Archive for March 2013
We are supposed to have a carbon neutral government in BC. The BC Liberals introduced legislation to ensure that all the various organizations reporting to it – including schools and hospitals and so on – both took steps to reduce their emissions and where that was not feasible to purchase carbon offsets.
The BC Auditor General has been trying to ensure that his report on this program reached the public before he leaves for Australia and before we head to the polls. Not only was his report issued but he also got a presentation made and put it up on youtube. You can both read the report in full or spend a quarter of an hour listening to a nice lady read a summary. The video is just basic powerpoint type presentation. The main points appear as text on the screen as the voice reads the summary. Auditors are not noted for their exciting presentation skills – but this stuff is indeed dynamite.
The government has been boasting about how well it has done. How safe we are in its hands since the Liberals are so much better at running a businesslike government. Not rash tax and spenders like the NDP – or pie in the sky flakes like the Green Party. This report shows clearly the gap between government spin and reality.
I too have been caught out by false promises of carbon off setters. I wrote about that here. I expected much better of the Climate Change Secretariat, though I am hardly surprised by the results of the audit.
One of the projects was run by a company called Encana. They were flaring gas but now managed to capture it. But it turns out that they would have been doing that anyway, without the PCT financial contribution. And it also just so happens that Encana made $647,670.00 in contributions since 2005 to the BC Liberals. Thanks to Laila Yuile for that info
UPDATE 1 But there is another side to this story as Charlie Smith explores in the Straight. I do not know if the date has any significance.
UPDATE 2 However my conclusion is very much the same as that reached by Bob Simpson MLA – his open letter to the Minister of Finance is well worth reading
Jeff Nagel in the Surrey Leader has produced a very good summary of the consultants’ report commissioned by the Mayors’ Council on the governance of Translink. He also provides the complete report itself (but without its appendices), and I would urge anyone interested to read the whole thing. It is only 21 pages long, “has been prepared for discussion purposes and does not make recommendations”.
I think it is useful, and will be considered when there is a new provincial government. I think that would have to happen even in the now extremely unlikely eventuality of another BC Liberal government. I think it is also somewhat unlikely to be given high priority in that event: my bet would be that their instincts are still tied more to ensuring a replacement for the Massey Tunnel than sorting out transit in this region. In part that is because the Ministry of Transportation is in fact if not name a Ministry of Highways – and the advice the Minister gets is nearly always going to be based on continuing to do what it has always done. There is never anything new or different – no matter who is in charge at the Ministry or who has the Minister’s office. The plans are the ones that they have always intended to pursue – and any set back is simply regarded as a temporary one. You can never quite kill a highway plan: it will always re-emerge.
While there may not be recommendations, it is clear that its authors have identified the need for more local accountability. They also point out that while Metro has been a good regional service deliverer, it has been less successful as a regional planning body – and has not managed to deliver on its regional strategy, or come up with an economic plan for the region.
It is perhaps not surprising given that the signatories of the report cover letter – Clark Lim and Ken Cameron – both worked for the GVRD, and both had responsibilities in that body’s transportation planning efforts. They both have first hand experience of the grinding conflict between the province and the region – and that between the municipalities. They do not mention one of the major stumbling blocks: that the City of Vancouver regards itself as a different kind of government since it has a Charter – and is therefore different from all other municipalities in the region. The huge disparity in size and power of the various municipal governments is reflected in the cumbersome voting arrangements for decisions – since there are no direct elections at the regional level. It is supposed to be conducted at the level of consensus, but that is not always the case. The consultants were not, of course, expected to review regional governance as a whole – just the bit that looks after transportation. But they could not ignore the critical linkages between transportation and land use. They mention economy in passing and I looked in vain for some reference to the environment.
Actually, nothing about the report is surprising. The odd thing is that it is thought necessary. Kevin Falcon made a quite extraordinary decision when he set about “reforming” Translink. He had already got his way – by lying about the provincial readiness to proceed with the Evergreen Line and the Canada Line simultaneously. He did not really need to have a tame board to get his own way. And he had already wrecked the Livable Region idea by deciding to widen the freeway (Highway 1) and build the SFPR though the ALR. As long as capital spending on road expansion exceeded that of transit expansion by several orders of magnitude, the notion that transportation choice would be increased was laughable.
