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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

We missed two-thirds of the COVID19 deaths

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“The pandemic has exposed many uncomfortable truths about Canadian society, among them, the limits of our healthcare system, tragic flaws in long-term care, our systemic racism, and our inability to protect the most at risk when an infectious threat arrives in our midst. As our multi-faceted study finds, it appears that we failed to notice two-thirds of all those who died of COVID-19 outside of the long-term care sector, most likely in financially precarious, racialized communities. It’s critical that we now work urgently to protect those most at risk with intensive, frequent, and accessible testing, public health outreach and information, and ensuring these communities are among the highest priority recipients for both doses of COVID-19 vaccines. Too many lives are at stake to delay action, as our report raises the possibility that at this moment there may be twice as many people dying than we know.”

Excess All-Cause Mortality During the COVID-19 Epidemic in Canada

How is it possible to miss so many deaths? There are of course multiple reasons, but the one that stands out is a failure to recognize that deaths for other reasons than COVID declined during the pandemic. For instance, when a lot of travel is avoided there is less traffic and thus fewer collisions. There is also the difficulty of recognising symptoms correctly, especially when you not do anything like the number of tests that other countries did/do. But the one that stands out for me is “the country’s slow system for reporting causes of death, [which] left Canada without a crucial warning system to alert officials to the worrisome number of deaths happening outside of long-term care.”

It turns out that other countries are much better at tracking causes of death. They also suffer from the current constant attacks on government bureaucracy as unnecessary, expensive and meddlesome when in fact regulations and their enforcement came into being because the lack of them, which caused issues, like death. As long as the politicians in charge of the system insist that the only policies that they will adopt reduce the size of government and its “burden” on the people then we will be plagued. The recent building collapse in Florida, which so far appears to have killed ten people, has yet to be allocated a determined cause. But at the same time as that investigation is going on you can bet that developers are bleating about the delays of their profits due to the need for inspections and permits on construction and renovation.

A similar problem is evident right now. People are dying due to the heat wave. Some police forces were a bit quicker off the mark of reporting these deaths than others. ‘The province’s chief coroner says there have been 233 sudden deaths during the “heat dome.”’

But that isn’t the real problem. The real problem is that we have known for a certainty that this was going to happen. Anthropogenic climate change due to trapped gases such as carbon dioxide, nitrous oxides and methane in the atmosphere due to burning fossil fuels has been an established scientific fact for a long time. Not that you would have noticed that at the time thanks to the oil, gas and coal industries and their tame politicians and mass media companies.

In exactly the same way Public Health and Statistics Canada – and lots of other agencies – have been under constant pressure to cut costs and reduce the “burden of taxation”. The people making the most noise being those who long decided that they weren’t going to pay any tax at all.

So end of my rant. Return to the report in question – which you can download for free as a full report or summary.

“Established by the President of the Royal Society of Canada in April 2020, the RSC Task Force on COVID-19 was mandated to provide evidence-informed perspectives on major societal challenges in response to and recovery from COVID-19. 

“The Task Force established a series of Working Groups to rapidly develop Policy Briefings, with the objective of supporting policy makers with evidence to inform their decisions.

“It is widely assumed that 80 per cent of Canada’s deaths due to COVID-19 occurred among older adult residents of long-term care homes, a proportion double the 40-per-cent average of peer countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). But an indepth analysis of all deaths that have so far been reported across Canada during the pandemic casts doubt on this estimate. It reveals evidence that at least two thirds of the deaths caused by COVID-19 in communities outside of the long-term care sector may have been missed.”

Authors of the Report

Tara J. Moriarty (Chair), Faculties of Dentistry and Medicine Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology, University of Toronto

Anna E. Boczula, Faculties of Dentistry and Medicine Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology, University of Toronto

Eemaan Kaur Thind, Independent public health professional

Janet E. McElhaney, Northern Ontario School of Medicine, Health Sciences North Research Institute

Nora Loreto, Independent journalist

Written by Stephen Rees

June 29, 2021 at 1:45 pm

Posted in Transportation

Trip Planning

with 6 comments

I have to go get my second vaccine shot today at the Vancouver Convention Centre at Canada Place. So I used Translink’s trip planner to examine the alternatives.

