Stephen Rees's blog

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

Archive for the ‘Transportation’ Category

Not quite!

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Screen Shot 2018-05-12 at 11.33.47 AM offers the rating for your address. And in this case I am afraid I do not agree with the assessment “Flat as a pancake”. There are steep hills in nearly every direction with the exception of Valley Drive to the north west. Any length of ride in any other direction takes you out of the bowl we live in – and getting up to the Arbutus Greenway via Nanton Ave or W King Edward is a real climb. Similarly getting up to Kerrisdale is a slog (Yew or Arbutus) though the old rail right of way makes it a gentler climb. The Ravine is not supposed to be used by cyclists, but they do.

The Arbutus Mall is undergoing rebuilding so the number of errands you can do on foot are now limited – but should be a lot better in a couple of years.

Transit isn’t “many” either: just two bus routes #16 on Arbutus and #25 on King Ed. If you scroll down it also says “Car sharing is available from Zipcar.” which is also misleading. We use car2go and evo: Zipcar is at Broadway and MacDonald, Modo at West Blvd and 41st – not exactly walking distance!

And here is the streetview they say it “not available”

Screen Shot 2018-05-12 at 11.48.45 AM

Written by Stephen Rees

May 12, 2018 at 11:43 am

Posted in Transportation

The New York Subway Delays

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There is a brilliant article in the New York Times drawn to my attention by a tweet from Jeffery Tumlin. “With amazing graphics, the Times explains how rapid transit works – and why well intentioned but uncoordinated decisions can make it fail.”

There is only one concern that I wanted to raise – and the NYT no longer wants comments. It is about these paragraphs

As the M.T.A. adopted more safety rules, the share of overall delays attributed to planned track work increased from 20 percent in 2010 to 30 percent in 2014, despite a similar amount of work each year.

Protecting workers is an important part of the M.T.A.’s mission, but the tracks are still dangerous after these new rules. In the last five years, three more workers have died on the tracks, and near misses are not uncommon.

The London Underground, a system of similar size and age, has had no track worker fatalities since 1998.

Piccadilly Line Barons Court  20051201

It may be of similar size and age but there is a huge difference in its configuration and how it operates. In London the system shuts down overnight – or rather it used to – it now runs at night on some lines at weekends. Most of the system has two running tracks. There are a few places where there are four parallel tracks (Piccadilly/District in West London and the Metropolitan main line). Many of the lines are in deep level tubes – with only a single track in each tunnel.

New York’s subway is mostly in cut and cover shallow trenches with multiple tracks – at least in Manhattan. In the outer boroughs many lines are elevated. Many lines operate with both local (stops at all stations) and express services (limited stop) and they work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Maintenance can be undertaken by switching trains between express and local lines while work is underway. Maintenance in London can mostly be carried out overnight when there are no services running. (Which is also the practice in Vancouver.)

N Train at 36th Ave, Queens

Written by Stephen Rees

May 9, 2018 at 1:59 pm

Posted in Transportation

The KM Pipeline won’t lower gas prices

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The idea that somehow expanding the TransMountain pipeline will lower prices at gas pumps in Greater Vancouver is actually nuts. This info graphic from The Wilderness Committee explains why.

KM inforgraphic

Written by Stephen Rees

May 4, 2018 at 4:13 pm

Posted in energy, pipelines, Transportation

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Consultations on now

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Thanks to Rick Jelfs of Transport Action BC for the heads up on two sets of consultations going on at present. This illustration comes from the City of Vancouver’s PDF of the Arbutus Greenway in its expected final form with a streetcar!

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  • TransLink is asking for public input on four new B-Line routes – 41st Ave (UBC – Joyce Stn);  Fraser Hwy (Surrey Central – Langley); Lougheed Hwy (Coquitlam Central – Maple Ridge); Marine Drive (Dundarave – Phibbs Exchange). The 41st Ave. proposal includes the return of local trolley coach service along 41st Ave. More information, including a schedule of open houses and an on-line survey, at (This survey will be available until May 31, 2018.)
  • Vancouver has a “proposed design concept” for the Arbutus Greenway at (The open houses and survey are over: the link is still active) 

I must admit I was a bit sceptical of the 41st Avenue B-Line until I saw what was actually proposed – which involves a considerable change to the current #41 – which would be cut back to Crown and would use trolleybuses – which is something that I have been pushing whenever anyone would listen for many years.

2149 Training on 41st at Cambie

Trolleybuses aren’t used on the 41 right now, but the wires on 41st are used for training and relocating trolleys. Probably much less now that Oakridge OMC has been sold.

V9486 Hybrid

The current generation of hybrid Novabus, has a final electric drive – but no poles even though 600v is within easy reach.

Xcelsior bendy on 41st at Arbutus

The articulated buses used on the 43 and 49 that will be on the B Line

BYD Battery Bus

The short lived experiment with loaned battery buses from China (BYD). Another trial of different battery buses was recently announced. They will be able to charge along the route (100 Marine Drive) but again not using trolleypoles.  All those pictures were taken by me along West 41st Avenue.

I am of course also pleased to see a cross North Shore B Line running through both West and North Vancouver. I was involved with the first groundbreaking bus service to cut through the iron curtain that used to separate transit on that side of the water. There is even talk of combining City and District in North Van which at that time was unthinkable! But I digress. Even if you can’t manage the open houses you can still do the surveys.

