Stephen Rees's blog

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

Posts Tagged ‘SFU

Breaking the Political Gridlock

with 4 comments

Anne Golden at SFU Woodwards on January 28, 2014

Actually I have shortened the title: what was advertised was “Breaking the Political Gridlock to Address the Transportation Challenge: Lessons Learned from the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area”

The first of a new lecture series with the title “Rethinking Transportation: New Voices, New Ideas” by the City Program. Gordon Price announced that the next two lectures will be by Andrew Coyne and Charles Montgomery, but he is also asking for ideas of new people we have not heard from before to address the topic. He invited suggestions to be sent by email to price (at)  sfu.ca

I found myself by chance seated with “the great and the good” name dropping Mike Harcourt, Nancy Oleweiler, Clive Rock, Mark Allison, Ken Cameron, and many other familiar faces.

The evening started with a video on the Greater Toronto Areas transportation challenges. Sadly so far all I can find now using transitpanel.ca address is this statement from the Minister.

I have created a storify from the tweets of other people present

Anne was the Chair of a Transit Investment Advisory Panel set up by the Premier of Ontario to examine funding options for transit expansion in the Greater Toronto & Hamilton area.

UPDATE  Jan 31

Making the rest of this blog post redundant, PriceTags now has the “complete and slightly revised text of Anne Golden’s lecture”.

She said that the issues in Toronto are different to Vancouver but similar.  Population growth is rapid – and the region of 6m now is expected to reach 10 m in 18 years. The tipping point of congestion has already passed. “The situation is intolerable. Everyone agrees it’s a crisis but no-one wants to pay for it.” The region is  already exceeding earlier population forecasts and has reached the level now expected for 2021.

Vancouver was always seen as leading the way with its land use policies – the Agricultural Land Reserve and “intensification” of urban development 18 years ago when Translink was proposed. The Premier of Ontario was uncomfortable with the present situation but she doesn’t have a majority government

Context

The Premier required a fast turnaround: the panel was given three months to produce its report and was already appointed when Anne was approached to Chair it. “The Mayor of Toronto was already misleading the public on a number of topics including transit.” It was widely recognized that finding a solution to congestion would be the “cornerstone of success” but there was considerable doubt it could be achieved.

Reaction to the announcement of the Panel was cynical: it was portrayed by the media as a way to postpone decisions. The Scarborough line was dominating discussion. The Mayor had rejected replacement of the existing SkyTrain like Scarborough LRT with a more conventional light rail system. He claimed that a subway extension was the only acceptable solution even though ridership would not justify the higher construction cost. Metrolinx was rehired to review its decision that LRT was the most suitable technology. The chaotic result destroyed public trust in the process. There is in fact $16bn worth of construction on transit under way now – including a heavy rail connection to Pearson Airport from an existing GO Transit line using diesel multiple units (see notes below).

The panel produced a plan that is “practical, doable” with unanimous support across the panel – which was drawn from a wide variety of interests inkling business and the Automobile Association. The simple solution chosen was to select a few revenue tools, and then borrow  against this new revenue stream. It included a raise in gas tax,  a “redeployment” of  some of the HST and a half percent increase in Corporate Income Tax (CIT). The amount of borrowing is to be a low multiple (2.5x) of the stream and does not affect the provincial debt. It did not ask too much from any one group.

The were dozens of meetings with groups and the public.

Hard truths

  • Subways are not the only good transit
  • Transit does not automatically drive growth: transit must link up places effectively
  • Construction is not the only cost
  • Riders are not the only beneficiary: driving commute times in Toronto exceed that of Los Angeles and building transit will relieve congestion

UPDATE Thanks to Price Tags here is a Toronto Star article which sets out six truths more clearly – notice too that the links at the bottom of the article not longer point to the source material

The benefits are spelled out in the report. The myth was that nothing was happening, and also that we can pay for transit expansion by cutting waste in the existing bureaucracy. This is the mantra of the Mayor and the opposition but it is not the case. “Where’s the waste?” The province already has the lowest spending per capita  – lowest in the country – and it is rising at less than the rate of inflation. Ontario is reducing its deficit. It is also unrealistic to sell capital assets such as land to fund transit.

