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Archive for the ‘Transportation’ Category

2nd International Road Safety Symposium – Oct 31 to Nov 1, 2022

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On behalf of co-hosts Prof. Tarek Sayed and Megan Oakey, UBC and the BC Center for Disease Control are excited to announce the 2022 2nd International Road Safety Symposium to be held in Downtown Vancouver.

The two days will cover:

International Expert Presentations followed by discussions on:

  • Road safety challenges and opportunities in the smart mobility era
  • Cycling Safety – Now and Into the Future
  • Equity and Road Safety
  • Autonomous Vehicle Safety
  • Advances in Autonomous Vehicles

Interactive Attendee Panel Discussions:

  • Road Safety and Reconciliation
  • Improving Active Road User Safety
  • Successful Safety Initiatives in BC
  • How big data analytics is shaping the future of safety initiatives and auto insurance
  • Understanding the Impact of Advanced Vehicle Technology on Safety

Keynote Speaker:

  • Honourable Bowinn Ma, P.Eng., MLA for North Vancouver-Lonsdale; Minister of State for Infrastructure

Our distinguished line-up of international experts include:

  • Dr. Johnathon Ehsani – Assistant Professor, Dept. of Health Policy & Management, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
  • Dr. Susan Handy – Professor, Environmental Science and Policy, University of California, Davis
  • Dr. Alain Kornhauser – Professor, Operations Research and Financial Engineering, Princeton University
  • Dr. Tarek Sayed – Professor, Dept. of Civil Engineering, University of British Columbia
  • Dr. John Scanlon – Senior Safety Research Engineer, Severity and Safety Impact Team, Waymo

Panelists:

  • Tony Churchill – Leader Traffic Safety, City of Calgary
  • Dr. Marie-Soleil Cloutier – Professor, Institut National de la Recherche Scientifique
  • Dr. Karim El-Basyouny – Associate Professor, University of Alberta
  • Clark Lim – Principal, Acuere Consulting
  • Kenedee Ludwar – Executive Director of Traffic and Highway Safety Engineering, BC Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure
  • Michele Martin – Seniors Business Insights Advisor, ICBC
  • Dr. Chris Monsere – Professor, Portland State University
  • Lucy Sager – CEO, All Nations Driving Academy
  • Rafael Villarreal – Manager – Transportation Division, City of Surrey
  • Chad Williams – Senior Transportation Planning Engineer, City of Kelowna
  • Dr. Meghan Winters – Professor, Simon Fraser University

October 31 – November 1, 2022 at the Coast Coal Harbour Hotel (1180 W Hastings St).

To join us, go to the registration page here:

https://bit.ly/ubcroadsafety2022

 Location: 

Coast Coal Harbour Hotel 

1180 W Hastings St. 

Vancouver, BC, Canada 

Cost: 

Early Bird: $350 (until Sep 30) 

Regular: $450 

Student: $200 

Written by Stephen Rees

September 29, 2022 at 12:36 pm

Posted in Transportation

Computer Recycling for a Good Cause

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The following press release arrived this morning from CNW.
I have not heard of this organisation before and have not used their services. In Vancouver you can take your unwanted computers to the Free Geek Community Technology Centre at 1820 Pandora Street

The Electronic Recycling Association (ERA) is calling out to all businesses and individuals to donate their unwanted computers and laptops to help them fill requests from charitable organizations and individuals in need. Recycling computers? Recycling laptops? Most recycling companies and associations simply want to destroy and melt down your old technology. www.era.ca actually fixes, reuses and helps the communities Canada wide access low cost technology.

CALGARY, AB, July 2, 2022 /CNW/ – The Electronic Recycling Association (ERA) is a non-profit organization founded in 2004 to address the growing problem of e-waste and the increasing ‘digital divide’. ERA has offers simple solutions to help individuals and organizations prevent operational equipment from premature destruction. With a focus on recovery, refurbishment and reuse, ERA continuously supplies charitable groups with donated IT equipment while securely managing the retiring IT assets of organizations and individuals across Canada.

“We are proud to provide charities, non-profits, schools and care facilities all across Canada with the computers they require for their programs. This gives them access to reliable technology while allowing them to apply their resources to what they’re good at, developing programs to help Canadians struggling with poverty, health concerns or are otherwise experiencing misfortune,” said Bojan Paduh Founder and CEO of ERA.