So it would appear that the quickest way to get a bus to the Canada Line. But the comparison is flawed. When you look at the diagram the walking route from our buidling’s front door to the nearest #16 bus stop is remarkably indirect on this map. That is because a footpath, shown on this map as a very thin green line, is missing. The reality looks more like this.

I estimate that the direct walk out to Arbutus at Nanton NB bus stop is at least 3 minutes less than the trip planner shows. And actually the only really awkward thing is that I have to get across Arbutus at a push button activated crosswalk. It is remarkable how often I am still waiting for that to show the white walking figure as the bus I want to get on blasts by.

Actually that happened again today. As I got to the crosswalk the bus was in the intersection. Fortunately traffic was light so I ran for the bus and the operator waited for me. I was downtown in 30 minutes.

Written by Stephen Rees

June 18, 2021 at 12:06 pm

Posted in Transportation

Tagged with ,

More about flickr

with one comment

This is not about flickr as an organisation, it is about my experience of it. I saw the tweet I have copied above this and it moved me to write a blog post. I can’t do this in a tweet. I may not even be able to do it in a blog post.

What I really need to be able to do is to reach out to someone. Someone I do not know in real life. But he comes from the same part of the world I do and shares at least some of the same enthusiasms. But on flickr he has decided to block me. When that happens flickr doesn’t tell you right away. You get “Contact Notifications” when someone follows you, but not when they block you. You find that out when you try to comment on their post. Or when you want to add one of their images to your gallery.

I blocked someone because they accused me of being creepy, and frankly I don’t see anything to be gained by arguing with someone who does that. I wasn’t expecting the subsequent “revenge”. But then no-one expects the Spanish Inquisition.

So why did I get blocked by someone else? Interesting that, so I have to explain a bit. I wasn’t fighting with him. I just thought the word he used to describe a municipal transportation service to be inappropriate. East Ham Trams were not a company.

Now the person I am talking about actually encourages this kind of communication. Under every picture he posts to flickr it says “If there are any errors in the above description please let me know. Thanks”

So yes, calling the Tramways Department of the County Borough Council of East Ham a “company” is an error.

So I let him know. And he blocked me!

I happen to be the Administrator of the flickr Transportation group. There are other groups on flickr where I have seen the clear message “Block the Administrator and you will be removed from the Group”. Mine don’t say that. As long as the pictures meet the definition of Transportation then I have no concerns. But, for goodness sake, say you want to know about errors and then block the people who tell you …

One other thing. Not especially relevant or important. But he didn’t take the pictures. He has been buying old photographs and then – because they are in black and white, almost inevitably – he colorises them. And does a pretty credible job. And then puts his copyright on the colorised version.

“(if you want to use it, at least credit me and link to this description!) “

So would you like to see one of his pictures now?

No?

Didn’t think so.

Written by Stephen Rees

June 8, 2021 at 7:00 pm

Posted in Transportation

Who decides what is “creepy”

with 4 comments

Someone recently added this label to a picture of mine on Flickr. I did not like that comment so I deleted it. It was quickly replaced so I blocked that user.

Today I got this message by email

Hi Stephen Rees, Your account was brought to our attention and upon review, we determined that your voyeur content is in violation of the Guidelines and Terms of Service. You can also read the following help forum discussion about voyeur content on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/help/forum/en-us/95223/ Specifically this comment from staff: https://www.flickr.com/help/forum/en-us/95223/#reply625343 Please delete all content in violation immediately. You have 3 days to remove the content or your account may be terminated without further warning. Note: Since these images are not allowed on Flickr marking them as private is not enough, they need to be deleted. Regards, Flickr Staff

No reply to this message is permitted. No further discussion of the subject in the forum is permitted either.

