Stephen Rees's blog

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

Posts Tagged ‘balance

Beware of “balance”

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I have seen this word a lot lately. It was prominent in Stephen Harper’s address to the UN about climate change. It features largely in the Gateway apologists recent publicity.

But it is neatly summed up by this quote – which is about Australia and “then” but applies very much to the here and now

While the planning rhetoric of the 1970s turned towards “balance” in transport planning, this was mostly a fiction. For the past 40 years most transport planning effort has been focused on supporting cars with big roads.

For the benefit of Harper fans, you cannot “balance” environment and the economy – because when you get the environment wrong you don’t have an economy any more. Some recent illustrations could be the collapse of the Fraser salmon fishery, or the Exxon Valdez, or the mountain pine beetle. Or you could go further afield, and further back – Chernobyl or Bhopal or PG&E in California.

We cannot “balance” our transport infrastructure by planning to spend a lot on roads now and “promising” to spend on transit later. Transit has been neglected for far too long. And as for the assertion that nothing has been done to the road infrastructure in recent years – poppycock! Huge increments to the road network have been added – and mostly by developers or at their expense. But also by sneaky, underhanded methods such as adding HOV lanes to Highway #1 – a contributory cause of the present discontent I suggest – since they did not replace general traffic lanes (as on Barnet/Hastings) but supplemented them. Plus all those upgraded intersections developers paid for so that they could develop land adjacent to the freeway – which had been set aside in careful prudence against future needs – but was sold off by the present improvident lot who also sold off BC Rail.

Moreover, the rhetoric that suggests that transport spending has not kept pace with population growth includes the extraordinary unstated assumption that there was something “right” about earlier years spending patterns, or that earlier generations did not build in spare capacity for future growth. How dumb do they think we are? Is anyone taken in by this sort of stuff? Obviously not the kids

“I, for one, am sick of being ashamed of my country and its poor behaviour on the world stage,” P.J. Partington of the Canadian Youth Climate Coalition told a news conference.

“The government keeps saying Canada’s playing a bridging role in the negotiations, but with our current plan we’re on the road to nowhere.”

Catherine Gauthier, who told leaders the future is in their hands and that too many world capitals are “spinning” their positions, was equally scathing.

“Canada needs to step up our action on climate change or get out of the way of progress,” said Gauthier, a member of the Quebec-based Environnement Jeunesse.

“Our current targets won’t yield real action until I am about to retire, which is completely out of line with the urgency of the science. We cannot play a constructive role in the international negotiations with our current plan.”

Written by Stephen Rees

September 24, 2007 at 1:54 pm