AB: Boys and Girls Clubs Big Brothers Big Sisters needs 100 laptops & 40 desktop computers
BC: More Than A Roof Housing Society needs 30 laptops & 15 printers
ON: Goodwill Industries needs 95 laptops
QC: Sarker Hope Foundation needs 50 laptops & 10 desktop computers
SK: Blaine Lake Composite School needs 50 laptops
MB: Altered Minds Inc needs 50 laptops & 65 desktop computers

Help ERA by booking a pickup of your unwanted devices through our online form on https://www.era.ca

Have only a few items and want us to get them next day? ERA offers shipping labels for free pickup from anywhere in Canada. Goto https://www.era.ca to donate now

SOURCE Electronic Recycling Association

Written by Stephen Rees

July 2, 2022 at 12:38 pm

Posted in Transportation

Consumer EV Charging Experience in Canada

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The Press Release below arrived at lunchtime today, just when we were talking about cars, again. Now that Modo has a car close to us, I have started to use it for pre-booked trips. The car is a Toyota Prius, and the traffic was so congested this morning, coming back from Oakridge along 49th that I was easily able to keep the car in EV mode all the time. We live in a condo with underground parking, and people using EVs have become something of an issue. Initially because they weren’t paying for those charges. That has been changed to a flat fee for people with EVs. I have an older, conventional IC car but I have been seriously considering replacing it, in part because there seems to be very little opportunity to find investments in renewables – although I have found at least one. There is also some doubt in our building if our old infrastructure can actually cope with EV charging as nothing much has changed here since the building went up in 1974. There are three transformers in the basement, which turn out to be the property of BC Hydro, which have literally not even seen any maintenance let alone upgrading in that time.

There is also of course a current disruption in new vehicle deliveries, due to the pandemic, and a six month wait for a new car. While I have a Prius Prime on order, I still don’t know if I will be able to charge it overnight here – which would meet most of my needs. In the meantime I am using both Modo and Evo more often to see if there is any real need for car ownership at all.

The report cited below found

 Over 40% of respondents in multi-unit residential buildings (MURBs) stated that more than half of all their charging needs are met using public infrastructure. The needs of MURB residents are critical to address as they represent 33% of Canada’s population and are often constrained in terms of their ability to charge at home.

which pretty much backs up my experience. We are supposed to be examining the need for more in house charging but we do not have a good track record in terms of getting agreements with enough residents to change anything at all.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/stephen_rees/52078080619/

My nearest public charging station West Boulevard @ 40th Ave

EV Fast Chargers



Pollution Probe Releases Groundbreaking Report on the Consumer EV Charging Experience in Canada

TORONTO – June 23, 2022 – Pollution Probe is pleased to release the results from a first-of-its-kind national survey of electric vehicle (EV) owners. The survey captured the real-world charging experiences of Canadian EV owners from coast-to-coast to identify gaps and weaknesses in existing charging networks, as well as strengths that can be used to maximize the benefits of future charging station deployments. This work was made possible through the generous support of the Office of Consumer Affairs at Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED).

The comprehensive survey received responses from more than 1,600 EV owners drawn from every province. Results were categorized into four key areas: charging behaviour, network coverage satisfaction, network service satisfaction, and network payment systems.

An adequate public charging network is frequently cited as one of the most important factors in accelerating EV adoption. Not only does public charging make long-distance travel in EVs more convenient, but it makes the prospect of EV ownership more feasible for Canadians who live in high-rise buildings or homes that lack a dedicated parking space that can accommodate a charging station. Not surprisingly, one of the key findings of the study is that EV owners residing in high-rises rely much more on public charging than those in single family homes. Over 40% of respondents in high-rise buildings indicated that more than half of their charging needs are addressed using public charging stations.

While the installation of public EV chargers continues to accelerate thanks to the efforts of both government and industry, right now most Canadian EV owners think that the existing number of public chargers is insufficient. While Canadian EV owners’ location preference for the slower level 2 charging stations is varied, preference for DC fast chargers is more concentrated at highway rest stops and urban retail centres. Another key finding is that EV owners are very interested in demand management methods, such as smart charging and vehicle-to-grid charging, that could reduce their charging costs. These methods can be leveraged by utilities to avoid stressing local grids as more EVs come online.

