Stephen Rees's blog

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

WPC: Against the odds

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via Photo Challenge: Against the Odds

Lightning strikes downtown Sydney

I would have been able to calculate the odds of getting this shot if we had kept all the shots which did not have lightning in them. It was in Sydney Australia in October 2015.We were in our hotel room in Surry Hills, in the late afternoon/early evening and all around us the storm was raging. Great crashes of thunder and lightning all around. I admit I did not actually take this picture myself. My partner held up her iPad and kept clicking – fortunately there was plenty of space on the drive – probably 40 or 50 times. Later on I got rid of a lot of them as she needed the drive space. When we got home I printed and framed it. Anyway, none of the shots I tried worked but then I did not persist the way she did. And she got lucky Against the Odds!

Written by Stephen Rees

February 15, 2017 at 11:56 am

Posted in photography

Tagged with , ,

Friday round up

with 3 comments

Three tabs are open in my browser right now. All about transport and relevant to this region. But none actually qualifying for the full blog post treatment since I have nothing much to say about any of them, other than my readers ought to be aware of them.

The Auditor General has released a report about the Evergreen Line

Moody Central Station, Evergreen Extension

In his audit, Doyle said that the business cases developed by the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, TransLink and Partnerships B.C. and reviewed by the Ministry of Finance omitted information needed to understand the costs, benefits and risks when comparing SkyTrain, light rail and bus rapid transit options; did not explain ridership forecasts were based on assumptions that placed them at the upper end of the estimated range; and did not describe the risks from changes in complementary and competing transit services.

Actually no-one is going to be very surprised by the report. The idea that Translink might actually consider different options for the technology based on actual data seems to be quite foreign to the way things are now done in BC. The line itself was part of the regional transportation plan for years, but the NDP decided to only build the Millennium – which served Burnaby – but not the long promised link to the TriCities. Of course, in places where they do these things rationally, the line would have been built before the area was opened up for massive population growth, so of course it has been, up to now, car oriented. And there have been significant expansions to the road system – including the expansion of Highway #1 and the replacement of the Pitt River bridge. The Evergreen Line was the highest priority for the region, but the province decided to build the Canada Line instead and tied that to the Olympics.

“Meaningful consultation with the private sector and significant due diligence is required and we are taking the time to get it right,” the province said.

Which seems to me to be an admission that it was not done right, and that consultation with anyone other than business is not important.

Crosscut takes a look at High Speed Trains between here and Seattle as result of Jay Inslee (the Washington state governor) announcing a budget request for a $1m study in response to pressure from the private sector.

Freccia Argento

This one happens to be Italian – they developed the Pendolino tilting trains after British Rail abandoned the Advanced Passenger Train after attacks by the press on the “vomit comet”. BR did build a very successful 125mph HST forty years ago which did not tilt and runs on conventional tracks unlike the French TGV or the Shinkansen which need purpose built rights of way – fewer curves but can cope with quite steep grades – to achieve higher speeds. Indeed the current Cascades Talgo sets could run faster, if they did not have to fit into slots between slow freight trains.

Unid GWR HST through Exeter St Thomas

And of course the cost of a new railway is going to be the biggest issue (“$20-$30 billion to build and equip the system”) but that does not mean that much better passenger train service is not entirely feasible at lower cost, and hopefully some kind of incremental strategy will be identified, rather than blowing the budget on the unachievable “best” when “good enough” is going to win plenty of people away from terrible traffic on I5 and appalling inconvenience and discomfort of short distance international air travel.

Needless to say, others think that self driving cars are going to be the answer, although realistically are probably further off into the future than self driving trucks  as this graphic piece makes clear.

As for the hyperloop, that seems like science fiction to me and even more claustrophobic than space travel. How do you get to your seat? Or use the bathroom?

