Stephen Rees's blog

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

Arbutus Greenway North End

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We walked from Valley to Granville Island today. Since I was on foot there are more photos than the last episode.

Arbutus Greenway North End

A woodchip trail has now been laid parallel to the blacktop between King Ed and 16th.

Arbutus Greenway North End

It would appear that some of the neighbours have needed to adapt a STOP sign to something more needful.

Arbutus Greenway North End

The first bike rental station I have seen on the Greenway itself, but I am still not tempted to use them – they are just too pricey. $7 a day – as long as the none of the individual rides is longer than 30 minutes.

Arbutus Greenway North End

The crossing at 12th seems to be utterly contrary to the City’s stated priorities: cyclists are expected to get off and walk their bike down to Arbutus street and back again.

Arbutus Greenway North End

From 10th to Broadway is the only section that has not yet seen any blacktop.

I have not taken any pictures of the crossing of Broadway since there isn’t one. There is also no signage. One group of cyclists we saw were riding in circles trying to see what it was they were supposed to be doing. The answer of course is to walk to the existing crosswalk at Arbutus Street.

Arbutus Greenway North End

There isn’t any official public art on the Greenway yet but this piece seems worthwhile.

Arbutus Greenway North End

This is the City’s poster on the trail – actually almost at the same point where the photo was taken before it was photoshopped to show the chip trail and “divided” blacktop.

Arbutus Greenway North End

It was a nice day today

The crossing of Burrard Street is all in place but just not working yet. Even so, compliance seems admirable. Down at the Fir Street playground things seem to fizzle out. Like the southern end there is no signage but at least the right of way between 5th and 4th has been kept clear of parked cars, unlike the following sections.

Arbutus Greenway North End

Written by Stephen Rees

March 25, 2017 at 4:03 pm

Evidence based policy making

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There was a flurry of commentary yesterday in the wake of the budget. General approval of the huge expansion of funding for more transit services, but griping at the removal of the tax concession to transit passes.

Now we could get into a debate about how the BC Liberals seem prepared to go into the election denying that they have an obligation to match the federal funding that would see the Broadway subway and Surrey LRT built. I would provide a link to Frances Bula’s piece in the Globe and Mail but that site is, of course, paywalled. But post writing the first bit of this I found that Metro has good coverage.

Instead I have decided to post something I picked up yesterday from a tweet. It turns out that there has been research into the impact of the tax treatment of commuter transit passes – and it found that there was no discernible impact on ridership. It was supposed to encourage people to ride transit instead of driving, but didn’t. Public Transit Tax Credit is  a pdf file that carries the title “The Effectiveness and Distributional Effects of the Tax Credit for Public Transit” by Vincent Chandler. Now, I do not know if this research was actually consulted by the government, but I do think that they are right in their conclusion that investment in more and better transit is a better way to spend tax dollars than subsidizing people who are using transit already. It certainly is much more likely to change behaviour in terms of mode choice.

Building a great big bridge over the Fraser is not going to cure traffic congestion. Putting in an extra tube that carries railway trains will. But the BC Liberals think that they will get re-elected if they get the bridge to the point of no return before the election, and refuse to budge from their current position on transit expansion. The contribution from provincial funds is set at one third and that will not be changed no matter what the feds promise. Of course, they do not do very well in polling in places where transit expansion is critical – Vancouver and Victoria. So perhaps this is just the usual appeal to their supporters in the rest of BC.

And now, thanks to Les Lyne of the Courier, I know that the Liberals really are interested in collecting more data to improve decision making. Thanks to facebook I have also come across another blogger with his perceptive take on the Conservatives “boutique tax cuts”.

Written by Stephen Rees

March 23, 2017 at 10:26 am

Posted in Transportation

WPC: It IS Easy Being Green

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via Photo Challenge: It IS Easy Being Green!

Parque Josone, Varadero
Parque Josone in Varadero, Cuba where even the water in the boating lake is green.

 

Written by Stephen Rees

March 22, 2017 at 10:32 am

Arbutus Greenway 2017

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Sunshine – and everyone (it seemed) was out on the greenway this morning. Though the pictures don’t show that.

Newly installed bench

There are to be benches at regular intervals: this is Maple Crescent around 29th Avenue

End of the line

The Greenway ends in one of those no-places – with no connections, or even signs to indicate onward connection. This is Milton Street at Rand Avenue. Note that the Greenway doesn’t appear on Google maps – even as a disused railway.

Screen Shot 2017-03-19 at 1.06.07 PM

Arbutus Greenway

This is the reverse angle looking back up the Greenway. The dashed lines indicate where the blacktop will be removed and replaced by a “landscaped” divider.

