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Archive for the ‘Gateway’ Category

Mayor releases plan to make Vancouver the world’s greenest city by 2020

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Gregor Robertson used the platform of the current Gaining Ground-Resilient Cities conference at the Vancouver Convention Centre to launch “Vancouver 2020 A Bright Green Future” yesterday. This is the document from the Greenest City Action Team that sets out the objectives and looks as some of the possibilities to achieve the Mayor’s desire to make Vancouver the world’s greenest city by 2020.

My link in the paragraph above will enable you to download the complete report as a pdf file. If you would prefer, there is a short summary in today’s Vancouver Sun.  It does not discuss the recommendations – it merely presents them. And I expect there will be a lot of discussion about these ideas – what is there and, more importantly, what is missing.  On the whole, as a statement of objectives it is quite bold but “you know these environmentalists, they are never satisfied” (a line from the movie The American President, which was also about greenhouse gas reduction, in part. I’d link to the imdb quotes page, but that is one of the few they missed).

The report’s presentation is self-consciously modern. Much effort clearly went into appealing to modern sensibilities. No great slabs of grey text, or formal presentations. But lots of sidebars and anecdotes from other cities. Plenty of good positive examples, and lots of talk about the need for objectives and targets. Where it falls short is the lack of specific programs and commitments – so I do not think it is really a plan so much as a wish list.

Of course, my concerns are transportation and land use – because taken together that’s most of the greenhouse gas emissions.

Buildings and vehicles produce more than 85 per cent of Vancouver’s greenhouse gas emissions and are the focus of the next two sections of this report. However, there is an overarching issue that affects emissions from both buildings and vehicles: density. Land-use patterns are probably the single most important determinant of people’s greenhouse gas emissions and their ecological footprints.

To their credit they do not abandon Eco-density, the initiative of the last administration but they note

Much more can be done. Most importantly, Vancouver should complete the planning processes required to increase density and permit mixed uses.

Because this is a report of the Action Team – not a commitment by the City Council. So it does not have the status of a formal change to the City’s planning activities – yet. But Robertson himself referred to the document as a Plan. Ecodensity was not an easy sell for Sam Sullivan and company – and the issue will still raise the hackles of most communities within Vancouver, who are very happy with the way things are and are deeply suspicious of any change. Anything that affects both their current way of life, and their property values, is going to be subject to close scrutiny.

A series of more detailed implementation plans…will need to be developed by city staff through wide consultation with the community

Indeed. And this is followed by an exhortation to “everyone to do their part”. And I am quite sure that all of the neighbourhoods that had very close consultative processes under administrations prior to Sullivan’s will expect to have that approach returned.

UPDATE: Ned Jacobs has now published a damning critique of the Mayor’s commitment to consultation

Of course the city is not alone in transportation – so of course much of what it says about transportation in general – and transit in particular – is addressed to other levels of government and is all entirely predictable. What is very noticeable is the lack of a set of specific targets in areas where the City does have control. And as we learned this week from New York there is a great deal that can be done, very quickly and at relatively low cost. Paint and potted plants can do wonders.

There are a number of things the City can start to do quickly: and – as long as they stick to a continuous rolling effort – will have significant impact. In terms of broad objectives, this plan does not adopt the one that was pioneered by Copenhagen forty years ago – although there are ten different citations of that city in the document. Their objective was a reduction in the amount of space devoted to cars – both moving and parked. They have achieved that by a steady attrition: a small percentage is taken each and every year. Since traffic adapts to fill the space available, traffic has contracted.

Similarly in New York (18 citations) the decision was made to reduce the amount of street space used by cars by reallocating traffic lanes to become bus lanes, bike lanes and – probably most significantly – pedestrian space, much of which is not devoted to movement but sitting! The City of Vancouver, thanks to its charter, does not have to defer to senior governments here. It is master in its own house, and it can, if it wishes, move the furniture.