HyperLoop 2

Written by Stephen Rees

February 10, 2017 at 1:32 pm

Posted in Transportation

WPC: Shadow

with 2 comments

via Photo Challenge: Shadow

srees2008_0910_111148aa-copy

I forgot that the Weekly Photo Challenge had been moved from Friday to Wednesday – but apparently it is “open all week” so here is my contribution.

The location is one of the former railway trestles across the Myra Canyon near Kelowna BC. After the tracks were removed the right of way became a long distance walking/cycling trail. The picture was taken around midday so the length of the shadow is not produced by early or late sunshine but the height of the trestle. It is indeed a long way down.

They have their own blog too

Looking through some of the other submissions, I noticed that other people post more than one picture, and my flickr stream has more than one candidate.

The first is more recent, from last year in Chicago

Chicago

tram shadow

This one is from 2012: the Roosevelt Island Tram in New York City – and the one below is the same year but closer to home

Us

 

Written by Stephen Rees

February 10, 2017 at 11:34 am

Posted in photography

Tagged with ,

HandyDart users concerned about wait times and ride availability: seniors’ report

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The headline comes from the Langley Advance. The good thing is that the report itself is actually available in the article page and for download from Scribd, so you can make your own judgement about what it says. Of course the press will always go with a negative for anything about TransLink – and I must admit that I have long been critical of the lack of service available to HandyDART users. What I think is remarkable about this survey is that it reports a generally positive tone in the responses.

screen-shot-2017-02-03-at-2-38-19-pm

The other thing that has to be noted is that very few of the people answering the survey were entirely reliant on the service.

screen-shot-2017-02-03-at-2-40-06-pm

Now the report does spell out where it was conducted – across BC but proportionately by population with properly weighted response rates. So this includes results from Metro Vancouver – where it is contracted out to an American operator (MVT) – and several of the larger BC Transit service areas.

And my impressions are not those of a user. At the time I worked for BC Transit and then TransLink (1997 – 2004) I was only too aware of a very high level of dissatisfaction. That was not based on an impartial survey but rather the constant pressure from advocates – and dissatisfied users. On social media and talking to people my own age, all I see are complaints. But if you think about it, that is also the case with transit service in general. The posts about friendly helpful bus drivers are few and far between – but the gripes when service is less than perfect are plentiful.

Some of the responses reported seem to be a bit obvious: “71% of respondents used the service to get to medical appointments.” Well that is because the age group of users is heavily weighted to those who no longer work or go to full time education. The supply of HandyDART trips is inadequate to meet every need so they have to be rationed, and those are the three for getting priority. Now, if you are a user who knows how to work the system you ensure that your doctor or clinic is located in or next to a mall so that you can quite reasonably combine trip purposes. But when you book it is for a medical appointment and not just to change your library books.

Of course in recent years many more services can be conducted on line – and as a senior myself I am well aware that the degree to which people of my age group have become adept at using computers. I no longer even own a cheque book and the number of times I actually need to go into a bank branch a year is less than one handful.

Buses in the City of Vancouver are now all accessible: back in 2004 they still looked like this:

TL 2926 on #16 Arbutus 2006_0416

One thing that has not changed is the level of dissatisfaction with taxis – which are used to supplement the inadequate supply of purpose built vans. This is not so much about the vehicles (though accessible taxis are often pre-empted by cruise ship passengers with lots of luggage) as the drivers, who still have a low level of understanding or tolerance for assisting people with disabilities. It is notable that those in Metro Vancouver get much lower ratings than those in other parts of BC.

I also still think that if we had an accessible, door to door, shared ride service – better than a bus, cheaper than a taxi – the overall level of service and customer satisfaction would increase and the need to rely on all those other types of service mentioned in that chart would decline. I hope that we recognize that this is a real need and one that ought to be met by the public sector, since Uber has clearly targeted this market as the one it thinks it will be able to monopolize and extort.

UPDATE   February 10

HandyDART trips to increase by 85,000 in 2017 says Translink CEO: currently, HandyDART makes 1.2 million trips each year and has 23,000 people registered with the service.

