Stephen Rees's blog

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

No need for Trans Mountain Pipeline

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This post is really just a way for me to have easy access to some recent articles which pretty much show that by the time they have finished building the Kinder Morgan expansion, it will be redundant. There are two articles, one in The Tyee and one on DeSmog Blog, which cite research by David Hughes for CCPA.

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As part of Alberta’s climate plan, announced November 2015, oilsands emissions are capped at 100 megatonnes per year which eliminates growth of future production.

According to Hughes’ analysis, when considering restrictions placed on Alberta oil production under the province’s greenhouse gas emission cap, “Kinder Morgan overestimated oil supply by 43 per cent in 2038.”

Arguments for the necessity of the Trans Mountain pipeline have also been overstated, according to the new analysis, because of alternate pipeline approvals.

In addition to the Trans Mountain pipeline Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also approved the Enbridge Line 3 project and more recently President Donald Trump approved TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline.

If these projects are built, which seems likely, there will be a 13 per cent surplus of export pipeline capacity without the [Trans Mountain pipeline].”

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But even more damning is Bloomberg’s review of the work by Rocky Mountain Institute and the IEA.

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“If you take a large bite out of transportation fuels, then suddenly the economics of the whole downstream oil and gas business look dramatically different,”

So while the KM CEO stands up and blusters about “no concessions” it really begins to look all very irrelevant.

A bit like the 45th US President making a song and dance about withdrawing from a voluntary agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Quite how a deal that had no teeth at all – there are no mandated penalties for failing to meet obligations under the Paris agreement – can be characterised as “unfair” beats me.

Here are some hostages to fortune: there will not be a great boom in BC LNG. There won’t be a Transmountain  Pipeline expansion and there won’t be a Site C dam. They are all absolutely pointless because the rest of the world has already moved on, and renewable sources of energy are just getting more competitive every day.  And even if they weren’t, sensible people are already reaping the economic benefits of better energy efficiency which we seem to be missing out on.

Just like we seem to have ignored the possibility that BC could get all of its energy from geothermal resources (that links to an article from 2014!).

Written by Stephen Rees

June 2, 2017 at 5:40 pm

Weekly Photo Challenge: Friend

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“This week, share an image of a friend.”

Not just any friend – my best friend, forever.

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Written by Stephen Rees

May 31, 2017 at 10:31 am

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MoV Das Wiener Modell

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At the Museum of Vancouver  in association with Urbanarium, an exhibition about the extensive social housing provision in Vienna, which started with the collapse of the Hapsburg empire after WWI and continues to this day.

The Vienna Model exhibition, curated by Wolfgang Förster and William Menkins, explores housing in Vienna, Austria, through its portrait of the city’s pathbreaking approach to architecture, urban life, neighborhood revitalization, and the creation of new communities.

Vancouver is consistently ranked alongside the Vienna as one of the world’s most livable cities. Vienna has a stable housing market, with 60% of the population living in municipally built, owned, or managed housing. By comparison, Vancouver is undergoing a housing crisis. Vienna’s housing history and policies provides alternative approaches for British Columbia.

As Vancouver embarks upon a community engagement process revolving around housing, The Vienna Model expands discussion about urban planning options and encourages dialogue and debate on the future of the city.

In addition to its investigation of design that is focused on community, Vancouver- and Vienna-based artists and cultural researchers Sabine Bitter and Helmut Weber have selected art projects and public works that reflect Vienna housing into a broader context. These are included in the exhibition and illustrated catalogue.

 

Comparisons

MoV  Das Wiener Modell

MoV Das Wiener Modell

Housing and Transportation

Most the exhibition is about housing and how to make it available to people who cannot afford to buy their own home. There did not seem to be a great deal of emphasis on transportation but I did find this

MoV Das Wiener Modell

“Built as part of Vienna’s efforts to encourage the use of bicycles, it reduced car parking to 50% of the usual requirement (one spot per apartment), replacing it with more attractive and transparent bike storage rooms on the ground floor, a bike repair centre, and large elevators for tenants who want to take their bicycles up to their apartments. Situated… next to a subway station and the city’s bike network.”