I have to assume that if I delete every picture taken at a public place of a woman or women wearing a bikini that I may be allowed to continue to have an account on Flickr. Flickr staff do not provide any information as to which pictures they decide are “creepy”. There are currently over two million pictures on Flickr which are found by using the search term “bikini”.

Apparently from looking at the comments thread 95223 cited about what is problematic is that the pictures are said to be taken “secretly”. Well I use a pretty large point and shoot camera

Purple-Bikini-original
This isn’t my image so I could not delete that but apparently this isn’t creepy.
bikini beach hot girls
This isn’t my picture either but it might be creepy since they didn’t know Eduardo was taking it
Canon SX730HS triptych

This is my current camera. I like it because I can literally slip it in my pocket. But as you can see “secret” isn’t really an option. And I do like “street photography” or as it is sometimes called “candid”. This is one of my favorites

Accidental candid portrait

The subject was unaware, as were these people

https://www.flickr.com/photos/stephen_rees/5721082544/

No I don’t know why that shows up as a clickable link and not a picture – but when looking for that I found this

Lydia?

Now she is well aware that I took her picture – but am I also cleared of the accusation of posting “voyeur content”?

I did not delete this one either

If you're going to San Francisco ...

There’s not a lot of skin on show – but there are some people who have a thing about wetsuits. Rubber fetishists who slaver over swimming hats. No, really. And then there is this comment on the thread that is picked up approvingly by the member of Flackr’s staff who then closes discussion

posting them to Flickr for the purposes of sexual gratification

Exactly how is that determined? Especially when there are swathes of images which are overtly sexual but are hidden through various devices but are allowed to remain, however for “voyeur content” the standard shifts “these images are not allowed on Flickr marking them as private is not enough”

No I don’t understand, but then flickr also got excited about

https://www.flickr.com/photos/stephen_rees/51039299698/

But backed down when I told them it was in the sculpture garden of the New Orleans Museum of Art and was publicly available for free – including groups of schoolchildren.

Since Flickr did not provide any list of what they thought was objectionable I made a link between what someone else had labelled “creepy” and what prompted their message. “Your account was brought to our attention” again, no mention of who did that but dollars to donuts it’s the ill mannered lout I blocked.

Venus Victorius

When Renoir made this sculpture – from the same collection referred to above – can we be absolutely assured that he got no sexual gratification from it? Or was the fact that he probably paid his models enough to escape censure by Flickr’s anonymous staff? No one could accuse him of secrecy. But then I have always felt that photography was not a crime, and that if you were in a public place you have no reasonable expectation of privacy. If I can see something, I can take a photograph of it. That does not mean I am a voyeur, nor that I am seeking to satisfy the sexual tastes of voyeurs. But then when Ira Levin produced his novel “Sliver” it was promoted with the tag line “You like to watch, don’t you?” Which is another way of saying that all humans share the same pleasure from people watching.

Is it at all reasonable to demand that no one must ever take pictures where there are people sunbathing? Or rather they can take them but they mustn’t post them to flickr even if they are marked private.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/stephen_rees/13905505416/

I didn’t delete this one. Was I supposed to? If it only included the figure at the right end of the row, would that be sexually gratifying anyone?

This is a cut and paste from Flickr’s “Community Guidelines”

  • Don’t be creepy.You know the guy. Don’t be that guy. If you are that guy, your account will be deleted.

If you think that is an adequate explanation please leave me an explanation in the comments below.

I do not want to lose my flickr account. I am doing my best to comply, but frankly the way that the policy is worded is worthy of Humpty Dumpty. “When I use a word it means what I want it to mean, no more or no less.”

Please, do not go to flickr and enter the search term “naked” or “sildenafil” – and of course before you do that you will need to turn off “safe search”

UPDATE June 11, 2021

I have now created a 20 page softcover book. When I deleted what I thought were offending pictures, I did not keep track of them and my memory is not what it was once. But I think I probably got them. I still have a flickr account so it seems I must have guessed right. None of the offending pictures are in this post.