Written by Stephen Rees

February 3, 2017 at 3:11 pm

WPC: Solitude

with 3 comments

via Photo Challenge: Solitude

GBH

There are quite a few photos like this on my Flickr stream. Unlike crows or starlings, the Great Blue Heron prefer solitude – at least when (s)he is going fishing.

I started taking pictures of these birds when I heard about the Citizen Science project.

By the way, I notice that – as usual – my picture breaks the “rule of thirds” for composition. That is because of the way that autofocus used to work on my previous cameras. This is taken with an iPhone, but I seem to to have broken the habit of centering the subject – which in this case seems to have nicely separated the bird from the background. But there is no bokeh as this was taken midday on a sunny day in August.

By the way: this post is in response to the Weekly Photo Challenge. You will note that there is also a link at the very top of the post which gets automatically inserted by WordPress when you use the button on the challenge page. But the pingback there is malformatted – as if you click on it, you go to a different page than the one where the challenge is posted. If you are doing photo challenges as a way to see how others respond that link is useless. Also note that it does not tell you – as the correct pingback does – that the weekly challenge is being moved to Wednesdays!

Written by Stephen Rees

February 3, 2017 at 10:40 am

Posted in photography

Tagged with

We’re number 59!

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UPDATE Feb 6
I usually put the updates at the end of the post. I am chagrined to admit that I missed a very important data point which Charlie Smith of the Georgia Straight noticed 

Berlin-based Movinga has pegged the monthly cost in Vancouver at just US$66.26.

When converted from U.S to Canadian currency, that equals $88.68.

However, a monthly one-zone adult transit pass in Metro Vancouver costs $91.

That’s the cheapest way to travel, and it only works for those who live relatively close to work or school.
A two-zone pass sets an adult transit rider back $124.

And a three-zone adult pass costs a whopping $170.

Sorry


In a recent study that compares transit costs around the world our system ranks about half way in a list of 89 that puts Cairo as the cheapest and London as the most expensive. Toronto is in the top ten.

The rest of this post is going to be a simple cut and paste of the press release, but it seemed to me appropriate to report this given the amount of interest yesterday’s Fare Review report generated

Price Index of Public Transportation Around The World

2017 Study Reveals The Steep Price Differences For Commuters

  • Londoners pay the most for monthly transport ($153.58), 136.91% more than New Yorkers ($112.18)

  • Residents of Tokyo ($90.58), Berlin ($86.48), Paris ($74.74), and Madrid ($58.29) pay more reasonable commuter fares  

  • Prague ($21.73) and Bucharest ($14.27) are the most affordable European capital cities for public transport

Berlin, Germany, 18/01/2017 – Online moving platform Movinga know that after the cost of housing, food and transport are the two most relevant expenses to take into account when relocating. As part of the 2017 Relocation Price Index, a study detailing the costs associated with relocating to some of the world’s most in demand cities, Movinga also observed the cost of transportation around the world in 89 cities. The full Price Index of Public Transport cities can be found at the base of this press release.

The data was taken from all official transport offices within each city, using the cost of a monthly ticket within the major travel zones to standardise the results. The findings place London, UK as the most expensive city to use public transport at $153.58 and Cairo, Egypt as the most affordable city at $6.50 for a monthly ticket.

See here for the full methodology and results of the study.

The table below outlines the top 15 most expensive cities for public transport:

Eng-Int-USD.png

The study demonstrates the significant price difference for citizens of each city. This research will be useful for those considering their ideal city to relocate to, either temporarily for work or on a more permanent basis.

Transport costs were taken from all transportation companies in noted cities. Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) was not applied, in order to keep the data relevant from a local perspective. Data correct on 20th January 2017. Currency conversions calculated on 20th January 2017. Small differences in costs may exist due to recently fluctuating markets.