Previous City of Vancouver Engineers have fought long and hard against any encroachment on road space that might reduce traffic volumes. They seemed to have been unaware of the simple change in metric that is brought about when “people” are substituted for “vehicles” in the model. The #99 B-Line – the most effective bus route in the region – has almost no on street priority. There are no bus lanes on Broadway. The only thing that sets that route apart from most of the others is that it does not stop so often. On Hastings, a similar type of service is offered by the #135. It is not branded as a B-Line, but it works just like one. The Granville Street #98-B Line is now history: even that had hardly any priority within Vancouver. Contrast this to what New York is doing – and London, Paris and many others have done – in terms of bus lanes which have different coloured tarmac (no arguments about what is a bus lane) and camera enforcement (it is easy to see what is and is not a bus, unlike an HOV lane which is very hard to enforce).

Similarly the City can do a lot about parking. Not just on street but off street as well. But there is no overall parking strategy addressed in this report – apart from the need for bike parking, and for the ability to charge electric vehicles. This is really missing the point. But I can understand why they do not tackle it head on. Because that would immediately incur the wrath of the DVBIA. Well I suspect anything you do like this is not going to please that crowd so you might just as well face up to it. As long as there are lots of places to end car trips (parking spaces) there will be lots of cars. Yet three cars carrying on average 4 people in total take up the same space as a bus with 40 to 60. Or similar numbers of bikes or pedestrians. In Manhattan and Central London only 5% of the trips are in cars – so it is easier to make the case there. Not easier to win it, of course, since those car drivers are disproportionately influential people. Much harder here – as we saw with the Burrard Bridge trial, the short lived closure of part of Robson Street and the battle over Granville Mall.

Sure the City does not provide the transit service, but it can make the provision of transit a great deal more efficient and effective. A bus that can avoid traffic congestion is not only faster but more reliable. There may not even be any increase in the number of buses but those that are there will be moving more people than they can now, because they can complete more trips in a shift. That in itself makes bus lanes worth doing. But the longer term effect – as both London and New York demonstrate – is that you can get a lot more people using buses once you remove the element of uncertainty. The bus becomes reliable. And with only slightly more effort it becomes “the surface subway” that Janette Sadik-Khan spoke about this week. And a bus service can get introduced a lot quicker and cheaper than a subway line.

The contrast between the lack of specificity in areas where the city can do something (density, street use, parking) and transit, where someone else has to pick up the tab, is striking. There the ideas are definite – if a bit lacking in expertise.

  • The Downtown Streetcar project should get the green light, [of course – but since it only serves Vancouver, maybe you should consider following the example of Portland and pay for it yourselves? It is not now, nor ever has been, a regional priority]
  • express bus services should be expanded on busy routes (e.g. Commercial/Victoria) [see notes above about how bus lanes would be the way to achieve that]
  • Electric express buses should be used on Hastings, 4th Avenue, Broadway/West 10th Ave, and 41st Ave [You can do that on Hastings now, as long as it does not stop at intermediate points between downtown and the PNE. Electric B Lines would need a lot of wiring and some expensive “special work” to get in and out of the curb lanes between local buses. Putting trolleybuses back on the #41 sounds like a good idea until you look at the cost of wires to UBC. How about trolleys for Cambie while you’re at it? Maybe someone should start looking at my idea of putting poles on hybrid buses to extend the range and flexibility of trolley routes without more overhead wiring.]
  • Waterfront Station should be redeveloped into an accessible and attractive multimodal transportation hub. [DAFT – it is already. Redevelopment of one of the few outstanding heritage buildings in this City would be unforgiveable]
  • Local ferry services should be encouraged and supported. [yes, and the City can do that without Translink – West Vancouver just did. The False Creek ferries work very well without regional interference. Others could too, if they were financially viable ]

The one thing that is missing, that I am very pleased about, is there is no reference to a subway underneath Broadway to UBC.

Instead of a slab about what Translink should be doing, there ought to have been a direct attack on what is happening on Vancouver’s door step. The widening of Highway #1 may stop at Boundary Road, but that does not stop a huge amount of new traffic being dumped onto Vancouver’s streets. Yes I know that sounds like I am suggesting a Corrigan like bluster, but ignoring the impact of this vast increase in car traffic on the City’s east side is baffling. Not picking up the suggestion of pulling down the viaducts is a small issue in comparison. Freeway expansion will affect Vancouver. It is a very retrograde step – and the plan to make Vancouver “the greenest city” – is going to be undermined by the presence of large numbers of cars trying to get into Vancouver from the freeway.

