Stephen Rees's blog

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

Insomnia

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This is very much a personal issue for me. I have had insomnia for a long time and I have tried all sorts of things – but not medications. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is now being shown to be effective. There is a podcast from the Guardian today.

I have to say that I hate podcasts. I think they work better for other people, but I much prefer to read rather than listen, and this podcast demonstrates very effectively what I find annoying. Firstly there are all sorts of musical interruptions. Secondly it is not one person reading, it is two people having a conversation. And talking about a lot of stuff I already know. Including how, when you go to your doctor, you only have ten minutes per appointment, so you do not want to hear from her what you already know. Just like this ****ing podcast! If I was able to scan down a page of text I could find the information I want. Yes it is in the podcast but towards the end (of course).

Worse than that, the woman on the podcast actually says, “There is a Long Read. Go to the website.” So I do that, and I cannot find a Long Read section of the Guardian – or even a link to the one she is presumably referencing – but I do find all sorts of other stuff not one of which is a Long Read. There are however things called “Long Read Podcasts” – which to me is an oxymoron.

So what I have found so far is this older piece from the Doctor that they talk about Colin Espie which contains a link to a website FOR PEOPLE IN ENGLAND (sleepio.com/nhs) so I am not actually linking to it so you don’t waste your time.

The short answer to what you need to do is set the time you need to get up and stick to that every day. So if you need to get up at 7am on work days, do that every day without variation. Don’t lie in. Don’t nap. Do not lie awake for hours trying to go to sleep: that doesn’t work. Get up and go read. There is some evidence (not mentioned in the podcast) that using screens (computers, tablets, phones, Kindles) that the light will keep you awake, so choose a good dead tree book. The idea is that will stop the squirrel treadmill your mind has been running on. Not everyone needs the same amount of sleep. If your get up time is going to be 7am and you want 8 hours of sleep go to bed at 11pm every night too. And when you go to bed, get up if you haven’t fallen asleep within 15 minutes.

I am going to try this, and I will report back in due course on how it works out for me – but I am not expecting instant results.

I have also learned that longreads.com and Long Reads on the Guardian are two different things.

Written by Stephen Rees

March 16, 2020 at 11:44 am

Posted in personal thoughts

Tagged with

THE ECOLOGICAL DISASTER OF PALM OIL

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A guest post from Jim Richards

Jim Richards is the CEO of a company. His thoughts were offered free on my email. Since I have never tried his products – indeed he is a total stranger – I am being cautious lest I seem to be promoting him or his company. But he seems to have the palm oil business bracketed. There were no images accompanying his press release


Quantum mechanics proposes that ours is only one of an infinite number of parallel worlds, all of which exist in the same space and time as our own.  Within the infinite possibilities of this theory is an upside-down version of our world, an opposite one, and yet another where everything is identical except the elephants are purple.  Any and every possibility can, and indeed the theory insists, must exist.  Apparently, a version of each of us likely exists in all or most of them also, that bit boggles the mind almost as much as it tickles the ego.  After-all multiple worlds without multiple versions of us could only indicate the bright minds that build quantum mechanics theories veer off into wacky land at times.

Keeping updated on the emerging data of our climate crises and the actions taken to alleviate its impact, permits a similar idea to bud.  Within our own planet, there also exists worlds in parallel, upside-down and opposite worlds. In one the need for immediate and decisive action on the climate crisis is obvious, while another parallel world prefers its citizens just keep calm and carry on.  In one world we are invited to take up the yoke of responsibility and the other world prefers we just leave things and let the-as-yet-unborn deal with it all.  In one, the doctrines and processes of governments and politics employ cemented static mindsets even as the climate proves a tumultuous cascade of dynamic processes potentially propelling us to who knows what.  Parallel but opposite worlds.

Between the extremes is yet another world, the one we common folk commonly inhabit.  It is our neighborhood, where we live and work, our town, our city.  A place mostly comforting and familiar because over time it has been sculpted and shaped by the actions, motives and cares of local people to fit local needs.  This is our sphere of influence and the world we want to preserve.