If you would like a copy of the book please write to me at rees dot stephen (a) gmail dot com

I only ordered one copy for myself as a proof and, of course, found a typo as soon as opened it. The price varies quite a bit based on the numbers ordered. It can also be made available as a pdf file or a proper ebook. Both would be considerably cheaper than an actual paper book. If you express an interest I will be able to quote a price based on volume – and then I would have to add something for post and packing.



 

Written by Stephen Rees

June 3, 2021 at 3:51 pm

Posted in Transportation

Civil society reacts to Trudeau’s new Climate Target

with one comment

The following content was provided by the Climate Action Network. Some of these quotes from activists may get into the mainstream coverage, but I am willing to bet that most of it will be “balanced” to meet the preferences of corporations.

_______________

This morning during the opening plenary of President Biden’s Leaders Summit on Climate, Prime Minister Trudeau announced Canada’s new 40 – 45% climate target range. This target marks an increase in ambition, up from the nation’s previously stated target window of 31 – 40% as announced in December 2020’s Healthy Environment Healthy Economy Plan. 

This announcement confirms Canada’s intended level of commitment, which fell under swift scrutiny earlier this week when a number (36%), released as part of the federal budget, was widely mistaken for a new greenhouse gas reduction target. 

Canada’s target announcement this morning was made alongside that of several other nations in attendance at the Leader’s Summit on Climate, and comes on the heels of ambitious targets announced just days ago by other Paris signatory nations including the UK, who has brought forward a new 78% by 2035 target, and the Biden administration’ commitment to reducing emissions by half by the end of the decade. 

“It’s good to see Canada driving up ambition and it’s not enough. The new target is not aligned with 1.5C – that would require a 60% emissions reduction goal. We hope to see Canada continue to ramp up ambition, both in future years and as NDC consultations occur in coming months on the road to Glasgow. Canada not only needs to improve its climate targets, but also pass strong legislation to meet those targets. Canada’s proposed Net-Zero Accountability Act, currently stalled in the House, must be strengthened as it contains more of a duty to report than a duty to achieve. As Prime Minister Trudeau noted, Canada is an energy exporting nation and that is one of the country’s main barriers to climate ambition. Canada’s new NDC should address emissions from oil and gas production, ban fossil fuel subsidies, and enshrine Just Transition legislation.” Catherine Abreu, Executive Director, Climate Action Network Canada 

“If Trudeau’s government is serious about fighting climate change, his administration needs to stand up to big oil, starting with the cancelation of the Trans Mountain Pipeline, phasing out fossil fuel subsidies, and bringing in strong regulations to limit climate pollution,”  Sven Biggs, Canadian Oil and Gas Program Director

“Canada was once a climate leader. We can be again, but only if this government has the courage to acknowledge that we cannot reach our climate commitments so long as we rely on fossil fuels for jobs and our energy needs. Any successful climate plan must include massive investment in supporting oil and gas workers to transition to a clean energy economy,”  Sonia Theroux, Executive Director, Leadnow

“The problem with Justin Trudeau’s new climate pledge can be summed up in two words – fossil fuels. Neither Trudeau’s new climate plan, nor his budget, nor this new climate promise include a plan to tackle soaring emissions from tar sands, fracking and other fossil fuel expansion that makes Canada the only G7 country whose emissions have gone up since signing the Paris Agreement. Canada needs to cut our emissions at least 60% by 2030 and pass legislation like a Just Transition Act to make sure we meet our Paris commitment and leave no one behind,” Amara Possian, Canada Campaigns Director, 350.org

“The ambition has certainly been raised, but it doesn’t match the climate emergency. To make a difference and positions itself as a leader, Canada needs to set targets of at least 60% by 2030 and help other countries decarbonize. The longer we wait to put in place the policies and regulations that will take us to carbon neutrality by 2050, the steeper the slope towards that goal will be,” Émile Boisseau-Bouvier, climate policy analyst at Équiterre

