Archive for July 2015
I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with The Economist newspaper. I have at times been a subscriber and regular reader, but in recent years its rightward shift has grated on my sensibilities. And I do not feel like subscribing to it any more. Of course I follow them on Twitter and try to limit my clicks to stay within the limit of free articles. And as it is the start of the month I did manage to read all of an article on one of my favourite topics: the London Underground. And no that is not a political movement.
But as as so often the case these days there were a couple of things that I noticed. Now since these are things that I know about, I feel entitled to post about it. But is does make me wonder how much one can rely on this source for things I know very little about, and need enlightenment. Am I being misled?
So the article in question. Now the questionable statements
Money for improvements is limited. Fares are already eye-wateringly high (a monthly pass costs £225.10
Hold on a minute there: the fare table for the Underground takes up a full page (A4 size) in tiny type and that is just the adult fares – 12 columns and I lost counts of the rows – for there are 9 fare zones. You can see it as a pdf and the cited £225.10 covers zones 1 – 6 – or the whole of the Greater London Area without the lines that run into darkest Essex, Hertfordshire or Buckinghamshire. So it is an understandable choice – but by no means the only one. Incidentally, that covers about the same area as Metro Vancouver’s 3 zones and is CAN$460.40 compared to Translink’s at $170 so the eye watering is indeed understandable. Still feel we get ripped off?
There is also this comment
Moreover, if London’s puny mayoralty had the tax-raising powers of its New York equivalent,
which also seems at odds with what I am reading about how annoyed New Yorkers are with the Governor of New York State Andrew Cuomo and his lack of willingness to recognize that the MTA is in fact a state agency, and he is not willing to open up the state’s coffers to pay for much needed modernisations and extensions to the Subway but is happy to fund upgrades for La Guardia airport. Which sounds familiar to us, I think. For a neat summary of how Metro Vancouver gets stiffed go see what Price Tags has based on the longer series of articles by Nathan Pachal. Gord also has good stuff – as usual – on New York too.
But to go back to The Economist, while it may well be true that New York’s Mayor has more tax raising ability than London’s, that does not mean that it is enough to deal with the extreme decrepitude of much of its Subway. Anymore than Metro’s Mayors feel happy about dipping into property taxes again to pay for Translink. That is driven by a political doctrine – and I am not so sure that much of “Bagehot’s” isn’t equally so driven.
Once again I got a last minute plea from the CBC to appear on the evening news to talk about the announcement of an increase in tolls next month. It seemed to me that there was little to say, and that over an hour’s travel for a few minutes screen time not very productive, but they sent a camera man to Arbutus Village and I stood in the park. I did not know that the new technology they use relies on the cell phone network, which is why those trucks with dish antennas are no longer needed. When my segment got broadcast it was very obviously cut short as the sign off was missing. I had been asked what the solution was to increasing tolls – and clearly the CBC did not like the answer. I had managed to get in a shot at how the much vaunted lowest income tax in Canada has been brought about by increases in all kinds of fees and charges – tolls, MSP premiums, ferry fares – and how wages were not keeping pace with the increasing cost of of living in the region.
But it was only later that I realized that I had missed on a real solution. My moment d’escalier was the memory of how people coped with tolls (and SOV line ups) on the Golden Gate Bridge by forming last minute car pools. These days no-one has to risk anything by lining up at on ramps. You can – of course – do it on-line. If the increase from $3.00 to $3.15 a crossing is a real issue for you go check out car pool, rideshare and van pool information on Translink ‘s web page. You can easily avoid the congestion on the Patullo and halve the cost of the toll. You can also share rides on Hitch Planet.
There were a couple of graphics that I had sent the CBC producer that did not make it to air, which is a shame. The first is a good effort by Jeff Nagel using recent data to show how people have been gradually getting used to paying $3. I personally doubt the $0.15 will cause much more than a short term blip, but I do think people are right to expect more increases in future. The toll company blames their rising operating costs – but if interest rates start increasing that will be the real stimulus for faster toll rises.
The second one is a bit older, and is from Sightline, and shows how the real traffic data compares to the forecasts
The red line should just dribble across a bit further. It certainly has not been sticking up like the forecasters thought.
This story is in the Vancouver Courier but is also in the Globe but that is behind a paywall so I am not linking to it.
The staff have done a lot of work and found that removing the viaducts actually improves the local network. I have always argued for their removal, since we know for a certainty that traffic adapts to road removal. Traffic is not like a flow of water – as most models assume – but rather a gas that expands and contracts to fill the space available. Nearly every model that I know of assumes a fixed trip matrix. The models simply try to reassign the same number of trips – generated by land use and population – across the available routes. Real life does not work like that – as a very large number of before and after studies has shown.
