Stephen Rees's blog

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

WPC: A Good Match

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via Photo Challenge: A Good Match

As soon as I saw the title of the photo challenge I knew what the photo would be

Us in the Musee Carnavalet

Taken in the garden of the Musee Carnavalet in Paris on May 21, 2012 by my sister Rosemary and hitherto only available to friends and family but made public for the first time.

A Good Match indeed. We have now been together for over seven years – and it just keeps getting better.

Written by Stephen Rees

February 22, 2017 at 10:31 am

The over-sized, over-priced bridge does NOT have public support

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new-bridge

A guest post from Susan Jones of Fraser Voices

Public support new crossing of Fraser but not the planned bridge

 

Environmental Assessment96% of submissions opposed the bridge

Metro Vancouver:                  21 of 22 Mayors oppose the bridge[i]

BC Minister of Transportation, Todd Stone, has been misrepresenting public opinion of the planned new bridge to replace the George Massey Tunnel.  In January, 2017, former BC Premier Mike Harcourt claimed it would be a better idea to build another tunnel.[ii]

 

Minister Stone replied that another tunnel was more expensive and that Mr. Harcourt’s claims do not reflect the opinions of thousands of people who participated in the public consultations.[iii]

 

In fact, a review of the public consultations reveals that Mr. Harcourt’s comments do reflect public opinion which is strong opposition to the bridge.

 

Respondents to four consultation periods showed support for:

  • another tunnel
  • retention of the existing tunnel with upgrades
  • rapid transit
  • protection of farmland

 

Respondents expressed concerns about:

  • costs to taxpayers
  • plans to pay for the bridge with user tolls
  • increasing number of trucks
  • plans for LNG vessels on the river
  • large shipping vessels on the river carrying jet fuel and coal
  • lack of integrated regional transportation plan
  • impacts of construction over several years
  • destruction of habitat
  • air pollution

 

The last opportunity for public input was the Environmental Assessment of the planned bridge to replace the George Massey Tunnel. (January 15, 2016 to February 16, 2016)[iv]

 

Of 446 written submissions, 22 offered comments without showing support or opposition to the planned bridge.  Of the other 424 submissions, 96% expressed opposition to the bridge.  Only 4% supported the bridge.

 

There were three earlier consultation periods.  The first phase (November-December, 2012)[v] sought information from the public on usage of the tunnel.  16 written submissions were thoughtful comments about transit, environment and integrated regional planning.  Many urged retention of the existing tunnel.

 

The second phase (March-April, 2013) offered 5 options but the feedback form did not provide opportunity for fair comment.  The report of phase 2 claimed high support for a new bridge but there was no evidence to support the claim.

 

The information provided at the Open Houses and meetings was incomplete.  Facilitators told attendees that a bridge is cheaper than a tunnel but did not provide evidence.  One facilitator told the public that “only 2% of respondents in Phase 1 wanted to keep the tunnel”.

 

Many of the written submissions offered the same concerns as documented in the first phase.  A number of written submissions opposed the bridge (21/47) while a small percentage expressed support (7/47).

 

The Third Consultation Period (December, 2015-January, 2016) occurred after the announcement of the bridge.  The results of this phase were documented in a report prepared by Lucent Quay Consulting.  The Report documented numerous issues raised by the public.  There was considerable concern about costs and tolls.

 

Palmer: Liberals claim support for bridge tolls[vi]

March 31, 2016 7:22 am

 

VICTORIA: “The B.C. Liberals are claiming the latest round of public consultations has confirmed “strong public support” for their plan to replace the George Massey tunnel with a toll bridge.

 

But the summary report on those consultations, released Wednesday, tells a different story.

Those who commute through the often-congested tunnel on a daily basis likewise support the prospect of getting to and from work more quickly.

But there was precious little support for the more controversial aspects of the project.

 

Only 24 per cent of those responding via a publicly distributed feedback form made a point of saying they were “generally supportive” of the overall scope of the tunnel replacement plan. A further 31 per cent expressed conditional support for some aspects of the project as outlined on the feedback form.

 

But that was far from constituting an unqualified endorsement for the plan to remove the existing tunnel, replace it with a high-level 10-lane bridge, and reconstruct adjacent connecting roads and intersections at a combined cost of $3.5 billion.

 

Even more misleading was the government characterization of the survey’s findings on tolling.

 

Respondents were told only that the “province intends to fund the project through user tolls and is working with the federal government to determine potential funding partnerships.”

 

Most supporters of the bridge serve vested interests.  The over-sized, over-priced bridge does not have public support.

 

References

[i] http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/massey-tunnel-replacement-bridge-lone-supportive-mayor-very-disappointed-1.3660661

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/metro-vancouver-george-massey-tunnel-rejects-1.3658013

 

[ii]  http://vancouversun.com/opinion/opinion-there-are-alternatives-to-replacing-the-massey-tunnel

 

[iii] http://www.delta-optimist.com/opinion/letters/bridge-is-best-option-to-replace-tunnel-minister-1.10031818

 

[iv] http://www.eao.gov.bc.ca/pcp/comments/George_Massey_comments.html

Comments will be available on this page until March 15, 2016 and after this date all posted comments will be available through the EAO electronic Project Information Centre (ePIC) application

 

[v] https://engage.gov.bc.ca/masseytunnel/documentlibrary/

This document library includes information on all the phases of public input except the environmental assessment which is reference #iv

 

[vi] http://vancouversun.com/storyline/morning-comment-vaughn-palmer-liberals-claim-support-for-bridge-tolls

Written by Stephen Rees

February 22, 2017 at 8:19 am

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

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Friday round up

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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

UPDATE Feb 21 The Seattle Transit blog has taken a long hard look at what a high speed rail line might look like – the link takes you to the first of four parts

Written by Stephen Rees

February 10, 2017 at 1:32 pm

WPC: Shadow

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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

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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

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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

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