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

Archive for the ‘personal thoughts’ Category

I have left Twitter

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This is in case there are people who might wonder where I went after I said I was finished with Twitter – because obviously I can’t Tweet about that. And also to get more people who I know onto Mastodon – which is currently swamped – with people who are looking for an alternative to Twitter.

Once upon a time I decided to start blogging and I went to events that explained how you went about that. The most frequent advice was to establish a presence on Facebook and Twitter so that you could build readership for the blog. I left Facebook some time ago. That means I no longer know what my niece is baking. Becky’s cakes are well worth enjoying – but at this distance that won’t happen very often. Leaving Facebook means I lost touch with some relatives. And one or two people who I thought were “friends”. Maybe acquaintances would be more accurate.

This blog has been neglected mostly because I got bored writing the same thing. So much less appears now about issues like why free transit is not a Good Idea, and why Light Rail is actually not a very helpful way to understand the the needs of public transport. But it is still, I think, a viable way to have space where I can voice my opinions and experience – and control the response to that.

Many people now are moving away from Twitter and showing up on Mastodon. I had accounts on both. I will not close the Twitter account because I do not want someone else to assume my identity there. There are many people called Stephen Rees. I am going to control that on social media for as long as I can. In the same way as I am willing to pay for

Today someone called Jennifer tooted

“Today, Elon stated that hate speech is allowed on Twitter now and will not be removed.

“It will be pushed lower with the algorithm

“His absolutist free speech views have already turned it into a cesspool of nastiness.”

That was, for me, the last straw. I have been a the target of hate speech for most of my life. I was a target because my father was a Jew. I was a target because I have “a toffee accent”. I was a target because I am an older white male. I was a target because I was intelligent and had a postgraduate degree. I was a target because I had “just stepped off the boat”. I was a target because I behaved as though women were equals to men. And so on.

For the last few years Tweetdeck has resided as the first tab on my browser window. I could watch what was being posted while the thing I was actually looking at was Flickr, or Freecell or a jigsaw puzzle. That won’t happen with Mastodon as it is over on the right somewhere past GMail.

Canada has made hate speech a crime. That was the Right Thing to do. Elon Musk is a billionaire. But that is by inheritance not skill or effort. He is an idiot. Just like Zuckerman. Or Trump. Powerful but wholly unqualified – for almost anything.

If you want to stay in contact you can find me here – now and again – and at

It is perfectly possible that I will stay on Mastodon but look for a better match on “instance”. I am in no hurry to move right now. I am following the advice of Tony Bourdain to get out of my comfort zone.

I am also continuing to post and comment on pictures at

Thank you for reading.

Written by Stephen Rees

November 18, 2022 at 7:19 pm

Posted in personal thoughts

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Tlaamin Elder’s Beautiful Digital Gift

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In today’s Tyee is an article that I want to quote

“Paul declined to be interviewed for this article, simply because she felt she had already said enough. That’s hard to argue with given how filled the book is with her knowledge. And the wisdom of an Elder is something to be respected, too. Knowing when to start talking and when to stop is a teaching a lot of us could use.”

I had hoped that I had learned that. In so far as this blog is concerned, there is much less new being added as I feel that I have covered the ground I originally intended adequately already. The “Paul” who declined to be interviewed is the author of As I Remember It: Teachings (Ɂəms tɑɁɑw) from the Life of a Sliammon Elder, is Elsie Paul, – which is a book I got from Vancouver Public Library in part because of our trip to the Sunshine Coast. The article is actually about a web site based on the material in that book – go read it to find the link to that!

The other thing that I think also bears your attention right now is “Covid, Twitter, and Critique” which is published in American Anthropologist and deals with what we needed to have been learning from the pandemic.

The anthropologist is Carlo Caduff of King’s College, London who says

“I had not been using Twitter much before the pandemic. During this period, I have turned to it as a kind of public notebook, where I could write down thoughts and then publish them and have a record for myself. The tweets were either orientations, diagnostic, or suggestions for another politics of life.”