Written by Stephen Rees

April 20, 2018 at 10:45 am

False Creek Seawall Improvement

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The latest upgrade of the seawall from Granville Island to Hinge Park is now open. The separation between bicycles and pedestrians has been greatly improved, and the experience of walking on this path is much better. However, there are still people who do not appreciate what they need to do to make it conflict free.

For a start, the sort of pedestrian who simply wanders, oblivious of others, and pays no attention to signs or paviours.

Groups of people, who think their simple number gives them some kind of priority.

Cyclists who want to break their personal best time.

People who do not fit into either category of “on foot” or “on bike” – wheelchairs, rollerblades (one of whom was pushing a sort of racing basinette/SUV) – they don’t know which side they are supposed to use.

Very young children who have just had the training wheels taken off their bikes. (Actually they are doing fine: it’s the “adults” who are the issue. )

While there is not nearly as much dodging and weaving going on, most of the probable collisions are avoided more by luck than forethought. To the MAMILs I would say, why ride at speed into a blind bend on a path used by a lot of people, some of whom may be unpredictable?

I am also a bit disappointed about the lack of foresight shown by the engineers who designed the drainage. Guys, you need to think of the next twenty years, not the last twenty years, when it comes to rainfall.

Seawall separation

Really good, strong white concrete line and contrast in surfaces: failing paint is not going to be an issue. I know the problems that bollards cause – but could you consider a raised curb? Or something tactile?


Is that sign actually necessary?

More mud on the path

There needs to be something here to intercept the water/mud streaming down the slope. And you do not want the soil washing into the creek!

Muddy path

And this is a mess!

New improved seawall path

This is better!




Written by Stephen Rees

April 15, 2018 at 6:08 pm

Posted in Transportation

Oilsands research “game changer”

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This is a story I saw on the CBC News web page this morning. The short version is that it is possible to recover vanadium from bitumen, and this may have a commercial future in battery production. It is about time that this kind of attention was paid to raw materials in general and mining in particular. One of the first stories I recall reading when I was new to BC (and working for the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources) was how new technologies were making mining spoil sites worth re- processing to capture valuable minerals missed in early extractions. The oil sands tailing ponds are currently viewed as simply something to be ignored, and quite probably left for someone else to clean up, once the current “gold rush” approach to exploitation of the tarsands as fast as possible is over.

What caused me to open a new browser window was this bit from the CBC story

“Without storage capabilities, renewable energy production still has to be backstopped by natural gas or other types of traditional power plants.”

That is simply not true. There are all sorts of storage capabilities that can be employed with existing technologies. Elon Musk’s battery project is just one example, but actually it is also recently been reported that one big change has been the re-use of older electric vehicle batteries as longer term off-vehicle storage of power once the initial life in the battery has been completed.


In its first four months of operation, Tesla’s mega-battery system in South Australia was faster, smarter, and cheaper than conventional gas turbines, according to a new report by the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO).

The performance milestone has observers and analysts excited about a breakthrough in grid security and resilience that could be a death knell for natural gas peaker plants.

 “The 100MW/129MWh Tesla big battery, officially known as the Hornsdale Power Reserve (HPR), was officially switched on December 1,” RenewEconomy recalls, “with 70 MW providing network security for the grid operator, and another 30 MW operating energy arbitrage in wholesale markets.”

A particular highlight was the battery’s “virtually immediate” response to “a major outage of a fossil fuel generator in [New South Wales] on December 18,” prompting AEMO to conclude that “commissioning tests and simulations confirm that the HPR is capable of responding more rapidly to a contingency event than conventional synchronous generation.”


Perhaps the most obvious example of available storage is the current hydro installations. Just pump the water back uphill, refill the reservoir and then run it through the generation cycle again. Pumped storage was in use in North Wales at the Trawsfynydd nuclear power station  since 1965! (It has since been decommissioned.) Nuclear power stations have a similar problem to renewables. The power they produce cannot be turned off. The reactor runs all the time including times when there is no need for the electricity. That is just a different way of looking at the intermittent power production of wind and solar power.

Pumped storage is the largest-capacity form of grid energy storage available, and, as of 2017, the United States Department of Energy Global Energy Storage Database reports that PSH accounts for over 96% of all active tracked storage installations worldwide, with a total installed nameplate capacity of over 168 GW.[3]



“the study shows the huge advantage to both the United States and Canada of working together to supply much of the zero-carbon energy from Canada’s hydroelectric potential, and to store excess flows of renewable energy in Canada’s hydroelectric reservoirs (just as Denmark stores its excess wind power in Norway’s hydroelectric reservoirs)”

Jeffrey Sachs oped in the Globe


There are also proposals to to provide power storage by driving a heavy electric train up a hill when power is available and then letting it run down again using regenerative braking when power is needed. SkyTrain in Vancouver – and trolleybuses – both do this now! And electric motor is a generator run backwards.

The CBC seems far too ready to promote natural gas.  It is actually a worse greenhouse gas producer than coal simply due to the volumes of methane released due to fracking and subsequent processing.

Written by Stephen Rees

April 12, 2018 at 11:50 am

Weekly Photo Challenge: I’d rather be …

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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