Archive for the ‘Transportation’ Category
Am I being a pedant? Or does my commitment to speaking the truth just keep getting me into trouble? I like Mike Harcourt. I have met him, and even “worked” alongside him: well they call them “workshops”. But he repeats a canard in his latest letter to the Vancouver Sun that irritates me
“Vancouver … we are the only major North American city without a freeway (thank goodness).”
I just created the map above: I was surprised that the City Boundary does not appear on Google maps so I added a very crude dashed line along Boundary Road. The map area to the left of that line is the City of Vancouver. You will note that Highway 1 also known as the TransCanada Highway and “the freeway” is to the left of the line too. Vancouver does have a freeway. Not very much maybe and it just runs through the north east corner of the City and for some distance in a tunnel. But it is a freeway and it is well within the City limits.
Mike Harcourt was indeed instrumental in making sure that a freeway was not built through Chinatown – and downtown. Well done Mike. I salute you. But that does not mean that Vancouver is without any freeways at all.
2014 Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure’s Deputy Minister’s Consulting Engineers Awards, originally uploaded by TranBC.
I found this image on the Ministry’s flickr account. This won an award – not for the design (though it should) but for Construction Management and Supervision Services.
I have often written on this blog about roundabouts – and why they most never be confused with traffic circles. This is Highway 5 and Clearwater Valley Road. I will need to go find out on Google exactly where that is as the MoTI have not provided a map reference.
All the info you need is here as a pdf
The Canadian Press report found on the CBC web page says that the issue includes retirement benefit cuts
The workers, members of Local 378, say the employer is demanding contract concessions and wants to cut retirement benefits.
Local vice-president Heather Lee calls company demands mean spirited and unfair.
There follows a reference to Medical Services Premiums, and probably does not include the increase announced in today’s budget. The MSP revenue has increased 60% since 2001.
As a retiree from the BC Public Service I saw my retirement benefits cut in 2012. Up until then MSP was paid by the employer. Of course since this was applied to people who had already retired, no-one threatened strike action no matter how mean spirited and unfair this was. At the same time Blue Cross increased the rates it levied for extended health care. And as for “Fair Pharmacare” I have never seen a red cent from them. I do dutifully tot up all the receipts on my income tax return, of course.
And of course there was no coverage of this at that time in any of the mainstream media – though retirees got an insulting letter from the powers that be reassuring us that the value of our pension had been preserved. The fact that we saw an increase in our expenses with no other choice but to pay was not mentioned.
I do not know if CMBC staff are covered by the same pension plan as Translink staff. And it may be that my situation is different having joined BC Transit from the civil service.
I also expect the usual right wing nonsense that pubic servants deserve much worse pensions since the private sector has been stealing pensions from their employees for years (to pad corporate profits and executive bonuses) and getting away with it.
Instead of my former practice of using “Upcoming Event” as the title, I have just cut and pasted the announcement from an SFU email.
That is because I want to make a couple of points even before I have heard what Andrew Coyne has to say – and I am looking forward to hearing that in due course. But all you ever get to do – if you are lucky – at these events is ask questions. And the points I need to make are not the sort that get dealt with properly in a Q&A session.
Firstly the subsidies that underlie our present land use and transportation pattern are not going to change any time soon. As we heard from Todd Stone, there is to be no road pricing on the provincial highway network no matter what the newly empowered Mayors’ Council might think. They can have more control over the region’s transportation – just not nearly enough. But the subsidy to the present level of car use is built in to the fabric of our society. We subsidize fossil fuels – and especially liquid fossil fuel for motor vehicles, which remains overwhelmingly the chosen method of propulsion and will not change very significantly for a very long time. Car makers get all kinds of assistance (as Coyne himself points out): if they look like moving that increases, because we think we need those jobs. If they look like their business model is failing, they are bailed out. We do not expect to see that money repaid. We have never seriously considered for very long if there might be a better way of spending public funds to increase accessibility because we are still obsessed with mobility – which is not the same thing at all. We are still stuck at the point where we feel that land uses must be separated and that the single family home on its large lot is still the basic unit of residential development. Anything else is viewed with deep suspicion: “social engineering” is suspected – as though we had not been engineered into our current mess. The pattern of urban sprawl has been produced by subsidies and is economically unsustainable – as well as unsustainable in every other dimension too – but very few people accept that inconvenient truth.
Secondly the faith in the ability of markets to produce optimal solutions, as long as governments do not interfere, is misplaced. There is no evidence that the people who control corporations will ever do anything else than profit maximize. Yes, subsidies distort their decisions – but so does greed and willful blindness to “externalities”. We have had plenty of experience of the failure of the free enterprise model. It has not served us well at all, and unless we start to assert some very necessary political controls over businesses, our future on this planet seems very gloomy indeed. As long as money is protected as “free speech” and as long as profits can be squirrelled away in off shore accounts with little fear of penalty the present broken system will continue. And no private corporation is going to step forward to build us new transit systems unless it is paid handsomely to do so.