We care about orangutans, koalas and polar bears, we really do, but the sheer breadth, scale, and complexity of the problems overwhelm. The many eco-urgencies progressively lose impact as they increase in scale and are located far beyond our reach.  Most of us have skill and geographical constraints on our ability to positively impact big issues like rising sea levels, melting glaciers and bleaching corrals.   We are best placed, and frankly most incentivized, to start where we are and work from the bottom up. Where we can be busy is in saving those things near us that we love, and then enlarging the space of our influence as we go.

Of course, we understand ecosystems are not respecters of town boundaries nor do they care about the depth of our attachment to local amenities like river-walks, and parklands.  We know our homes and towns cannot be insulated from the causal network in which everything is bound together.  Yet that same causal network allows that we can remain local and still have global influence if we choose our actions wisely.

Transportation of all forms is the cause of about 15% of the human-generated carbon, and incredibly palm oil production is the cause of about the same amount of carbon going into the sky!

Our use of transport is not always a choice, it is hard to imagine life without some form of transport.  However, our use of palm oil is always a choice furthermore it’s easy to imagine life without it, after-all humans thrived until the 1960s with most not knowing palm oil even existed.  Not only is palm oil a choice, ultimately and critically, but it’s also our choice.

One important reason we need to actively save that which we love is, the actions of one person always influences the information base of another and on and on the impact grows.  Starting one thing will encourage and engage others and collectively we can improve the long-term destiny of our world with our own self-generated cascade of dynamic processes.

Palm oil is an unnecessary and offensive ecological disaster, the production of this one item is causing as much climatic damage as every single motorcycle, car, truck, train, boat, and airplane on earth.  Further tropical forests have been and are being burned recklessly and extensively to make way for ever-more palm oil monoculture.  The palm oil industry is boasting that our demand for palm oil is set to quadruple, vast and beautiful tropical Peat forests will be burnt to meet that demand, our demand, but only if we allow it.  All this mindless destruction is they say just the law of supply and demand in action.

Obviously, we are not consciously demanding millions of acres of tropical forests be burned on our behalf each year – if we could make the rules, we would, in fact, demand the very opposite.   But we do inadvertently incentivize and fund the destruction through our purchase of items made with palm oil – and we purchase lots of them.

Palm oil is in so many products it is really quite hard to avoid.  Manufacturers love to use palm oil because it is quite versatile and very cheap. But of course, Palm oil actually has, a hidden, but extraordinarily high eco-price, it is costing us the earth.

Palm oil is likely an ingredient in most of your favorite brands.  But if we commit to doing this thing, this one hard-ish thing, that will complicate shopping a bit and require persistence on our part – if we switch to palm oil-free products – we, together, will compel a positive and pertinent eco-impact that is equal to shutting down all transportation globally. Without leaving home we collectively can send a crystal-clear message to manufacturers. They respond to dips in their sales and market share with an alacrity and intensity we wish they reserved for measuring and reducing the eco-impact of their ingredients.

We, the people, can create new laws of supply and demand – any company that supplies products containing palm oil will see demand diminish, and their bright cheerful logo can come to symbolize the dark badge of corporate greed.   It is only our patronage and goodwill that gives power to brands, and it is our purchases that gift fortune to the companies behind them – they prosper only as they serve our needs and wants.  Change those wants and we change a great deal besides.

Watch out for claims of sustainable palm oil.  The truth is there is no such thing as sustainable tropical forest destruction.  Call BS on that sort of virtue signaling nonsense.

Not buying palm oil products will demonstrate even the biggest global issues are not beyond our reach or influence.  As we get strategic about palm oil, corals, glaciers, sea levels and even Borneo’s (oxymoron named) pigmy elephants will directly benefit.  Those koalas, polar bears and orangutans we care about will get to breathe easier also, as will we all.