MoV Das Wiener Modell

The best transportation plan is a good land use plan and this one does well by putting places that people want to visit close at hand. This obviously reduces car use but apparently they still need underground parking.

MoV Das Wiener Modell

This picture makes it clearer that the external wall is merely a facade enclosing more conventional buildings

MoV Das Wiener Modell

This is about Seestadt Aspern one of the newest developments – I think you can read the bit about public transportation without me copying the text. Let me know if this doesn’t work on your phone.

MoV Das Wiener Modell

Looks a bit grim to me – sort of Cuban – but maybe it will be better once it’s finished and populated

MoV Das Wiener Modell

Apparently most people here (93%) favoured the Vienna approach until there was a debate which turned quite a few against it (video). But there was still a 81% favourable!

The most frequent mode of discussion in the main stream seems to focus around markets – supply and demand – amid much frustration that simply building more doesn’t affect demand when there is a seemingly limitless amount of money available to buy real estate as an investment (as opposed to somewhere to live). Lost in this is the history of Canada has something of a leader in housing provision – back when we still believed that government can sometimes do things right. Public housing provision does and can make sense. But I do think that having a split between planners who do housing and planners who do transportation will simply repeat the same errors once again – the dangerous “projects” (US), the soulless “council estates” (UK) . So mixed use – not poverty ghettos – and lots of amenities within easy reach – as well as jobs and homes next to each other. A bit like cities were before planning – but without the health hazards!

Written by Stephen Rees

May 29, 2017 at 6:43 pm

What if we took transit out of politics

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The article in the Globe and Mail (paywalled – sorry!) actually is entitled “What if we took transit out of the hands of politicians?” And looks at the sorry record of the Greater Toronto Area in the hands of Ontario politicians at both municipal and provincial level. It is hard to disagree that they have not covered themselves in glory and seem to be putting short term political advantage ahead of sensible planning. And actually the key event is not really “transit” as it is a proposal to build intercity high speed rail between Toronto and London, passing through Kitchener-Waterloo. Something already announced more than once.

I am not going to get into why this is indeed nonsense on stilts, but I am going to turn my attention to this bit down at the end of the article.

Public transit doesn’t have to be run by a private business. But it has to be run by an organization that operates like a business, responding to market demand – actual customers – not political demands.

And that is wrong on more than one ground too. It is only because the article is the usual right wing, business is best, mainstream media obsession that the quote starts as it does. Privatisation of public transport – urban transit and passenger bus and rail services – has been a dreadful failure in Britain. As has been pointed out here more than once, it actually now attracts much more subsidy than it did when publicly owned and operated. Complaints about service are legion, but the companies that run trains and buses for profits have generally made out like bandits. When those companies have failed, and the service taken back into public control, it has always improved

But in the case of urban transit in a rapidly growing region “responding to market demand” is also a recipe for certain failure. And that stems from the myopia that separates out building new transportation from planning urban growth. Land use and transportation are inextricably locked together – but Tony Keller doesn’t mention land use once. This lack of understanding is also why we should mistrust the federal Infrastructure Bank – if its ludicrously high interest rate costs were not enough reason already.

Transit expansion should not wait for market demand – it should lead it and shape it. Especially if the project requires large up front capital investments in buying new rights of way and building massive infrastructure. You have to build these things where people are thin on the ground, if you are to be allowed to start at all, because once they are opened you want to attract development. Building in already densely populated areas – like New York’s Second Avenue subway – is hideously expensive, and the cause of much complaint from the existing residents. The huge interstate freeway system was built between cities, on greenfields, first before tackling the much more contentious inner city areas. The result was, of course, urban sprawl and much disruption of established communities. Doing transit right in major cities requires expertise in “the art of insertion” as the Parisian tramway planners say.

If we had built the SkyTrain through the TriCities before they developed, the trains would have run empty for the first few years, but the style of  development would have been very different. Transit oriented development is actually not at all new and untried – it is what was built before car ownership was widespread. It is only because North American development defaults to the low density car-oriented urban pattern that transit struggles. Before Henry Ford, most streetcar and interurban service was privately owned – and its promoters were usually real estate developers.