“At the beginning of the pandemic there was hardly any political voice, because people were overwhelmed, and then stuck. Many were busy with homeschooling. And then lots of people were scared, so the first responses were either people not saying much, or they were repeating what everyone else was saying, or it was just silence.

Now, I think that has definitely changed. There are more political voices. The views are more diverse. People have gained a better sense of the complexity and the seriousness of the pandemic response and its consequences.”

“The lockdown was presented as if there were no alternatives. And that’s simply not true. First of all, you need to understand the history of the idea of the lockdown. Lockdowns only figured in infectious disease modeling. They were basically a theoretical idea that disease modelers used in simulations: What happens if you do this? What happens if you do that? Can you reduce the number of deaths if you do x, y, z? A complete shutdown was never an option that public health professionals considered in their preparedness plans for a pandemic like this.”

The parallel is the Perfect Competition market – which economists always knew did not exist either but was also a theoretical idea – a simplified abstraction meant to help explain how markets in general would work if viewed without the inescapable complexities of real life. It was never supposed to normative or prescriptive. Unfortunately most politicians never got beyond Economics 101 even if they did study it academically. A bit like putting a new graduate from high school with an A in physics in charge of a nuclear reactor.

I have been keeping a journal during the pandemic but it does not cover anything that can be found in the on line universe. It exists only as some paper notebooks – three so far – written with a fountain pen. Because an archivist that I knew from Facebook said that in the future our electronic ruminations may well not be readable. The technology will certainly have moved on – or maybe be even eliminated – whereas physical marks with permanent ink on good quality acid free paper lasts quite a while in the right circumstances. One thing I do know is that I was completely unaware at the time that lockdowns were only theoretical until now. So we truly are living through an experiment, so maybe my recording first person experience will have value freed from the certainties that seem to infest both social and mainstream media.

Written by Stephen Rees

July 3, 2020 at 3:43 pm

I don’t know right now

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Every so often when I look away from this screen to look out of the window, I am struck by the fact that what I am looking at is three dimensional. A screen, of course, isn’t. Though there are increasingly frequent images which try to get around this.

I looked away because I had just read Elizabeth Warren’s experience of dealing with one of her brother’s death from COVID-19. I do not know her, of course. I just know of her. Of her relationship to her brothers, not at all. Until now. And, for reasons that I am at a loss to explain, this one hit home. Hard.

And she is right. It did not have to happen like this.

Written by Stephen Rees

May 17, 2020 at 5:26 pm

Posted in personal thoughts


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This is very much a personal issue for me. I have had insomnia for a long time and I have tried all sorts of things – but not medications. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is now being shown to be effective. There is a podcast from the Guardian today.

I have to say that I hate podcasts. I think they work better for other people, but I much prefer to read rather than listen, and this podcast demonstrates very effectively what I find annoying. Firstly there are all sorts of musical interruptions. Secondly it is not one person reading, it is two people having a conversation. And talking about a lot of stuff I already know. Including how, when you go to your doctor, you only have ten minutes per appointment, so you do not want to hear from her what you already know. Just like this ****ing podcast! If I was able to scan down a page of text I could find the information I want. Yes it is in the podcast but towards the end (of course).

Worse than that, the woman on the podcast actually says, “There is a Long Read. Go to the website.” So I do that, and I cannot find a Long Read section of the Guardian – or even a link to the one she is presumably referencing – but I do find all sorts of other stuff not one of which is a Long Read. There are however things called “Long Read Podcasts” – which to me is an oxymoron.

So what I have found so far is this older piece from the Doctor that they talk about Colin Espie which contains a link to a website FOR PEOPLE IN ENGLAND ( so I am not actually linking to it so you don’t waste your time.

The short answer to what you need to do is set the time you need to get up and stick to that every day. So if you need to get up at 7am on work days, do that every day without variation. Don’t lie in. Don’t nap. Do not lie awake for hours trying to go to sleep: that doesn’t work. Get up and go read. There is some evidence (not mentioned in the podcast) that using screens (computers, tablets, phones, Kindles) that the light will keep you awake, so choose a good dead tree book. The idea is that will stop the squirrel treadmill your mind has been running on. Not everyone needs the same amount of sleep. If your get up time is going to be 7am and you want 8 hours of sleep go to bed at 11pm every night too. And when you go to bed, get up if you haven’t fallen asleep within 15 minutes.