We may have our backs against the climatic wall (so to speak) but neither the scope of the ecological problems, nor our ineffective leaders loitering in their parallel world, should cause us to ignore the problems that we, and possibly only we, can effectively attend.  We may not be able to address everything – but believe me, we can address this one big thing.

Historically the extraordinary courage of ordinary people manifests clearest in crises when we are rising to defend neighbors, neighborhoods, and homes – like now.  The intensity of stubborn determination and ingenuity we common folk can collectively bring to this fight is one of humanity’s super-powers.

Besides, we have to make our infinite number of parallel selves feel good about us, even that fortunate us living in the world populated by cute purple pygmy elephants.

Written by Stephen Rees

March 15, 2020 at 4:12 pm

Posted in Environment

In Solidarity with Wet’suwet’en… reconciliation and climate justice?

The following is a Newsletter I just received from the Be The Change Earth Alliance. Comments, pingbacks and trackbacks have been disabled for this post. If you want to do any of those things please use the links below. I regret that the way WordPress now handles a simple cut and paste command wrecks the HTML of the original. Despite the cranky formatting that results I trust this is still readable.

SPECIAL EDITION NEWSLETTER: Our newsletter this month is dedicated to supporting Wet’suwet’en land defenders and protesters, in solidarity with Indigenous rights, title and climate justice. Climate justice is at the heart of our work at Be the Change.

The concept of climate justice highlights how environmental and social justices issues intersect and are often inextricably linked. One such intersection, deeply rooted in the essence of Canada’s Nationhood, relates to reconciliation and the long history of colonial institutions promoting, protecting and expanding large scale resource extraction projects on traditional Indigenous territory. It’s important to recognize that these land intensive projects are consistently upheld by violence toward Indigenous peoples and direct ignorance of Indigenous rights and title to unceded, unsurrendered land sought out by our government and fossil fuel giants for profit.

 Climate justice and reconciliation go hand in hand.

Recently, our Provincial and Federal governments and RCMP forces have been criticized for a string of injunctions and invasions of Wet’suwet’en people and protesters, which are alleged to have broken Wet’suwet’en, Canadian and International Law. Indigenous protesters have been blocking Coastal Gaslink from accessing their territory to construct the single largest private investment in Canadian history- a 6.6 billion dollar fracked gas pipeline that would extend 670-kilometers from Dawson Creek, B.C. to the coastal town of Kitimat, where LNG Canada’s processing plant would be located. 

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Each clan within the Wet’suwet’en Nation has full jurisdiction under their law to control access to their territory. 

Under ‘Anuc niwh’it’en (Wet’suwet’en law) all five clans of the Wet’suwet’en 

have unanimously opposed all pipeline proposals and have not provided free, prior, and informed consent to Coastal Gaslink/ TransCanada to do work on Wet’suwet’en lands.” (Unist’ot’en

Coastal Gaslink has also yet to receive approval from the province’s Environmental Assessment Office they require to begin work. Outside Wet’suwet’en law, the hereditary chiefs’ land claim is backed by a 1997 Supreme Court of Canada decision.

Free, prior and informed consent is a human rights requirement under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), which ironically, BC recently became the first province to have enshrined it into law. 

Local RCMP have been condemned for a number of actions at the blockade sites.

 Over the last month and a half following an injunction to remove Wet’suwet’en people from their own unceded territory, Police forces have been documented arresting Indigenous Matriarchs in ceremony, dismantling healing structures, including a ceremony for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, sawing through a sign reading “Reconciliation” and were exposed to have been prepared to use lethal force on Indigenous protesters and violating freedom of the press.

Dozens of peaceful land defenders have been arrested locally.The violence in Unist’ot’en sparked National protest, with railway and shipping roadways being blocked in Vancouver, Delta, Hazelton (BC) Toronto, Belleville (Ont), Montreal, Winnipeg and Edmonton, which have shut down rail transport across the country. There have also been a number of rallies and occupations of government offices in BC and other provinces– all in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en.