And hoping that someone else might introduce road pricing is not a Plan, any more than expecting to win the lottery is retirement planning.

The Dead Freeway Society

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Sarah Mirk in the Portland Mecury covers the history of freeway expansion and contraction in the city that wants to become America’s greenest.

While other American cities have built, built, built, Portland’s freeway history is boom and bust: massive road projects were planned, mapped, and sold as progress by one generation, then killed by another. When current transit planners visit from exotic Houston and DC to admire Portland’s progress, what they are really admiring are the roads not built—freeways erased from the maps decades ago.

What struck a chord with me this morning was that she quoted Robert Moses, who was called in to Portland to design their first freeway plan. I happen to be reading “Wrestling Moses” at present, which describes the epic battle between Moses and Jane Jacobs. Quite extraordinarily Moses lost that battle – and a vibrant Manhattan we see now is the evidence of the extent of his failure.

There was, when I first came here, an odd sort of self congratulation. Vancouver was always very proud of stopping its downtown freeway – quite rightly. But the rest of the region – and indeed the north east corner of the City itself – is carved up by freeways. And while the roads lobby often recites the myth that “nothing has been built in twenty years” there was a steady pressure of stealth expansion – the addition of HOV lanes – and constant manoeuvring to ensure that nothing should get in the way of the traffic or the plans to build even more freeways. In fact expansion has been significant since the LRSP was signed with lost of piecemeal “improvements”and now the addition of the Golden Ears Bridge, the expansion of the Sea to Sky and now the major building projects on Highway #1 and the South Fraser Perimeter Road. None of these are in the City of Vancouver itself  – but that is sophistry. We remain, as a region, dominated by automobile use. The rate of spending on roads has always greatly exceeded that for transit – and other modes – and the share of trips remains almost constant.

Portland also is threatened by a major bridge expansion “the current six-lane I-5 bridge to Vancouver will become a 12-lane, $4.2 billion bridge called the Columbia River Crossing (CRC)” just like the new Port Mann.

“It’s another one of these roads that’s being espoused as ‘We have to have it in order to make everybody’s lives easier,'” says Ballestrem. “But it’s going to do the same thing that all these other big roads did. Building a bigger road is just going to encourage driving the automobile.”

[That’s] Val Ballestrem, education manager of the Architectural Heritage Center, who wrote his master’s thesis on Portland’s anti-freeway movement

And, of course, the same is true here. What seems to be different now is that those in power no longer fear anti-freeway movements. They have learned a lot from the success of Jane Jacobs in organising neighborhoods – not just in Greenwich Village but in Spadina too. Whatever restraints were built into the old processes have been removed. There is still a lengthy process, with much show of “consultation” and “extensive studies” but the end result was never in doubt. Proponents could claim very early on that is was all a “done deal” because they had already ensured that no other result was possible. It did not matter what the consultations heard, or what was in the studies, because there was no way to stop the project.  Which, of course, was what the “elite” had long ago decided.

Canada in general now seems to be completely out of step with the rest of the world. Peak oil and global climate change are now widely accepted realities. Most countries – even the United States – recognize that business as usual is not an option even as they continue to argue about who should go first and how much should be done. And the people who run large multi-national corporations, who have been practising deliberate deception on these issues, even seem to be reluctantly accepting that their business model needs to change. But somehow, BC seems to believe that the very real constraints of finite fossil fuels and the capacity of the atmosphere to absorb ever more carbon dioxide do not apply to us.

You might have thought that the loss of the forest industry to the pine beetle and the loss of the salmon fishery – which is primarily due to open net fish farms – both in recent years and both on the watch of the present administration – would at least introduce a note of caution. On the contrary, it actually seems to have encourage them to speed up the process. The P3 contract for the SFPR is not yet signed yet the “pre-construction” activity rushes on. The first pilings for the new Port Mann Bridge had to be put into the bed of the Fraser before the election, even though the project financing had completely fallen apart. All kinds of things – really important things that the BC Liberals promised were sacrosanct a few months ago like healthcare and education – are now being cut. But nothing it seems can stop the freeway juggernaut here.