Because everything about the suburbs depends on subsidies transit has to be subsidized, which is why some form of political control is essential. It also has to be recognised that most of the benefits of not being car oriented come from things that the private sector has a hard time monetising. Or the people suffer terribly when they succeed.  People who use transit, cycle or walk for most of their trips are both happier and healthier. People who feel forced to spend far too much of their day stuck in traffic in their cars are both unhealthier and frustrated. Drive until you qualify for a mortgage is actually a deal with the devil. The combined cost of living – travel plus accommodation – is actually higher for low density car oriented suburbs – but the lower house prices (and tax treatment of mortgages in places like the US and UK) seem to continue to attract buyers.

While we have done quite well in producing a greater variety of housing stock, we have not done nearly as well in providing the necessary mobility services. This is partly, once again, because we have relied on politicians. And sadly the supposedly “progressive” NDP wasn’t actually that much different to the evil BC Liberals. The Millennium Line for a long time wasn’t as useful as the whole T shaped arrangement we have now (due to the long overdue Evergreen extension)  but at least it was capable of expansion. Unlike the deliberately underbuilt Canada Line.

The next steps to be taken here – and in Greater Toronto – inevitably will involve politicians since huge amounts of money need to be spent. And they would be well advised to avoid the pitfalls of P3s and go with public sector investments, that are designed to support rather than confuse the necessary land use arrangements. In this region we once had such an integrated and use and transportation plan: it was deliberately scuttled by the BC Liberal Party as a way of paying off the people who provided them with the money to run successful elections. Obviously we need to get the big money out of provincial politics. Obviously we need a better way of electing politicians. We also need to have system of urban and regional planning that integrates development of land use and transportation systems. Their operation can indeed be left to the professionals BUT wherever public money is used there has to be accountability. That requires openness, honesty and a commitment to listening. Indirectly elected municipal politicians cannot be expected to do this well at a regional level.

Written by Stephen Rees

May 29, 2017 at 11:32 am

Evil: A Matter of Intent

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The material below the line was sent to me by a pr firm working for a gallery in Florida. When I pointed out my location and the somewhat limited coverage of this blog they replied “Our experience over the years has guided us to cast a wider net due to the fact that South Beach and Miami attract so many millions of visitors from all over the world.”

So I have cut and pasted this material from the press release. It seems to me to be worthwhile in its own right, and worth drawing attention to even if it does not generate much tourist traffic.



Evil: A Matter of Intent features the work of over thirty contemporary and modern artists addressing the many faces of inhumanity. This pertinent group show features artists hailing from around the world with diverse backgrounds, including Helene Aylon, Judith Glickman Lauder, Grace Graupe-Pillard, William Sharp, Tamar Hirschl, John Lawson, Paul Margolis, Mark Podwal, Trix Rosen, and Arthur Szyk.

Presented in Miami Beach by the Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU, the exhibition is on view through October 1. The museum is located at 301 Washington Avenue in the heart of South Beach’s Art Deco District, and is part of Florida International University.

As the title reminds us during these precarious times, acts of evil are premeditated and intentional, motivated by selfishness and the desire to gain at the expense of others. On loan from the Hebrew Union College Jewish Institute of Religion in New York, this exhibition was curated by Laura Kruger and features more than seventy artworks that span from 1940 to the present, including mixed media paintings, works on paper, photography and sculptural works.

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Sin Street, 2013 by Trix Rosen (photograph of performance artist Fred Keonig).

This photo has its roots in the shadows and violence depicted on pulp fiction book covers and film noir movie posters. At the core of these stories is an edgy morality tale, with temptation dripping from the lurid images and titles. “Bad Girl” characters live in a place and time where good is not always rewarded – nor is evil inevitably punished.

Watch the new video about Evil: A Matter of Intent

 

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Thou Shalt Not Stand Idly By, by Ben Shahn, 1965 (lithograph).

Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel once asserted that the entire ethical teachings of the Hebrew Bible could be condensed into one sentence: an excerpt from Leviticus 19:16, “Thou shalt not stand idly by while your neighbor’s blood is shed.” Shahn illustrated this admonition by depicting a white hand reaching out to raise a black hand.
“Evil is not a cosmic accident, it does not just happen,” said the New York-based curator of the original version of this traveling exhibition, Laura Kruger. “Evil is a deliberate action or inaction. Evil is the violation of our common humanity.” The work of these artists shows how evil manifests in many forms including genocide, torture, slavery and fear of “the other.” The on-site design of the Miami version of this exhibition was created by Jacqueline Goldstein, the curator at the Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU.