I have had direct experience of a similar decision. Margaret Thatcher became extremely tetchy over the ability of Ken Livingstone and the Greater London Council to demonstrate that there was indeed a viable alternative to her policies. She had actually become known as “Tina” for her frequent recitation of the formula “There Is No Alternative”. She not only abolished the the GLC but the entire level of Metropolitan government in Britain. And for good measure then got rid of property tax (“the rates”) by replacing it with a Council tax based on population (“Poll Tax”) – now widely recognized as disastrous. At the time of its abolition I was working for the GLC producing reports on governance rather like this one. The difference is she had a secure parliamentary majority – unlike the present provincial government. In any event, it did not mater how respectable the research (we even put out reports by such well known revolutionaries as Coopers & Lybrand and the LSE) the vote in the House was all that counted. Once Tina was gone, a new Greater London Authority with an American style executive Mayor was set up – a very remarkable innovation in British local government.
I hope that when the new BC Government considers this issue it takes the view that it is simply not enough just to restore accountability to Translink by having an indirectly elected Board again. I have made this recommendation before, and do not apologize for repeating it now. Greater Vancouver needs a directly elected regional government that has control of transportation and planning – which has to encompass not just land use but also the environment and the economy. It has to have not just a vision (like the LRSP) but also the means to deliver on it. Given that it is very unlikely that we will see transit funded by the feds any time soon, the new authority must have sufficient fiscal resources to bring about fundamental change. It is going to be a huge task but if it is not tackled with both speed and determination we will continue to flounder in business as usual, while the world collapses around us. Climate change is real – and really bad. Much worse than was predicted even on worst case scenarios. It is also now inevitable. The carbon that is causing sea level rises, temperature increases and severe weather events has already been released. What we have seen so far is mild by comparison to what we will see.
Gestures and spin will no longer suffice – not that they ever did but that is all we have had up to now. And the governance of Translink is going to look trivial by comparison to the challenges we are going to face. So lets get this out of the way, so we really can start to make a difference to our future.
Vol 16, No 1, 2013
Complimentary subscriptions can be obtained by contacting:
Lisa Ravenscroft, Assistant to the Editor
Center for Urban Transportation Research (CUTR) University of South Florida
Fax: (813) 974-5168
Email: jpt (at) cutr.usf.edu [I have removed the curly symbol to defeat the spambots]
Table of Contents
Factors Influencing Young Peoples’ Perceptions of Personal Safety on Public Transport
Graham Currie, Alexa Delbosc, Sarah Mahmoud …………………………………………………………….1
An Analysis of Special Needs Student Busing
Behrooz Kamali, Scott J. Mason, Edward A.Pohl…………………………………………………………….21
The Impact of Hiawatha Light Rail on Commercial and Industrial
Property Values in Minneapolis
Kate Ko, Xinyu (Jason) Cao……………………………………………………………………………………………………47
State and Federal BRT Project Development Procedures:
Managing Differences and Project Implementation Delays
Mark A. Miller …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..67
Impacts of the Cedar Avenue Driver Assist System on
Bus Shoulder Operations
Definition and Properties of Alternative Bus Service Reliability
Measures at the Stop Level
Meead Saberi, Ali Zockaie K., Wei Feng, Ahmed El-Geneidy………………………………………..97
Maintaining Key Services While Retaining Core Values:
NYC Transit’s Environmental Justice Strategies
Ted Wang, Alex Lu, Alla Reddy…………………………………………………………………………………………..123
A Bus Rapid Transit Line Case Study: Istanbul’s Metrobüs System
M. Anıl Yazıcı, Herbert S. Levinson, Mustafa Ilıcalı, Nilgün Camkesen,
Camille Kamga………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 153
I am going to point you to two columns – both in the Vancouver Sun recently and thus behind their paywall. This breaks my undertaking not to subject you to needless expense – but I am sure that by now you have learned how to avoid that.