When these new freeways open they will be eerily quiet. For one thing, the expectation that port expansion will bring vastly increased trade to Vancouver now seems very unlikely. Though no doubt the current flow of coal from Wyoming to China will continue and probably increase, that, of course, moves by rail. Gasoline is going to be very expensive – and the trivial impact of “alternative fuels” is unlikely to change that very much. Indeed, many of them depend on much higher prices to make them viable. As long as we follow the current economic philosophy that tries to keep wages and salaries as low as possible, and direct any and all benefits to only the wealthy, it is unlikely widespread car use will continue to be possible. Of course, it also likely that some will remember the wisdom of Henry Ford. He broke with other early twentieth century capitalists and paid his workers decent wages so they could afford to but and rive the cars they built. Writers like Howard Kunstler project that current trends in the US suburbs will see them become wastelands, but that, it seems to me, ignores the huge political debt that the current hegemony owes to suburban voters. These were the people who, in BC, decided that Gordon Campbell was the only leader to be trusted with the economy. Many left wing critics south of the line are disappointed with the lack of change in Washington since Obama was elected. That, it seems to me, reflects the reality of power. The ballot box can only do so much – and even then can be greatly influenced by the availability of lots of money.

It is more than likely that we will see a lot more building in the suburbs – preferably as close to the new freeway capacity as possible. A lot of farmland and green zone is going to be lost to subdivisions, office parks and shopping plazas – which is all that a lot of the development business understands. A few brave souls will make a point about green roofs and triple glazing, and driving a hybrid, but none of that will make very much difference. Any more than the hideously expensive carbon capture and storage will reduce the impact of the tar sands and the gas shales.

The saddest thing for me is that it need not work out like this. There is plenty of evidence now that denser, walkable neighbourhoods and really good electric powered transit produces very desirable places. That it is not that hard to produce a spread sheet analysis that will convince any investor that developments that reduce energy use are going to produce attractive rates of return as energy prices rise. It is also indisputable that a healthier society that is physically more active as part of daily life – when human power is a much bigger part of the energy used in transportation – reduces the biggest growing burden North America faces – health care costs. Is it too late to save much of the river delta? Complacency is certainly not going to help as the sea level rises.

But what can we do about it?

Written by Stephen Rees

September 24, 2009 at 10:41 am

Posted in Environment, Gateway, Transportation

Tagged with

REDIRECT FREEWAYS FUNDS AND SAVE TRANSIT SAYS WILDERNESS COMMITTEE

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Press Release

I have some sympathy with the idea that we should not be spending money on freeways but investing in transit, as the Wilderness Committee recommends.

But I am afraid that simply injecting more capital spending into Translink will not solve its funding crisis. Because what that would do is perpetuate and indeed enlarge the problem that Martin Crilly identified. Translink has been spending beyond its means mostly on major capital projects that it now cannot afford to operate and maintain. The crisis is not  in lack of capital funds – indeed one of Translink’s current strategies is to forgo proffered capital injections from both the federal and provincial governments, as it simply does not have the cash to run current services let alone new ones. What Translink needs right now is either a way of reducing its operating costs – although Tom Prendergast says he doesn’t think that they nor the province’s bloodhound will find much – or new sources of subsidy. Fares are going up – and so will the permitted taxes and there will have to be some replacement of the sales tax on parking fees. But that is not enough to cover the gap. So a one time capital injection of $1.5bn night get the Evergreen Line built but it will not keep the buses running – and that is what most of the transit system’s users rely on.

It may also be worth noticing that the Wilderness Committee is now concentrating on the SFPR. That may be good short term tactics – but it worries me that is seems to accept (if not exactly endorse) the much bigger project  to widen Highway #1 and build a new Port Mann bridge. Which is just as damaging and may have even worse long term implications for urban sprawl than the SFPR.