As of 2021 EVs comprised almost 6% of new passenger car sales in Canada – but the EV market is just getting warmed up. Canada has set mandatory ZEV sales targets of at least 20% of new passenger vehicle sales by 2026, 60% by 2030 and 100% by 2035. Regular assessments similar to this onewill need to be led in the coming years so government policy and industry practice can efficiently address the needs and expectations of the next generation of Canadian drivers.

“Findings highlight mixed attitudes and behaviours from Canadian EV owners depending on the type and age of EV owned, their location in Canada, household type, travel patterns, and charging networks used. This pioneering work is an important start in terms of aligning consumer expectations around the convenience of EV use with public charging infrastructure availability across Canada.”

–  Christopher Hilkene, CEO, Pollution Probe

Read the report at the links below to see the full results as well as a summary of key findings and recommendations for next steps. Our transportation team is available to respond to questions and comments.

ENGLISH & FRENCH REPORT CAN BE DOWNLOADED HERE

— 30 –

About Pollution Probe
Pollution Probe is a national, not-for-profit, charitable organization that pursues environmental gains by productively working with governments, industry and the public. With a steadfast commitment to clean air, clean water and a healthy planet, Pollution Probe has been at the forefront of environmental issues and action since its inception in 1969. www.pollutionprobe.org

Written by Stephen Rees

June 23, 2022 at 1:37 pm

Updates

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Quite a lot happening recently, some of which relates to issues that have been dealt with in blog posts on here. So I thought that I should do a single post to bring you up to date. I will also add the links to the previous posts on the topic just in case there are some readers who missed them first time around.

Arbutus Mall Redevelopment

The second stage of the project is now getting started in earnest. This week the excavators arrived and started tearing down the remains of the Mall Building. This used to accommodate the Safeway Pharmacy, BC Liquor Store, Bank of Montreal and Dance Company. They all have now moved across the Yew Street extension. I have tried to update Google maps with the new locations as the old ones keep appearing elsewhere. That has certainly added a lot more views to the photos I attached to those posts.

Pedalheads, who used to run swimming lessons in the old community centre pool (located in the basement) are now in the Jericho Hill Centre.

Arbutus Mall Redevelopment
Yew Street at Lahb Avenue

Modo Car Share

I was doing a Leo survey into travel in the region, and one of the questions was why I was not using Modo car share. The answer was going to be that they did not have a car based nearby – but I checked the map to see how far it was. And discovered a new Modo parking spot is on Yew at Eddington. So I have revived my membership. My suspicion is that it is the new development of rental apartments that has spurred Modo’s interest in this location.

Welcome to the neighbourhood
Toyota Prius Hybrid

This car is brand new! If you were in the market to buy one of these there is currently a six month wait! I know that because that is what I did this week when I decided to end the experiments I had made investing through WealthSimple and VanCity. The downturn in the stock market means that they are now both worth less than I started with, so I thought that it would be a good idea to get into an electric car and trade-in my 2007 Yaris. I also have over $500 in Open Road points by having my car serviced every six months but much to my surprise even though these points can only be used to help pay for servicing or buying a new car, apparently that did not include the $500 that I was asked to put down as a deposit for a new Prius Prime – which is a plug-in hybrid rather than a pure EV. My concern has been that the Strata Council was not being very proactive in installing charge points in the garage, but apparently that may be changing too. Given that I have at least a six months wait, I will be using the Modo when I can to see if I even need to own a car at all. Especially after reading this article today which states that tire wear particulates are much worse than tailpipe emissions – and this is directly tied to vehicle weight. Batteries are much heavier than fuel tanks – and in North America the car makers are promoting ever larger, heavier vehicles. Not only do EVs not help at all with traffic congestion, they may make local air quality worse than ICE vehicles.

Broadway Subway Construction

Broadway Subway Construction
Arbutus Station: looking west from Maple St

Traffic deck installation begins today
www.broadwaysubway.ca/app/uploads/sites/626/2022/05/2022_…

Broadway Subway Project traffic deck installation
Traffic deck installation at the future Arbutus Station site BCTran photo

and the boring machines have arrived and are being installed at the eastern end of the new tunnel. That link gives you a PDF file of what is happening here at the other end of the new line but that website, run by the province, is by far the best source for detailed information on the project as a whole. In due course I hope to be able to make a video of the pictures that are collected now as a Flickr album to show the transformation.