The first is the Pete McMartin column that deals with climate change and why it is going to be much worse than we thought and much sooner. “Global warming’s new frightening deadline” looks at an article in Nature from 2009. That story was “impenetrable” so he got it via the non-profit news agency, InsideClimate News. If you read this blog regularly – with its 350 badge – then you probably know all this already, and if you don’t its probably because you have fallen for the lies peddled by the Koch brothers. We are not going to stop at 350ppm – nor 2℃. Probably not 4℃ either and 2 would have been catastrophic.
“The carbon budget implied by the 2 C limit,” Jaccard wrote, “means that we cannot be making new investments that expand the carbon polluting infrastructure.
“This means no expansion of oilsands, no new pipelines (like Keystone and Northern Gateway) and no expansion of coal mines and coal ports.”
The second is by Vaughan Palmer and looks at a shorter term issue – and one that I have touched on here. What the NDP is going to do once elected. “B.C. NDP supporters’ dreams of good times ahead likely to be dashed” He fleshes out what Geoff Megs was telling me – we are stuck with MSP and cannot expect them to raise income tax levels beyond the small amount that was in the most recent budget. It is all about reducing expectations in the name of electability. While Palmer is right in his statements, I think the NDP leadership is wrong to take the current conventional wisdom as truth.
First of all there is the potential for not giving away our natural resources. Because of story number 1 I think we should leave the coal, oil and gas under the ground. But given that current operations are going to continue then they ought to be priced properly. I doubt that raising the carbon tax alone is enough and besides I keep reading the stories about how they do things differently in Norway. That ought to be example enough. The MSP could be replaced by income tax – that is fairer than the flat level fee now charged but remitted to the very poor. The graduated scale of income tax is better, the amount collected could stay the same, and the right people (those who can easily afford it) would be paying most of it. It could equally be argued that there are plenty of other worthy cases. The headline reference to “Good Times” suggests a party. We are not talking about a party, we are talking about restoring a measure of social justice. “Publicly funded child care, … raising rates for social assistance, more resources in the classroom ” are all good and worthy policies.
“Reinvestment in the forests” is trickier – but is certainly a better objective than just giving away all the cutting rights for free which is what the current government is trying to do in its dying days. The last thing we need to do is allow a hell for leather rush to cut down the trees as fast as possible in the name of quick profits.
The other thing that we must do is change the mindset that says we cannot afford rapid transit – so we must chose between the UBC subway or Surrey LRT – but the tunnel under the Fraser must be replaced because of congestion on Highway 99. There is indeed a very short window of opportunity to comment – but the report on Phase 1 makes it clear that the majority of those consulted so far still believe that expanding highways cures congestion. Those few of us who did suggest real alternatives are treated as an eccentric, insignificant minority. Harry Lali was on the CBC News last night – and he looked like a transportation critic who has not had time to master his brief. The NDP made the mistake last time of continuing to build the Island Highway – and then got bogged down by the fast ferries, which they thought did not need anything like a basic travel demand study let alone a full cost benefit analysis.
I missed a report on NEWS1130 on March 7 when Adrian Dix made it clear that he is not committed by the present process
“The Liberals have talked about the Massey Tunnel,” he says. “I think the premier, in her speech to the UBCM, talked about the Massey Tunnel. There’s no money or real plan attached to that.”
Hat tip to Eric Doherty for posting that to trans-action
Popular opinion has been steadily misled but is at least willing to consider (transit) alternatives – as the Tunnel Phase 1 report makes clear. They are just not being given any real alternative
• Scenario 1 – Maintain Existing Tunnel
• Scenario 2 – Replace Existing Tunnel with New Bridge
• Scenario 3 – Replace Existing Tunnel with New Tunnel
• Scenario 4 – Maintain Existing Tunnel and Build New Crossing along Existing Highway 99 Corridor
• Scenario 5 – Maintain Existing Tunnel and Build New Crossing in a New Corridor
In Phase 1 a significant number of people expressed interest in a transit alternative as way of tackling congestion. Do you see any mention of transit in those scenarios?