If you are a teacher, you may see that BCTF has also released a letter of support. Protest seems to be working, as the RCMP have begun to leave the area, as Canadian officials feel the economic pressure of halted railway networks and seek talks with hereditary chiefs. The Canadian government has also postponed bringing an UNDRIP motion to the table in response to the crisis.Source: https://www.ubyssey.ca/news/Indigenous-student-groups-to-fundraise-for-legal-fund/

Reconciliation is not a destination, it is a road that we walk.

It means listening openly, learning and owning the responsibility we have to mend the past and build Nation-to-Nation relationships moving forward- even when it feels inconvenient. It means showing up with resources to offer and acting in solidarity against injustices toward indigenous peoples. Wet’suwet’en also offers us the opportunity to see and feel climate injustice, as we watch another indigenous community fight for their inherent rights and title, while fighting to protect land and climate for all of us, as our Canadian governments attempt to push through another fossil fuel megaproject. Climate justice means changing this story.

We invite you to use this as a learning moment on a continued legacy of violent oppression of Indigenous Peoples and on the importance of respecting the varying perspectives and beliefs of First Nations who refuse to align with Canada’s colonial interests not true to their people. Let’s also remember the reason Indigenous rights are being violated- to protect and uphold the production of fossil fuels at a time when we have only 10 years to rapidly cut our global emissions in half.

Indigenous Peoples are leading the environmental movement. Together, we can collectively step into this space and hold it, own it, and change it.   What can you do?There are a number of resources you may use to teach others or take action, including this toolkit produced by the Unist’ot’en resistance (visit for more info and actions). Some actions requested by Unist’ot’en resistance are:DONATE/FUNDRAISE Donate to Gidimt’en Access PointDonate to Unist’ot’en Legal FundHold a fundraiser to help the Unist’ot’en with the prohibitive legal costs designed to be in favour of industry.  Follow the Solidarity Fundraiser Protocols. EDUCATEHost a film screening of the new documentary, Invasion. Create a lesson on reconciliation and its connection to climate justice for students. (BCTF and the BC Curriculum now have resources for teaching Indigneous education)Sign up for the Unist’ot’en Camp Newsletter.Share posts on social media, talk to your community, keep eyes on the Unist’ot’en and Wet’suwet’en!BUILD SOLIDARITYAnswer the Callout for Solidarity Actions in your region!Sign the Pledge to support the Unist’ot’en.Source: https://raventrust.com/2020/01/07/act-now-in-solidarity-with-wetsuweten-tell-coastal-gaslink-to-uphold-indigenous-rights/
Be The Change Earth Alliance
http://www.bethechangeearthalliance.org/Be The Change Earth Alliance · 949 W 49th Ave, Vancouver, BC V5Z2T1, Canada

Written by Stephen Rees

February 28, 2020 at 9:36 am

Posted in pipelines, politics

Canadians sign petition to Trudeau in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en nation

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Almost 30,000 Canadians across the country have united by signing an online petition – Solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en nation 2020 – started by Indigenous Solidarity Ottawa.  Canadians signed in support of members of the Wet’suwet’en Nation who have been “stewarding and protecting their traditional territories from the destruction of multiple pipelines”, including Coastal GasLink’s (CGL) liquified natural gas (LNG) pipeline.

 The petition addressed to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs, John Horgan, Premiere of B.C., and Mike Farnworth, B.C. Public Safety Minister asks that the following demands are met:

  • Stop colonial violence: stop using the RCMP or any other force to harass and criminalize Indigenous peoples from protecting their land, water, air and cultures, as well as dispossess Indigenous peoples of their traditional unceded territories;
  • Immediately remove the RCMP from the Wet’suwet’en territory;
  • Respect the sovereignty as well as the free, prior and informed consent of Indigenous peoples as stated in the UN Declaration on the Right of Indigenous Peoples – which Canada has signed and BC has put into provincial law – which includes respecting the refusal of pipelines and other resource-extracting projects that are damaging to the environment and for which the Wet’suwet’en nation have not given free, prior and informed consent to;
  • Stop violently supporting those members of the 1% who are stealing resources and condemning our children to a world rendered uninhabitable by climate change.