Written by Stephen Rees

September 8, 2009 at 9:32 am

Posted in Economics, Gateway, transit

Mayors kick off quest for ways to fund transportation system

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Globe and Mail

Frances Bula writes about the problem of funding transit expansion as though it were a dialogue between two levels of government – the province and the Mayors of the region. But it clearly is not a dialogue of equals. Transit expansion is necessary of course. That is not new – it has been a critical issue for as long as I have been around here and has never been dealt with properly. The province has always expected that local property taxes will be a major part of the funding formula. That is because the province does not have to take the political consequences that raising local taxes will bring. The municipal governments have always said that they do not think property taxes are the right way to pay for transit – and the senior levels of government have much more “headroom” than they do.

The debate is old and tired. The province also has much more power than the Mayors do. The province has now framed the debate with its new arrangements which leave the Mayors holding the bag – but without any powers to influence (let alone  control) how the money is to be spent. “The mayors’ council legally has until Oct. 31 to approve a plan for the next decade.” And what happens if they don’t? The province decides anyway. So there is no pressure on the province at all to reach any kind of settlement – they “win” even if they do nothing. So that is what they are doing.

According to several sources, provincial politicians have been pressuring local councils to approve the $450-million-a-year improvement, but pay for it through property taxes. Local mayors have been adamant in saying that’s a no go.

So if they do not agree, there is no transit expansion and the provincial politicians can say it was the Mayor’s decision. Meanwhile, the massive road building projects will be steaming ahead at full speed.

Fances Bula quotes Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson

“The provincial government legislated greenhouse-gas-reduction targets and they announced a $14-billion capital plan for transportation and now that we’re at the nitty-gritty of how to fund those two commitments, we’re not seeing a solid dialogue with them about how we do it.”

But the province does not actually give a damn about greenhouse gas reductions – its actions speak much more loudly than its words. The revenue neutral carbon tax has not – and will not – reduce emissions by one iota. The Gateway program – by its own calculations published as part of the environmental assessment will greatly increase emissions – but of course by far more than they admit. The “capital plan” was no such thing. The $14bn included the under construction Canada Line – and of the rest two thirds had to come from federal and municipal governments who had not even been consulted let alone committed. So that’s not a PLAN – that’s a wish list – and not even an original wish list but a hastily cobbled together rehash of old plans designed as a PR spin on an untenable position – that the Gateway “included” transit when it never did because it was designed by the port and the truckers association and a few Liberal supporters in the “Gateway Council”.

Gordon Campbell is a bully. He is also self centered and mainly interested in his own image. There is no intention whatever of reaching a deal with the Mayors – they either fall in line and take the hit of the wrath of the local taxpayers – or don’t and take the wrath of local transportation users – who are, of course, the same group of people. This is not governance – it is politics. Which is neither pure nor simple. In BC it is a blood sport. It does not serve us – or our environment well. But do not expect Mr Campbell to lose much sleep over that. He has at least four more years in power and no doubt has something cushy lined up for afterwards – well rewarded and requiring little effort.

There is only one, very faint, hope. That the corruption scandal of the BC Rail sale will finally blow apart and bring down the provincial government. For they are the architects of the present mess – and until they are removed we are stuck with it.

Written by Stephen Rees

July 22, 2009 at 10:42 am

Port Mann Bridge Expansion Plan “Cannot Succeed” – report

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Vancouver, BC – “The BC government’s proposed solution to congestion on the Highway 1/Port Mann corridor cannot succeed” according to a new report released today by local business consultant Evan Robinson, MBA.

When the Public-private partnership to build the bridge fell through earlier this year, Premier Gordon Campbell decided to borrow money on behalf of the province to build the bridge. Campbell claimed that the project would be revenue neutral because tolls would cover the cost within the timeline of the 40 year maintenance plan.

The report entitled The Port Mann Mega Bridge – Taking it’s Toll on the Tax Payer, shows that BC residents will still be paying for the proposed new Port Mann mega-bridge even after it’s older than the current 40 year-old bridge.

We took a close look at traffic and revenue projections, and it’s clear we simply cannot both break even financially and reduce congestion over 40 years. The two outcomes are completely incompatible. If traffic grows enough to pay for the bridge with tolls, there will be too much traffic for the bridge to carry,” said Robinson.

