Stephen Rees's blog

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

Posts Tagged ‘driving

Drive Time

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I was staggered by the subtitle of this New Yorker essay by Ian Frazier “The surprising pleasures of driving in New York“. It seemed to me unlikely but the claim he makes – that starting with the “improvements” made by Robert Moses “the city has remade itself to favor cars” seems to be borne out by what I read. I have been driven in New York – by taxis and black cars – and the experience has been generally unremarkable. Especially as the flight times for planes leaving New York for Vancouver tend to be very early. But he also describes a multi-car pile-up in a passage that started giving me flashbacks.

Of course I have also ridden the crosstown bus – and the bike share. From what I read on Twitter from @StreetsblogNYC (a walking biking transit advocacy) I am lucky not to have had to deal with NYPD.

Screen Shot 2017-09-13 at 5.10.54 PM

But my intention was mostly to direct you to read the article – and I will throw in a few photos from my flickr stream for good measure. All are locations mentioned in the article

Williamsburg Bridge

The Williamsburg Bridge

Tram mid span
Dramatic angle

59th St – Ed Koch – Queensborough Bridge

FDR Drive

FDR Drive

Brooklyn Bridge roadway

Brooklyn Bridge

Written by Stephen Rees

September 13, 2017 at 5:29 pm

Posted in cars, Traffic, Transportation

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“Metro Vancouver air quality suffers as driving increases”

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The headline comes from a disturbing story in yesterday’s Vancouver Sun (paywalled)

I think many of us had been under the impression that driving was probably declining, since that was widely reported from US sources. It now seems that in this region we are not only driving more but in larger vehicles.

The proportion of small cars in Metro Vancouver has declined, to roughly 32 per cent of all vehicles in 2013 from 38 per cent in 2007. In contrast, the proportion of SUVs has risen to 22 per cent from 15 per cent over the same period and the share of large cars has increased to 20 per cent from 18 per cent.

At the same time, the study found the average number of kilometres driven by passenger vehicles fell by almost five per cent from 2007 to the first quarter of 2012, but that number has risen just over two per cent between 2012 and 2014.

Some of that might be attributable to the shifting around of transit service, which saw low ridership routes lose out to overcrowded routes – which also hit the outer, more car dependent suburbs harder than the region’s core.

The report can be found at which belongs to Pacific Analytics Inc.

The report is twenty three pages and is available as a pdf to download. There are some very notable omissions. No authors are credited. While there are plenty of graphs there are no tables, and no sources of data are cited other than Pacific Analytics model. For example, there is a very detailed analysis of vehicle types and some interesting, and quite remarkable data on vehicle kilometres travelled. But no source is cited for either. By implication the vehicle analysis would seem to come from ICBC, but I have no idea who has the data on vehicle kilometres travelled in the region by quarter, for every year.

So I called Jim Johnson, who is the sole proprietor of Pacific Analytics. He has given me permission to host the report here (link at bottom of article). The source of the vehicle data is a combination of data from AirCare (which of course will no longer be available) and the autorepair industry. A full description of the dataset is available at

Sinoski’s article tries to paint a relationship to the way Translink has been adjusting service. It does seem likely that in areas where transit was not a very good option (with the exception of the #555 bus along Highway #1 which enables people to avoid the Port Mann toll, and West Coast Express) and service has been cut, that driving would increase. The drop in gas prices would also have both reduced that disincentive to drive and the deterrent to buying a bigger vehicle. But while the auto manufacturing industry may have been turning its mind to more fuel efficient models, consumers seem to be buying the cars/trucks they want rather than the those that might burn less fossil fuel.

MetroVan GHG Emissions Report Feb 2015_0

Written by Stephen Rees

March 4, 2015 at 10:48 am

Everyone complains about gas prices

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but how many actually do much about it?

This is just based on personal observation, not on anything I have read. Although there have been a plethora of stories in the media about people who are switching to transit or using their bikes. What I have noticed is that as gas prices have risen steeply driving behaviour has not changed. Yet there is a direct link between fuel consumption and speed in urban areas. Because of the frequent starts and stops, a lot of fuel is used to get the vehicle moving from rest, but the same energy gets thrown away as heat in the brake pads. And the harder the acceleration, the sharper the braking. I live on Steveston Highway which has a posted speed of 50kph – but the times I see someone driving at or below that speed are very rare. The average speed on that road is 70kph – which means half of the vehicles are exceeding that speed. And that is not the only road where this can be observed. In general, moving traffic in Greater Vancouver is at least 10kph over the posted speed on arterial roads.

But everyone knows that rapid acceleration and hard braking wastes fuel and wears out cars. Yet nearly everyone does it anyway.

And I also notice that the number of brand new large trucks used as personal transport is a obvious as ever. In fact the trucks seem to me to be larger than ever. Yes, I also notice the number of Smart cars and hybrids – but they are greatly outnumbered in my unscientific observation than the SUVs “cross overs” and four seat pick ups – all shiny and new and quite a few jacked up with off road tires (another good way to increase rolling resistance and increase fuel use).

Yet all these people are bitching and complaining about how much gas costs and blaming the government and its carbon tax which has yet to be implemented. And Carol James, to her great disgrace, seems to support them.

This blog of course is mostly read by those who understand these issues. We do, every so often attract a comment from one of the dinosaurs but not often and it is even less a rational explanation – more usually an attack on those who they feel are trying to “socially engineer” them. And I have been one of the first and loudest to point out how poor some of the alternative still are after years of trying to get much needed improvements.

But what really surprised me recently was the way that the Chamber of Commerce people in Abbotsford are convinced that their airport is going to be an engine of growth. Is this the same sort of denial that is behind the choice of a brand new Hummer? Air Canada lays off thousands and cuts service. Small airlines go bust and cease operating. Others seek bankruptcy protection and start charging for sandwiches and tell their pilots to leave their manuals behind. These are not the indicators one looks for in a flourishing industry.

We know that oil production cannot keep pace with growing demand, especially as China and India are motorising at a phenomenal rate. China will soon replace Japan as the biggest consumer of oil. There isn’t any more cheap oil to find and the reserves we know about are often in places where drilling has been prevented due to environmental concerns. Like the coast of BC. Only people people like Dick Cheney and his puppet think that is a good idea.

But the fast and agressive driver seems not to make the link between his (or her – yes, there are increasing numbers of female drivers who forget their manners on the road too) behaviour and the effect at the pump. And I see no sudden increase in the number of parking spots available.

I can understand why people think they have no realistic alternative to driving if they live and work in the suburbs. What I do not understand is why they cannot drive in a way that reduces both acclerationand braking, allows for a much less stressful journey and cuts fuel consumption. And usually does not take any longer.

Written by Stephen Rees

June 21, 2008 at 8:17 am

Posted in energy, Transportation

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