“Trudeau’s proposed target is less ambitious than what climate science requires, with no commitment to phasing out fossil fuels at home or abroad. Canada is a rich country yet its target is less than Canada’s fair share of the global effort and less than what the U.S. is proposing. We should be proposing at least a 60% reduction in emissions by 2030 from 2005 levels, alongside a plan for a just transition for workers as we phase out fossil fuels. We must start with eliminating  fossil fuel subsidies immediately. After more than five years in office, the Trudeau government is still incapable of proposing a target as ambitious as that of Joe Biden who took office just three months ago. Despite recent positive commitments on climate, Canada remains under the influence of the oil and gas industry, which prioritizes private profits over the wellbeing of communities and the environment. The costs of inaction will be greater than the cost of acting quickly and decisively.” Keith Stewart, Senior Energy Strategist, Greenpeace Canada

“This is not a climate emergency target.  Canada is one of the very worst emitters and needs to do more. This target will not halt the 2 degrees of warming that puts the future of the Earth in danger. A global fair share target is 60% – and it is doable.  Anything less is just not acceptable – it is a recipe for ecocide. Canada’s target as announced fails future generations and must change; as must the Climate Plan. We must  tackle the need to phase out fossil fuels 100% and transition to a renewable energy future.”  Lyn Adamson, Co-Chair, ClimateFast

“Canada could be a climate leader, but climate leaders do not deal in empty promises or half-measures. Climate leaders do not build pipelines through stolen land or sign off on enormous fossil fuel subsidies with the same pen they use to legislate net-zero by 2050 targets. Canada is the only G7 country whose emissions have increased since the Paris Agreement. But this is not only a crisis of emissions, it is a crisis of equality. Canada’s inaction on climate is a betrayal of the people and areas most affected by this crisis. Anything less than a commitment to reduce our own emissions by 60% by 2030 is an insult to those we continue to hurt with our inaction. It is time for Canada to get serious on climate, to wind down the oil and gas industry and support workers through the transition rather than continue delaying the inevitable.” Alyssa Scanga, Youth Organizer, Climate Strike Canada 

“Canada is a wealthy nation that has been among the top 10 emitters of greenhouse gases for decades. We helped create the climate crisis that threatens the future of our children. We must make a deeper commitment to fight climate change and we must have a realistic plan for keeping that commitment. We must stop investing in the oil and gas sector. We must invest deeply in energy efficiency and renewable energies; in walkable, bike-able and transit-supportive communities. These investments will reduce air pollution and improve health, while creating new jobs and fuel savings.” Kim Perrotta, Executive Director, Canadian Health Association for Sustainability and Equity (CHASE)  

“Canada has increased its ambition on climate change, but reductions of 60 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030 are needed to limit climate-related risks and impacts that are disproportionately affecting women and marginalized communities. We call on Prime Minister Trudeau to ensure environmental justice and gender justice are central to Canada’s climate actions. In addition to domestic actions, this will require Canada to commit at least $1.8 billion a year of public investments in climate finance in order to support women and other vulnerable people in developing countries to respond and adapt to climate change.”  Anya Knechtel, Policy Specialist, Oxfam Canada

“New Brunswick risks undermining the province’s capacity to protect its citizens and compete in a decarbonized global economy if it fails to develop its own electrification and decarbonisation plan to reach near zero by 2050 and 60 per cent by 2030, a level that would see the province’s emissions fall to 5 million tonnes in 10 years. While the province’s emissions currently are in line with the new proposed federal target of 40 to 45% below 2005 by 2030, other federal requirements apply regardless of where our province’s emissions are, including the need to phase out coal from electricity generation by 2030, meet the requirements of a clean fuel standard, and a rising carbon price reaching $170/tonne by 2030.