After the report was released the tone of the media became more respectful. There was also some new research on employment patterns, which showed that the Metrolinx proposals no longer met expected demands so they had to “make some tweaks”. They did this by setting  priorities in the plan – which previously had not been included. Transit investments must ease congestion, and the Yonge St subway line is already congested. People already travel north to board southbound trains as they were unable to get on full services further south. The “Big Move” proposal did not add up to a network. The major adjustment was to build a relief line first to reduce existing congestion in the system.

There is widespread distrust of transit accounting. It was proposed to phase in gas tax at 3c per litre initially eventually to rise to 10c, plus the CIT increase and HST diversion.

It is critical how these things are communicated. The CAA’s Executive Director felt it would be unpopular but “it’s the right thing to do”. The gas tax could be capped if necessary and the revenue replaced by a switch to more HST diversion. “Don’t have to go back and ask again.”

There is a two year “kickstart program” including desirable improvements such as real time next bus information at bus stops.

The price of gas went up 5c since the report was released. “No one noticed.” Gas tax will still be less than Montreal and the average impact was calculated at $80 per family per year. At the same time it was also projected that $800 would be the cost of more congestion but the mainstream media ignored that.

Business was in favour of getting a bigger, better labour pool. Companies that had moved to the outer suburbs were moving back into town to get better labour. And even after the increase Ontario will still have a comparatively low  CIT.

Tolls are seen by the public to be avoidable. But even though they would have to be applied to every route they would take too long to implement, and the cost of collection would be high.
Road pricing will be needed eventually

As one of those consulted remarked: “Dedicated or fuggeddaboudid”

Transparency is going to be critical. Depoliticized decision making will replace decisions  “unimpaired by any information”. Every project will have a published business case analysis.
The Scarborough subway is not justified by ridership: but even Karen Stintz of the TTC defended it on the grounds that “Scarborough does not feel part of the City”. Investments must be based on more than just self esteem. This had given rise to projects like the “Sheppard stubway” – “at least you can always get a seat on it!”

Each proposal is designed as part of an integrated network

Governance

Toronto Hamilton doesn’t have a region wide government. Many people suggest “Make it an authority like the airport”. Metrolinx does not have tax power

They would like to be able to capture land value increase but it is not seen as a reliable revenue source. She said that the Reichmann company drove the financing of Crossrail in London.

All governments have a role to play, but the feds are “missing in action”. Federal contributions are ad hoc and not programmed. Jane Jacobs said that large cities are what drive the economy of Canada (as opposed to natural resources).

Guidelines have to become policies with teeth. It is not about ideology. We must all be on the same side. We need champions. The strategy is not just about transit it is about transportation [and should also be about land use].

Media

There is a “new world of ADD communication” Reporters is the “lock up” at the reports release were already tweeting and filing before the report document was handed out. These days, she said, everyone is an expert. [Actually I heard that forty years ago when I started work for the GLC: everyone with a driver’s license thinks its an advanced degree in traffic engineering]

There is a “dumbed down” broadcast media driven by a short news cycle. They only rporte th gas tax increase with instant responses from live interviews with startled people at the gas pumps. “Informed people are [portrayed as] elites  – who drink cappuccino!”

She said “Democracy works best with filters” and equated the Referendum with “mob rule”. She also pointed to an [Gary Mason’s] article about the Denver transit referendum in Monday’s Globe & Mail [paywall] People had time to absorb what was proposed – and could see benefits for themselves. Business leaders got behind the proposals. There is “no short cut”.

