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

Archive for the ‘Transportation’ Category

Film Review “Everybody Flies”

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Trailer

I have not flown for nearly a year. My last trip was to New Orleans, in January last year. Looking back my usual pattern seems to be about 3 or 4 air trips a year, though in 2019 there was also only one flight as we had resolved to see more of our own province. But I have been on flights when there were odd smells in the cabin. I have not personally experienced a fume event but there are many.

The air in nearly every modern jet plane comes from the engines “bleed air”. The only exception is the Boeing 787 Dreamliner which has a separate, electric powered compressor for cabin air. The air is also recirculated through a HEPA filter which removes things like germs. Unfortunately it is not fine enough to remove smaller particles and that is where the trouble starts. Every jet engine needs lubricant and every can of that lubricant carries a health warning. It contains Tricresyl Phosphate a mixture of three isomeric organophosphate compounds. The “fume events” occur when the bleed air gets contaminated by the leaking lubricant. It can also be contaminated by other fluids. The aircraft industry has known about the issue since the 1950s and has always downplayed it.

Pilots and other aircrew, flying all the time, are much more likely to experience a fume event than passengers – but there are now records of large numbers of events affecting both. Former BA pilot Tristan Lorraine had to give up flying due to ill health and retrained as a filmmaker. “Everybody Flies” is his examination of the increasing amount of evidence that the air in most aircraft is nothing like as safe as the aircraft makers and airlines would have you believe. What he presents in his documentary are the first hand experiences of crew and passengers and their subsequent health issues. There is also quite a lot of independent research now and academics saying things like “if you don’t know what the safe level of exposure is, then it should be zero”. Captain Lorraine is also spokesman for the leading global organisation dealing with the issue of contaminated aircraft cabin air: The Global Cabin Air Quality Executive (GCAQE).

The movie is gripping and the story has an eerie air of familiarity. The aviation industry is following the same playbook as the tobacco and asbestos industries used. Indeed one of the interviewees sounded like me. She had been trying to get her case into a courtroom. After 15 years she had to give up and declare bankruptcy. “They have far more money than I had” so they could spend more on delaying the process. Exactly the same message that lawyers gave me, more than once, when I felt I had a good case and a strong sense of injustice. The lawyers tended to agree that I had a strong case but “they have more money than you do.” Indeed one case was settled against me simply because that was cheaper than fighting it. There are also regulators. Usually government appointed bodies tasked with protecting the public and employees, but who have become entirely captive to the industry they are supposed to regulate. The National Energy Board protects the oil and gas industry and advances its interests, not those of society in general and certainly not the natural environment.

But the aviation industry also has to guard jealously its reputation for promoting safety. That has taken a big hit thanks to Boeing’s handling of the 737 MAX mess. Just as the automobile industry suffered from the VW cheating emissions systems – and the more recent Toyota scandal. Currently they are doing that by pretending that there is not a problem. This position is becoming untenable but has lasted 50+ years so far.

Everybody Flies” is “under consideration” for an Oscar and BAFTA. It already had a standing ovation at the Sundance Festival. Its release to theatres is delayed by COVID. I hope that it shows up on streaming services too. I feel very privileged to have been offered a review link – which, of course, I cannot share. But I do hope that you will get to see it soon. I also hope that you will click on the links I have provided for I am sure that there will be much more bafflegab and distraction before the industry as a whole moves towards acknowledging the problem and installing better air filters. Making a start on that now, while so many commercial aircraft are grounded makes a great deal of sense, but then that is never going to be the industry’s first concern.

Written by Stephen Rees

January 16, 2021 at 12:05 pm

Recent transport news items

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Mass Transit discusses the recent ransomware attacks on TransLink and STM (Montreal). They were preceded by a number of similar attacks on U.S. transit properties. TransLink is still rebuilding some of its online service affected by the ransomware attack.

Trains magazine commented on VIA’s 2020-2024 plan. VIA states the current iteration of The Canadian is unsustainable and lays the blame on “host railroad actions”. A return of tri-weekly service is not possible because VIA does not have enough equipment to support the 5 required consists.

The full VIA report (PDF) makes for depressing reading, particularly for western Canadians.  

The report links to the federal Transport Minister’s Mandate Letter in which VIA rates two mentions – one to work on high speed rail in the Toronto-Quebec City corridor (Windsor-Detroit no longer matters?) and the other to improve VIA travel to National Parks. There is not much here for the west, although the National Parks connection might be used to justify extending The Skeena back to Edmonton, over CN’s objections, of course..  

BC Transit and the Fraser Valley RD proposal (PDF of the Agenda go to page 103) to extend the Fraser Valley Express bus service (Chilliwack-Abbotsford-Langley) from Carvolth Exchange to Lougheed Town Centre SkyTrain station was put on hold due toCOVID. BC Transit has asked the FVRD to recommit to this proposal with a planned implementation in January 2022.