I am going to try this, and I will report back in due course on how it works out for me – but I am not expecting instant results.

I have also learned that and Long Reads on the Guardian are two different things.

Written by Stephen Rees

March 16, 2020 at 11:44 am

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Notre Dame

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The fire was terrible. It was unintentional. It was the result of efforts to refurbish the cathedral. It has not been well looked after for a variety of reasons. I happen to have some pictures which include the ceiling and the roof – which is the greatest loss – and the spire. One thing I am sure of, it will be replaced, and it will look magnificent.

Notre Dame

Gothic excellence



Notre Dame from the Pantheon colonnade

Notre Dame


Shortly after posting this I came across this post by CityLab on Instagram

The extent of the fire damage at Notre-Dame Cathedral is still uncertain, but the good news is that the structure has survived. That’s because Gothic architecture is strong stuff, built to withstand even an inferno. In Notre-Dame, as in other Gothic cathedrals, the ceiling is a stone vault, and above that is the equivalent of a wooden attic space. Though the wooden roof is vulnerable to burning, the stone structure itself is fundamentally fireproof.
Over a long history of wars, accidents, and natural disasters, fires have claimed many of Europe’s cathedrals over the centuries, and some have been rebuilt with great success. While the damage is sure to be extensive, governments and institutions around the world will be standing by to help, @nylandmarks president Peg Breen told CityLab. Read more about how the cathedral’s architecture may have saved it

Written by Stephen Rees

April 16, 2019 at 9:56 am

A Guest Post from HMQ

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This is the tree outside our window. It has once again not just survived but grown. Wind storms have shaken it and a long hot dry spell was followed by more rain in a week than I can remember. There are lots of pine cones now. Every so often different types of birds and always the squirrels. We don’t cut down trees and I don’t need a river to skate away on. And even the annual Queen’s message seems meaningful.

Merry Christmas!!

Here is the full text of the Queen’s Christmas Day message:

“For many, the service of Nine Lessons and Carols from King’s College, Cambridge, is when Christmas begins. Listened to by millions of people around the world, it starts with a chorister singing the first verse of Once in Royal David’s City.

“The priest who introduced this service to King’s College chapel, exactly one hundred years ago, was Eric Milner-White. He had served as a military chaplain in the First World War. Just six weeks after the Armistice, he wanted a new kind of service which, with its message of peace and goodwill, spoke to the needs of the times.

“Twenty eighteen has been a year of centenaries. The Royal Air Force celebrated its 100th anniversary with a memorable fly-past demonstrating a thrilling unity of purpose and execution. We owe them and all our Armed Services our deepest gratitude.

“My father served in the Royal Navy during the First World War. He was a midshipman in HMS Collingwood at the Battle of Jutland in 1916. The British fleet lost 14 ships and 6,000 men in that engagement. My father wrote in a letter: ‘How and why we were not hit beats me’. Like others, he lost friends in the war.

“At Christmas, we become keenly aware of loved ones who have died, whatever the circumstances. But, of course, we would not grieve if we did not love.

“Closer to home, it’s been a busy year for my family, with two weddings and two babies, and another child expected soon. It helps to keep a grandmother well occupied. We have had other celebrations too, including the 70th birthday of The Prince of Wales.

“Some cultures believe a long life brings wisdom. I’d like to think so. Perhaps part of that wisdom is to recognise some of life’s baffling paradoxes, such as the way human beings have a huge propensity for good, and yet a capacity for evil. Even the power of faith, which frequently inspires great generosity and self-sacrifice, can fall victim to tribalism.

“But through the many changes I have seen over the years, faith, family and friendship have been not only a constant for me but a source of personal comfort and reassurance.

“In April, the Commonwealth Heads of Government met in London. My father welcomed just eight countries to the first such meeting in 1948. Now the Commonwealth includes 53 countries with 2.4 billion people, a third of the world’s population.