The concerns for safety addressed in this petition are widespread. Video footage of an RCMP officer pointing his firearm at Indigenous land defenders was posted to the social media account of the Gidimt’en clan (one of five clans of the Wet’suwet’en Nation whose hereditary chiefs oppose the pipeline). It shows police moving into the clan’s camp on the Morice West Forest Service Road near Houston, B.C. on February 7. The RCMP defended the actions of their officers.

RCMP also arrested 28 land defenders and matriarchs during the enforcement of the interlocatory injunction approved by Justice Church. One person remains in custody. Charges are pending as CGL has requested Crown intervention. The rest of the land defenders are to appear before the Supreme Court in Prince George in late April 2020.

In his address to Parliament on Tuesday, Trudeau described the situation as “a critical moment for our country and for our future.” Trudeau says his government remains open to discussions.  He has said that he will not forcibly remove the blockades, but economic pressure builds.

Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde, who joined other First Nations leaders in Ottawa on Tuesday, said “Our people are taking action because they want to see action. When they see positive action by the key players, when they see a commitment to real dialogue to address this difficult situation, people will respond in a positive way.”

 The below quotes are from petition signers across the country:

“RCMP invasion of Indigenous territory is wrong on every level, not to mention embarrassing. The RCMP is helping a foreign fossil fuel consortium build a pipeline to transport the very fuel whose extraction is ruining northern ecology and ultimately, our water supplies. The RCMP is protecting one of the most damaging industries on the planet.” – Carole Tootil, Nanaimo, BC

“Time to abide by the law and find another route, even if it costs more money. A mistake was made by not honouring the original land rights and only going to band councils. Time to fix it and not continue the mistakes of the past.” – Raisa Jari, Toronto, ON

“I am Wet’suwet’en and after 150 years enough is enough! My child and my family use this land for cultural activities and everyone made this decision except us. We can’t even return there anymore. By the time they have left their construction zone in their wake my boy will be a young teen. The rest of his childhood will be displaced from our favourite and most loved places. Not to mention the issues of climate change.” – Carla Lewis, Burns Lake, BC

“I’m in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en nation and other land protectors. Stop extracting and fracking, stop building pipelines and invest in alternative energy projects, and involve First Nations in that pursuit.” – Dr. Thilo Joerger, Sackville, NB

“I feel the Wet’suwet’en people are protecting land that is rightfully theirs.” – Doreen Mason, Windermere, ON

“There is so much injustice in the provincial government and Coastal gas not considering the Wet’suwet’en proposal for an alternate route and sending in the RCMP to unlawfully occupy their land. They should have the right of all nations to have consent to use their territory as they wish and not suffer violence and externally imposed laws forced upon them.” – Fiona Lee, Vancouver, BC

“Canadians are standing up for what they want. This is not going away. Canada, let all voices be heard.” – Jane Rathbun, Waverley, NS

For more information please see: https://www.change.org/wet-suwet-en

Written by Stephen Rees

February 20, 2020 at 10:43 am

Posted in pipelines, politics

Change of address

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I was informed by WordPress this morning that my renewal of this site had not gone through.

It seems to me that there is very little value for me in continuing to keep this blog ad free and using its current address. I think what will happen is that it will revert to stephenrees.wordpress.com (in due course) and continue to exist but with ads (from now on). I have replied to WordPress and they have confirmed that.

I would like to thank the very small number of people who continue to read and “like” every post – your loyalty is greatly appreciated.

I continue to be active on Facebook and Twitter, and I have managed to hang on to my gmail address despite the activities of people who have the same – or very similar – name as I do. I suppose one of them may eventually take over the stephenrees.blog domain. If so, I wish them Good Luck with it.