Trust

A dedicated standalone fund is necessary but not sufficient. People are influenced by events like the Senate scandal and find institutions untrustworthy – including the church. But they
trust the airline pilot or the surgeon “because you have no choice”

There is no single rule for leadership – despite all the books proclaiming their own. There are always going to the inherent tensions requiring  compromises and tradeoffs. There is no template for regional government: the Greater Toronto Services Board (which preceded Metrolinx) did not last. Land use and economic planning is not integrated – and TransLink does not meet the test of good governance.

Our reputation is at stake, “the region that does it right … mostly.”

The will be ten million people in 18 years time in the GTHA. City regions cannot rest on their laurels. Greater Vancouver  produces about half of BC’s GDP: the GTA 40% of Ontario’s

Q&A

1. Are there many other regions in same boat?

New York (pedestrians, bicycles, role of design) Washington (streetcar), Denver, LA (at long last). We did study what others are doing

2. Intermediate Capacity Transit Systems were not considered in Toronto. Do you have an a priori down on SkyTrain?

I don’t know nearly enough knowledge about technology to answer that. The business case is the analysis to determine mode choice. “Buried LRT” was chosen for the Eglinton Line (“to keep it out of the way of the traffic”) but its business case never published. It is now halfway built but great care was taken not to take away the road space from cars.

3.  Were walking, biking, car sharing considered?

Our remit was  very specific. We not have time to consider cycling

4.  Transit Oriented Development:  what research did you do on value capture?

Didn’t get into value uplift not done enough

5. What would you have done if you had had 6 months?

If we had we would have done more consultation, and considered options like no parking on King and Queen Streets [major streetcar routes in downtown Toronto] as well as reconsidering truck delivery rules

6. Does concentration on office employment makes peak hours worse?

An excellent relief line will help

7.  Development charges?

These are under review. We don’t charge the true cost of debt in suburbs. They got hooked on Development Cost Charges: they are a perverse incentive “like a drug”. 

8.  You talked about congestion not Climate change or carbon taxes.  Flooding Richmond might be a bigger cost than congestion

We didn’t look at Carbon tax not viable. Canada is becoming less interested in being green
People are stretched and cranky

Cost of collection of tolls is too high

Revenue from gas tax has a limited life. The 1m more cars the rein expects will help but it is time limited

9 Province doesn’t have a clue about munis

From where you sit is what you see. TTC is bigger than Metrolinx but they have to concentrate on immediate political situations. Maybe need a provincial office for the Metro area – that used to be the case in Toronto when Gardner Church ran it. BC should bring Metro Vancouver and Translink together

10 Do people understand opportunity cost (citing the avoided cost of congestion she referenced)? E.g. road tolls

“I am not optimistic that there is enough white space”. The speed of communications defeats the consideration of complex issues. “The big lie is winning”

————————————–

NOTES

GTA Toronto population is 5.8 million.

“Big Move” is a comprehensive 25 year $50bn transit plan for GTHA with a goal of a 33% mode share. Phase 1 is the $16bn under way now which includes $800m for a makeover of Union Station. The Bloor Danforth subway extension to Scarborough City Centre will cost ~$3bn. The Eglinton Crosstown line is 12 miles png and will open in 2020. The 7 mile Finch West line will start in 2015 with scheduled completion in 2020. An 8 mile Sheppard East LRT will connect the Sheppard subway  terminal at Don Mills to Morningside starting in 2017 completion by 2021. The Union Pearson line will be open next year. 37 miles of BRT are being built in York Region and Mississauga. Tunnelling has been completed on a 5.4 mile extension of the Spadina subway to Vaughn. It will open in 2016 and is the first TTC line outside of the city.

source: Trains February 2014

Written by Stephen Rees

January 29, 2014 at 10:52 am

SFU Gondola: Great BCR, Shame about the Business Case

with 11 comments

Translink released the CH2M Hill Burnaby Mountain Business Case report (dated October 2011) yesterday. And the story got picked up quickly by Atlantic Cities.