###

Publishers are allowed to publish this data and graphics but we kindly ask that you give credit and link to the source. For further enquiries do not hesitate to reply to this email.

About Movinga: Movinga (www.movinga.de/en) is Europe’s leading online provider of moving services. Utilising intelligent algorithms as well as a large network of local partner companies, the tech company is modernising the moving sector. Movinga customers value the simple booking process and high quality standards. Partner moving companies profit from efficient customer acquisition, disposition and invoicing. Movinga was founded in Berlin in January 2015 and is currently active in Germany and France. The management team consists of the experienced scale-up managers Finn Hänsel, Christoph Müller-Gruntrum and Jochen Cassel.

Monthly Transport Costs Around The World In £

#

City

MT

#

City

MT

#

City

MT

1

Cairo, Egypt

$6.50

31

Austin, USA

$39.74

61

San Francisco, USA

$67.40

2

Hanoi, Vietnam

$8.65

32

Lagos, Nigeria

$41.30

62

Munich, Germany

$68.33

3

Jakarta, Indonesia

$11.07

33

Santiago, Chile

$47.61

63

Essen, Germany

$69.40

4

Tunis, Tunisia

$13.01

34

Toulouse, France

$49.11

64

Singapore, Singapore

$69.81

5

Bucharest, Romania

$14.27

35

Seoul, South Korea

$49.26

65

Leipzig, Deutschland

$71.53

6

Mexico City, Mexico

$15.33

36

Vienna, Austria

$51.25

66

Mannheim, Deutschland

$72.07

7

Buenos Aires, Argentina

$17.07

37

Strasbourg, France

$51.78

67

Braunschweig, Deutschland

$74.74

8

Bangalore, India

$17.32

38

Brussels, Belgium

$52.32

68

Düsseldorf, Deutschland

$74.74

9

Medellin, Colombia

$19.89

39

Lille, France

$52.85

69

Paris, France

$74.74

10

Prague, Czech Republic

$21.73

40

Montpellier, France

$53.38

70

Oslo, Norway

$81.49

11

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

$23.05

41

Riga, Latvia

$53.38

71

Zurich, Switzerland

$83.90

12

Moscow, Russia

$23.97

42

Istanbul, Turkey

$54.66

72

Stuttgart, Germany

$85.41

13

Tallinn, Estonia

$24.56

43

Grenoble, France

$54.88

73

Berlin, Germany

$86.48

14

Sofia, Bulgaria

$27.32

44

Sao Paulo, Brazil

$55.24

74

Stockholm, Sweden

$86.75

15

Warsaw, Poland

$27.45

45

Barcelona, Spain

$55.52

75

Hamburg, Germany

$89.68

16

Bogota, Colombia

$27.60

46

Hong Kong, Hong Kong

$55.81

76

Tokyo, Japan

$90.58

17

Beijing, China

$27.97

47

Helsinki, Finland

$55.95

77

Frankfurt am Main, Germany

$91.82

18

Shanghai, China

$28.67

48

Rouen, France

$56.59

78

Amsterdam, Netherlands

$93.42

19

Johannesburg, South Africa

$30.74

49

Copenhagen, Denmark

$57.40

79

Auckland, New Zealand

$95.28

20

Athens, Greece

$32.03

50

Madrid, Spain

$58.29

80

Seattle, USA

$95.38

21

Bordeaux, France

$32.03

51

Manchester, UK

$59.07

81

Luanda, Angola

$95.89

22

Nice, France

$33.10

52

Karlsruhe, Deutschland

$60.86

82

Cologne, Germany

$96.09

23

Toulon, France

$33.10

53

Tel Aviv, Israel

$60.86

83

Los Angeles, USA

$96.29

24

Marseille, France

$33.20

54

Hannover, Germany

$62.35

84

Melbourne, Australia

$99.55

25

Budapest, Hungary

$33.28

55

Dubai, UAE

$62.94

85

Toronto, Canada

$103.07

26

Bangkok, Thailand

$34.00

56

Dresden, Deutschland

$62.99

86

New York, USA

$112.18

27

Dijon, France

$37.37

57

Bremen, Deutschland

$64.06

87

Sydney, Australia

$116.26

28

Milan, Italy

$37.37

58

Lyon, France

$64.06

88

Dublin, Ireland

$128.12

29

Lisbon, Portugal

$38.44

59

Vancouver, Canada

$66.26

89

London, UK

$153.58

30

Reims, France

$38.44

60

Nantes, France

$67.26

MT = Monthly Transport Costs

Original Table

Written by Stephen Rees

February 1, 2017 at 12:34 pm

Transit Fare Review Stakeholder Forum

with 8 comments

