Stephen Rees's blog

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

Shock, Horror – Front Page space on The Sun wasted!

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Crossing that bridge will cost you more than $100 a month

Which was pretty much as forecast from the start. Drivers were asked if they would be willing to pay to save the time they currently spend either driving long distances or waiting for up to four or five sailings at peak periods at the Albion Ferry. Most said that they would be willing to pay – and two or three dollars or so per trip seemed ok to them then and still does to me. How much do you value your time? In transport economics we use the average wage for journeys in work time, or half that for leisure time – which includes commuting. It seems to me that the proposed toll ($2.50 a trip for a transponder equipped car) is a bargain in terms of the time saved. Indeed, I would suggest that it leaves quite a big chunk of “consumer surplus” on the table. That’s the amount some drivers would be willing to pay i.e. there will be some people whose time is more valuable, and have the wherewithal, who would pay much more than $2.50.

So how does this story get the front page treatment? Well, it starts out as a fairly ordinary business piece about Translink awarding the toll collection job, after a competitive tender to a US/French consortium. Bit of a yawner that. But if we can get Angry of Langley all of a lather about gouging by the wicked Translink … I wonder how much the editors are responsible for this spin? Or is this evidence of a news reporter wanting to get in to the opinion business? To think that the Editor in Chief was recently declared one of the 100 most powerful women in Canada. Does this strike you as a responsible use of power?

Written by Stephen Rees

November 28, 2006 at 7:44 am

High-tech ‘street sweeper’ sorts licence plates

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High-tech ‘street sweeper’ sorts licence plates

I think this is a very good idea indeed. It just shows how far we have come in effective enforcement. To give some background, I worked on traffic enforcement issues in the UK back in the eighties. Then we had determined that 80% of the offences are committed by 20% of the offenders – in fact this 80/20 rule crops up in nearly every statistical study of any kind of human behaviour. In the case of traffic (parking, speeding, driving without a licence, insurance or road tax) it was determined that there was a hard core of what the Americans call “scofflaws”. That led to the development of the Denver Boot, and we tried a similar approach in London. Or would have had not the Secretary of State for the Environment at the time, Sir Nicholas Ridley, worried about the potential blow back from the civil liberties groups. So wheel clamps were used for just overstaying a parking meter, which was very effective but had a much wider impact than intended.

The original aim had been to identify vehicles that were known – a cut off was proposed at ten unpaid parking tickets (a common practice in the US at the time). But there were other things we were looking at. For example, one trial of a “stop and look” approach on tax discs (the equivalent of the licence plate sticker used in BC) pretty well brought South London to a standstill one morning. We had picked a length of the Old Kent Road for the trial, but had to abandon the exercise as the police we had with us were quickly overwhelmed. The out of date tax disc was a good indication (we discovered) that the driver had no licence or insurance, or the car had failed its MoT (road worthiness) test or the driver was wanted in connection with other inquiries. Similarly, we found that the same vehicles were parked at broken meters (which gave them a day’s free parking). Just keeping a list of the licence plate numbers adjacent to the broken meter showed the same cars – many of which were operated by Fleet Street’s finest. Or one enterprising plumber who made fifty pence piece shaped lumps of lead that he plugged the meter with so he could work at adjacent premises.

S o I was less than impressed with the way that the CBC radio had this story this morning (it’s not on their web site at present) which had a civil liberties advocate to give that false sense of “balance” to the story, worrying about the Big Brother implications. What needed to be said was that the are people out there who are driving every day, who have been banned from driving. The police even note that these people get back into their cars to drive away from the courthouse where they have just been handed a ban. Car thieves are now being effectively deterred by bait cars. Maybe if the SkyTrain surveillance tapes did not have to be rewound every hour, pickpockets at stations might be caught more often.

And while they may not do much to deter drunks

Naylor said Britain’s roughly 200,000 public CCTV cameras are effective in deterring certain types of crime — such as sophisticated theft rings.

“They deter professional criminals who are very surveillance conscious,” he said.

Exactly. Which is why I think some more effective surveillance is a good idea.

Indeed, it might even be tried inside prisons to restore some sense of order there too.

Written by Stephen Rees

November 10, 2006 at 10:19 am

Posted in Traffic, Transportation

Northwest Passage ice-free researchers find

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Northwest Passage ice-free researchers find

This is the first time this has happened in October. This route cuts 7,000 kms from the Asia – Europe run. I would bet it also works for the eastern seaboard of North America, which raises the question, do we need a widened Panama Canal? Or expanded ports on the west coast to handle imported goods for the densest populated area of our continent (the US North East)?

Written by Stephen Rees

October 27, 2006 at 1:55 pm

Posted in Transportation