It seems to me to illustrate what has been going wrong with public investment decisions in recent years. In terms of its Benefit Cost Ratio this project ought to rise high in any comparative analysis of potential transportation projects. There is always a long list of projects that could be done, but not all of them will turn out to be positive. Often the local environmental impact of a major transportation project – or the the cost of its mitigation – will outweigh the benefits – usually travel time savings, especially if all the costs and benefits are measured objectively. In this case, while local residents have objected loudly object the anticipated impact on them, the overall benefits are significantly higher than the costs.

  • 1.5 million hours of saved travel time for current riders and an estimated 500,000 of auto travel time savings as commuters switch to the more efficient service;
  • Fewer transit service interruptions due to snowy conditions on the winding roads up to SFU;
  • Over 26 million in fewer vehicle kilometres traveled annually, which translates into savings on gas, collisions and an overall reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of about 7,000 tons annually.

“The total value of these benefits, over the 25-year life-cycle, totaled more than $500 million, creating a benefit-cost ratio (BCR) of 3.6,” the report notes, adding that a BCR of greater than 1.0 indicates that benefits surpass costs.

In a world where governments are concerned about such things, even though there may not be enough revenue to cover the costs, a BCR of 3.6 would be significant enough to make a case for public sector (taxpayer) support. Social benefits – or what economists call an overall welfare benefit – are worth paying for, even if the market does not have a mechanism to produce that. But these days governments in general have abandoned ideas of social welfare, and espoused the notion that somehow government is just another business and it is only the financial case that matters. Government expenditure is held to be necessarily wasteful and inefficient – unless it is spent on projects like huge weapons or prisons (which have no discernible  benefits at all, just high private sector profits).

Translink currently cannot finance any new projects beyond the Evergreen Line, since its financial resources are restricted by the province. So there is no way to cover the projected $120m in capital costs or the $10m extra in operating costs. Buses are cheaper. And cheapness, it seems, when it comes to public service, is all that matters. Travel time savings, lower emissions (local pollutants and greenhouse gases) and greater reliability are not worth paying for. Well, not when you have already shot billions on highway projects that will not achieve any of those benefits. Of course, in the case of BC, the assessment process ensured that the highway project would be built anyway and the case for it would never be effectively questioned. Its environmental costs would be ignored, and the case would be based on time savings that ignore induced travel that will quickly overwhelm the short term travel time savings.

I cannot say I like the Atlantic’s use of stock photography. Here is another of my Peak2Peak gondola shots – since that was a favoured technology for SFU at one time

Peak2Peak centre span

Peak2Peak centre span - my photo on flickr

Written by Stephen Rees

January 12, 2012 at 11:26 am

Dan Burden – Active in Action

with 4 comments

SFU City Program – free public lecture at SFU downtown April 22, 2010

Dan Burden

Dan Burden

Dan Burden spoke last night summarizing his extensive experience in remaking places for people instead of cars. He used a lot of illustrations which I have not been able to locate on line. He does have a collection of images on flickr using the identity walkablecommunties some of which I have used below as well as one of my own (Bryant Park) and some others I have found on the web. SFU were making a video of the presentation as well, which will be on their web page eventually.

He opened by saying that Vancouver is the lead city for bringing about change for what we need. He intended to “validate that you are in the right field”. There is going to be a profound change for North America which for the last sixty years has been designed around the car. His job has been taming the urban highway. This mean dealing with both building form and street form – to make them relate to the human being – and do a better job of moving cars.

Lunchtime in Bryant Park

Bryant Park New York City – the only activities here  in the 1960s were drug deals. But only little things needed to be tweaked. “We needed to find the right height for the wall around the park so that people could see in”. It has become a social gathering place – we changed the wall and put in over 3,000 chairs which are portable, and only 30 a year get stolen.

Victoria BC

Victoria BC

Victoria BC

We are going to measure everything by the foot.  All areas are going to transition as we return to health and social equity. There will be bigger and more massive storms (illustrated by the picture of the Fallen tree in Stanley Park)  and this will effect every waterfront.