“We have been working with Evan and others with a background in business and economics to see if the province’s numbers add up, and we have learned that not only does this project not make ecological sense but it doesn’t make economic sense either,” said Ben West, Healthy Communities campaigner with the Wilderness Committee.

The Wilderness Committee along with other groups has raised concerns about increased global warming carbon emissions as the result of the Gateway project highway expansion which includes the Highway 1/Port Mann expansion. Currently 35% of BC’s emissions come from automobiles, the single biggest source.

“Relying upon toll revenue builds in an incentive to increase automobile usage, but even if we double traffic over the new bridge it won’t cover the cost, and doubling the traffic leaves us idling in place just like the commuters on the Port Mann do every day. This sort of investment is the opposite of what we need to do if we are serious about reducing traffic congestion, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and reducing our dependence upon a dwindling supply of fossil fuels,” said Robinson who is a member of the Vancouver Peak Oil Network executive.

“If this project goes forward as planned we will be paying the price for decades to come in more ways than one. There’s just no way it works out right,” said West.

Written by Stephen Rees

July 17, 2009 at 8:13 am

Posted in Gateway

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U.S. ports take aim at B.C. rivals

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Globe and Mail

All entirely predictable – in fact I am pretty sure I have predicted this in the past.

U.S. port officials yesterday brought their complaints against Canada to the Office of the United States Trade Representative, making the case that government help for ports such as Vancouver is partly to blame for a decline in business at American terminals.

Perhaps the most revealing statement from the Port of Vancouver’s spokesperson is “the fact that almost all imports arriving in Vancouver are bound for Canadian destinations”. Which is not at all what has been admitted by the proponents of the Gateway. Which of course includes the Port of Vancouver. The whole case for port expansion at Deltaport is that shippers will save time and money coming through the new facilities as opposed to using US ports further south. The whole ethos of the Gateway is based on how we are better placed to compete for trans-Pacific trade than they are.

Actually US ports get a lot more subsidy than Canadian ports – but do not expect that to get in the way of this fight. In tough times, the US turns protectionist – as we have already seen with the restriction of the use of federal stimulus funding to “buy American”. In fact when the same policies have been applied to the transportation business, US business has not done well. For instance, the protection provided by various Transportation Acts to reserve federal capital spending for US built buses did not help preserve bus building companies – rather the opposite. Big, heavy inefficient buses with much dirtier engines than their European counterparts have been the result – and more foreign ownership with final assembly and other dodges to try and get around requirements of percentage of US content.

We have also seen how these fights go – just look at softwood lumber and how Canada caved. The facts and realities have nothing to do with who wins these fights. But US protectionism is also going to hurt their own ports too. The economic recovery  is going to have to be based in large part on import replacement – if only because no-one is going to be willing to finance US trade deficits as they have in the past. Imports are way down – and well never recover to pre-recession levels, especially if the US gets serious abut living within its means and  finding employment for its huge skilled and currently idle workforce.

More and more it looks like the Gateway is going to be a white elephant. I wonder how long it will take for this realization to dawn in Victoria? Think they will back down?

Written by Stephen Rees

June 10, 2009 at 2:45 pm

Posted in Gateway, port expansion

Massive Mall near Abbotsford Interchange stirs debate

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Vancouver Sun

Of course this is exactly what opponents of the Gateway always said would happen. 
 

Artists rendering of a proposed $170-million, 600,000-square-foot shopping mall near Abbotsfords Mount Lehman interchange.

Artist's rendering of a proposed $170-million, 600,000-square-foot shopping mall near Abbotsford's Mount Lehman interchange.

“The potential regional draw for that centre is enormous,” Abbotsford Mayor George Peary said in an interview about the $170-million, 600,000-square-foot Shape Properties development, dubbed Abby Lane.

“It’s huge and it’s got amazing freeway access. I think this will be the largest mall in the region. It will be relatively easy for people to get there from Langley, Chilliwack and Mission. Millions travel that freeway and they’re all potential customers.”