“Its strength lies in the bonds of affection it promotes, and a common desire to live in a better, more peaceful world. Even with the most deeply held differences, treating the other person with respect and as a fellow human being is always a good first step towards greater understanding.

“Indeed, the Commonwealth Games, held this year on Australia’s Gold Coast, are known universally as the Friendly Games because of their emphasis on goodwill and mutual respect.

“The Christmas story retains its appeal since it doesn’t provide theoretical explanations for the puzzles of life. Instead it’s about the birth of a child and the hope that birth 2,000 years ago brought to the world. Only a few people acknowledged Jesus when he was born. Now billions follow him.

“I believe his message of peace on earth and goodwill to all is never out of date. It can be heeded by everyone; it’s needed as much as ever.

“A very happy Christmas to you all.”

Written by Stephen Rees

December 25, 2018 at 11:04 am

Posted in personal thoughts

I get things wrong: sorry about that

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I was looking forward to a change of pace for a Sunday morning. Normally we get up – instead of lolling around drinking cappuccinos and playing on our iPads – and go to the Kits Farmers’ Market. That is a lot more fun than Safeway. But even so gets a bit predictable. So I was ever so pleased to get this email on July 6

Screen Shot 2018-07-15 at 12.50.49 PM Screen Shot 2018-07-15 at 12.51.13 PM

You might want to bear in mind that last paragraph: the one in bold.

You see, I went on line to Eventbrite and booked two spots – one for me and one for my partner. The webpage I did that from allowed to choose a time and indicated how many people had already booked at that time. In fact since I was on line as soon as I got the email it looked like I was the first to make any booking. I chose 10 am as the first available.

This morning there was another Greenpeace email that said I could, if I wanted to, join the press tour. But I am not press, nor is my partner. And the press tour was later and we had to be back home for something else at lunchtime.

We used transit: early morning Sunday there was not going be any issues – and the #16 gets close enough to SeaBus to make it almost but not quite seamless. This was also the first time I got to ride the new SeaBus: I really appreciate the lower windows. There will be pictures on flickr later.

So we got to the Burrard Dry Dock Pier in plenty of time. They were briefing the volunteers – and we found somewhere to sit in the shade until the 10:00 opening. But that time came and went – and there was now a long line up of people – most of whom had not bothered to book on line. There were not separate lines for those with and without tickets. And when it looked like things might start, all the people who had friends in the line joined them. So we were now at the back of a long line up in the sun. And eventually someone from the ship addressed the assembled throng. It was now 10:15 – and he was saying that they were still getting ready “thank you for your patience and it will only be ten to twenty minutes more”. Except that we were clearly not going to be in the first tour – and we could look forward to a very long wait in the sun before we could get on board.

At this point, we simply walked away.


This is not the only thing I got wrong. Take a look at this chalk board


Did you spot the % sign? Since the 1 is much larger than the oo my brain thought that said “one dollar and no cents” not “one hundred percent”

When we got back to Waterfront, I was puzzled why, if only one out of three escalators was working, why the one that was, was going down. There are plenty of installations on SkyTrain where there is only one escalator – and that always goes up. I was even more surprised to find that the #16 would not be picking up on Pender in front of SFU. A stop that I have used frequently. Even the Transit app on my phone did not seem to know that this stop is taken out of use on cruise ship days. Which must make some sense but at midday at a stop some distance from the terminal where the ships dock it was not immediately apparent to me.

But like I said, sometimes the world operates in ways that seem odd to me. I paid attention to the words like “valued” “vital role” “first to know” – just like I missed the % and saw $. Just like I expected the bus stop to be working and Transit app to let me know ahead of time. Just like I thought it might be easy to upload something from the SeaBus using its prominently advertised FREE WIFI. Which is why I spent 15 minutes waiting for this screen to be replaced by the one that would let me in to Create Guest Account



Written by Stephen Rees

July 15, 2018 at 1:39 pm

Posted in personal thoughts

Why am I blogging?

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Yesterday I posted a blog about a movie – and at the very end of that movie is a neat infographic of all the things we as individuals could do that would help save the oceans. Only one of those things is voting.