Density does not generate traffic – it generates pedestrians and cyclists. By maximizing sight lines we create public realm. All over America there are places were the streets have been laid and the sewers put in, but no houses will ever be built. This suburban expansion was the wrong concept at the wrong time – all the housing stock in Florida will not be sold in ten years.

We now see places like Calgary, Vernon, Edmonton where the spillover of knowledge and technologies in making human places has happened. But it must also be acknowledged that overcoming change in order to not have the worst possible change takes courage “Just ask Fred Bass” – Burrard Bridge.

In Seattle they are taking out the McDonalds and Burger Kings and putting in coffee houses as part of mixed use developments.

“Our cars matter. I am not anti-car but I am pro people”

There is a serious problem with SOVs.  The traffic system will always break down. Car buyers are very fickle. Just two years ago fuel efficiency was 17th on list of what people look for in a new car. A long way behind cup holders. That changed, but  gas prices have not come down as far as they were, and will not again.

West Lafayette Indiana – in showing how the narrowing of streets worked he remarked, “It’s the intersection that mediates traffic” not the width of the street.

After WWII we designed cities for cars. It was the federal housing administration that discouraged through traffic and mandated cul-de-sacs. It was not one class that was responsible. He showed a picture of 11 Mile Road in Detroit, Michigan. “That is now a scary place. Not exactly of what the modernists predicted.”

As recently as 1972 a traffic engineer in Los Angeles was quoted as saying “If it weren’t for the damn pedestrians there wouldn’t be a traffic problem.”

Tennessee Ave in Tallahassee – an arterial road 7 lanes wide that kills one pedestrian a year. It will be narrowed to 4 lanes and will move more traffic.

Today people are returning to cities for their health. He told the Cherokee 2 wolves story to illustrate how we can no chose which way to go.

Using a picture of the inner harbour in Victoria be highlighted several people who were “loitering” – change that to “lingering” and it becomes a good not an evil.

“How do we count the capacity of streets?”

For a long time we simply looked at vehicle capacity. We now need to look for other indicators such as the number of weddings on a bicycle.

He compared two roads and said that “the one that is safer makes more money”

Marine Drive, Dundarave, West Vancouver

Marine Drive, Dundarave, West Vancouver

Marine Drive,  Dundarave, West Vancouver

Vancouver, West Broadway

Vancouver, West Broadway

West Broadway, Vancouver – tripled density along the street

Robson Street, Vancouver “streets that are full of life”

Many cities have the original “bone structure” – the street system that predated the car and that can be revived. Seaside Florida was based on drawings from 1928, and simply designed to recreate the sort of place people had known int heir childhood.

“We will make more meaningful all spaces”

Sustainable places

Examples of sustainable places he illustrated included

High_Point

High Point, Seattle

Seattle – High Point – were there is a wide mix of housing types and a strong emphasis on water retention

The most unsustainable – Abu Dhabi – where there were no pedestrians or cyclists – but it will become the most sustainable – they have the will and the resources.

Bogota – example of public transport/ bicycle integration

West Palm Beach – rebuilding city that had fallen into ruin – Espanola Way – south beach

Monterey CA – mixed use “jewel box” devt on one third of an acre

30th Street in Vernon

30th Street in Vernon

Vernon BC – “off the charts on aging in place”. It also shows the importance of scale and edges in bringing back people into cities. He used a graph  that showed how pedestrain use increases and traffic declines based on the work of John Holtzclaw of the Sierra Club. As density increases from  3 to 4 units/acre to 20 units/acre, the number of car trips fall and the number of pedestrian and cycle trips increase.

“There is a difference between densirty and form. It is important to grasp that. It is not about sidewalks and crossings. It’s about the buildings.” They have recently rediscovered the importance of smaller scale grocers in urban places.

Michael Freedman – clustering to promote walkability – Highgate Village Burnaby

Burnaby, HighGate Village

Burnaby, HighGate Village

Complete Streets

Dundarave shows how managing traffic better made a better, more vibrant place.