A synopsis from the Toronto Star of  what can happen (i.e. not much) to rapid transit plans when conflicting political and bureaucratic agendas overwhelm the  process.

Thanks to Rick Jelfs

Written by Stephen Rees

December 19, 2020 at 10:38 am

FACT CHECK “BC Transit retiring Victoria’s original double decker buses, were 1st in North America”

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BC Transit Dennis Trident Victoria BC 2007_0909
One of the buses to be retired: my picture

The Headline is taken from a CTV Vancouver Island news story which is just wrong.

The first paragraph tries to nuance the headline a bit but doesn’t get it right either. The twenty year old retiring buses were “reportedly the first double decker buses to ever be used in a North American public transit system.”

Actually there were double deckers running on 5th Avenue in New York City in 1912 – as a Google search will confirm.

Postcard of a double decker bus on 5th Avenue
A post card scan from flickr

Paul Bateson reminds me that Brampton Transit in Ontario had a double decker Leyland Olympian that entered service in March 1989.

Victoria, of course, has had double decker sightseeing buses – most retired from the UK – for many years

former NYC Atlantean Gray Line 406 Victoria BC 2007_0909
Sightseeing bus in Victoria formerly used in NYC: my image

Written by Stephen Rees

December 2, 2020 at 7:54 am

Posted in transit, Transportation

Driving on the Greenway

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Kia Sorrento HR0 70K

This photo was taken on Sunday November 29, 2020 at 11:52am

The location of the Christmas tree sales moved across the street to the north east corner of Arbutus and 8th Ave – where there is no parking. So people buying trees are now driving on the Greenway and parking on the grass.

The Van Connect app doesn’t have a way to report this issue.

ICBC responded “As this is a law enforcement matter, you’re best to consult with local police.”

Written by Stephen Rees

November 29, 2020 at 1:53 pm

Posted in cars, Transportation

Internet Images of Old Trains

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“You can now head over to a new collection at Flickr and search through an archive of 2.6 million public domain images, all extracted from books, magazines and newspapers published over a 500 year period. Eventually this archive will grow to 14.6 million images.”
source: Open Culture

So, of course, the first thing I did on reading that was search for train pictures, and hit gold with the first try.



Image from page 188 of “Electric trains” (1910)

Westinghouse Motor-Coach Complete.{Heysham Branch of the Midland Railway.}

View of Train consisting of Siemens Motor-Coach and Two Trailers.

Liverpool Overhead Railway 1884
LNWR coaches with District Railway Electric Locomotives 1884
 Ramsay Condensing Turbine Electric Locomotive 1910

Basically the point of this exercise is to remind me to go look here next time I need an image.



Written by Stephen Rees

October 16, 2020 at 4:19 pm

Research finds pervasive lobbying against climate change regulation by Canada’s oil & gas industry

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SHARE’s analysis shows fossil fuel companies across the sector participated in lobbying activities out of alignment with Paris Agreement climate goals.

September 16, 2020 –  The latest research from SHARE finds Canadian oil and gas companies are continuing to lobby for weaker climate regulations in the interest of short-term profits, while providing inadequate disclosure to investors.

The report Climate Lobbying in the Canadian Energy Sector: Investor Benchmark of Oversight and Disclosure analyzed 22 companies listed in the S&P/TSX Capped Energy Index (TTEN) on their climate lobbying disclosure and found that all have participated in lobbying activities, while none have disclosed their overall spending.

Because investors cannot protect their portfolios from the systemic nature of the climate crisis, they must rely on effective climate policy and regulation to mitigate those risks across the economy,” said SHARE CEO Kevin Thomas.

Even after the Canadian government adopted the Paris Agreement in 2015, parts of the Canadian oil & gas industry have actively lobbied policymakers to block, delay and weaken federal and provincial attempts to transition towards a low-carbon economy. 

“A failure to reach the Paris Agreement’s climate goals will result in massive costs that will ultimately be borne by investors and society as a whole,” said Sarah Couturier-Tanoh, Senior Shareholder Engagement and Policy Analyst at SHARE. “The millions of dollars spent on lobbying have delayed or undermined climate regulation, even though many oil and gas firms have publicly stated their commitment to tackling climate issues.”

The report identifies opportunities for investors to improve their due diligence of corporate lobbying and to engage with investee companies. It also provides companies with a reporting framework and points to better industry practice in Canada to help them improve their climate lobbying disclosure over time.

Read the full report here: https://share.ca/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/SHARE_climate_lobbying_3-1.pdf

About SHARE (Shareholder Association for Research & Education)

SHARE mobilizes investor leadership for a sustainable, inclusive and productive economy. We do this by mobilizing our investor network and amplifying their voices in support of improved corporate sustainability practices and better rules and regulations that govern capital markets.