Written by Stephen Rees

June 3, 2022 at 4:57 pm

End of the Line

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(Coming to digital and cable on demand platforms in the United States June 14)

Feature Documentary/ Not Yet Rated / Running Time: 65 Minutes

“Award-winning filmmaker Emmett Adler’s feature documentary END OF THE LINE is a character-driven political drama about the New York City subway crisis and a long overdue reckoning on infrastructure. 

Establishing the vital economic importance and grandeur of New York City’s historic subway system, the film dives into its dire modern-day troubles picking up in the late 2010s when flooding, overcrowding, power failures, and derailments have become commonplace. After a particularly bad spate of disasters in the summer of 2017, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo proclaims a state of emergency and hires a new international wunderkind executive named Andy Byford to save the subways. Byford, an earnest Briton with an impressive resume, enters as a charismatic would-be hero.

As the political turmoil behind the subway’s decline comes into sharp focus, scenes in barbershops, bodegas, and bakeries show the frustration and devastation among business owners and residents who are caught in the middle. 

Ultimately, the COVID-19 pandemic furthers this, and brings to light America’s need to shore up its infrastructure in cities across the country and the inequality struggles that are central to this debate. A heartfelt and scrupulous exploration, this film poses the question: what happens when the lifeline of a city goes flat?

This film is dedicated to the heroic New York City transit workers who lost their lives to the COVID-19 pandemic.

During his tenure as President of MTA NYC Transit, Andy Byford presents his
Fast Forward Plan to fix New York City’s transit system.
PHOTO 1
(Photo Credit: Gravitas Ventures)
(L-R) Andy Byford and Joe Lhota in Emmett Adler’s END OF THE LINE
Description:
During his tenure as President of MTA NYC Transit, Andy Byford presents his
Fast Forward Plan to fix New York City’s transit system. MTA Chairman Joe Lhota stands to Byford’s right. (2018)

Written by Stephen Rees

April 20, 2022 at 12:51 pm

Posted in Railway, transit, Transportation

Tagged with

Tony Robinson in Canada

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“Around the World by Train” with Tony Robinson Season 2 Episode 4 – Canada

Currently available streaming on Knowledge Network – or broadcast repeat on April 9 11pm

I will start by stating that I am greatly enjoying this series – just as much as I did Season 1, and I am happy to recommend it. It is in my opinion much better than than Michael Portillo’s similar efforts, although I have yet to see his version of Canada.

BUT there were errors and omissions in last night’s episode that I just cannot let go.

Amtrak Cascades Mud Bay Surrey BC

Tony travelled up the Pacific Coast from California (last week he ended up in Los Angeles) on Amtrak to Seattle, then took the Cascades to Vancouver. Of course that train arrives at Pacific Central but he got that confused with the former terminal of the Canadian Pacific – now Waterfront which handles SkyTrain and West Coast Express. I would have thought that the story of the competition between CP run by an American and the Great Northern which ran across the northern United States and was run by a Canadian would have been opportune here but there is only limited time on the program and they wanted to show Tony pretending to be a hockey goalie. It is, after all, entertainment.

The omission that is less easy to forgive is the first section after his arrival here when he asks why there are so many Scots in Canada, which gets a response about settlers from everywhere else. There is not one word about the people who had been living here for thousands of years, and still do, despite the settlers best efforts to assimilate them. At least we now seem to be trying to make amends, to some extent.

Then he takes off on the Rocky Mountaineer – but neglects to mention the intermediate overnight stop in Kamloops, which gets no coverage at all, and arrives in Jasper, which is in Alberta. Again that fact is not mentioned because he is too busy helping the National Park Rangers chase the elk out of town. He gets back to Prince Rupert on the VIA Skeena service, which gets a great deal less attention than was devoted to the Mountaineer. There is of course no train from Prince Rupert to Alaska, but he does get a short ride to Talkeetna on the Alaska Railroad.

