Stephen Rees's blog

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

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

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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

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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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