Stephen Rees's blog

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

Musqueam isn’t Celebrating

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Cut and Paste from a Press Release

Musqueam isn’t celebrating with BC regarding George Massey Tunnel Removal and Bridge Project

For Immediate Release

Thurs. April 6, 2017

Musqueam Territory, Vancouver, BC – Canada.  Yesterday the BC government announced the  construction of a bridge to replace the George Massey Tunnel (GMT). The project lies in the heart of Musqueam territory and the BC government has not received consent from Musqueam to proceed. It is in an area that has been occupied by Musqueam since time immemorial.  GMT is surrounded by heritage sites, and other culturally important sites, including fishing areas in the Lower Fraser River that Musqueam has Aboriginal rights to fish, which are protected by the Canadian Constitution after a Supreme Court of Canada ruling (R. v Sparrow, 1992).


Chief Wayne Sparrow stated, “Musqueam has not been meaningfully consulted nor accommodated for the GMT project. This project is in the core of our exclusive territory and the Provincial and Federal government have not received Musqueam’s consent.”


The GMT project will involve the construction of a 10-lane bridge, and the removal of the tunnel. The tunnel removal will add to the negative cumulative effects in Musqueam’s territorial waters in the Fraser River. BC and Canada have not considered these effects as they continue to approve projects like this without meaningfully consulting, accommodating and compensating Musqueam for these cumulative impacts.


“Musqueam will not stand for the continued degradation of our lands and waters.  The BC and Canadian government have much work to do with us to ensure the GMT project can proceed according to Musqueam conditions”, said Chief Sparrow.  He added, “Musqueam is leading in areas of stewardship and management in our territory, and will raise the bar on all future projects in Musqueam territory.  We are not against development, but it must be done in ways that include Musqueam values, and ensures the protection of our rights.”


Musqueam has cultural sites all around the project and in the Lower Fraser River that provide evidence of Musqueam exclusive use and occupancy, thousands of years before Canadian Confederation.

Written by Stephen Rees

April 7, 2017 at 3:13 pm

Vaughn Palmer: ‘Forces of no’ dig in for tunnel replacement ceremony

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DSCN9158There was an opinion piece by Vaughn Palmer in the Vancouver Sun yesterday which did not give anything like a balanced coverage. The protest is against spending far too much money on a “solution” that we know will not work. Not against doing something about people currently experiencing long delays to get through the tunnel at some times of day. Groups like Fraser Voices have been concerned that the bridge was decided on in the Premier’s office – and all the effort since then has been to justify a quixotic choice. All the other options – including sticking to the BC Liberals’ previous plan – are simply ignored. And then they lie about the port’s intentions to deepen the ship channel.

So I wrote a Letter to The Editor.  I am putting this out here now because I think it is very unlikely to be published.

Vaughn Palmer’s characterization of the protest at the tunnel ceremony is not accurate. There are real alternatives to the $3.5bn vanity project that have not been adequately examined.

The real problem is congestion at peak periods. Traffic through the tunnel has actually been in steady decline for the last ten years. However, the Port of Vancouver operates the container terminal on bankers’ hours. Monday to Friday 8am to 4pm. No other port operates like that. It ensures that truck traffic uses the tunnel at peak periods, and makes the congestion worse. That is deliberate. It helps the port make the case for tunnel removal. There are plenty of records available that demonstrate the Port’s long term strategy for deepening the dredging of the channel – and the tunnel prevents that. In the short term, simply banning trucks at peak periods – and opening the container collection and delivery facilities  24/7 – will relieve the present problem.

In the longer term, congestion can never be solved by widening roads. Never has done, never will do. All that does is move the line-up to somewhere else. The only way to reduce car traffic is to increase transit service. One bus can carry many more people in a given length of road than cars can. The province has already invested in bus lanes both sides of the tunnel but service needs to be increased. And when that isn’t enough, add another tube on the river bed carrying light rail.

As for the claim that the “full freight will be covered by tolls”, it has not worked for the Port Mann or the Golden Ears. Why would the Massey replacement be any different?

Written by Stephen Rees

April 6, 2017 at 12:27 pm

Weekly Photo Challenge: Security

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Policia Especializada Cuba Comandancia

I did a but of searching to try and find out what the Specialised Police might do. But it seems likely that security concerns prevent that information from being released. Wikipedia had some generalised information about policing – but does not give much information. And some maps identify the location as The Old City Police station. It is clearly some ancient fortification – one of several around the entrance to the port. Which, at one time, needed protection especially from British privateers – the original Pirates of the Caribbean. Of course modern weaponry made such fortifications obsolete and in most places they become museums and tourist attractions. Cuba, of course, is different. Castles – like the Tower of London – have always done double duty as places of confinement – again usually in the name of “security”. One of those splendidly flexible and ill defined terms, and deliberately kept that way. All kinds of things are done in its name including deliberately overstepping all the formal controls most countries place on the power of the state to spy, detain and maltreat those it feels might be threatening it. Security of the state trumps security of the person not just in places like Cuba – for 50 years condemned by the United States for its supposed excesses in limiting the freedom of its citizens and supposed threats to its far bigger, more powerful neighbour – but also the location of the US Naval base at Guantanamo Bay and site of some of the US’s most egregious (and illegal) excesses in the name of security. It doesn’t look anything like this, of course.