This morning in my inbox is a study of how, if we all became vegans, we could reduce our carbon foot print.

And straight away I recalled a tweet I had seen

Screen Shot 2018-05-08 at 10.14.21 AM

Actually that was just the start of the thread

Screen Shot 2018-05-08 at 10.14.38 AM

I did retweet the first one – which means I can now recover the rest of the thread. And while in general tweets “disappear” quickly, everything on the internet is stored forever, somewhere.

I do not know Louisa, of course. I was just retweeting what someone I do know (OK – it was Roland Talango) retweeted. It just struck a chord. And it is quite possible she is repeating something she heard or read in another medium. Doesn’t matter. We recognise the validity of what she is saying.

Yesterday’s blog post has been read 14 times and gathered 5 “likes” so not a huge reach. But someone is reading this – you. And you have reached this far so you have the attention span to get beyond 280 characters.

The comments threads on this blog never get anything like as long as the discussions on facebook. Despite most people disliking Facebook’s business model and recent behaviour, the drop off among people I know and care about has not been noticeable.

There are lots of things that happen around us that we notice. Some cause us to comment – and for more than will admit we do not have to actually have someone within ear shot all the time, but talking to an empty room soon seems pointless.

By the way, we go to a beach quite often. Beaches in Vancouver – based on my recent experience – do not seem to be getting much plastic, or there are enough people picking it up that I have not been able to find three pieces every time I visit. There is, of course, plenty of litter elsewhere and I still do not feel its my job to pick up after all those who have less concern about the environment than I do. I did post a tweet to car2go about that very issue. It did not get any response.

There are things that I see where I really want to say something, but I don’t. And, every so often, not saying something seems to cause a kind of build up – and eventually I blurt out somethings better unsaid just to relieve the pressure. I suspect blogging might be something similar.

I am really glad there is a young woman who washes out the stomachs of fledgling seabirds and feeds them squished squid. I am really pleased a group of guys are cleaning up a beach in Western Australia fouled by ghost nets. It is encouraging that there are other people out there who are doing their very best – even though it is not enough, and can never be enough, by itself. So by reading this, you are reassuring me that I am not shouting at the clouds.

And we really must do more to stop people like Jason Kenney getting elected anywhere.

Written by Stephen Rees

May 8, 2018 at 10:51 am

Trip report: Victoria

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It was my 66th birthday, and we decided to celebrate by taking a trip to Victoria. My partner had not been on a trip in a float plane. They do not fly at night, and anyway we had tickets for the Cultch on Friday night, so we left on Saturday morning in bright sunshine, with not a cloud in the sky.

Mount Baker from the floatplane

This was taken with my phone. A Canon A1400 PowerShot is a neat little point and shoot, but boy does it ever chew through its 2 AA batteries. I had spares in my bag, but that gets stowed at the back on a float plane, not under the seat.

Harbour Air Victoria terminal

Mostly we walked around Victoria, but we did take the bus out to the Belfry Theatre on Saturday night. The Transit app on my phone worked brilliantly, as long as we had access to wifi. Victoria does have free wifi on part of Government Street, but the quality is highly variable.

Scan 10

We noticed that BC Transit still uses paper transfers, and that buses do not have an on board display of the next stop: operators and other passengers were happy to help. We had to get a taxi back to our James Bay hotel, as the bus had stopped running by then. There is, apparently, no shortage of cabs in Victoria on a Saturday night. By the way, most passengers seemed to use passes, which they swiped through the reader on the top of the farebox. Cash fare is $2.50, no discount for seniors using cash, but equally nothing extra for the express bus all the way out to Swartz Bay.

BCT 9510

I used to work in Victoria for the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources, which was then in the Jack Davis Building on Blanshard Street.

The Jack Davis Building

There is nothing on that building now to indicate who is using it. Across the street, where the Bay used to be is now a condo development, which has retained the frontage and has a public market on the ground floor which is something I strongly recommend you include if you visit.

