I strongly support the proposal to install distance based speed cameras. While the Malahat is a good opportunity for a trial, this type of speed limit enforcement actually needs no demonstration project as its efficacy has long been established by its use in the United Kingdom.

I would also suggest that there are numerous locations where cameras would catch large number of offenders if they do not change their behaviour. I suggest that you respond to the inevitable claims “this is a cash grab” by agreeing wholeheartedly. We desperately need revenues to repair the damage done to ICBC by the previous administration, and it is only fair that those who have exploited the truly appalling decision to abandon photo radar now pay for their willingness to endanger their own lives as well as others.

I recommend the Oak Street bridge as being a suitable location for the first implementation of interval cameras in the Lower Mainland. The posted speed limit is 60 km/hr and very few vehicles actually cross that bridge at less than 80.


For reference: Article on UK speed cameras

Written by Stephen Rees

February 15, 2018 at 2:35 pm

Posted in Transportation

Weekly Photo Challenge: Sweet

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Sweet

And you can't get them anywhere elseIMG_4543IMG_8813IMG_8058IMG_4754IMG_7000IMG_5861

And now, if you will excuse me, I have to go take a gliclazide.

Written by Stephen Rees

February 14, 2018 at 10:50 am

Rezoning the Arbutus Development

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Arbutus Rezone

I had thought that I had written something here about the redevelopment of the Arbutus Mall which is just next door to where I live. I am actually quite surprised that I haven’t been able to find anything. It is mostly on flickr. So to give you a very quick background, when Arbutus Village was first built it was a real exercise in being a complete community. There were apartments and townhouses, a park and a shopping centre which included some local services, like dentists and insurance offices, as well as a recreation centre. The Mall had a large Safeway as its anchor tenant as well as a liquor store, bank, dollar store and so on, with a significant amount of surface parking between the buildings and Arbutus Street.

Arbutus Mall 4.6.17 panorama

A couple of years ago, a new development was approved to excavate the parking lot and build more apartments over commercial and retail space on the ground floor, with parking underground.  I was quite pleased to see that start construction as the huge high level flood lights for the parking had been shining into our apartment windows all night long.  The light pollution meant we could never see any stars. It also interfered with my sleep. Of course it was a blow to see all the small businesses disappear. Safeway kept the pharmacy open – a requirement of their license, with a small convenience store providing essentials. The Liquor Store also stayed open to protect its grandfathered rights which might otherwise be lost due to the proximity of the Prince of Wales High School. The post office tried to stay open but couldn’t, due to lack of foot traffic. And we lost our recreation centre to commercial operations of a dance school and a swimming school. At least the indoor pool now saw much more use than formerly.

Arbutus Mall redevelopment pan

The scale of the proposed development was roughly equivalent to the buildings around it. There are three condo buildings of six storeys – known around here as “high rise”. What the developer was going to build was not too different – and there would be more townhouses and a wider social mix as the city was insisting on more rental units. Once development got underway on the first two buildings, the developer (Larco) applied for greater density on the part of the site closer to our building and the park. This evening we went to an Open House. The information on the many boards around the room is available on the city web page . There are a lot of documents there too.

The City Vancouver has received a rezoning application for 2133 Nanton Avenue (the Arbutus Centre) to amend the existing CD-1 (642) (Comprehensive Development) District. The proposal would increase the residential floor area, including an increase in the number of market and social housing units. The specific amendments include:

  • An increase in the maximum allowable floor space for all uses from 67,065 sq. m (721,881 sq. ft) to 77,611 sq. m (835,400 sq. ft.). The additional floor space is to be accommodated on Blocks C and D (the western portion of the site).
  • An increase to the maximum building height on Block C from 57 m (187 ft.) to 60 m (197 ft.) and the maximum building height on Block D from 57 m (187 ft.) to 72 m (236 ft.).

The rezoning application proposes no change to the amount of office and commercial space, and includes an expanded Neighbourhood House.

The images below are taken from the Applicant Boards pdf file available on the City web page.

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The scale drawings give a much better idea of how much bigger the new proposal is compared to the pictures. In fact I think the Block C illustrations are almost comically misleading. The size of the block in the new proposal seems to be comparable to the original at first glance until you realise that the scale is quite different. Not only are there more storeys above ground, the below ground is also greatly enlarged, although the consultant told me that the parking ratio is only one space per unit. Two spaces for car share are included – which might at long last see some Modo cars parked here, something I have been lobbying for, though I think two is unlikely to be adequate. I also suggested that dedicated parking for evo and car2go be included. The Arbutus Club across the street already provides a lot of demand for both.