And for the Mayor that seems like a Good Thing. For many however, it seems like a very Bad Thing indeed. For a start the freeway between Langley and Abbotsford runs through what is currently green space. In many parts of the world that is seen as a desirable quality – and there has been legislation (in the UK and other places) to stop “ribbon development” and the gradual coalescence of places into “megalopolis”. That indeed has been one of the main principles in regional planning of both Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley.

But also very significant is the recognition of the traffic generation this kind of development produces – which is something that the Gateway proponents have tried to ignore or at least downplay: “it happens anyway”. Well you might try telling that to the stores that will close in those places. The amount of time and money that people have to spend shopping is finite. The money that gets spent in Abby Lane won’t get spent elsewhere. You can see this all over North America – in fact, thanks to the economic decline of recent years, the process has accelerated. There are already too many shops – and older malls and town centres have been in steady decline. Even in good times that happens – and one of the features of North American buildings is their very short design life. So when the two new plazas at No 5 Road and Steveston Highway opened, the shopping centre at Shell and Williams closed, was demolished and is now town houses.

Obviously if in future more people from Langley and Chilliwack decide to shop in Abbotsford that is a longer car trip than happens now. That means more pollution – both common air contaminants (the stuff that causes our current air quality advisory) and greenhouse gas emissions – that’s the stuff that means the glaciers melt and the pine beetle thrives. It is not only the polar bears that suffer! And note that this is happening beyond the reach of the Gateway project – which ends at the Langley boundary – although a new hill climber lane is being built westbound out of Abbotsford at present. So of course there will be even more pressure to widen the freeway through Abbotsford and upgrade the interchanges. That is the lesson of everywhere that has widened freeways – it creates the “need” for more widening and is never ending.

Well never ending up to now. Because the other thing that the Mayor is ignoring is that peak conventional oil has passed – and peak oil is close too. So there will not be lots of cheap gas for all those car trips. And maybe in future even the charms of yet another corporate clone big box “power centre” will be much less if if costs too much to get there. This development might not be such a good idea after all. It will certainly cause others to close – but in the not too distant future we may well not be quite so keen on shopping. We may prefer to find happiness in other ways – and relearn how to make things last longer.

It is certainly a choice – and the last election showed that most people are not yet willing to make that change voluntarily. Which means when it does come they are not going to be very happy about it at all. And  George Peary could well be the target of their wrath.

Written by Stephen Rees

June 5, 2009 at 11:44 am

More brains, less blacktop, needed in Victoria

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Abysmal record should see change but likely won’t

Brian Lewis, The Province

Judging by its performance, the B.C. Liberal government can’t tell one end of a cow from the other, or perhaps it believes cabbages grow in grocery stores.

How else can its inexplicable failure to protect agricultural land be explained, especially the fertile soils in the 22 provincial ridings south of the Fraser River between Delta and Hope?

The ability of Fraser Valley farmland to feed the burgeoning Lower Mainland and its future generations has been seriously constrained by a government that, frankly, has blacktop on the brain.

Read the rest. 

Written by Stephen Rees

May 12, 2009 at 7:42 am

Posted in food security, Gateway

Saturday – Tree Planting to Stop the Highway

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Cut and pasted from a Wilderness Committee E-lert:

With no contractors in place to build the South Fraser Perimeter Road (SFPR) highway as proposed in the Gateway plan but the Ministry of Transportation have begun early stages of bull dozing and laying sand along portions of the proposed route of the controversial South Fraser Perimeter Road (SFPR) highway. 

Brad Major, a local fire fighter, and professional arborist has started a small business growing Christmas trees on his families beautiful 1 acre property. Brad lives in the a lush valley close to burns bog which is in the trajectory of the proposed SFPR highway route in North Delta on the banks of the Fraser River. 

Brad is one of the residents who have been told that his property will be expropriated by the provincial government to make way for the proposed SFPR highway which would connect Delta Port to Highway 1 as part of the Gateway Project. He was contacted a week before Christmas last year by the Ministry of Transportation by phone and told they would remove him out of his home within a year. 

This Saturday Brad will be planting some of his Christmas tree seedlings  in the path of the highway as part of a reforestation project  on his property.  Brad plans to sell Christmas trees to families and then the tees would be planted on his property after the holidays if the highway has not gone ahead. Brads business would  help provide a carbon friendly Christmas for families and a healthier habitat for species in the Fraser River, Burns Bog ecosystem. 