CN has announced – several years ago – its intention to abandon their current operation along Shell Road. This route parallels Highway #99 and gets close to the northern portal of the tunnel. CN are going to link to their other line at the eastern end of Lulu Island – so the freight service to the port continues. In most other countries, when looking for a way to expand rapid transit the first place you look is for a disused rail corridor. Of course it needs upgrading – double track for a start – and while modern electric traction can cope with grades up to 6% easily (and steeper if necessary) getting over both the North and South Arms of the Fraser will not be cheap or easy, but is perfectly feasible and cheaper than building a much wider highway bridge. And yes it could be linked to the old CP Arbutus right of way, and the line that runs on the north bank of the North Arm from Marpole out to Coquitlam. This line was indeed considered by Translink for LRT not so long ago. What it might do South of the Fraser might be to provide a fast passenger service to the ferries (and the Tsawassen’s massive development projects).
There are three open houses this week and you can also respond on line. Please do, if only to make the numbers of those saying no to highways look a bit more respectable.
Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie has spoken out strongly against Option 5 – the idea of a new bridge across the South Arm to No 8 Road
“There have always been oral meetings that don’t have much of a paper trail. I don’t think that’s anything particularly new,” he said.
That’s Former parliamentary secretary to the premier John Les talking to the CBC today in response to the B.C.’s Information and Privacy Commissioner recommendations following an investigation that began after a number of Freedom of Information requests to the premier’s office came back empty.
There’s a real danger in using language that includes words like “always”. My partner, for instance, talks about buildings in Vancouver that she says “have always been there” when what she means is “I don’t remember them not being there.”
I have been out of the civil service now for many years – but early on I made it a practice to have with me a hard bound notebook. A journal if you like. It went with me everywhere. This was long before civil servants were issued with Blackberries. But to me it was essential, especially when sent to attend meetings. The instruction always was “make good notes”. Sometimes, those notes got turned into more formal documents – but they were always useful when minuted meetings took place – because the notes could then be compared to the official record. And I often logged important information as I was engaged in other activities. If I met someone in a corridor, say, and I needed to record a telephone number. Or if I was on the phone and it seemed likely that a record of that call might be needed later.
All of this was started long before there was a Freedom of Information Act. But boy was it useful if there was any later repercussion. I think that this all started when I was a student. Lecture notes were essential – if for no other reason than to stay focussed. Maybe that’s why I still fill my blog with lecture notes. You can now compare if I am any good at them by looking at the Carbon Talks video and my blog post. I confess I have already filled in one gap when my scribble was unreadable – but now I can see that I wrote something very like what was said.
I have also found myself at various times under cross examination and my notes have indeed been called into evidence. And that’s a Good Thing, since memory is fallible – increasingly so with age, unfortunately.
Once upon a time, in the service of H M Government in the United Kingdom I was subject to the Official Secrets Act – a very bad piece of hastily drawn up legislation that originated in 1914 and was a total catch all. If I told you the price of a cup of tea in the staff canteen at the Department of Transport we would both be guilty of an offence. The existence of a canteen was itself an Official Secret. FoI was supposed to change all that. Indeed working for the BC Government I can recall more than one occasion when the response to a sloppily worded FoI request was to simply bombard the enquirer with so much information it would be a Very Long Time Indeed before they found what they really wanted.
It is also the case that more than once I got called onto the carpet because I had written down what was said. And the person writing the minutes wanted them to show what ought to have been said instead. Being honest can make you very unpopular indeed.
But it is only recently – that is to say within the last ten years at least – when custom and practice within the BC civil service has been to conduct business in such a way that any FoI request could be frustrated. It may have always happened at the exalted level of the Premier’s office, but somehow I don’t think so. It is only a government which now has problems when it has to explain who said what to whom that this gets out of hand.
The BC Liberals have – and “always” have had – a lot that they would prefer to be not subject to FoI. If you have nothing to be ashamed of, there is no reason at all why there should not be a record. It is only when you know you do not want to be caught that you make sure there is no paper trail.