Written by Stephen Rees

February 20, 2020 at 10:11 am

Posted in Transportation

New Orleans Streetcars

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Back from a week in New Orleans (there was a wedding in the middle of that) where riding streetcars became a central theme. People were asking me if I was going to rent a car, but that seemed to me to be pointless. The French Quarter, where we were staying has very narrow streets and a distinct lack of parking. We intended to rely on NORTA (buses and streetcars) and walking. There were bikes, but my partner did not bring her phone with her, and there is no way to rent two bikes on one phone. As a matter of principle I will not install the Uber or Lyft app on my phone – though we did share my son’s Lyft for one ride. We did use taxis – but that would have to be another post.

Riverfront car at Jackson Square

You may have heard about the Hard Rock Hotel collapse four months ago. That occurred on a site at Rampart and Canal streets.

The Hard Rock Hotel

Entire blocks on all sides have been closed to traffic as a precaution – but there is still no work underway to remove the damaged building. Canal and Rampart streets are both streetcar routes. The Canal Street routes have a bus bridge. The Rampart Street route has simply been cancelled.

Rampart St at Ursulines streetcar station

We knew none of this when we arrived. We relied on the Transit App on my iPhone. That showed – and still does by the way – regular streetcar service on Rampart – with arrival times and the “real time” symbol – so not just the schedule. We sat at a streetcar station at Ursulines waiting for trams that never came. On RTA truck whipped past us and driver yelled something unintelligible – probably “there’s no service” but it didn’t sound like those words. There was no signage anywhere on the station showing the stop was closed. Though the street has bus services, no bus stops had been placed at the same intersections to allow intending streetcar users to board a bus instead of the tram.

Now it is true that there is information on norta.com – though you do have to dig around a bit to find it.

There is also a major hiatus on the Riverfront line as construction is under way at the foot of Canal Street. So the Riverfront cars now turn up Canal instead of proceeding south along the river. The new terminus is convenient for the St Charles streetcar which is unaffected by either blockade.

I took up the issue of misleading information with the Transit App people. This is their reply.

“Although we do work with transportation agencies to display prediction times, service alerts – such as notifications about the streetcars not running – are updated by the agencies directly.

We’re a third-party app based in Montreal, Canada, so we’re not involved in the operation of the agencies. I’d suggest getting in touch with the RTA about this. You can reach the RTA here: https://www.norta.com/About/Customer-Service

So basically the RTA just relies on its own website and does not update the information on the Transit App, nor does it do any street postering. Some buses did have service change cards – but again not on display, just for the driver to give to passengers who asked questions.

Much of the New Orleans system has exclusive reserved rights of way for the streetcars: the St Charles route south of Lee Circle and most of the Canal Street route. But not the branch along South Carrollton to the City Park. There is a median but the streetcars are in traffic in the centre lanes. This of course results in streetcars being held up behind left turning traffic. I saw no evidence of any on-street priority for transit.

Along St Charles St the streetcar is actually better for sightseeing as the car proceeds at a leisurely pace and the tour busses whizz past in the traffic lanes. If you want to look at the charming old houses in the Garden District the hop-on hop-off bus service cannot be recommended. By the way, if you are concerned about trying to board a St Charles car at Canal, at least half of the load there gets off halfway to do the guided walk through the Garden District and most of the rest at Audubon Park.

St Charles streetcar at Canal St

There are also a number of streets that have wide medians that I suspect may once have been streetcar lines. Of course wikipedia is the place to go to find out about that.

I have also heard a lot about how streetcars are only for tourists but that is a gross misunderstanding. Where the streetcars run, and their general reliability, means everybody uses them. In fact the schedules for the streetcars seem to much more frequent than many bus routes. It is reliability and frequency that attracts ridership no matter what the vehicle.