Given that the site is adjacent to the #16 trolleybus we might, I hope, see more service on that given the number of other four storey additions to commercial areas in Kerrisdale and the proposed major transit interchange at Broadway and Arbutus once the stubway opens. I suspect that the ratio of one parking space per unit will also generate considerable on street parking demand as the retailers will want to reserve much of their underground for customers.

I know that the major concern I have heard from my neighbours is the scale and height of the buildings. We are also aware of other developments that are going to be proposed on Eddington at Valley (Amica – currently a two storey residential care facility, with the adjacent townhouse development) and at McBain and Valley/King Edward (currently town houses and three storey condo apartment block). We do not know how high these will be yet, but the fear is that Larco’s proposal will set a precedent for much taller buildings.

In the applicant’s rendering shown below the building I live in is at the bottom right hand corner. The Amica building slated for redevelopment is behind it – about half way up the right hand side of the image. At this time we have no idea how high that will be.

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The Arbutus Ridge Community Association is certainly not happy.

Written by Stephen Rees

February 13, 2018 at 8:24 pm

The Case for Ultra-high-speed Rail Across Cascadia

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An article in the Georgia Strait summarizes a report to Washington State Department of Transportation which examines the case for a new very high speed rail link between Vancouver BC and Portland OR. The potential for hyperloop is also mentioned but quickly discarded as the technology is not yet ready for implementation.

Happily the Strait includes a link to the report itself – a 94 page pdf which includes some very general maps but no actual alignments. Instead it shows where the freeways are, and also suggests that a link between Seattle and Spokane needs to be assessed as well.

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This appears to be the favoured choice at present. Though I was struck by the apparently quite small advantage in terms of ridership between the MAGLEV and HSR model results

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Of course a lot more work needs to be done, and the report identifies these next steps. Not the least of these is the analysis of what needs to happen at the border. This is, of course, completely outside of the state jurisdiction and we can only hope that by the time any of this comes to pass, that a more sensible approach to border “security” between Canada and the US will have also come about. I won’t hold my breath on either account.

And here is a picture of a High Speed Train – which was not included in the original report

TGV 4409

My photo on Flickr

Technology Differentiation Results

7. In 2035, maglev seems to cover O&M costs in most alternatives; a small subsidy may be needed in the earlier period (2035) for HSR. By 2055, all corridor technological alternatives cover O&M and assist in capital carrying costs to various degrees.

8. While maglev and HSR have different capital and operating benefits over time, the CONNECT tool does not provide sufficient data to choose a specific technology at this time. More detailed technical analysis is required to select among the feasible technologies being examined.

Intercity Travel Mode Share Results

9. Both technologies have the potential to shift a significant share of the intercity travel market torail. For these technologies at 12 round trips, 12 to 17 percent of the travel market by 2035 could be diverted to UHSGT.

10. Conversely, the utilization of capacity is relatively low, indicating an immature market or a model input limitation. As noted in #1, a more detailed analysis of how the market economies are changing needs to be completed to adequately predict future ridership and revenue.

POSTSCRIPT

For context, the introduction of a direct high speed rail service between London and Amsterdam shows why trains can compete with air. In this case the flight time is around an hour and the new train will be closer to four. But add in the security line ups and this is actually competitive. Plus the train is actually comfortable, and the stations are usually much closer to where you are or want to be compared to the airport. But read through to the end to see how the British have managed to make getting in to Britain much harder – long before Brexit.

Written by Stephen Rees

February 10, 2018 at 1:20 pm

Weekly Photo Challenge: Tour Guide

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Tour Guide

Share with us an image, or two, or three, (or more!) of where you live. For bonus points, tell us what it is about the photo(s) that you love.

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Vancouver BC sits on the Burrard Inlet, one of the finest natural harbours anywhere. I recommend using the SeaBus to get across it – at weekends and in the evening one of the cheapest harbour tours anywhere.

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Vancouver has magnificent beaches, clean water and very safe swimming. Tourists tend to go for the “standard sights” like Stanley Park, or the Steam Clock in Gastown. I would recommend you set aside some time just to relax, go sit on the beach and admire the scenery.

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If you feel like a bit of exercise go for a walk in the woods. On the North Shore are a couple of reservoirs in closed watersheds, with old growth forests and many trails. This one is Capilano but Seymour is just as good.

Written by Stephen Rees

February 7, 2018 at 12:49 pm