For more information on SHARE, visit: www.share.ca

The above is copied from a Press Release of unusually appropriate content. I am not sure I agree about being unable to protect your portfolio. Divestment from fossil fuel corporations seems a good place to start. Then looking for promising opportunities in renewables will probably enhance investment performance. Big fossil is not doing very well right now so it is both an ethical and profitable approach to dump your holdings in those 22 companies and get something better oriented to the future.

Written by Stephen Rees

September 17, 2020 at 11:06 am

Posted in Transportation

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The Social Dilemma

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You are using social media. WordPress is not mentioned in this movie. Facebook is. So are Twitter, Instagram, Google, …

The movie is a Netflix original.

I just posted this on Twitter

“I have just watched “The Social Dilemma” served to me by Netflix. (Netflix thinks I am someone else, btw.) I think you should watch it too. Because it deals with why social media – like Twitter – is a Real Problem. An existential problem.”

This is getting very post-modern very fast. But at one point during the movie I began to understand why it was so important for me to get off Facebook and Instagram.

I have the impression that I am probably controlling my social media consumption since I seldom accept what is offered to me. Except that I just wanted to watch something different and the last time we watched Netflix is came up with an interesting suggestion. The movie suggests you never accept another recommendation from YouTube.

I do not use Twitter through its webpage or its app, I use Tweetdeck. That changes how tweets get ranked. I just see a time series. No algorithm is deciding which tweets get priority. So it feels a lot more controllable.

I think that I understand what truth is and I have a pretty reliable bs meter. But using Facebook, bad actors has so managed to convince significant numbers of users of manifest falsehoods.

My suggestion is that if you have a Netflix account you watch the movie, because I would like to see the comments thread below start to fill with suggestions about what we can do to make sure the bad guys don’t win.

And since I have stopped worrying about Views on Flickr, I am also going to abandon any concerns I might have had about Favs.

I am now going to get my dopamine fix from a better source.

Written by Stephen Rees

September 14, 2020 at 9:28 pm

Posted in Transportation

Discounted Doctorow

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I was surprised and charmed to get an email from Cory Doctorow this morning. He had my email address since I wrote to him back in 2013 about an error I found in an ebook of his.

I am also authorised by his email to share its content with you. 



Tell your friends!  Social media is actually good for something,
every once in a while!

 

So I am going to share with you the opportunity to buy his latest audiobook for less than it will cost when it is published on October 13. 

Now I am going to overshare with you material that is about me – and you really want to read about this opportunity – but you can always scroll down now and come back later if you want. I don’t like audiobooks. I don’t listen to them. Or podcasts come to that. I don’t like my attention being monopolized any more. Which is odd because back in the day I was often entranced by radio – especially stories and drama. In fact for while I liked radio better than tv. When I first encountered “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”, that was on radio. Now I like reading and  prefer old fashioned dead tree books, but put up with ebooks because sometimes they are free and occasionally more convenient than a real book. For instance in the old days when travelling. I haven’t been anywhere at all since January and don’t plan to go anywhere anytime soon. So when I got this offer I wasn’t sure that I was going to take this offer up.  

What Cory Doctorow has done is to start crowdfunding. And when I went to his page I found that there was a great more on offer than just one new audiobook

you can pre-order the ebook – and also buy the previous
ebooks and audiobooks (read by Wil Wheaton and Kirby Heyborne) – all DRM free, all free of license “agreements.”

The deal is: “You bought it, you own it, don’t violate copyright law and
we’re good.”

So to backtrack just a little, here is the deal that Cory offered which I am passing along:



Attack Surface – AKA Little Brother 3- is coming out in
5 weeks. I retained audio rights and produced an AMAZING edition that
Audible refuses to carry. You can pre-order the audiobook, ebook (and
previous volumes), DRM- and EULA-free.



https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/doctorow/attack-surface-audiobook-for-the-third-little-brother-book

That’s the summary, but the details matter. First: the book itself.
ATTACK SURFACE is a standalone Little Brother book about Masha, the
young woman from the start and end of the other two books; unlike
Marcus, who fights surveillance tech, Masha builds it.

Attack Surface is the story of how Masha has a long-overdue moral
reckoning with the way that her work has hurt people, something she
finally grapples with when she comes home to San Francisco.

Masha learns her childhood best friend is leading a BLM-style uprising –
and she’s being targeted by the same cyberweapons that Masha built to
hunt Iraqi insurgents and post-Soviet democracy movements.

I wrote Little Brother in 2006, it came out in 2008, and people tell me
it’s “prescient” because the digital human rights issues it grapples
with – high-tech authoritarianism and high-tech resistance – are so
present in our current world. But it’s not so much prescient as
OBSERVANT. I wrote Little Brother during the Bush administration’s
vicious, relentless, tech-driven war on human rights. Little Brother was
a bet that these would not get better on their own.