Formerly The Bay now The Hudson

I am sure if we had been staying longer we would have used Farm Food To Go. What sets markets like this apart is that the people behind the counter actually welcome the opportunity to talk. There was, for instance, a man running a chocolate stall who was not so much a salesman as a  missionary. I still cannot understand why we did not actually buy any of his remarkable varieties of chocolate. Probably the “too many choices” problem.

Moon Under Water

There are plenty of microbreweries and brewpubs in Victoria – and many of the longer established ones have been shipping products to Vancouver for some time. Moon Under Water was new to me – and the bus driver. Unfortunately many breweries suffer due to our weird planning system – which treats them as industrial activities, and this puts them out of the way of the average visitor.


Spinnakers  has been established longer than anyone else, and will probably be where we choose to stay for the next trip – whenever that is. It has an unbeatable location – only a short Water Bus ride across the harbour for us, and a local told us of the phone number to call that gets you in touch with one of the skippers, who will get a boat to you to pick you up, if you cannot see one in the vicinity.

Victoria Harbour Ferry

By the way next week is Victoria Beer Week March 7 – 15  “Nine days, twenty two events, 43 breweries, infinite joy”

The trip back on Monday was intended to be more multi-modal than the way out, and a lot cheaper. BC Transit bus #70  to Swartz Bay, walk on to the ferry, then Translink bus #620 to Bridgeport and on to the Canada Line to King Edward and the #25 home. It will infuriate the No vote trolls who now pester me, but the trip was easy, quick and uneventful. The double deckers on the BC Transit #70 up the Pat Bay Highway are really good British made Alexander Dennis buses, with an unparalleled forward view from the front seats on the top deck.

Douglas and Yates

They have been designed to maximize seating, so the legroom is only just acceptable for me, and would be an issue for anyone taller. The buses are timed to meet the sailings to Tsawwassen – as well as the hours in between. The schedules are co-ordinated. Similarly when we arrived back on the mainland, there were two newish articulated buses waiting to take people to Ladner, Richmond and beyond. The #620 benefits from bus priority measures so even though there was only one lane northbound through the Massey Tunnel we were not held up at all. Though that would not be true for those who drove. North of the tunnel the highway was nearly empty, and of course the bus turns off before the queue for the Oak Street Bridge – and again the bus lanes work really well.

Coastal Celebration

I did find myself acting as a transit guide, even though there was a Coast Mountain employee at the ferry terminal looking after the line up. I recognise, of course, that when you get to a certain age, retaining information can be a problem, so mostly I was just reassuring. Our bus was packed but as a senior I got a courtesy seat – and the bus behind was operating on the load and go principle that I have also seen used at Horseshoe Bay. I do like the quiet of the new hybrid artics, but the view from the inward facing bench seat leaves a lot to be desired. But we made the whole trip with 30 minutes left on our transfers. Which I think is impressive but is pretty much par for the course on that run.

You can get a good idea of the value of time from this trip. Of course fares on the float plane vary by day and time of day – and you could save a buck or so by taking the bus. This is cost per person for our trip including tax, fees and charges

Car2go home to harbour $4.36
Harbour Air to Victoria $176

Travel time door to door ~1 hour

Bus Victoria – Swartz Bay $2.50
Ferry to Tsawwassen $16.25
Transit to Home (3 zones) $5.50

Travel time ~4 hours

There is an option we did not take, which is Pacific Coach Lines, where the bus is loaded on to the ferry: downtown to downtown that costs $40 (not including the ferry) or $30.95 for BC Residents or Seniors both subject to GST. At the time we travelled this was only available for the 09:00, 11:00 and 17:00 sailings. That includes wifi on the bus.

I have to say that even when I was standing next to the computer desks I was unable to use the wifi on the ferry, but it was good in the terminals.

We stayed at the Oswego Hotel and got a deal booking a few days before departure with Hipmunk. Their wifi was the only issue: you have to keep logging in, and at one point we were not allowed on. I found myself talking to a Bell customer service rep rather than the front desk as they needed an IP address or MAC number for each device. Harrumph. It is quite a well located “boutique” hotel with a decent restaurant – but I am not sure how long that will continue. Over breakfast on Monday morning we overheard what sounded like an audit interview from a prospective chain. I have a nasty feeling that they are going to be swallowed by a franchise operation – which would be very sad. Currently it has a very nice individual feel: it would be shame if it swapped that for corporate blandness.