However you can be sure that the dinosaurs will never believe that removing a road can make traffic flow better. Even though the traffic calming measures on Point Grey Road showed exactly that effect. None of the forecast carmageddons ever happen. But the idiots who always make these predictions have never been known to apologize after their doom laden predictions fail to materialize.
NPA Coun. George Affleck said he will wait to see the final report in September before stating whether he agrees with staff’s recommendation to demolish the viaducts. Affleck said he is concerned removing the viaducts would have a negative effect on traffic flow in the area.
And he will keep to that line no matter what the final report says and repeat it until once again he is shown to be wrong. Then he will switch his attention to some other project which he will also oppose for the same reason, but be quiet about the ones that worked. Have you ever heard any of them admit they were wrong about bike lanes downtown or the Burrard Bridge?
Like many people sick of conservatism, I was greatly encouraged by the recent change in the government of Alberta. The victory there of the NDP after so many years of right wing domination seemed like a breath of fresh air.
The disappointment I am currently experiencing is visceral. Premier Rachel Notley spoke to the Stampede Investor Forum on Tuesday “her first major (private) speech to an industry crowd, two months after her New Democrats won.”
…it’s the oil sands that have really emerged as our international showpiece.
For more than half a century, Albertans have been coming up with unconventional solutions for an unconventional resource so we can extract, handle and ship it responsibly, to the very best of our abilities.
This attitude of pushing the limits of what’s possible influences every aspect of the oil sands, from research and development to environmental management to the service and support fields.
It’s a tremendous asset which has transformed Alberta into one of the world’s leading oil producers.
And I’m here today to emphasize that the province has a government determined to defend this advantage, by being constructive at home, and by building relationships around the world.
…Alberta will continue to be a healthy place for private investment under our government.
This definitely applies to energy.
Expanding existing oil sands projects, establishing new ones and pioneering advanced technologies — all this requires spending on a large scale.
Under our leadership, Alberta’s abundant oil and gas reserves will remain wide open to investment.
MacLeans has “the premier’s prepared text at the forum cosponsored by her government, Calgary Economic Development and the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, the industry’s main megaphone.”
I have been regularly berated by NDP supporters who claim that the Green Party is “splitting the progressive vote”. I will now quote this speech to anyone who dares to claim that the NDP and the Green Party share the same values.
Humanity is rapidly approaching an existential crisis. If we are to have some impact on the increase in greenhouse gas emissions we have seen in recent years, then it is essential that fossil fuel consumption starts to decrease. It is not enough that some renewable energy sources have been increasing. These sources have to replace fossil fuels, not supplement them. We have to reduce our carbon footprint. In Canada that means the tar sands – one of the dirtiest forms of energy – must be left in the ground. We simply cannot follow a path that sees exports of diluted bitumen as a way to make short term profits at the expense of a habitable planet. We cannot plan to increase exports of coal or LNG either. Which, by the way is nothing like the clean fuel that Christy Clark likes to pretend (see: Methane Emissions in Texas Fracking Region 50% Higher Than EPA Estimates)
Of course I want to see Stephen Harper unseated at the upcoming election. If the NDP is really serious about its intentions to lead the next federal government, it would be making overtures to the Liberals to create an anti Conservative electoral pact. It is simply not good enough to hope that a coalition can be formed after the election. But that seems to be their current strategy. I do not think that the Liberals can be seen as “progressive” given the way that Paul Martin ran a more conservative than the conservatives economic strategy. And Trudeau Junior does not seem to me to be nearly as committed as his father – to anything at all! But he sure would like to be elected. And will say anything at all to make that possible.
And to those that still think that somehow the economy trumps the environment I can only say that they are just not paying attention. Renewable energy is showing itself to be a significantly better investment in terms of local employment – even if you disregard the huge environmental benefits. You also need to be blind to the current impacts of less than 2C of warming that we are currently experiencing. If you think long hot summers with droughts and forest fires are bad now, I feel certain that what we are seeing now will seem mild in comparison to what is coming. The loss of the bees and the salmon seems to be getting some attention too. About time.
“the energy sector needs stability to keep Albertans employed and to innovate as it confronts climate change.”
Which seems as usual to be pinning her hopes on the elusive carbon capture and storage which has always been just around the corner – and always will be. At least Alberta is also a leader in wind energy – the Calgary LRT already runs exclusively on wind power. They will probably be beating us in solar panels and geothermal too, given the miniscule attempts being made in BC and our foolish commitments to Site C and run of the river.
Afterword: and the BC NDP is no better.
The LNG in question would be produced from fracking. Fugitive methane from fracking makes it worse from the GHG perspective than coal. BC LNG is unlikely to be cost competitive for the export markets it is aimed at: the Chinese, for example, have already signed a deal for Russian gas at a price BC could never match let alone beat. But if the BC NDP wants to claim it cares about the environment it cannot at the same time support more fracking for gas here.