Drop by this Saturday at 1pm  at 11059 River Road for a BBQ and a family friendly tour of Brads property and tree farm. Come see first hand a piece of what is threatened by the Gateway Project highways.  Plant a tree and check out where our Christmas trees could go if the valley is saved and the highways are stopped.  

Check out this video for more on Brad and his home at risk. 

Contact Ben West, Healthy Communities campaigner for more details 604 683 8220

Written by Stephen Rees

April 29, 2009 at 3:15 pm

Posted in Gateway

Project will help reduce pollution

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Burnaby Now

How can you tell when Gordon Campbell is lying? His lips are moving.

He said that there have been concerns about the air quality impacts in Burnaby but that improving the transportation corridors will lessen the environmental impacts.

Except of course when you look at the government’s own submissions to the Environmental Assessment you realise that they based this forecast on the assumption that the total number and distance of trips in the future is exactly the same without and without the project. The project itself also forecast an increase in greenhouse gas emissions. And that only happens if you burn more fuel – which means more emissions not just of CO2 but common air contaminants as well.

What Campbell wants people to believe is that widening a freeway reduces traffic congestion. This is untrue. Whatever the short term effect is due to faster trips just after opening is more than offset by the new traffic that is generated by the facility. Traffic expands to fill the space available. Trips that are currently deterred by the prospect of having to deal with congestion will start to be made. More trips – and longer trips. This has always happened every time a new freeway or expressway is opened in urban areas. After years of freeway expansions people began to realise that the loss of neighbourhoods to construction of ever wider roads was not compensated for by any great advance in mobility. And most places then stopped building and widening freeways – and gradually urban areas improved and stabilised as a result. Some even grew vastly more popular and successful – downtown Vancouver being one of the few major cities in North America that was spared the destruction of a downtown freeway. Indeed we keep asking – and have yet had no answer – where has this policy ever worked? Just one example would do.

“We’re trying to create healthy, livable urban communities, places where people can work, live, play, where people can choose to walk to work. … You can’t do that if you don’t design your cities around that,” he said

And that means, dummy, no more freeways but build the transit first. You cannot walk to work in a highway oriented suburb: that is also why Surrey has a transit mode share of 4%. The so called “transit plan” would see SkyTrain reach Langley by 2030  – after more than 15 years of the impact of an expanded freeway. Yes we want “healthy, livable urban communities” and you only get those when you give people an alternative to driving – not encouragement to drive more. 

“Gateway is not just about a transportation strategy, it’s about wedding a transportation strategy with an urban development strategy. Surrey is going to be the second major city in British Columbia, there’s just no question about that.”

And if the freeway is widened, it will look much as it does today – only more so. More low density subdivisions, more plazas, more highway oriented development. Because you will never get transit oriented development until you build the transit. The “urban development strategy” here is simply to keep on repeating the mistakes of the past and expecting a different outcome. 

What the much expanded freeway will do is dump lots more traffic into the areas around the freeway exits. All those new trips generated by the vision of vast swathes of empty concrete have to start and end somewhere. So the street networks that feed and drain the freeway will see much heavier demand. If you think line ups on 152 Street in the early morning are bad now, you ain’t seen nothing yet. The citizens of Burnaby are right to be worried about where the traffic coming off Highway #1 will go – because it will go through where they live. The great thing about building roads is that it creates more demand which means you have to build more roads … and so it goes. That has been the history of North America in the last sixty years or more. 

Most people in this region recognize that every new freeway and bridge has resulted in more traffic – not less. Most people when asked recognise that we have under invested in transit in this region and think we should be correcting that mistake. The money spent on this one freeway project could bring light rail transit to most of Surrey and Langley. As Gordon Campbell himself noted with respect to the Canada Line – two railway tracks provide the same people moving capacity as ten lanes of freeway. (Actually most places that build rapid transit expect rather more than that.) So if that is true in Richmond why isn’t it in Surrey?

Written by Stephen Rees

April 29, 2009 at 3:09 pm

Posted in Gateway