I attended the second forum at the Translink headquarters on Monday. Somehow I seem to have missed the whole phase 1 of this project. However you can always go to the translink website and catch up.

Before the meeting we were sent the Phase 2 Discussion Guide which included the following

Learn more by reading the discussion guide or watching our online videos. Then let us know what you think by taking the survey and participating in our online discussion forum, which will be open between January 30 and February 17, 2017. You can find all of this at

translink.ca/farereview.

The guide sets out the different types of fares that were considered during Phase 1 but did not report what was heard in the first phase. It does summarise the winners and losers in each of the scenarios that were examined. There is also this diagram which shows what happened when the mid-day discount was ended

This example shows how a simple fare policy change can have a major impact on system costs, crowding and passenger comfort.

screen-shot-2017-01-29-at-12-39-10-pm

This is the first time I have ever seen anything as official as this which admits that the decision was wrong. Full disclosure, I was at the time a relatively new employee at BC Transit. I was not by any means unfamiliar with transit fares policy and how it can be evaluated, but what astonished me at the time was how few people with whom I was working seemed to understand some simple, basic principles. I had, however, got used to the response I heard about how I was new and therefore could not possibly expect to understand how this system worked.

I would ask you to take note that there is nothing at all on either axis of this graph to show what is being displayed. Time of day is not to hard to interpolate, but the ridership top and bottom does need some indication of value, I think.

Terms of Reference

Project Background

The Transit Fare Review is a comprehensive review of Metro Vancouver’s fare structure that aims to recommend fare policy changes that will increase transit ridership by delivering a better customer experience and improving system efficiency today and into the future. It is comprised of four phases: Phase 1 (Discover), Phase 2 (Define), Phase 3 (Develop), Phase 4 (Deliver) running through to 2018.

Responsibilities

TransLink will:

1. Consider the feedback received through the Stakeholder Forums as advice when making decisions, and

2. Will report back on how the feedback contributed to the decision-making process.

Stakeholder representatives will:

1. Provide TransLink with feedback that reflects the perspective of their organization or constituents to better inform the overall decision-making for the development of the plan, and

2. Participate in the Stakeholder Forum meetings or send a delegate.

Composition and Membership

Each organization is asked to send one to two participants to appear on their behalf as their representative. TransLink is seeking a commitment from organizations for consistent participant attendance at all future Stakeholder Forums during Phases 2, 3 and 4, in order to ensure continuity.

Governance and Authority

All stakeholder feedback will be shared with TransLink staff and considered as advice.

Meeting Logistics

One to two stakeholder forums will be held per Phase. All Forums will be held over the next 24 months. Advance notice of Forums will be provided. Forums will be held during the day time at TransLink’s head office in New Westminster.

Reporting

The outcome of the Stakeholder Forums will be publicly reported at the end of each phase in a Summary Report. The Summary Report will be available online at www.translink.ca/farereview

I am going to record what I heard, but I would encourage you to go online and take the survey if this material is of interest to you.