Holland America train from Anchorage to Denali

Again, the opportunity to examine the extent to which Canadians now take care of passenger service on the railways that built modern Canada was missed. Though he does meet a young Calgarian woman who had never ridden any train in her life until boarding the RM.

Written by Stephen Rees

April 5, 2022 at 5:10 pm

Posted in Transportation

Green

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WordPress has started a new monthly prompt to encourage posts. “WordPrompt, a single-word monthly exercise that aims to inspire you to create new posts, regardless of what or how you publish.”

This month’s WordPrompt is:

GREEN

As it happens I recently took a picture of the grass at Trafalgar Park – one of our neighbourhood parks. I was thinking mostly of getting pictures of the sakura (tree blossoms) but I was struck by the quality of the lawn which will once again be our nearest cricket pitch. We have had a great deal of rain – and the grass has greatly benefitted. Actually out of shot in the image is the very large puddle the ducks were enjoying.

Green
This is from a link to Flickr but on my screen it looks out of focus so below is the original
Which looks better and I needed for the “Featured Image”

Written by Stephen Rees

April 5, 2022 at 1:24 pm

Posted in Transportation

Tagged with

“Four Lost Cities”

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A Secret History of the Urban Age by Annalee Newitz

This book showed up on my library hold list much faster than usual. It is not classed as a Fast Read by VPL but that is what it turned out to be. That is because it is very well written and engaging and it spends quite a bit of effort in debunking favourite interpretations of history and pre-history.

It is also written with an eye to the current market for books. As the jacket blurb says “it may also reveal something of our own fate”. Annalee Newitz strikes an optimistic note at the end of her book. Cities have always risen and fallen, and structures may survive but customs and practices adapt and in the long run humanity has managed to survive and thrive. So there have been major disasters – like the eruption of Vesuvius that ended old Pompeii – and administrative cock-ups and misdirections due to following false prophets – but somehow we manage to reorganize and keep going. There have been pandemics, and tidal waves, explosions natural and contrived and human spirit just keeps on going.

The reason I am writing this is that I do not share her optimism. We have never before lived through a time when we exceeded the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere at 400 parts per million (ppm) and we did that in 2013. And kept on going. The dramatic weather events we saw in 2021 were the result of the CO2 emitted years ago. What we are emitting now is going to have impacts in the next century. We are almost certainly going to exceed the 1.5℃ average warming – the current “target” – and, as we are seeing, that is bad enough. The fires and floods were unprecedented but will not be unusual – and will get worse. And it is unlikely to be a steady decline but one that gets bad rapidly as the tipping points are passed.

We have already extirpated more kinds of plants and animals than ever before. We have comprehensively wrecked ecosystems – coral reefs and temperate coastal rainforests being the most noticeable. It is not just humans that are suffering. And that also applies to the pandemic – which is not just a problem for our species.

The people displaced by the volcanoes, earthquakes and flash floods of the past simply moved on to somewhere else. We are currently organised on the principal that we will no longer accept refugees, except in very limited numbers and special cases. There are some who think that we might be able to get off this planet and go to another one. I think they are deluded.

And all of this is before we take into account the risks that have always been there but were, by their very nature, unpredictable. We have just refreshed the grab bag of emergency supplies that lives in the front hall, just by the door. But if the Big One hits … We ought be learning just how fragile our survival systems are in reality. The barge on the beach is not a comedy show – any more than the increasing number of abandoned boats in the harbour are. The day that was lost to the AWS failure is nothing in comparison to what is inevitable but impossible to predict accurately enough.

Worse than all of that is a political system that willfully ignores events. That does not understand the sunk cost fallacy. That thinks we can always build another freeway if we lose bits of one. That has no interest in even debating the need for change from business as usual. That ignores the solutions to the problems we have been refusing to deal with for many years. Homelessness isn’t new – it requires that we provide homes. We don’t want to do that, but we will open more temporary shelters if there is bad weather. Drug addictions and their commitment health issues have been dealt with effectively elsewhere – but we won’t do that either. Anymore that we will end the carnage of death and injuries on our roads that other places no longer face. We know what we must do to reduce fossil fuel use – but our emissions of carbon dioxide and methane are increasing and show no signs of stopping.

