Stephen Rees's blog

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

Archive for the ‘Transportation’ Category

Weekly Photo Challenge: I’d rather be …

with 4 comments

This week’s photo challenge is headed by a picture of a sculpture of a woman sitting on a bench in a park. I’d Rather Be… is the beginning of the challenge – insert word or words of the activity you enjoy most. Ummm, no, I am not going to do that.

It reminded me of this picture, which I took in 2013, while walking with my partner.


Today my partner is elsewhere, doing something very useful. But I would rather that we were together. Maybe even going for a walk somewhere like Stanley Park if the weather was nicer. Though I can’t claim that walking is my favourite activity.

Under the photo on flickr I wrote “I swear that this photo was not posed in any way. The young woman sitting next to the statue is unknown to me, and her mirroring of its pose was, I am sure, unintentional. A genuinely candid shot. ” And I also provided a link which did not actually work, so I had to update it.

The sculpture is by J Seward Johnson and is called “Search”.

Written by Stephen Rees

March 14, 2018 at 10:37 am

Posted in Transportation

Patullo Bridge Replacement

leave a comment »

Improving safety and creating jobs

Province of BC picture on flickr

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Screen Shot 2018-02-19 at 9.30.32 AM

Screen Shot 2018-02-19 at 9.31.30 AM

Screen Shot 2018-02-19 at 9.37.19 AM

Screen Shot 2018-02-19 at 9.38.09 AM

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

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

A picture recently added by the Ministry to their flickr photostream

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

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

Written by Stephen Rees

February 16, 2018 at 11:11 am

Speed Cameras

leave a comment »


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

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

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

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

For reference: Article on UK speed cameras

Written by Stephen Rees

February 15, 2018 at 2:35 pm

Posted in Transportation

Rezoning the Arbutus Development

with one comment

Arbutus Rezone

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

Arbutus Mall 4.6.17 panorama

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

Arbutus Mall redevelopment pan

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

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

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

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

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

Screen Shot 2018-02-17 at 2.59.43 PMScreen Shot 2018-02-17 at 2.59.58 PMScreen Shot 2018-02-17 at 3.00.17 PMScreen Shot 2018-02-17 at 3.00.31 PM

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

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

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

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

Screen Shot 2018-02-17 at 3.05.26 PM

The Arbutus Ridge Community Association is certainly not happy.

Written by Stephen Rees

February 13, 2018 at 8:24 pm

The Case for Ultra-high-speed Rail Across Cascadia

with 3 comments

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

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

Screen Shot 2018-02-10 at 12.29.54 PM

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

Screen Shot 2018-02-10 at 1.06.27 PM

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

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

TGV 4409

My photo on Flickr

Technology Differentiation Results

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

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

Intercity Travel Mode Share Results

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

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


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

Written by Stephen Rees

February 10, 2018 at 1:20 pm

The National Interest

with one comment

“It is the national interest to move forward with the Kinder Morgan pipeline, and we will be moving forward with the Kinder Morgan pipeline.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, today, in Nanaimo

The national interest requires that we adhere to our international commitments. The rest of the world (with the notable exception of the United States) is committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Canada signed on to the Paris agreement – which I thought meant that we shared that commitment.

“We don’t have a plan to meet Paris target, and reduction shortfall is about same as GHG growth from tar sands, which account for vast majority of national emissions growth”
Kathryn Harrison, Professor of Political Science UBC via Twitter (By the way, Jason MacLean of USaskLaw also chipped in to the Twitter conversation with this paper – but it is in draft and warns “do not cite or quote”)

To be clear, that idea that we can avoid a 2℃ increase in the global average temperature seems to be shrinking in the rear view mirror. If we were reducing emissions then perhaps that would not be the case but since we have now passed 400ppm it seems to me very unlikely. It is the “tipping point” that catches us. It really was a deadline, because once past that the permafrost starts melting and that releases more carbon than we have released since the industrial revolution. It is not clear if that can be stopped. We talk about this being a threat to human civilisation, but it is an existential threat to life itself as we know it. The planet will survive, and adapt. In aeons of time. But we won’t be around to see it and much of the life with which we share so much of our DNA will be gone. So will many low lying islands in the Pacific, and much of the current coastline. Because the methane from our fracking was ignored, our emissions weren’t getting better as we thought, but very much worse. And what has already been emitted is now the problem. And “carbon capture and storage” is mostly a pipedream. And the carbon contribution from oil sands extraction is not trivial even if we do not count burning the stuff we manage to export.