The meeting was opened by a facilitator from Modus who emphasised that we were “not deciding anything” but rather reporting what we were “thinking and feeling”. Many of the people present were representing groups – “stakeholders”. A show of hands demonstrated that most of them had not been present at the first meeting – though there might have been someone else from their organisation.

img_1770

Only three factors in the fare structure were going to be discussed – distance travelled, time of travel and service type. The findings of the meeting are reported on line – but the first two were actually available at the end of the meeting. The goal was to recommend changes that would increase ridership, be simple to understand, fair and affordable. The structure of the fare system is supposed to contribute to the quality of service. It was emphasized that “the most economically vulnerable should have access to transit”.

Phase 1 of the exercise had shown that there was not a lot of support for the current three zone system.

screen-shot-2017-01-31-at-10-56-10-am

Taken from the Phase 1 Summary Report

The rest of the meeting was taken up by working in small groups to look at more detailed questions relating to these issues. At each subquestion we were presented with a large poster on which to affix sticky notes with our comments and “votes” using coloured sticky dots.

img_1771

After each exercise there was an opportunity for discussion

At my table were a couple of representatives – one from the Metro Vancouver Alliance and the other from a union. They said that they felt the zone system- and fares by distance – are “erecting walls” and intended to “keep people in the poor part of town”. There is an issue of social isolation due to both cast and lack of access to services. Professor Robert Lindsay of the UBC Sauder School said that fare by distance was a better representation of the cost of providing service than zone system and should be preferred for “economic efficiency”. There were also comments that the concentric rings of the current zones do not reflect  current trip making which is now much less oriented towards commuting between the suburbs to Downtown Vancouver than when the zone system was created. It was suggested that if there were to be a new zonal system it ought to reflect the multiple  centres of activity across the region. It was also necessary to reflect the difference between the journey to work and other types of trip purposes.

I pointed out that one of the major differences was between the grid system of routes in the centre of the region versus the hub and spoke of the suburbs. Great concern was voiced about how the route structure in the suburbs imposes longer distances through indirect routings (to increase ridership pick ups) and transfers. I also expressed my reservation about recommending any finer gradation of fares while the Compass system on the bus does not include a “tap out”. Translink representatives assured me that this was a temporary problem that was about to be fixed.

One of the major concerns about the time of travel section was the need to reduce overcrowding  and pass ups. There is currently no incentive for people making one zone trips to change their time of travel to avoid congested periods – and this was made worse by making the bus system one zone all the time.

When looking at travel by service type it was pointed out that the current service provision generally does not allow for service duplication: for instance, there is no bus service over the Patullo Bridge, so SkyTrain is the only transit option. I also pointed out that there is no direct express bus service between Surrey and Coquitlam centres – both major regional centres – but only an indirect, double transfer SkyTrain ride.

When the results of the analysis of the voting on the distance and time questions were presented it became clear that the group I was part of was not representative of the rest of the meeting.

One thing that did become clear was that there was an almost complete absence of hard data to inform the people present of the results of their choices. But one thing that the Compass system ought to have provided by now was a wealth of information about how people in real life make choices about their travel. For example, the decision to make bus a one zone ride means that there is now a choice by fare for journeys to the North Shore. It is now a one zone bus ride or a two zone SeaBus trip. While we were all busy doing stated preference, there is a whole bunch of much more reliable revealed preference data. I was not all surprised to be told that Compass data is proving difficult to analyze, and that none could be made available due to privacy concerns that is currently preventing data collection on mixed mode “linked” trips. Equally since there is no tapout on the bus, distance travelled can only be interpolated from other sources.

While I do encourage you to go online and take the survey, I feel it is only fair to point out that the reason Translink chose to buy Compass was that it would make fare by distance feasible. Gates at SkyTrain stations could have been operated by the previous “mag swipe” fare media – which is what they use in New York City. A single zone system to this day.

Also worth reading Anthony Perl’s thoughts on the effect of distance based fares when there is no equivalent road pricing

 

Written by Stephen Rees

January 31, 2017 at 11:44 am