Written by Stephen Rees

January 31, 2020 at 2:34 pm

Posted in Light Rail, tourism, transit

Tagged with ,

Arbutus Mall Development

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I took these photos from the same point – just west of the Arbutus Greenway at the crossing of 33rd Avenue. The corner of Quilchena Park. This is a protected view cone – or was until the City reneged on that commitment. The first was taken in August, the second at the end of November

Quilchena Park

Blocking the view

Written by Stephen Rees

December 5, 2019 at 4:54 pm

Posted in Urban Planning, Vancouver

Tagged with

Vilnius Christmas tree

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©GO Vilnius

This image came from a Press Release which I will copy and paste below. I will spare you my opinions about cutting down trees, and Christmas in general. I will say that this is simply a promotional item from Go Vilnius, the Official Development Agency of the City of Vilnius and I did not receive any payment or other benefit from this post. I have never visited Vilnius and I am not about to promote it here – and I have edited out some of the more exaggerated claims.

But I did think that using an old chess piece as a model was a Good Idea.

I am sure if you want to find out more about Vilnius you know how to do that and do not actually need me to provide link(s).

November 30, 2019: The traditional lighting of the Christmas tree in Vilnius attracted citizens and guests alike. The capital of Lithuania has received a lot of global attention over the years for its unique and stunning Christmas trees, and this year is no exception. This year, the decorated Christmas tree resembles the 14-15th century Queen figure from the game of chess, which was found by archaeologists in 2007.

Decorations adorn the already traditional 27-meter tall metal construction, which bears some 6,000 branches. The construction is specially designed to create a completely sustainable Christmas tree. All the actual tree branches used in the construction are defiled from the trees by foresters while carrying out the general maintenance of the forest. Therefore not only trees but even branches are not cut just for the spectacle.

The particular figure which served as a model for decorations was found during the archeological excavations around the Ducal Palace in Vilnius. Dating back to the 14th-15th century, the beautifully ornamented figure was made of spindle tree. Its middle part is carved with geometrical patterns and topped with floral ornaments. According to historians, the game of chess was played by the nobility of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania from the end of the 14th century.

A traditional Christmas market is set up around the Christmas tree, along with another one located at the Town Hall Square. The markets will stay open from the 30th of November to the 7th of January. 

Written by Stephen Rees

November 30, 2019 at 1:12 pm

Posted in placemaking

Tagged with

Upper Levels Highway Study

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Corridor study launched for Upper Levels Highway
Upper Levels Highway BC MOTI photo from flickr Creative Commons license

Bowinn Ma isn’t interested in ad hoc highway expansion. So she has commissioned a study.

“Under the scope of the work, Parsons will assess how the highway is doing under current volumes as well as project demand up to 2050, including what local government priorities are and how a potential expansion of the B.C. Ferries terminal at Horseshoe Bay would funnel more cars onto the road.”

“Transportation systems have to be treated as systems. It’s important that we have these long-term plans in place if we actually want to start to address the problem.”

Well yes having a long term plan is a good start – but only if you stick to the plan. And a transportation plan by itself is actually counter productive. There has to be a land use plan as well and that has to fit into a broader regional perspective. If anyone has been reading this blog over the years knows, we used to do regional plans like this at one time – and then the BC Liberals got elected – and re-elected – over 16 years and those plans were simply ignored.

Developers like Jack Poole got a lot more attention than people who had been talking about what “increasing transportation choice” might mean. And while SkyTrain was expanded – a bit – much more got spent on moving congestion around. The North Shore has a railway – but it was essentially given away to CN. It might have served as both a connector to the rest of the region over the Second Narrows Bridge and improving travel options up Howe Sound to the interior. The needs of the Olympics at Whistler would have been more than adequately met – but that got sidelined when the developers insisted that this was an opportunity to increase car commuting into Metro from places like Squamish – directly in contradiction to the long term strategic plans of both regions. The idea had been to limit sprawl and reduce car dependency but that did not suit the paymasters of the BC Liberals.