The artists in Evil: A Matter of Intent demonstrate how evil is reinforced by indifference, bullying, cruelty and denial. Terrorist acts, murder, rape, destruction of culture and knowledge, pogroms, obliteration of cultural heritage, child abuse, poisoning of the earth and water, and murder are rampant and unceasing.

 

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KKK Rally, Florida (circa 1950s)

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Hiroshima, A Child’s Shirt, 2005, by Leonard Meiselman (oil on canvas).

A child’s shirt, intact but browned from the flames that engulfed Hiroshima when the atom bomb dropped, challenges us to reflect on the painful reminders resulting from war and its related necessary evils. Inspired by the Peace Museum in Japan’s display of such frayed, burned children’s shirts, this has become a life subject for Meiselman.

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Child’s Drawing of Darfur, 2009.

Bakhid was eight years old when he saw his village in Darfur being attacked and burned by Janjaweed forces on horseback and Sudanese forces in vehicles and tanks. In 2007, the organization Waging Peace traveled to refugee camps in Eastern Chad, where survivors from the “ethnic cleansing” of non-Arab, black Africans now live. The genocide of Darfur, a region in the west of Sudan, was perpetrated by the Sudanese government and Arab militias since 2003. They committed horrific crimes such as burning and bombing entire villages and gunning down families. The organization asked the children in the camps to draw memories of the vicious attacks. The International Criminal Court accepted these drawings as evidence of the crimes committed by the Sudanese government. One young artist named Aisha said: “It is very kind to send us food, but this is Africa and we are used to being hungry. What I ask is that you please take the guns away from the people who are killing us.” Courtesy of the BBC and Ryot

These are artists who refuse to remain silent despite forces of intimidation or popular beliefs

Their voices and visions are direct and distinct, forever asking the viewer what he or she would do if placed in similar situations depicted in these works of art.

Grace Graupe-Pillard’s work was featured in the recent exhibition at New York’s Cheim & Reid Gallery (The Female Gaze: Women Look at Men), and has also shown at the Aldrich Museum, the National Academy Museum and the Bass Museum.

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Boy with a Gun: Saturday Night Special, 1992, and Boy with a Gun: Homeless Man, 1987, by Grace Graupe-Pillard (pastel, cut-out canvas).

The artist’s powerful works call attention to the urgent need for gun control laws. In her series, Boy with a Gun (1987-1992), she suggests that a child’s game can become adult gun violence. What will it take to thwart the gun industry and stop the killing?

Their voices and visions are direct and distinct

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Installation image – Boy with a Gun: Homeless Man, 1992, by Grace Graupe-Pillard.

Mark Podwal is well known for his drawings in the New York Time’s op-ed page. His work has been engraved on a Congressional Gold Medal, and is also featured in a series of decorative plates at the Metropolitan Museum.

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There Arose a New King Who Knew Not Joseph, by David Wander, 2014 (mixed media).

Evoking the biblical passage from Exodus 1:8, Wander ponders the repetition of history. He contrasts the collapse of the 20th-century golden age of German-Jewish culture with the enslavement of the Israelites in antiquity. As governments and political powers shift, ranging from benign and supportive to deadly, they impact the entire status of the population.

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Suffer the Little Children, by William Sharp, 1940 (etching).

As a soldier during World War I, Sharp witnessed war’s devastating impact on young children. This etching depicts young children, with the weary faces of old men, who were orphaned, forced to grovel, beg, and live by their wits on the open streets.

Helene Aylon’s career includes her Process Art in the 1970’s, anti-nuclear Art in the 80’s and her later G-D Project that spanned two decades. Her work can be found in collections around the world including the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) and Whitney Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. In the mid-sixties, she painted her iconic 16-foot mural for the synagogue library at JFK airport. View the exhibition catalogue at this link.

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First They Came for ….., by Linda Soberman, 2014 (lithoprint).