Written by Stephen Rees

April 5, 2017 at 11:53 am

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Expanding the BC license plate program

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IMG_2048When the BC Government announced that they were launching a new license plate program to support BC parks, I signed up the next time my car insurance needed to be renewed. I actually think that it would be reasonable for the government to increase spending on BC’s provincial parks – but of course that would mean raising taxes. In the same way that we support food banks through donations instead of increasing welfare payments.

They have now announced that this initiative was so successful that they are going to extend it to other worthy causes. This is going to be limited to “charity and not-for-profit organizations”.

Well I have a serious proposal. A lot of us have been saying that we want to see better transit, including better provision for people with limited mobility. We want to see increased spending on things like greenways, and we would also like to see increased levels of bus service. Senior levels of government seem to be happy to spend tax dollars on capital projects – especially when the announcements can be made just before an election. But they seem unwilling to provide adequate funds for operations and maintenance. One option was going to be a regional transit levy funded by a tax sticker on license plates. That was cancelled by Ujjal Dosanjh. Why not a regional transit license plate? It is run by a not for profit, after all. And no-one can argue that there isn’t a need that government has been ignoring. And it could be collected for other regional transit systems that are also in need of support like Victoria, or Abbotsford. It will also be a way for those of us who think we need to have a way to say that we would rather be using a more convenient transit service than driving ourselves. Or just a reminder to government that not everyone agrees that the answer to every issue in politics is to propose a tax cut – especially those aimed at those already much better off than the average.

Of course the sad thing is my new I Support Transit license plate will replace my I Support Provincial Parks plate. But you can’t have everything.

Written by Stephen Rees

April 3, 2017 at 11:29 am

Posted in Transportation

Massey Tunnel: Impact of Trucking

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The case for doing something about traffic congestion on both sides of the Massey Tunnel at peak periods is very strong. No-one would dispute that. What is in dispute is why that congestion occurs and what can be done about it.

This week the well known left wing cabal at the West Vancouver City Council reported that “Buses only 2% of vehicles that cross the Lions Gate Bridge but carry 25% of the people.” Actually the data came from Translink and is five years out of date but the principle holds. Single occupant vehicles are dreadfully wasteful of road space and are the cause of traffic congestion. Trying to get people to share their vehicles – there are usually at least three empty seats – has not been a huge success. If you could get everybody else to use the bus, then you would have lots of space to drive on – until all the other drivers caught on.

We know that widening roads and building ever wider bridges is a temporary fix at best. Actually what will happen if you cure the bottleneck at one point is that you simply shift it somewhere else. That is why no extra lanes were added to the Lions’ Gate Bridge  – and why a multi-lane expansion of Highway 99 across the Fraser won’t do very much either.

But in the case of the Massey Tunnel it is NOT all about traffic congestion. The Port wants to dredge a deeper channel to allow for bigger ships up the river. The tunnel is an obstacle to that ambition. The port also controls access to its operations – and has a policy of making congestion at the tunnel worse in order to promote its campaign for removal. Now that is an assertion that I am not able to back up with direct evidence. I have no way of eavesdropping on the conversations between board members. But John Berktyo – of Fraser Voices – has been doing some digging and this is what he found

Deltaport runs the business is a separate corporate entity from Port of Vancouver, which owns the land.  Deltaport is owned by DP World, headquartered in Dubai. It employs 37,000 people worldwide. Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem became Chairman of DP World on 30 May 2007. He is a citizen of the United Arab Emirates. Their Board of Directors is shown here: .

Their professed commitment to the environment and sustainability contacts are shown here:

The Deltaport web site is here:

Their hours of operation are here: way down page)

The hours are divided into  “day gate” and “night gate” as shown here on their website:

Standard Gate Hours:

Day Schedule:
MondayFriday: 08:00 – 15:59
Saturday– if required based on volume
*Closed Sunday

Night Schedule:
MondayFriday: 17:00 – 23:59
Saturday– if required, based on volume
*Closed Sunday

Please note: unlike other Ports which are open 24/7, Deltaport is normally open only 5 days a week. It will allow limited access on Saturday if they have no more room for containers and need container pickup ( “based on volume” ) to accommodate incoming container traffic (expensive to have a ship sit at anchor with a full load).

Regardless of the circumstances they are closed on Sunday (Day gate = normal operations). Rather than open at 6:00 am or be 24/7, they open at a leisurely 8:00 am, thereby forcing truck traffic on to the roads.  They close “day gate” normal operations at 3:59 in the afternoon, again forcing trucks into rush hour traffic. In summary, on a daily basis, they are only open for normal business for 7 hours of the day ( lunch hour included ). So in a normal day, as opposed to handling trucks for 24 hours (100% of the time), they are only open for normal operations 7 hours (29% of the time).  This is approximately 1/4 of the time, they could be normally open, so I think it would be fair to conclude that operations are being intentionally restricted, and that a consequence is snarled traffic.