And none of these problems are confined to one city. They are more or less common to all the “advanced economies”. And we haven’t even touched on the troubles of most of the rest of the world. Most of which are driven by the same crises that we are failing to tackle.

The next book on my hold list has shown up as I write. It is fiction. Good. I have had enough of reality.

Written by Stephen Rees

December 12, 2021 at 12:42 pm

Posted in Transportation

British Water

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This morning I got an email from The Guardian, a British newspaper that I subscribe to. This is a lightly edited extract from their newsletter – about how they get “scoops”.

<blockquote>… reporter Sandra Laville came across something rather curious that made her think ‘that’s funny’. In her case, it was a statistic. 

“I came across this figure that only 14 percent of waters in English rivers were of good ecological standard,” she recalls. “I thought ‘that’s really low’.”

She started asking questions – of officials, scientists at the Environment Agency, and crucially of campaigners determined to improve the quality of their local environment. 

The big breakthrough came when she secured data from water companies on when and where sewage had been released into rivers. When she totted up the answers it came to a total of 1.5m hours of dumping in a single year

“I remember swimming in the sea 25 years ago when there was a big scandal about sewage being poured into the ocean,” Sandra tells me. “I couldn’t believe this was happening in rivers too.” 

The revelations have put pressure on the authorities to come clean on the locations and instances of sewage discharge; on the water companies to take action and invest; and on the regulator to ensure that everyone improves their game. “Nothing will change overnight – this is a massive underinvestment in infrastructure,” Sandra says. “But this has really exposed what they have been doing.” 

</blockquote>

One of the leading reasons why I came to Canada was that I no longer wanted to be an Economic Adviser to the British Government. We were shared between the Department of Transport and the Department of the Environment, and I was going to be moved from looking at London Underground investments to Water Privatisation. And I did not want any part of it. In 1988 water in the UK was controlled by a network of Regional Water Authorities. They were very effective and a distinct improvement over the earlier patchwork quilt of Water Boards. In fact the reorganisation of those was also a significant factor in my earlier career at British Waterways Board in the early 1970s but that isn’t relevant.

Mostly I wanted to work on public transport issues. There did not seem to me to any justification for the privatisation of water. Indeed, it seemed to me that the only way it could be justified was that it would reduce “public spending” (i.e. using taxation revenues) and rely of private funding. For the private sector to make money they would need to find a way to create a profit margin in what was, at the time, absent as it was not needed by the public sector. It simply did not occur to me then that new water companies would seek to cut costs by dumping untreated wastewater in rivers and the sea – but that is what they have been doing.

One of the remarkable shifts in recent years has been the steady rejection of Hayek’s philosophy pursued by Margaret Thatcher and other right wing ideologues. Nearly every policy change introduced in the name conservatism has been shown to be fallacious. The claimed outcomes of better services at lower cost are never achieved in reality – though there has always been quite a bit of “clever” bookkeeping to make it look good. But it also seems that no matter how strong the evidence, when ostensibly left leaning, “progressive” parties get into power they fall into the same mire. Both BC NDP and federal Liberals are pursuing policies that are obviously designed to benefit the few over the broader public interest. This is most clearly true in the case of energy policies. Instead of picking the cleaner, more economically affordable renewable options, our governments are still choosing to support fossils – coal, oil and fracked gas. In transportation we still opt for more freeways and road expansions even though it is clear that this has never ever cured traffic congestion and can’t due to simple geometry. That we still have a mid twentieth century commitment to extending urban sprawl indefinitely which experience shows simply increases costs in general and “externalities” that we mostly try to ignore.

Today we heard the Throne Speech from Ottawa. What we needed to hear was that as a country we are going to change direction in view of the clear and present danger now posed by the climate crisis. For a long time governments at all levels have refused to face up to this challenge and pretend that business as usual can continue. We saw exactly that at COP26 in Glasgow. We got more of the same today from Justin Trudeau. The CG did not announce the end of fossil fuel subsidies and the cancellation of TMX. There was no mention of the export of US thermal coal through Canadian ports – which only happens because no local port community in the US will allow it. Canadian ports are only lightly managed – and that is a federal jurisdiction where local concerns account for nothing. There is a lot about cleaning up the most recent messes – but not very much about what needs to be done to cope with future issues which will inevitably be even worse, as the greenhouse gases that cause these disasters have already been emitted. Too many tipping points have already passed. Too little has been achieved through carbon capture and storage – except increasing the production of oil and gas. There are no offshore wind farms around here, very little geothermal power generation (despite huge potential) and not much in the way of energy storage or improvements to the grid to accommodate renewables. And there won’t be any time soon.