The bike ride is great – but will definitely get better as more separation between pedestrians and cyclists is established. Right now people tend to just keep to the right even where signs and paint on the path indicate otherwise. The biggest issue is the street crossings – especially on the busier streets like 41st Avenue and Marine Drive. The old train signals are still place – and what signage there is suggests that cyclists behave like pedestrians. 41st at the Boulevards has long been a vehicle only type of intersection with corrals and blockages to pedestrian desire lines. Much work is long overdue here – and the Greenway is going to increase that pressure.

But even so it was nice to be out on the bikes again – and enjoying the long sections of gravity assistance!

Written by Stephen Rees

March 19, 2017 at 1:15 pm

Atop the clouds

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via Photo Challenge: Atop

Atop the clouds

Heading home from Varadero it was already dark by the time we left the airport, but once we got atop the clouds there was still some afterglow from the sunset. And since the view here is westwards perhaps someone can help with the identification of that star.

Written by Stephen Rees

March 15, 2017 at 1:04 pm

Solar panels in the tar sands

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Written by Stephen Rees

March 14, 2017 at 2:58 pm

Posted in energy, Environment

My wish for Cuba

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via Photo Challenge: Wish

Wish

The photo was taken last week in Old Havana, on the Paseo Marti at lunchtime. We had found a restaurant on the roof of the Asturias friendship association’s building: they have a barbecue up there. I had a whole grilled red snapper, my partner the largest pork brocheta I have ever seen. We felt very lucky to be away from the cold of Vancouver, in a beautiful old city. Then I looked across at the other side of the street.

There are many old buildings in Havana, which tourists love to photograph. They are highly picturesque and a few have been beautifully restored. Many more are in desperate need of repair. Look at the balcony of the window to the left of where this woman is standing. The old rusted rebar is still there, hanging loose. The concrete has fallen away. Yet there she stands – and where she is standing is going to go the same way one day.

Cuba has been subject to a lot of severe weather – many sites show the damage caused by hurricanes. These weather events are getting more severe and more frequent. Many countries are switching to renewable energy sources to try to limit the increase in the greenhouse gases that are the cause of the change in our climate. It is not just warming: it is sea level rise, storms and plagues.

In  its recent history Cuba suffered as a result of the US embargo. It had an ally in the former Soviet Union but that source of aid has gone. It used to rely heavily on Venezuela for its fuel but that country is now facing its own challenges. A Canadian company, Sherritt, has been helping in recent years to exploit the newly found oil and gas resources not too far from Havana in Matanzas, near Varadero – which is also a major area for all inclusive resorts where we also spent some time last week. We saw the huge chimney of the thermal power plant that now supplies Havana’s electricity – and it’s long plume of particulates. These add to the smoke from the open burning of sugar cane residues in the field after harvest. And the tailpipe emissions from old cars that never had catalytic converters or any emission controls and have now been mostly converted to diesel. I got through four packs of nasal tissues every day while in Havana.

What we did not see – despite the sunshine and strong winds – were any photovoltaic panels or turbines. Someone told us they were in the plan for the future but were currently considered “too expensive”. She also said that Raul Castro has announced his intention to retire next year. There is much uncertainty over what may follow.

My wish is that the people of Cuba will benefit from the long overdue improvement in relations with the United States as a result of President Obama’s decision to end the embargo. The main immediate effect of which was to end the opportunity of travel for Cubans to the US as refugees. Increasing uncertainty is unfortunately a major plank in the policy of the current occupant of the White House.

Cuba is a poor country with many people who are underemployed: well educated but unable to find a way to utilise their knowledge, skills and willingness to work hard. Every embassy and consulate I saw in Havana is heavily fortified, not because Cuba is unsafe but to deter those who might climb their fences to secure sanctuary.

My wish is for a better future for Cubans that is not dependent on the individual generosity of tourists, or the investment of more Canadian money in exploiting fossil fuels. A future which offers dignity for all. And safety in their homes. Not a precarious perch in a crumbling ruin. I wish I knew of a way of getting this message out to more people. I wish we could persuade our governments that waiting for chaos to break out – or even provoking it – and then offering shelter to a tiny percentage of the resulting refugees is not a tenable foreign policy option. That foreign aid is not just an easy target for spending cuts to allow tax breaks for the wealthy. That countries like Cuba are not simply a useful place to conduct torture that would be illegal at home – and is anyway ineffective.

My wish is that countries like Canada and the United States will do something to tackle the gross inequalities that now characterize our world. Symbolized by the wealthy old white guy enjoying his expensive lunch while a young woman looks out from her window a few feet away and wonders what she will do next.


Afterword

Much later in the same day I wrote this piece my partner found an article by Michael J Totten in World Affairs entitled “The Once Great City of Havana” 3 December 2013. It is a Long Read but very thought provoking.

Written by Stephen Rees

March 8, 2017 at 11:55 am