Night gate = limited access hours. Night gate means (according to conversation with management, because it isn’t published anywhere) that access is restricted, and subject to higher tariffs for entry. In other words, “day gate” is the best and easiest time to access, and “night gate” is limited and restrictive (the details are apparently extensive and for truckers, no fun to deal with).

The port is totally closed to trucks from midnight to 08:00 every day that it normally opens.  Please note on their June 11, 2014 website news release found here: that on 2014 they announced that night gate would extend to 1:00am, not midnight, so one can only conclude that reversing that decision puts more trucks on the road, and that hours are being intentionally restricted.  INTERESTINGLY, the same June 11, 2014 news release clearly states their knowledge that, “ …..additional operating hours at the terminals will create 377 jobs (including direct, indirect and induced), reduce truck traffic and congestion during peak daytime hours, maximize the use of existing port infrastructure and create more opportunities for growth by offering a wider range of access times at the terminals for container truckers. These benefits will be achieved with no need for additional capital funding by the terminals or the governments.”

In other words, at no real cost, the Port is clearly aware that extended hours would create employment, clear traffic and maximize their use of the terminal. So why wouldn’t they, except to exacerbate the current traffic problem.

As the attachment shows from their daily schedule found here:   we can see that in the week Thursday March 30 to Wednesday April 5 by example, that the Port is CLOSED for 11 SHIFTS, and only OPEN FOR 10 shifts. Thats right, as opposed to being open 24/7, they are actually closed more than they are open. What business do you know of that can operate at 50% capacity ?  None.

Screen Shot 2017-03-31 at 5.28.33 PM

Hope that clarifies matters. It appears that local Port management is knowingly and willingly restricting access to make it as hard on truckers as possible, and force them into rush hour traffic in order to grow support for the bridge.

Written by Stephen Rees

March 31, 2017 at 5:31 pm

Posted in Transportation

Arbutus Greenway: March update

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I took some photos yesterday between Nanton and 41st. I didn’t get around to putting them on the blog yesterday – but maybe you already follow me on Instagram or Flickr – in which case you need read no further.

Nanton at Maple

A new crossing sign has appeared together with much paint on the road where the Arbutus Greenway crosses Nanton. While the elements used in the sign are standard the combination is not actually shown in the Uniform Manual of Traffic Control Devices. (But I have now seen it also used at the Highway #1 on ramp at Main Street, North Vancouver southbound to the Ironworkers’ Memorial Second Narrows Bridge.)

In general the Greenway street crossings are anything but uniform or standard, and many (not this one) have railway signalling equipment and crossbucks still in place.

One of my Instagram contacts commented

I believe it is telling you it’s okay to stand on your bike while jumping a snow fence. But I could be wrong.

Candidate for preservation?

This house and its delightful surrounding garden seems to me to worthy of consideration for preservation.

The city defines a “character home” as a structure built before 1940 that meets “established criteria for integrity and character of original features”. In addition, character homes are not listed on the Vancouver Heritage Register.

Georgia Straight

New Stairs

New access stairs near 35th Avenue

Broken box

Former signalling gear – used to trigger the crossing bells and wig-wags – are still in place. I am a bit surprised that the metal thieves have not scavenged all the copper from this box.

Written by Stephen Rees

March 31, 2017 at 10:01 am

Posted in Arbutus Greenway

Weekly Photo Challenge: Dense

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Vancouver Aerial

This is a photograph of Vancouver’s downtown, which in recent years has become – in terms of urban development – one of the densest parts of the region. This was the result of a set of inter-related planning decisions, to allow for towers, closely spaced, and mainly for residential use. This was a departure from the way other places kept downtowns for other, non-residential uses. This has allowed for much greater choices in terms of how people get to and from work – and other activities. In most modern cities, built since World War II, the plan has been to allow for most use of cars, which has created large swathes of low density suburbs. Traditionally, prior to motorised transport, cities were designed to allow for most trips to be completed by walking. Railways and streetcars allowed things to be spaced out a bit more, but the greatest impact was the use of the personal automobile. Most North American cities are now turning away from this pattern of development and rediscovering the benefits of urbanity. (Most European cities made that choice much sooner – to retain the amenities and cultural significance of their central areas. ) Not just better energy efficiency, and cleaner air – though both are worthwhile improvements – but in greater interaction between people. More sociability, greater opportunities to meet other people – more culture, more entertainment, more choices of where to go and what to do.  Indeed the pursuit of higher densities remains a central plank of urban and regional planning – the subject matter of most of this blog – made possible by increasing the choices of transport open to residents. More trips that can be made without needing a car, by walking, cycling and public transport. That produces happier, healthier places. It doesn’t just protect the environment it increases economic activity.

Note too that one important lesson of developing a dense urban core is that green spaces – that’s Stanley Park in the foreground – can be successfully protected and made available for many more people to enjoy, rather than the large areas that get fenced off to keep people out in low density suburbs and exurbs.

Written by Stephen Rees

March 29, 2017 at 9:26 pm