Hamburg NY – street narrowing

La Hoya Blvd Birdrock San Diego – reducing 5 lanes to 2 got speeds down to 20mph and people got home sooner. That is because they replaced the traffic lights with roundabouts. All of the shops are doing better.

Rubber band planning

Rubber band planning

Rubber band planning

Just by using pins and flexible string to determine routes, a six year old can do a better job of planning streets. The pins indicate where people are located and where they want to be. The string between them shows the shortest route. The flexibility of the string shows where these desire lines can be grouped showing where the pedestrian crossings and pathways need to be. You then just replace the string with pen lines.

“Transportation is too important to be left to transportation planners”

He showed a number of examples of people power, citing the founder fathers, and the need to inform people. It is essential that the process involve people. [Quite unlike the present practice here of “public consultation”] He spoke of “turning back planning”. Robert Davis the inventor of Seaside simply wanted to make a place like he remembered from his childhood. Many of his examples showed that it only takes on person to start

The Cycle of Strip Development

Land Use Planners set out what was needed to accommodate people and their activities which produced growth. This required the attention of transportation planners who expanded the system  and encouraged further growth, which called for the land use planners to examine how to accommodate growth and so on. The only way of breaking the Cycle is to put the land use planners and transportation planners together with community planners.

Q & A

Q     As a result of making cities more desirable we also make the city more expensive

A     In Seattle they require developers to build workforce housing – a percentage of each development must be affordable. Or they pay for extra density to the city which the uses those funds to buy land for affordable housing.

Q  In Vancouver we have the downtown East Side which is bisected by the  6 lane Hastings Street. There are a lot of low income income people and also problems of drugs and theft. Do you have experience of  similar low income high risk areas?

A  Yes. All parts of the community have to be brought back. The social services have to work. Division St, Grand Rapids, Michigan was the same. The problem is how to get people to come and take part in the process. We had a design charrette for 118th St Edmonton which is now one of the most beautiful streets in the city. Initially one six people came – five of whom were simply seeking shelter. But one of them was inspired and cleaned up – and then became a very effective change agent. “It is the wealthy who will get the first fruits – the are the first to come back – but everybody must get cared for”

Q     Are mandatory parking minimums part of the problem?

A     Yes. See  Donald Shoup – The High Cost of Free Parking – minimum parking requirement is the problem

Q  second part – what is it going to take to get rid of minimum parking requirements? Is anybody here going to make that commitment?

[laughter]

Q  You spoke about the health improvements brought by these projects. For instance you said that  Marine Drive in West Vancouver “lowered blood pressure”. Have you empirical evidence?

Walter Kulash has noted that road rage is worst on suburban streets that have higher speeds. “We should probably have in car BP monitoring”

Q Returning to parking minimums – parts of Burnaby are walkable but they are surrounded by single family areas and that’s where the demand comes from for on street parking.

Public streets are public. Having your own spot on the street in front of your house is not a right. We have to come up with right way to charge for parking. Look at the example of Cambridge where residents have to have parking passes. We also tried to get high school students paid for parking on streets which would then become a fund for street improvements. There should be a premium for priority on parking to increase turn over that then provides money to neighborhoods. “No one has taken me up on that yet.” But we also need to ask “Are we really using the street properly”. Many suburban streets are too wide and could easily accommodate angle parking.

Q      How do we work with the “suburban mess”?

A      I am currently staying in Richmond, which has lots of “super blocks” and hence broken connectivity.  We need to remove the barriers but we are a conflicted society. 80% of N America is suburbs. Deciding where and how you stitch is a very big task. “It is not easy but it”s going to be fun!”

Q     GVRD vs Translink – two authorities – one for land use one for transportation

See New Zealand. They reinvented transportation and land use planning to make it into one team. They then sent teams to cities like Vancouver and stole their best ideas

Q   I am wondering about how long these streets are?  How far before energy peters out?