For three whole days I ignored both twitter and facebook and only went online for local information.  I needed a break from the the relentless campaign – which seems to have swallowed me whole even though I am not actually part of it. For one thing, the No side trolls are making life …. prickly. Take a look at what Gordon Price found about how the No side works. It is also worth taking a look at this Salon article about how three major US transit systems are failing   –

The great transit systems of the Eastern Seaboard are in crisis.

In New York, the Metropolitan Transit Authority is operating a subway system strained by record ridership and storm damage, where the increasing regular delays have been supplemented by a series of recent snafus that have stranded tens of thousands of New Yorkers. A meager capital funding plan is in limbo, threatening the progress of long-awaited projects like the Second Avenue Subway.

In Washington, ridership on Metrorail is down 11 percent since 2009. Mechanical failures smoked straphangers out of underground stations on three occasions… last weekend alone. In January, a third-rail malfunction near the National Mall caused a smoke-storm that killed one woman and sent 84 commuters to the hospital.

And in Boston, a record month of snow has spawned a transportation catastrophe with few modern equivalents. “It’s like a war, we’re taking this back station by station, line by line, switch by switch,” said T chief Beverly Scott. Some parts of the system were shut for days; replacement buses, when they ran at all, created block-long lines in the cold. The city’s tempo shifted into half-time.

These are, respectively, the largest, second-largest and fourth-largest rapid transit networks in the country. And despite their differences, they have a couple things in common. First, each of the three agencies shows a streak of incompetence that irritates and frightens commuters. Second, all three networks suffer from a worrisome lack of political and financial support.

As Boston’s recent debacle illustrates, it can be hard to sift the pebbles of internal mismanagement from the vast sands of disinvestment.

Some of that is extreme weather – but a lot is lack of investment. Which is not just confined to transit of course. It seems to be the hallmark of the Republican approach to government: cut or refuse to raise taxes, spend hugely on the military and prisons but ignore nearly everything else. Then look surprised when bridges start falling down. John Oliver does a good job of explaining what could well become our story too, if the No side wins. Listen to what the callers say when a gas tax increase is suggested. Sound familiar?

Written by Stephen Rees

March 3, 2015 at 2:57 pm

Posted in personal thoughts

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Christina de Marco too?

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I have just read a tweet that linked to this news story

Forget the piffle from the always predictable Maureen Enser (and thank goodness she is on her way out too). The list of people who have been “let go” is now definitely an honour roll (Enser just worked out her time, that’s different). I took dismissal at age 55 really hard, but I have to admit that this early retirement kick has – so far – been a blast. I reviewed much of that today with a former co-worker from Translink and we both felt that the last few years away from the job have been a lot more fun for us than the years before that. But on the other hand we do seem to be getting rid of the people who not only have high intelligence, really good experience and relevant education but also a great track record.

They went to Chicago to attract Mike Shiffer. He had the sort of knowledge, competence and experience that had been sadly lacking at the top of  Translink’s planning department. He lasted less than three years.  You cannot say that about the GVRD/Metro Vancouver planning department: they may not have had much in the way of effectiveness or real power, but everybody (who had their head screwed on) acknowledged the intellectual power of the arguments advanced by people like Ken Cameron – and Christina de Marco. I am very proud that we worked closely together, as professional planners, when our political masters were busy tripping over their own shoelaces. She (and Tamim Raad at Translink) deserve the credit for winning the largest federal contribution (apart from the politically necessary but spurious award to Quebec for a bunch of hybrid buses) for the Urban Transportation Showcase Program. That was the thing that got us the Central Valley Greenway and the Main Street transit improvements – among other significant advances in integrated planning. These demonstration projects provided the data that showed that “sustainable transportation” was more than just a catchy phrase.

I just hope that gave her a decent package and that one of our planning schools scoops her up real quick. Such knowledge and experience needs to be passed along.

Written by Stephen Rees

June 26, 2012 at 5:59 pm