New Brunswick has a hard work to do, just like all provinces, and every country in the world to ensure we get on a path that avoids 1.5 degrees warming. We can’t negotiate with the atmosphere. The global carbon budget is small and rapidly declining. The province needs to comply based on the laws of physics, not politics,” Louise Comeau, Director of Climate Change and Energy, Conservation Council of New Brunswick

“Prime Minister Trudeau’s announcement today that Canada will reduce emissions by 40 to 45 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030 represents a big step forward. Still, we absolutely must go further. Under the banner of For the Love of Creation, people of faith, national churches, and faith-based organizations have been active in the call for Canada to reduce national greenhouse gas emissions by 60 percent below 2005 levels by 2030, and invest in a just transition to a fair, inclusive, green economy that creates good secure jobs, and promotes the well-being of everyone in Canada. Canadian climate ambition continues to be undermined by federal support to the oil and gas sector and a failure to embrace transformational change to ensure the liveability of the planet and the flourishing of all creation.” Karri Munn-Venn, Senior Policy Analyst, Citizens for Public Justice

“Today’s announcement of Canada’s new climate target does not deserve much celebration. While an improvement over from its previous, even more inadequate, pledge, this target does not represent what Canada could and should do to reduce emissions at a pace necessary to prevent a climate catastrophe and human rights disaster. It also places an excessive burden on developing countries. With such a weak target, Canada is effectively saying that poorer countries, who are less responsible for climate change, must also halve their emissions by 2030. It’s time the Government of Canada started treating climate change like the global emergency it is by acting in a manner proportional to the scale of the crisis and in line with its full capacity and responsibility.” Fiona Koza, Business and Human Rights Campaigner, Amnesty International Canada

“As part of the Arctic, the Yukon is already experiencing the impacts of the climate crisis. While we applaud the increase from Prime Minister Trudeau’s recent budget announcement of 36% emissions reduction to a murky number between 40 to 45%, sadly this goal does not account for the increasing emissions in Canada. Considering that Canada is one of the world’s biggest producers of greenhouse gas emissions, our minimum Fair Share would be a 60% emission reduction by 2030. We call on the Federal Government to reassess their target.” Coral Voss, Executive Director, Yukon Conservation Society

“In its latest report on the State of the Global Climate, the World Meteorological Organization stated that we need deep reductions and immediate action on the climate crisis. However, Canada’s carbon emissions reduction target is not adequate and does not include emissions from the military. The Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces are the biggest emitters in the federal government. The Trudeau government continues to make massive investments in fossil-fuel powered militarism like new tanks and fighter jets. To stop global warming, we need to stop war.” Tamara Lorincz, Canadian Voice of Women for Peace

“Human bodies do not tolerate half-measures in resuscitation–we crash and die. COVID-19 does not tolerate half-measures in its management–cases skyrocket. Similarly, keeping the climate from trespassing across tipping points of no return is not a situation where half-measures constitute a healthy response to climate change. A 40-45% reduction in emissions below 2005 levels by 2030 does not represent Canada’s fair share of emissions reductions. So our job is to over-deliver. Our ambition heading forward must be to push hard, push fast, and not stop until we create the governance frameworks, through a strengthened Bill C-12, the resources, via a reallocation of fossil fuel subsidies, and the political will necessary for us to wake up in 2030 and find that we have done our part in stabilizing the Earth’s climate and providing a healthy future for our children.” Dr Courtney Howard, Emergency Physician, Past-President, Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment

“Canada needs to sharply ramp up its climate action. Our country is now officially a climate laggard. We have the weakest 2030 carbon reduction target of G7 countries, the  lowest level of  financial assistance in the G7 for developing countries to address climate impacts, and second in the G20 in fossil fuel subsidies. Setting low goals means getting weak action. Today, Prime Minister Trudeau explicitly named the biggest barrier to Canada being a climate leader: the production and export of dirty oil. Now he needs to address that problem by phasing out all fossil fuel production and use.” Dale Marshall, National Climate Program Manager, Environmental Defence

“The Road to Net Zero needs all hands on deck.  We have a very good made-in Canada Just Transition model to work from: the 2019 National Task Force on Just Transition for Canadians. Coal Power Workers and Communities set out strong principles and recommendations to guide Just Transition.  Let’s implement them!  Getting it right is about good sustainable jobs and strong Communities.  Just Transition is the bridge that takes us there.”  Joie Warnock, Assistant to the President, Unifor.

Written by Stephen Rees

April 22, 2021 at 2:30 pm

Posted in Transportation

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