A    There is a need to change character of the street to reflect their neighborhoods: we tend to work in half mile sections.

Written by Stephen Rees

April 22, 2010 at 11:21 am

Gondola planned for Burnaby Mountain

with 31 comments

Burnaby News Leader

Burnaby Mountain could soon have a gondola line serving Simon Fraser University and the rapidly-growing community of UniverCity.

The SFU Community Trust has put forward the concept of an estimated $68.9 million project that would run between the Production Way SkyTrain station and the transit loop at the east end of the SFU campus. Trust CEO Gordon Harris said a gondola transit system would improve reliability and travel times to and from Burnaby Mountain, and reduce the greenhouse gas emissions currently produced by the fleet of diesel buses that run up and down the mountain

This is an excellent idea. It cannot of course simply be implemented by the Trust – who own the UniverCity development on the mountain. They are now talking to the Province and Translink. Based on the figures presented in this story they should proceed. Travel time from Production Way to the current transit loop would be 6 minutes – not the 14 (minimum) it takes by bus. Operating cost is around half that of buses – and the capital cost is not much more than the $50m it will cost for a replacement fleet of buses. Ridership is currently around 20,000 a day. Obviously it will be much better if the gondola is integrated into the Translink fare system than run privately.

One major advantage of the aerial tramway is that it can operate in snow and not leave people stranded on the mountain top.

Peak2Peak unloading

Peak2Peak unloading my picture

Peak2Peak

Peak2Peak my picture

Written by Stephen Rees

February 10, 2009 at 1:42 pm

Posted in transit

Tagged with ,

A new video

with 7 comments

by Ryan Longoz, 2008 CMNS 482 Directed Study

Metro Vancouver has a long way to go before it can call itself a livable region. Why are we further committing ourselves to car orientation? Building roads just adds to the problem we’re trying to address, and just think of the transit service $3.9 billion could buy.

Driving, shopping, advertising, consumer culture, Hummers, sprawl, it’s all here. Our addiction to the status quo is quickly working against our needs for community, complete infrastructure, and efficient ways of getting around. What in the hell are we doing?

Thanks to everyone who lent their time and effort to help make this possible. Share this if you find it interesting, and feel free to embed.

Please comment! I appreciate your feedback.

…music by Caribou. Check them out: www.caribou.fm/

Written by Stephen Rees

April 17, 2008 at 8:15 am

What I have been doing this morning

with 4 comments

I have gone back into the SFU posts and added photographs by Jason Vanderhill (with his permission of course). I am trying to ensure that posts here have a balance between words and pictures – or rather illustrations (“For what good is a book without pictures or conversations” thought Alice) and I really appreciate his blanket approval. Jason is not only a better photographer than I, but he also uses a Sony Cybershot which seems to get images that my Nikon 4800ED can’t manage.

I have been reading John Taplin’s blog about the American economy, and he seems to back up my worst fears.

And, by the way, if you have been thinking we are doing well becuase our dollar is at par to theirs, think again. This graph shows how many of our dollars it takes to buy a Euro.

And that is not good news either. (This is not one of those charts where up is positive) I find the Sauder School UBC Currency Trends service very useful. As Taplin points out since oil is priced in dollars, the apparent rise in fuel cost is not hitting them. And they also do not have to worry about a flood of cheap US imports of goods – since the US does not make make nearly so much these days, and what they do make does not fit all that well into a European lifestyle. Although Tony Blair did drive a Dodge Caravan (which says a lot in itself).

And also I have been reading Erika Rathje’s suburban observations. She didn’t like my suggestion of using Google image search but for some reason I found this appealing

I have also been avoiding the news about the property price crash in the UK

I am joining the ranks of the hopeful – that continued overseas interest in Vancouver and the chance of a quick Canuck buck off the Olympics will keep our market bouyant. Not that I intend to move again after this one.

Written by Stephen Rees

April 13, 2008 at 1:01 pm

Posted in blog update

Tagged with , ,