Rethinking Transportation: New Voices, New Ideas
Brought to you by TransLink in collaboration with the SFU City Program
February 25, 7 pm
Goldcorp Centre for the Arts (at SFU Woodwards), 149 West Hastings, Vancouver
Admission is free, but reservations are required. Reserve
Live Webcast: http://creative-services.sfu.ca/broadcast/
Andrew Coyne, a national columnist for Postmedia/National Post, will talk about a unified approach to pricing cars and transit. Transit advocates commonly suppose that subsidizing transit more heavily will induce more people to give up their cars, thus alleviating congestion. The evidence for this is scant, while a better solution is at hand: pricing roads. Not only would road tolls automatically make transit more competitive with cars, but surface transit users would also benefit from the faster traffic flows that result. Pricing road use is the only effective way to induce people to drive less: indeed, as road use is at present rationed by time rather than money, other proposed methods (wider roads, carpooling, synchronized lights, etc) end up inducing people to drive more, since they reduce the time-price of using the roads. Put the revenues from road tolls toward subsidizing transit? No: subsidized transit suffers from much the same defects as subsidized roads — both mask the real price of resource use, and both encourage sprawl. Moreover, to the extent subsidies make transit less dependent on riders for revenues, they lessen incentives to innovate and improve service.
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
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.
- 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
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
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].
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”.
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
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”
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
The following article arrived in my in box this morning from David Suzuki . I am copying it in its entirety since it expresses exactly what I would write.
I have not used the image that accompanied the text since it does not actually depict the dangerous DOT111 cars that are one of the causes of the present problems. DSF chose a picture from flickr (good) that comes from Europe, where they use a quite different car (oops!). The picture below is from one of my flickr contacts in Quebec and shows “a loaded tank car on CN 710, stopped for a crew change at Turcot West in Montreal. Train is destined for Ultramar refinery at St-Romuald, QC (near Quebec City)”.
Debating the best way to do something we shouldn’t be doing in the first place is a sure way to end up in the wrong place. That’s what’s happening with the “rail versus pipeline” discussion. Some say recent rail accidents mean we should build more pipelines to transport fossil fuels. Others argue that leaks, high construction costs, opposition and red tape surrounding pipelines are arguments in favour of using trains.
But the recent spate of rail accidents and pipeline leaks and spills doesn’t provide arguments for one or the other; instead, it indicates that rapidly increasing oil and gas development and shipping ever greater amounts, by any method, will mean more accidents, spills, environmental damage – even death. The answer is to step back from this reckless plunder and consider ways to reduce our fossil fuel use.
If we were to slow down oil sands development, encourage conservation and invest in clean energy technology, we could save money, ecosystems and lives – and we’d still have valuable fossil fuel resources long into the future, perhaps until we’ve figured out ways to use them that aren’t so wasteful. We wouldn’t need to build more pipelines just to sell oil and gas as quickly as possible, mostly to foreign markets. We wouldn’t have to send so many unsafe rail tankers through wilderness areas and places people live.
We may forgo some of the short-term jobs and economic opportunities the fossil fuel industry provides, but surely we can find better ways to keep people employed and the economy humming. Gambling, selling guns and drugs and encouraging people to smoke all create jobs and economic benefits, too – but we rightly try to limit those activities when the harms outweigh the benefits.
Both transportation methods come with significant risks. Shipping by rail leads to more accidents and spills, but pipeline leaks usually involve much larger volumes. One of the reasons we’re seeing more train accidents involving fossil fuels is the incredible boom in moving these products by rail. According to the American Association of Railroads, train shipment of crude oil in the U.S. grew from 9,500 carloads in 2008 to 234,000 in 2012 – almost 25 times as many in only four years! That’s expected to rise to 400,000 this year.
As with pipelines, risks are increased because many rail cars are older and not built to standards that would reduce the chances of leaks and explosions when accidents occur. Some in the rail industry argue it would cost too much to replace all the tank cars as quickly as is needed to move the ever-increasing volumes of oil. We must improve rail safety and pipeline infrastructure for the oil and gas that we’ll continue to ship for the foreseeable future, but we must also find ways to transport less.
The economic arguments for massive oil sands and liquefied natural gas development and expansion aren’t great to begin with – at least with the way our federal and provincial governments are going about it. Despite a boom in oil sands growth and production, “Alberta has run consecutive budget deficits since 2008 and since then has burned through $15 billion of its sustainability fund,” according to an article on the Tyee website. The Canadian Taxpayers Federation says Alberta’s debt is now $7 billion and growing by $11 million daily.
As for jobs, a 2012 report by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives shows less than one per cent of Canadian workers are employed in extraction and production of oil, coal and natural gas. Pipelines and fossil fuel development are not great long-term job creators, and pale in comparison to employment generated by the renewable energy sector.
Beyond the danger to the environment and human health, the worst risk from rapid expansion of oil sands, coal mines and gas fields and the infrastructure needed to transport the fuels is the carbon emissions from burning their products – regardless of whether that happens here, in China or elsewhere. Many climate scientists and energy experts, including the International Energy Agency, agree that to have any chance of avoiding catastrophic climate change, we must leave at least two-thirds of our remaining fossil fuels in the ground.
The question isn’t about whether to use rail or pipelines. It’s about how to reduce our need for both.
By David Suzuki with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation Senior Editor Ian Hanington
“I think a lot of times, elected officials are afraid of bloggers. A blogger combines an elected official’s two most scariest things which is a journalist and an engaged citizen.”
If only that were true!
I somehow doubt that Streetsblog was actually responsible for getting Times Square closed to traffic. But possibly it helped give Janette Sadik-Kahn some support for what was actually quite a controversial decision. It also helped that its method of implementation was readily reversible if it had not worked.
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