Digging up bitumen for export to Asia is an unlikely economic venture, since the market is currently awash in better, cheaper, easier to deal with oil. And other sources of energy have now proved to be cheaper than fossil fuels in many applications. But we are convinced, against all evidence to the contrary, that somehow expanding extraction of the oil sands is necessary for Canada’s well being. The current extraction is uneconomic. It would not be happening without billions in subsidies from us, the hard pressed citizens. Somehow, the profits of a few corporations are far more important than the well being of ordinary Canadians.

In the more immediate future, the local resident orcas will be gone. Even if we actually manage to stop the pipeline, the lack of salmon that they feed on is already an issue. I do recall when we were campaigning against freeway expansion that we lamented the lack of charismatic megafauna to feature in our arguments. (The Nooksack Dace didn’t quite fit the bill despite the “don’t diss de dace” plea.) Well, if the most intelligent mammals on the planet don’t fit that description, I don’t know what does. But apparently the survival of the resident orcas isn’t in the National Interest, even though tourism is one of the most economically significant issues of the Pacific coast – along with fishing – and the people who depend on the health of its ecosystem.

There will be a spill. There has already been one, but that was at the terminal, so that was actually cleaned up. Quite what happens when the spill is out in more open waters, in worse weather isn’t clear. The idea that somehow the diluent (condensate from natural gas) is going to hang around long enough so the rescuers can scoop up the bitumen seems far fetched to me. It wasn’t the case in the Kalamazoo River. And “world class spill response” that we have seen so far for other kinds of spills has been less than impressive.  Which is why the province is saying that we need to get that right before the spill happens, which seems only reasonable to me. Because, once again, once the bitumen hits the bottom of the sea it is almost impossible to recover and the long term impacts, while we cannot be precise, are not going to be good.

The pipeline crosses the traditional lands of several First Nations. Prime Minister Trudeau has made a large number of speeches about reconciliation. Apparently that too is a National Interest only for as long as it does not butt up against some generous contributor to party funds.

Justin Trudeau, Rachel Notley and John Horgan all share in the same ethos. They were elected because they represented change from former conservative governments. The conservatives were wrong about nearly everything. None of the outcomes they predicted for their policies have come about. Instead we have seen an increase in the wealth of very few at the expense of the many. Wealth did not trickle down from tax cuts. Wages remain stubbornly low – except for CEOs. Housing remains unaffordable for many. In too many places there are still totally unacceptable threats to clean air, clean water and edible food. We keep being told we cannot afford essential services like health, education and childcare. All three of these politicians, elected to bring about change, are stuck in the past, clinging to outdated ideas and technologies. The National Interest is that we join the leaders in clean energy and renewable resources. We can no longer simply cut down more trees or dig up more minerals when we need more money. We have a huge legacy from these outdated industries – asbestos, tailing ponds, poisoned land and water are problems in nearly every part of the country. Trains blow up in the middle of towns, cars continue to kill thousands every year, schools cannot withstand expected earthquakes – the list is long and daunting. Keeping jobs in the oil sands does not seem to be one of the best ways forward – especially in a week when one of the largest operators announces that it is laying people off and buying self driving trucks. Given these problems, clinging stubbornly to a failed philosophy seems to me to be indefensible.

It is really sad that the people who went to Nanaimo to bring these problems to the Prime Minister’s attention failed miserably – and are now charged with the worst imaginable Canadian sin. Being impolite.

For more about the National Interest and how NEB defends its decisions you should really read this oped by Elizabeth May  



Written by Stephen Rees

February 2, 2018 at 3:52 pm

What Vancouver Streets will look like

with 2 comments

A powerpoint presentation by Dale Bracewell (Manager of Transportation Planning, City of Vancouver) via Twitter

Three sample slides

Screen Shot 2018-02-01 at 2.22.01 PM

Screen Shot 2018-02-01 at 2.22.21 PM

Screen Shot 2018-02-01 at 2.22.43 PM

Download the complete presentation

Written by Stephen Rees

February 1, 2018 at 2:38 pm