Stephen Rees's blog

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

Posts Tagged ‘YVR

The Airport and The Ferries

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Two quite different modes – and the same issue.

The BC Liberals are currently sitting on their hands about the Macatee report on BC Ferries – which ought to make Vaughan Palmer’s exit interview with David Hahn worth watching. (Voice of BC Shaw Cable only 8pm tonight). The policy has been for the corporation to move to user pay – which means that fares have risen, and at the same time loadings have fallen. The corporation now says it needs to cut service to make the books balance – which some people might think would reduce use further, but the corporation points to empty ferries on supposedly socially necessary services.

I was thinking about doing another ferry piece – but maybe I’ve written all I have to say on that – when the news broke of the President of YVR talking to the Board of Trade announcing increased user fees to pay for yet more airport expansion. YVR also has a commercial remit – and has been steadily expanding since it was cut loose by the feds.

Mr. Berg said the “geographical advantage” that YVR has traditionally had, of being the closest, major West Coast terminal to Asia, is being rapidly eroded as new technology gives jets greater range.

Flights can now go direct to Asia from as far east as Toronto and Chicago, he said, showing a map that illustrated how jets arc over the polar region to drop down into a growing number of airports in China.

“With new aircraft and navigational technology, a lot more cities are accessible from Asia today. And these cities have figured out what YVR’s founders knew. Serving as a gateway can bring vast economic benefits to their communities … this [is a] dramatically different competitive landscape than we [faced] 20 years ago,” he said.

Mr. Berg said Edmonton is opening 12 new international gates next month and Calgary is building a new runway and 22 new gates for 2015.

“Neither Calgary nor Edmonton has the passenger traffic to fill those gates today – so guess whose traffic they are looking at?” he said.

Mr. Berg said YVR, which last year was named North America’s best airport at the World Airport Awards in Copenhagen, is fighting back.

But is raising fees the way to win more passengers? I will say that the airport is now much better than when the new arrangements were introduced, and when I visit other places, the contrast to the airport I departed from is usually very instructive. Not many places, for instance, offer free wifi all over the terminal. There is indeed a wider range of food available – but that I think is mostly because so many airlines now charge for airline food, an it is usually much better to buy before you board, not just on price but quality. That being said, the pulled pork sandwich on a fresh baguette I bought at Cancun Airport was better than anything I have eaten at YVR. And I carried half it onto the plane since it was so large, even though on an international flight food is provided at no extra charge. (On Air Transat the wine was free too, even if they did spill most of it on my nice clean khakis.)

Nothing is reported about the expected impact of airport expansion on the environment which might be a bit odd given that this weekend there is to be a protest about the jet fuel pipeline the airport’s fuel supplier wants to build across Richmond.  Other places – like London – have had to look further afield as local protests have stopped expansion i.e. the new proposed new runway at Heathrow. Generally we seem to be remarkably quiet about the impact of YVR. The last major set of complaints I can recall prior to the fuel pipeline coming from some new residents of Richmond who ought to have realized that they were buying property under a flight path.

But the similarity of Han’s and Berg’s approach to their respective jobs – only commercial results matter – make the user pay more should surely have similar results. What the Edmonton and Calgary expansions will do is enable people from those places to make direct flights rather than change planes. Indeed, we seem to be back in the transit debate territory about the inconvenience of transfers and the need for a one seat ride. But in the airline business, the original ploy of making everyone fly through a hub was quite quickly countered with airlines that flew smaller, cheaper to operate planes on direct flights. Indeed on sites like hipmunk you can readily see how competition for your business stacks up  using an indicator they call “agony”. The direct flight moves to the top even if it isn’t cheapest.

I am not at all sure that it is just the airport you leave from that decides the route – but certainly the airport operators at Abbotsford and Bellingham recognize that for a growing number of people having an alternative to YVR is attractive. I look at the border line ups, additional driving/bus or train ride and probable additional hotel night for an early morning flight as being significant deterrents to using SEATAC – but obviously if there is enough trade to fill a direct bus service, enough people disagree with me.

The other phrase that popped into my mind was the one that was used when Britain decided to nationalize parts of its transportation system “wasteful competition”. If we really are facing a continuing economic depression in North America, and pressures on airlines for reduce their environmental impact continue (such as the EU’s imposition of a carbon fee on jet fuel)  the airports could be competing for a static or even shrinking market. So those user fees could be paying for under utilized facilities.

Maybe I just pick times to fly when the planes are cheap, but I am not aware of any congestion at YVR right now. And quite often when I do find myself through the security theatre and with time on my hands, I tend to notice that most of the shops and services are in fact closed. So they may well be priced at the same level as places in town – or even offer things I can’t buy there (at one time book publishers would have things in airport bookshops long before the local stores) but if they aren’t open, my wallet will also stay closed.

For flights within BC the fee remains the same. And an extra $5 on the sort of money that has to be paid these days for longer haul flights may well not register with users. After all, the amount for fees and taxes now usually exceeds the quoted fare. And people are willing to pay more for better, more convenient services. But even so, it seems to me that Berg could be making the same mistake that Hahn did. Except YVR answers to no-one, unlike BC Ferries, which was supposed to be independent but turned out not to be.