Soberman comments on the complicit indifference of those bystanders who witnessed evil during the Holocaust. The image of the “winking” woman whose face is covered by the quotation by Martin Niemoller, a prominent Protestant pastor and outspoken critic of Adolf Hitler, who spent seven years of Nazi rule in concentration camps.

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Gallery image – installation of Exodus II, by Tamar Hirschl, 2005 (mixed media on vinyl).

This large work, with the map of France as the background, depicts the Nazis’ conquering of both land and people in their insidious march across Europe and North Africa. Hirschl builds on memories of her childhood during the Holocaust to highlight the misery and destruction that accompany imperialistic and genocidal ventures. Her work comments on the evil that continues to divide and destroy human connections.
“This exhibition is timely and powerful,” says Susan Gladstone, the Director of the Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU. “These artists tackle issues we are all confronting right now, at this juncture in history.They bring evil to light from a multitude of shadowy angles, capturing historical events and expressing outrage. They leave us, the viewers, to our own responses – and possibly to our own personal calls to action,” adds Susan Gladstone.

The artists in this exhibition are:
Andi Arnowitz · Helene Aylon · Debra Band · Riva Bell · · Rosalyn A. Engelman · Larry S. Frankel · Grace Graupe-Pillard · Barbara Green · Debbie Teicholz Guedalia · Carol Hamoy · Tamar Hirschl · Elizabeth Langer · Judith Glickman Lauder · John Lawson · Margalit Manor · Elizabeth Langer · Ruben Malayn · Paul Margolis · Richard McBee · Leonard Meiselman · David Newman ·Jacqueline Nicholls · Hedy Pagremanski · Mark Podwal · Faith Ringold · Trix Rosen · Marilyn R. Rosenberg · Ben Shahn · William Sharp · Linda Soberman · Arthur Szyk · David Wander · Grace Bakst Wapner · Paul Weissman.

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Detail – Yesterday’s Children, by Paul Weissman, 2015 (inked woodcut, lockets, photos and resin).

A tour de force of printmaking techniques underlays a collage of baby pictures. These seemingly innocent children, on closer inspection, turn out to be photos of Adolf Hitler, Mao Zedong, Kim Jong-il, Saddam Hussein, and Joseph Stalin. The backdrop woodcut depicts the chaos of destruction they caused. Are genocidal maniacs born or bred, is it nature or nurture that is to blame?

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Detail – Yesterday’s Children, by Paul Weissman.

Are genocidal maniacs born or bred, is it nature or nurture that is to blame?

Written by Stephen Rees

May 25, 2017 at 11:12 am

Weekly Photo Challenge: Evanescent

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evanescent = any fleeting moment in time

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I used to do more sunset pictures than I do now. That’s because the longer we live here, the taller the trees around us are – and the less of a sunset I see. But these moments of clouds underlit by red light after the sun has gone down behind the hills of the Islands are indeed fleeting. In order to catch them I have to have a camera to hand – and stop whatever I am doing. I don’t sit gazing out of the window very much, especially in the early evening. But when the light changes, if there’s a glimpse of a red cloud, I drop what I am doing and try to find a clean space of window without a bug screen in front of it. Before the light fades.

This one was fairly recent, but it only got put into the MacBook last night when I was uploading the pictures of a day out. I was going to look for something “evanescent” in them, but this is better I think.

Written by Stephen Rees

May 24, 2017 at 9:46 am

You can’t handle the truth

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There was a hard hitting article in the Globe and Mail, which I didn’t read because it is behind a paywall and the Grope and Wail is predictably right wing, especially where climate change is concerned. Then Pamela Zevit posted a link on facebook to an article on boereport which both provides a neat summary and some trenchant discussion.  I am not sure if the link provided in that article actually will get you to the original as it points to pressreader – which I don’t use either.

Anyway here is the summary

Four simple points are made that should be enough to derail the current monolithic environment industry and start a new revolution, but they will have a hard time because the media couldn’t have cared less.

The article’s four pertinent points are: that only a fraction of the population is motivated by the health of the planet; that more information does not lead to more action; that scare tactics don’t work; and that environmental products have to be desirable before they become adopted. Each point is supported by logical and balanced reasons that are hard to argue with, which explains why the article was pointedly ignored by even its owner.