And it was a bet that tales of seizing the means of computation would
inspire people to take up digital arms of their own. It worked. Hundreds
of cryptographers, security experts, cyberlawyers, etc have told me that
Little Brother started them on their paths.

ATTACK SURFACE – a technothriller about racial injustice, police
brutality, high-tech turnkey totalitarianism, mass protests and mass
surveillance – was written between May 2016 and Nov 2018, before the
current uprisings and the tech worker walkouts.

But just as with Little Brother, the seeds of the current situation were
all around us in 2016, and if Little Brother inspired a cohort of
digital activists, I hope Attack Surface will give a much-needed push to
a group of techies (currently) on the wrong side of history.

As I learned from Little Brother, there is something powerful about
technologically rigorous thrillers about struggles for justice – stories
that marry excitement, praxis and ethics. Of all my career achievements,
the people I’ve reached this way matter the most.

 

 

So I am having so much fun trying to get this blog post to format properly thanks to WordPress imposing its new block system – where the old “classic” method is just another block.

What I can tell you is there is something mesmerising about watching this crowdfunder takeoff in front of your eyes. Click that kickstarter link to see how far he has got. Last time I looked it was four times the goal already with another 29 days to go.

And I started typing this before I had decided which of the offers I was going to choose. Ebooks of course. But just this one or all three? Hmmm.

I can tell you that a Doctorow book is all engrossing, hard to put down and gets under your skin. I also follow @doctorow on twitter – and there is also Boing Boing and Craphound – where you can also find all of this content too. And there is also pluralistic.net

Good luck Mr Doctorow – you deserve it!

Written by Stephen Rees

September 8, 2020 at 3:06 pm

Posted in Transportation

Stanley Park Survey

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I have copied below an email I received today. It is a reply to one I sent a while back as part of a campaign to retain a bike lane by reducing car capacity on a Stanley Park roadway.

Hi Stephen,

Thanks for your earlier feedback. I will do all that I can to try to make the separated bike lane in Stanley Park permanent.

Can you take the survey about the issue at:

https://shapeyourcity.ca/stanley-park?tool=survey_tool#tool_tab

Also, if you are able to ask any friends or family who are supportive to take the survey, then that would be great.

Take care

John Irwin Vancouver Park Board Commissioner

I have not been in Stanley Park at all this year, so I do not qualify for this survey, but maybe you do. If so please take a moment to let them know your thoughts.

 

Written by Stephen Rees

September 6, 2020 at 4:28 pm

Posted in Transportation

Uber Cannot Deliver

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This has been one of my continuing personal campaigns – to try and persuade the gullible that Uber is not now, nor ever has been, viable.

If you are on Twitter you ought to be following Cory Doctorow ( @doctorow) for a vast number of reasons but not least for information like this

“The only reason it [Uber] exists is that the Saudi royals decreed that they would diversify their income, and gave Softbank an unlimited investment budget. Softbank backs companies that it thinks can monopolize a sector, allows them to lose money for years – decades! Softbank assigns its companies absurd, unsupportable valuations, in the hopes of scaring off competitors. If the monopoly rents never materialize, Softbank flogs the company to rubes who were wowed by those sky-high valuations. That’s the Uber story.”

I did not know that. The reason I left the BC Green Party was that then Leader Andrew Weaver’s very personal commitment to getting Uber service in Vancouver. He had been inconvenienced at YVR one evening waiting for a taxi. So he used his leverage to get the market in BC broken open after years of successful opposition to an idea even dafter than Site C – which Weaver also implicitly supported by propping up the NDP.

So Cory recommends you to follow Hubert Horan. “40 years of experience in the management and regulation of transportation companies (primarily airlines). Horan has no financial links with any urban car service industry competitors, investors or regulators, or any firms that work on behalf of industry participants.”

Here is but a short excerpt of what Horan has to say at the link given above:

“Nothing has happened to change the fact that after ten years, riders have always been fundamentally unwilling to pay prices that would cover Uber’s actual costs, that Uber was always less efficient than the traditional taxis it drove out of business, that its only “efficiency improvement” was to push driver compensation to minimum wage levels, and that its growth depended entirely on unsustainable predatory subsidies.

But if anyone still thought that Uber could somehow magically reverse its multi-billion dollar losses, the coronavirus should have put their fantasies totally to rest. The coronavirus has crushed the major drivers of urban car services demand, including business travel and discretionary urban entertainment (clubs, restaurants, etc.). Their customers remain highly concerned about the health risks of all forms of public transportation.”

If you are at all concerned about the future of transportation in our region – or any other – you really need to go read the rest of that. And add to that Uber Eats is now wrecking the business of restaurants that managed to get through the Covid19 shut down.

Written by Stephen Rees

August 10, 2020 at 7:29 pm

Posted in Transportation

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