UPDATE  31 Jan     It is well worth reading Bill Tieleman’s opinion piece in today’s Tyee

Written by Stephen Rees

January 26, 2012 at 11:30 am

YVR doesn’t understand new media

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If you travel through YVR you can get real time departure and arrival information. You can also get an update on current conditions – there is a box labelled “latest information”. At the time of writing – 14:00 on Saturday December 27 that information reads “Winter Weather Disrupts Flights [Last updated on 12/24/2008 at 9:44:12 AM] ”

Nothing at all about the mess on the ground. Airports are of course intermodal – but all the web site cares to keep updated is the flight times – nothing else. It might be useful to know, for instance, that there is no hourly parking – or even any space left in the economy lot – before setting off to the airport. That was certainly the case at 12:30 today – and could well still be the case for all I know.

Of course everything is going to be so much better once the Canada line opens – but that is small comfort for those trying to get family members onto flights today. Currently they seem to working normally – just the usual level of delays and cancellations, and most of those outside the purview of YVR.

Of course it is too much to expect that surface parking lots – such as the economy lot in the central loop – actually have some snow cleared. Or some of the illegally parked cars in the driveways towed to some remote corner of the long term lot. Indeed many cars seem to have been left in the economy lot for a long time as many have significant snow loads on their roofs.

At least the parking attendant did not attempt to charge me for the time I spent fruitlessly looking for a parking spot. Why the lot had not been marked as full only some higher authority at YVR knows. I suspect the answer is simple neglect. Once there is snow on the ground there is too much running around to do. And of course there is no system in place to signal this information to those thinking they will be able to use these lots.

Written by Stephen Rees

December 27, 2008 at 2:12 pm

Posted in parking

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Local consultations

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Two stories in the Richmond News today show how much attention is paid to community input in Richmond.

On the north side of Lulu Island the stretch of land north of the railway and east of No 6 Road is pretty grim. Most of it is still zoned agricultural but there is a lot of other activity of other kins. And on the 16000 block of River Road most of it is illegal. Mainly vehicle and other commercial storage.

At an open house in October, the majority of respondents filling out feedback forms opposed the rezonings. Traffic safety issues resulting from increased truck traffic topped their list of concerns.

“Many respondents also questioned the performance record of property owners in the 16,000 block of River Road, which were undertaking activities in non-compliance with zoning regulations,” a staff report says.

The city wants to legitimize the businesses, but as a condition of rezoning, it wants some concessions, like road dedication for a future industrial road access.

Now the actual decision would have been made last night after the paper went to bed. But the principles here are worth thinking about. Zoning is supposed to achieve something that the market would not produce left to itself. The zoning of this land maybe should have been changed, but wasn’t. And now the city seems to be on the point of allowing a change in land use which will certainly increase the value of the land for the current owners. But may make the current nuisances that the neighbours complain of worse. And the owners do not appear to be doing much to meet the city’s perfectly reasonable requests to try and reduce traffic impacts of truck movements now and in the future. But staff are recommending that they be given approval anyway.

Why?

Meanwhile over at YVR – another one of those unaccountable, “professional” organizations, are trying to enlarge their fuel storage and have more of it shipped by barge. Which may or may not be a good idea: barges are certainly better in terms of diesel exhaust and ghg emissions than trucks. But then there is the risk of spills. So it is always going to be controversial. So YVR comes up with a way to deflect it. Would you like the tanks green or white?

The expansion was the subject of two open houses Jan. 31 and Feb. 2.

The Fraser River Coalition says the open houses were not well advertised and did not provide a forum for dialogue.

“This whole public input process is flawed,” coalition member Judy Williams told the media. “Why did they limit public input to two three-hour open houses without the benefit of a panel or an open mike so people could listen to other people’s concerns?”

[Member of the Richmond Advisory Committee on the Environment Gordon] Kibble said he was not even aware of the proposal and open houses. Neither were Councillors Harold Steves and Bill McNulty.

McNulty called the open houses “typical YVR consultation method.”

The deadline for public comment is February 15

Fans of the H2G2 will find a ring of familiarity about this.

Written by Stephen Rees

February 12, 2008 at 12:52 pm

Bird trouble

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Bird trouble

Airport staff scared two million birds (some were chased multiple times) away from the runways using pyrotechnics, sirens, lights, propane cannons, and two border collies, up from 1.6 million in 2005 and one million in 2002.

There is a significant absence from this list and one of the most effective ways of reducing the need to shoot birds. And we have known about this method for a long, long time.

Birds were a real problem at the 1851 Great Exhibition in London’s Hyde Park. Paxton’s magnificent Crystal Palace not only enclosed some live trees but also their bird inhabitants. They could not be shot without breaking the glass, and no-one had any idea what to do. So Queen Victoria consulted the elder statesman, and retired general, The Duke of Wellington. He had a simple answer.

“Sparrowhawks, Ma’am”

Trained falcons are in use at Toronto Pearson. Knowledge Network had a very good documentary about them recently, made several years ago. And in 1988 a review found the methodology worked well

Evaluation. – There is a sound biological basis to the use of falconry for bird control. Pest birds
are readily dispersed by falcons and will not habituate because the threat is real. Allowing a
falcon to kill a pest bird on occasion strengthens the threat. The fact that falconry is a “hands on”
technique that is deployed selectively further enhances it effectiveness over an automatic product
that is controlled by a timer.
Experienced handlers and trained raptors are required; neither may be available on short
notice. Raptors can not be used at night, or during periods of high winds or heavy rains.
Recommendation. – Falconry is recommended as a highly effective component of an airport bird
control program. Falconry can be used in conjunction with other deterrent techniques.

Why not here?

Written by Stephen Rees

June 4, 2007 at 12:01 pm

Posted in Air Travel, Environment

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