The piece is a refreshingly clear statement about where the environmental debate should be going.

And at this point my thoughts turned in quite a different direction. I do not think that individual action is going to change anything very much, because the amount of difference that makes is tiny. Now, if you want to make changes in the way that you do things in order to save the planet, you go right ahead. But in the meantime there is a group of people – actually a tiny minority of the world’s population – who could indeed make a quite extraordinary  difference. They are the decision makers, the far less than 1% who control most of what happens in modern western societies, and who continue to seek out short term profits rather than long term security. And some of those people include politicians in our society who seem to be doing things that are simply contrarian to any scientific reality about this question. Rachel Notley and Justin Trudeau come top of my mind right now, but there are plenty of others.

The decisions behind the expansion of the Kinder Morgan pipeline to export dilbit from Alberta are driven by what they see as necessary economically. Meanwhile in other places, the move away from fossil fuels is gathering strength and is already making a measurable difference. The use of solar panels and wind turbines has increased much faster than anyone anticipated, with the result that the costs of these technologies has fallen and is now competitive with fossil fuels. Not only that but the places that are getting on with changing how they produce electricity are increasing employment, and economic activity as well as producing worthwhile improvements to other issues such as air and water quality.

It isn’t actually necessary that the other 80% of the population is motivated by the health of the planet, because they are motivated by buying better, cheaper solutions to meet their needs. The taxi drivers who decided to buy a Prius instead of a second hand full sized IC car were motivated by a financial case. And the biggest savings came not so much from buying less fuel as needing fewer brake jobs. The people installing solar panels do so because their hydro bills go down – or they can stop using diesel generators. People like Elon Musk are selling electric cars because they are better than the IC equivalent.

There is a petition that I have seen recently aimed at a cruise ship line to try and get them to switch from using bunker C (the really gross residual oil from refining crude that is used in marine diesel engines). I am not going to sign it. Because it is unreasonable to expect one ship owner to switch fuels when no other shipping line is being pressured to stop doing the same thing. But one day someone will come up with a way of powering these engines with a renewable, cleaner fuel – for instance there is one promising process to use sewage to produce liquid fuel. Which will also help to lessen their local environmental impact.

When I was part of the team that wrote BC’s first Greenhouse Gas Action Plan, we did not expect anyone to change anything in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But we were able to identify plenty of things that could be done that would reduce energy use, and hence expenses, that would pay for themselves in two to three years at most. Energy efficiency is worth investing in for its own sake!  And I was really quite pleased when I saw that my daughter’s school installed ground source heat pumps when it built its new extension, something that would have been prohibited by the previous policy framework. BC Hydro’s Conservation effort cost $1.5bn but saved double what Site C will produce – and will cost over $9bn. (Source: BCUC Revenue Requirement hearings 2017 via facebook BC Hydro Ratepayers Association)

Actually energy efficiency is a much bigger productivity resource than is generally understood.

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It really doesn’t matter if environmental pressure groups have little impact on popular opinion. Though something must be pushing people to vote Green in larger numbers. There are already many other groups that are organising things better and helping us become more sustainable, and reducing emissions at the same time. Making it possible for people to ride their bikes in reasonable comfort and safety is probably helping to reduce the number of car trips they take. Selling cold water detergent doesn’t hurt either. Capturing methane from landfills to replace fossil fuel gas – and also increase plant growth  with the CO2 is also a good idea. Closing landfills altogether might be better but is ways off. And somehow other countries seem to manage to raise awareness – a Swiss referendum (they have lots of them) chose to end use of nuclear power.

In the meantime the demand for the fossil fuels some in Canada want to export is declining – and the price for LNG, for instance, simply doesn’t warrant any of the huge investments we are being asked to subsidize. China and India are backing off from coal faster than expected – and making the sort of contribution to CO2 reduction that was thought impossible in the earlier climate change talks. Again, neither of these countries are driven by altruism: both are looking at the cost of the health impacts of fossil fuel burning on air quality.

And Bernie Sanders agrees with me.

Written by Stephen Rees

May 20, 2017 at 4:14 pm