How bad does it have to get to see changes in policy? It has taken Britain 50 years to acknowledge that shutting down railway branch lines was short sighted and ineffective. The mess of water privatisation has also taken a similar amount of time to be acknowledged. In Canada our governments seem even more determined to refuse to change. But then we are still digging up asbestos to export – even though its use here is banned.(Even so, asbestos is still the number one cause of claims for worker compensation in BC.) We know what we are doing is not working. There was no major announcement about reductions of oil and gas extraction so now we know that big business is still calling the shots and humanity is doomed.

As Seth Klein just tweeted: “This #ThroneSpeech was an opportunity post-election, post-COP, post-floods to announce additional climate emergency initiatives & measures. The government took a pass. An exceptionally boring speech.”

High-performance rail service is a solid intercity solution for Canada

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by Tony Turrittin. Originally published on Policy Options
August 16, 2021

Canada can have a network of modern, swift, affordable and efficient passenger trains, like virtually every other industrialized nation. Yet it doesn’t.

In the 1970s, both the American and Canadian passenger train systems were taken over by their federal governments. Since then, Canada has slowly dismantled most of the VIA Rail system while Amtrak, the U.S. national train system, has been improved and stabilized. Amtrak’s growing network of regional rail corridors has been especially remarkable.

Greg Gormick, an analyst and policy adviser, has suggested that high-performance rail (HPR) is the best means to improve and expand our skeletal network of deteriorating rail service. Canadian politicians and advocates at both federal and provincial levels have made calls for high-speed rail (HSR) like France’s TGV and Japan’s bullet trains.

TGV 4409
French TGV at Paris, Gare de l’Est in 2012 Stephen Rees photo on flickr

High-speed rail operates on all-new electrified lines built from scratch at a very high cost because it operates on tracks with no grade-crossings and must be separated from freight. High-performance rail, in contrast, incrementally improves all aspects of the existing service and builds on what little public funds have already been invested in it. Operating at progressively higher speeds with modern trains on tracks shared with freight trains, high-performance rail offers increased frequency, reduced travel times, better on-time performance, all-weather reliability and enhanced comfort and onboard amenities.

High-performance rail delivers improvements each step along a phased pathway to vastly improved service. Because it isn’t a “big bang” approach that takes years to deliver any benefits, high-performance rail is a practical and affordable “higher speed” option for today that may lead the way to building the more costly high-speed rail in the future.

Canada has not participated in the global move to high-performance rail. This failure is largely due to government interference and lack of political will. Passenger rail the world over requires subsidies for operating costs and capital improvements, but Canadian governments have cut back VIA since its founding in 1977. The Mulroney cuts of 1989 eliminated most trains in Western Canada and Atlantic Canada, and removed passenger service from the historic and well-used transcontinental route over the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR). These cuts were decided in the Privy Council Office, not by VIA. In other countries, it was government commitment as much as technology and funding that helped to develop the high-performance rail networks.

In the U.S., high-performance rail is now at work on 15 corridors (see Table 1). Extensions are underway on several of these routes, and more are under construction or being planned.

https://infogram.com/turrittin-table-1-1hd12yxn0vxwx6k

The opportunities for high-performance rail in Canada are illustrated in Table 2, demonstrating its potential from coast to coast. High-performance rail trip times assume substantially upgraded track and signaling. Given its positive attributes, high-performance rail as solid conventional railroading should be a major form of interurban mobility in Canada.

https://infogram.com/turrittin-table-2-1h7g6k09300go2o

Ironically, the first wave of equipment to implement a Canadian high-performance rail solution is on order for a wildly improbable scheme cooked up by a politically manipulated VIA. In 2011, the later-defrocked Peterborough MP Dean Del Mastro proposed to return trains between Toronto and Peterborough. The plan morphed into using a long-abandoned CPR backwoods line and extending it to Smiths Falls and to Ottawa, which bypasses the heavily populated Lake Ontario shoreline. The plan changed again when a former VIA Rail CEO made this impractical route the centrepiece of what VIA calls 160-km/hour high-frequency rail (HFR) for the Montreal-Ottawa-Toronto triangle. To increase its political attractiveness, VIA extended the HFR plan to Quebec City without increasing its cost estimate.