Since Bowinn Ma does not believe in that policy she will have to do more than just have a highway study

“Most studies have shown adding new lanes for general traffic use only invites more people to drive, quickly negating the expensive project’s sought-after improvements, a concept known as induced demand, Ma said.”

I would not say “most” – I think it is all – or at least every one with any credibility. But it is not enough to talk about other modes – you also have to talk about what creates the demand for trips – and that is land use. Because North American planners are still stuck on separating out land uses and resisting mixed uses – and are wedded to zoning – trips are much longer than they need to be. You are simply not allowed to live over the shop in most of the region – which is the way urban humanity has always lived right up until the invention of the internal combustion engine. And a few decades after that when cars were viewed with skepticism. The attitudes of the vociferous in Ambleside show that there is going to be an uphill struggle to change attitudes about what sort of land use changes are essential to reduce motorised travel demand. And the topography of the North Shore is also going to be an issue. Note that Ms Ma bought herself an ebike. I trust it was one that will provide power when starting from rest on an incline. Because that gets defined as a motor vehicle by our legislation.

And if we are changing legislation, lets get rid of mandatory adult cycle helmets while we are about it – and provide lots more protected, separated bike lanes, which actually provide some real safety results.

By the way, it is worth comparing the Ministry’s picture (above) with that used by the North Shore News.

Written by Stephen Rees

November 12, 2019 at 5:10 pm

Posted in Transportation, Urban Planning

Tagged with

Gothenburg gets battery buses

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In my in box this morning is a press release from Volvo announcing an order for 157 articulated electric buses to start delivery next year.

Volvo supplied image of a new articulated bus

What struck me is how much bigger this initiative is compared to what is happening here. Translink is trying out four buses on one route. Gothenburg is comparable to Vancouver in population: it “has a population of approximately 570,000 in the city center and about 1 million inhabitants in the metropolitan area.” (source: wikipedia) These buses are also much larger capacity than anything on the road here – 150 passengers per bus! You notice from their supplied picture that it has four sets of doors, not three as here. They will also charge at bus stops along the route “using the industry common charging interface OppChargeTM” – so I begin to wonder what was so ground-breaking about route #100. By the way the energy use of these buses is 80 per cent lower than that of a corresponding diesel bus.

But then Scandinavia does seem to be much more determined to create a truly green city than we are. Oslo, for example, has now removed on street parking in its city centre.  

“If you decide to drive in downtown Oslo, be forewarned: You won’t be able to park on the street. By the beginning of this year, the city finished removing more than 700 parking spots–replacing them with bike lanes, plants, tiny parks, and benches–as a major step toward a vision of a car-free city center.

“Without those parking spots, and with cars banned completely on some streets, few people are driving in the area. “There are basically no cars,” says Axel Bentsen, CEO of Urban Sharing, the company that runs Oslo City Bike, the local bike-share system. The city’s changes are designed, in part, to help improve air quality and fight climate change, but the difference in the quality of life is more immediate.”

As usual local businesses opposed the change, claiming its would hurt trade – but the outcome has been quite different. There are now more people in downtown – walking and cycling. Pretty much the same as our experience with protected bike lanes – which were opposed but have benefitted local businesses.

I am sorry that the timing of this post may be a bit awkward when the current labour dispute is top of mind. But it is clear that one of the major concerns of the bus operators is that traffic has got worse, and that Metro Vancouver in general – and the City of Vancouver in particular – has been a laggard in providing buses with priority on street which would go a long way to making services more reliable, schedules more predictable and life a lot easier for both passengers and bus drivers. Our politicians seem to be more concerned about the people driving cars – who are the ones causing the problems.

Clearly we need something like the system now in use in New York – but first we would actually have to put in the bus lanes!

https://twitter.com/i/status/1186355796940079104

UPDATE December 16, 2019 Paris has announced an order for 800 electric buses (source: World Economic Forum) to be delivered in time for its hosting of the Olympics in 2024

Written by Stephen Rees

November 5, 2019 at 10:58 am

Posted in transit

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