The stated objective of VIA’s proposal is separating passenger and freight traffic to eliminate conflicts that arise because of competition for track time and capacity, as well as differences in operating speeds. This is good in theory; however, implementing this would be expensive, time consuming and largely unnecessary. The key is to add capacity to existing lines incrementally and economically for both types of traffic. On high-performance rail routes around the world, freight and passenger trains share tracks at speeds of more than 200-km/hour.

Given constantly evolving estimates for California’s all-electric high-speed rail project and another linking Vancouver with Seattle, Portland and Eugene, and taking the lowest cost-estimates, a new passenger-only route for the Quebec-Windsor Corridor alone would cost more than $135 billion. Even applying VIA’s proposal to build only a single-track line with passing sidings instead of a double-track line that is standard for these types of projects, the cost wouldn’t decrease by much.

VIA wisely placed an order in 2018 with Germany’s Siemens Mobility for 32 five-car Venture trains each powered by a state-of-the-art Siemens Charger locomotive. Delivery starts in 2022. This $1.5 billion contract is part of a wave of North American orders for these 200-km/hour diesel-electric trains, 10 of which are already operating between Miami and West Palm Beach. Amtrak will use these train sets for high-performance rail routes in California, Missouri, Wisconsin, Illinois and Michigan.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siemens_Venture#/media/File:Venture_test_train_at_Oakland_Maintenance_Facility_(2),_July_2020.JPG

In the end, it’s governance, not hardware or software, that’s the roadblock to improved high-performance rail service in Canada. Here, too, the proven approach is on display in daily service in the U.S., particularly California. Using a combination of federal and state funding to fuel locally managed, cross-jurisdictional projects, the joint powers authorities (JPAs) employed on three routes in the Golden State are incrementally revolutionizing rail transportation in one of the most car-centric regions of America.

The Capitol Corridor JPA describes this governance structure’s application on the San Jose-Oakland-Sacramento route as “a partnership among the six local transit agencies in the eight-county service area, which shares the administration and management of the Capitol Corridor.” The Capitol Corridor offers hourly daytime trains serving all stops on its 213-km route. This allows for convenient travel between all city pairs. The route has a high concentration of universities and colleges. Amtrak operates the trains on Union Pacific track that also carries numerous freights.

It’s time for Canadians to cease being taken in by rail schemes politicians dangle in front of voters and then drop. In its top-down, politically dominated form, VIA hasn’t worked out and never will. New JPA-style governance, new equipment, a new high-performance rail approach and political will are required to give Canada a network of modern, efficient and effective rail passenger services.

How likely is this to occur?

The Trudeau government’s 2020 speech from the throne announced that “to further link our communities together, the Government will work with partners to support regional routes for airlines. It is essential that Canadians have access to reliable and affordable regional air services. This is an issue of equity, of jobs, and of economic development. The Government will work to support this.”

On the subject of rail passenger service – high-performance rail or otherwise – there was not a word.

Meanwhile, high-performance rail investment and growth strategy continues south of the border. One month after Ottawa was mute about rail’s role in a post-pandemic Canada, the U.S. Federal Transit Administration awarded the Michigan Department of Transportation funding for further improvements to its diesel-powered, 176-km/hour Pontiac-Detroit-Chicago Wolverine Corridor.

The upgrade for faster more frequent train service is now approaching completion.

Amtrak’s 15-year growth proposal unveiled early this year would expand its regional routes substantially, adding about 160 communities to its system. Gormick has suggested that high-performance rail can be applied to an Ontario region with very poor public transportation as well. Given an approaching federal election, expect government announcements of more rail projects to come, but they will still be missing the mark.

This article first appeared on Policy Options and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

Tony Turrittin is a retired York University sociology professor. His research centred on social inequality, social mobility and their links to education. For four decades he has actively participated in national, regional and local citizen groups advocating for public transportation.

Written by Stephen Rees

August 21, 2021 at 1:23 pm